Tales for winter nights

RLS had asked his friends to write a testimonial in support of his candidature 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, 822.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 46-50]

Kinnaird Cottage, Pitlochry [3 July 1881].

My dear Colvin,

I do believe I am better, mind and body; I am tired just now, for I have just been up the burn with Wogg, daily growing better and boo’f’ler; so do not judge my state by my style in this.

RLS with his black Skye terrier Wogg, 1883.

I am working steady, four Cornhill pages scrolled every day, besides the correspondence about this chair, which is heavy in itself. My first story, Thrawn Janet, all in Scotch, is accepted by Stephen;

Leslie Stephen, editor of the Cornhill Magazine, with his dog Troy [tp://www.smith.edu/]

my second, The Body Snatchers, is laid aside in a justifiable disgust, the tale being horrid;

The Body Snatcher, film by R. Wise, 1945 [http://2.bp.blogspot.com&]

my third, The Merry Men, I am more than half through, and think real well of. It is a fantastic sonata about the sea and wrecks; and I like it much above all my other attempts at story-telling; I think it is strange; if ever I shall make a hit, I have the line now, as I believe.

“I have heard the Roost roaring like a battle where it runs by Aros, and the great and fearful voices of the breakers that we call the Merry Men“ [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/]

Fanny has finished one of hers, The Shadow on the Bed, and is now hammering at a second, for which we have ‘no name’ as yet – not by Wilkie Collins.

Wilkie Collins’s novel ‘No Name’, 1863 [www.wilkie-collins.info/]

Wilkie Collins’s novel ‘No Name’, 1863 [http://www.wilkie-collins.info/]

Tales for Winter Nights. Yes, that, I think, we will call the lot of them when republished.

Why have you not sent me a testimonial? Everybody else but you has responded, and Symonds, but I’m afraid he’s ill. Do think, too, if anybody else would write me a testimonial. I am told quantity goes far. I have good ones from Rev. Professor Campbell, Professor Meiklejohn, Leslie Stephen, Lang, Gosse, and a very shaky one from Hamerton.

Lewis Campbell (1830-1908), professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews 1863-94 [https://americangallery19th.files.wordpress.com/]

John Miller Dow Meiklejohn (1836–1902), first professor of theory, history, and practice of education at St. Andrews [https://i0.wp.com/]


Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), editor of Cornhill Magazine [www.smith.edu/]

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), poet, novelist, literary critic, and a collector of folk tales [www.freereaders.org/]


Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), English poet, author and critic, and translator at the Board of Trade 1875-1904 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-94), artist and art critic [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Grant is an elector, so can’t, but has written me kindly.

Sir Alexander Grant (1826-84), 10th baronet, classical scholar, and Principal of Edinburgh University 1868-84 [http://www.clangrant-us.org/]

From Tulloch I have not yet heard.

John Tulloch (1823–86), Scottish theologian [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Do help me with suggestions. This old chair, with its £250 and its light work, would make me.

[…] It looks as if we should take Cater’s chalet after all; but O! to go back to that place, it seems cruel.

Carter’s chalet, aka the Chalet am Stein (or Chalet Buol), Davos. [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

I have not yet received the Landor; but it may be at home, detained by my mother, who returns tomorrow.

Biography of the English writer and poet W.S. Landor, by S. Colvin, 1881 [https://ia600407.us.archive.org/]

RLS’s mother [http://ctgpublishing.com/]

Believe me, dear Colvin, ever yours,


Yours came; the class is in summer; many thanks for the testimonial, it is bully; arrived along with it another from Symonds, also bully; he is ill, but not lungs, thank God – fever got in Italy.

Sidney Colvin (1845-1927) [https://sp.yimg.com/]

John Addington Symonds (1840-93), English poet and art critic, living at Davos [https://sp.yimg.com/]

We have taken Cater’s chalet; so we are now the aristo’s of the valley. There is no hope for me, but if there were, you would hear sweetness and light streaming from my lips.






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