The bold unfearing chap / Aims at a professorial cap

Another letter referring to the candidature of RLS for the Edinburgh History Chair.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 814.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1912, pp. 150-151]

Kinnaird Cottage, Pitlochry [c. 24 June, 1881].

My dear S.C.,

Great and glorious news. Your friend […], the bold unfearing chap, Aims at a professorial cap, And now besieges, do and dare, The Edinburgh History chair. Three months in summer only it Will bind him to that windy bit; The other nine to range abroad, Untramml’d in the eye of God. Mark in particular one thing: He means to work that cursed thing, And to the golden youth explain Scotland and England, France and Spain […].

In short, sir, I mean to try for this chair. I do believe I can make something out of it. It will be a pulpit in a sense; for I am nothing if not moral, as you know. My works are unfortunately so light and trifling they may interfere. But if you think, as I think, I am fit to fight it, send me the best kind of testimonial […] stating all you can in favour of me and, with your best art, turning the difficulty of my never having done anything in history, strictly speaking.

Old College Quadrangle, Edinburgh University, 1900 []

Edinburgh University Library, 19th century []

Edinburgh University Library, 19th century []

Edinburgh University Library []

Sidney Colvin, c. 1922: one of the few pictures of him []

Second, is there anybody else, think you, from whom I could wring one – I mean, you could wring one for me? Any party in London or Cambridge who thinks well enough of my little books to back me up with a few heartfelt words?

RLS, ‘An Inland Voyage’, first edition, 1878 []

RLS, ‘Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes’, first edition, 1879 []

Front cover of RLS’s ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes’, first edition, 1879 []

RLS’s book of essays, ‘Virginibus Puerisque’, just then published, 1881 []

 […] Jenkin approves highly; but says, pile in English testimonials. Now I only know Stephen, Symonds, Lang, Gosse and you, and Meredith, to be sure […].

Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), editor of the Cornhill Magazine, c. 1872 []

John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), English translator, biographer and historian of the Italian Renaissance []

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), Scots author, literary critic and collector of folk tales []

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928(, English poet, author and critic []

George Meredith (1828-1909), novelist and poet []

The chair is in the gift of the Faculty of Advocates, where I believe I am more wondered at than loved. I do not know the foundation; one or two hundred, I suppose. But it would be a good thing for me, out and out good.

The Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh []

Help me to live, help me to work, for I am the better of pressure, and help me to say what I want about God, man and life.


Heart-broken trying to write rightly to people. History and Constitutional Law is the full style.



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