A long-shore story

W.E. Henley had written praising ‘The Merry Men’ and made some criticisms about the story as drafted in MS.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 828.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 50-51]

Pitlochry, if you please [Mid-July 1881].

Dear Henley,

To answer a point or two. First, the Spanish ship was sloop-rigged and clumsy, because she was fitted out by some private adventurers, not over wealthy, and glad to take what they could get. Is that not right? Tell me if you think not. That, at least, was how I meant it.

Sloop: ‘rigged like a sloop’ means having one mast with jib and mainsail [http://pirates.hegewisch.net]

As for the boat-cloaks, I am afraid they are, as you say, false imagination; but I love the name, nature, and being of them so dearly, that I feel as if I would almost rather ruin a story than omit the reference. The proudest moments of my life have been passed in the stern-sheets of a boat with that romantic garment over my shoulders. This, without prejudice to one glorious day when standing upon some water stairs at Lerwick I signalled with my pocket-hand-kerchief for a boat to come ashore for me. I was then aged fifteen or sixteen; conceive my glory. […]

Boat-cloak invented by Lieut. P.A. Halkett, 1840s [www.rmg.co.uk/]


Halkett’s Boat-Cloak, constructed of macintosh rubber [http://i.telegraph.co.uk/]

Stern sheets: the stern area of an open boat [http://crmskiff.files.wordpress.com/]

Broch of Clickhimin internal stair, Lerwick [http://scottishislands.historic-scotland.gov.uk/]

Several of the phrases you object to are proper nautical, or long-shore phrases, and therefore, I think, not out of place in this long-shore story. As for the two members which you thought at first so ill-united; I confess they seem perfectly so to me. I have chosen to sacrifice a long-projected story of adventure because the sentiment of that is identical with the sentiment of ‘My uncle’. My uncle himself is not the story as I see it, only the leading episode of that story. It’s really a story of wrecks, as they appear to the dweller on the coast. It’s a view of the sea. Goodness knows when I shall be able to re-write; I must first get over this copper-headed cold.


Ch.E. Johnson, ‘The last of the Spanish Armada’, 1869 [http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/]

A.C. Stannus, ‘The last of the Spanish Armada, 1884 [http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/]

A ship of the Spanish Armada, wrecked on the west coast of Ireland, 1870 [https://westkengibbsgreen.files.wordpress.com/]

Possible Spanish Armada wreck found off Irish coast, Donegal [www.thehistoryblog.com/]

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