You must like my wife, because she likes cats

RLS’s had asked his friend Gosse to write a testimonial in support of his candidature for the Edinburgh History Chair.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 819.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 43-44]

Kinnaird Cottage, Pirlochry [July 1881].

My dear Weg,

Many thanks for the testimonial; many thanks for your blind, wondering letter; many wishes, lastly, for your swift recovery.

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

Insomnia is the opposite pole from my complaint; which brings with it a nervous lethargy, an unkind, unwholesome, and ungentle somnolence, fruitful in heavy heads and heavy eyes at morning. You cannot sleep; well, I can best explain my state thus: I cannot wake. Sleep, like the lees of a posset, lingers all day, lead-heavy, in my knees and ankles. Weight on the shoulders, torpor on the brain.

Insomnia pellets, 19th century []

And there is more than too much of that from an ungrateful hound who is now enjoying his first decently competent and peaceful weeks for close upon two years; happy in a big brown moor behind him, and an incomparable burn by his side; happy, above all, in some work – for at last I am at work with that appetite and confidence that alone makes work supportable.

Clunie Moor out above Pitlochry []

Rannoch Moor near Pitlochry []

Rannoch Moor near Pitlochry []

I told you I had something else to say. I am very tedious – it is another request. In August and a good part of September we shall be in Braemar, in a house with some accommodation. Now Braemar is a place patronised by the royalty of the Sister Kingdoms – Victoria and the Cairngorms, sir, honouring that countryside by their conjunct presence. This seems to me the spot for A Bard.

Braemar (properly Castleton of Braemar), a well-known Highland holiday resort on Deeside []

Braemar neighbourhood was popularised by Queen Victoria, who spent many summers at Balmoral Castle, the residence built by the Prince Consort 10 miles north-east of Braemar []

Queen Victoria at Balmoral, with Princess Victoria of Wales, Prince Maurice Victor Donald of Battenberg, Marie Amelie Princess of Leiningen, Prince Waldemar of Prussia, Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, Prince Sigismund of Prussia, Irene of Hesse and by Rhine, Princess Henry of Prussia []

Queen Victoria at Balmoral, with King Edward VII, Olga Grand Duchess of Russia, Nicholas II Emperor of Russia, Alexandra Empress of Russia []

Queen Victoria at Balmoral with her children and Marquis of Lorne, 1878 []

The Cairngorms: view from the summit of Morrone, with the river Dee and the red roofs of Mar Lodge in the valley below []

Now […] can you come to see us for a little while? I can promise you, you must like my father, because you are a human being;

Thomas Stevenson []

you ought to like Braemar, because of your avocation;

Salmon fishing by the river Dee near Braemar []

and you ought to like me, because I like you;

RLS, 1880.

RLS, 1880.

and again, you must like my wife, because she likes cats;

Fanny Stevenson, 1885.

Fanny Stevenson, 1885.

and as for my mother – well, come and see, what do you think? that is best.

Margaret Isabella Balfour Stevenson []

Mrs. Gosse, my wife tells me, will have other fish to fry; and to be plain, I should not like to ask her till I had seen the house. But a lone man I know we shall be equal to. Qu’en dis tu? Viens. – Yours,


Edmund Gosse with his wife and children []

Edmund Gosse with his wife (pre-raphaelite painter Ellen Epps) and children []

Ellen Epps (Mrs. Gosse), “Portrait of Lady Alma-Tadema” (Ellen’s sister) []

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