I love writing boys’ books. This first is only an experiment

This tells of the farther progress of Treasure Island, of the price paid for it, and of the modest hopes with which it was launched. Alexander Japp had proposed to offer the story for publication to the editor of Young Folks magazine.

The project of a highway story, Jerry Abershaw, remained a favourite one with RLS, but had to be abandoned. No more was heard of the other two stories.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 849.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 63-64]

[Braemar, September 1881.]

My dear Henley,

Thanks for your last. The £100 fell through, or dwindled at least into somewhere about £30. However, that I’ve taken as a mouthful, so you may look out for

The Sea Cook


Treasure Island:

A Tale of the Buccaneers,

in Young Folks.

(The terms are £2, 10s. a page of 4500 words; that’s not noble, is it? But […] I have my copyright safe. […] I don’t get illustrated – a blessing; that’s the price I have to pay for my copyright.)

I’ll make this boys’ book business pay; but I have to make a beginning. When I’m done with Young Folks, I’ll try Routledge or some one.

Routledge’s Railway Library, c. 1855 [http://lastdaysofpompeii.org/]

Routledge’s shilling toy-book, c. 1870 [http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/]

Routledge’s shilling toy-book, c. 1870 [http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/]



I feel pretty sure The Sea Cook will do to reprint, and bring something decent at that.

Japp is a good soul. The poet was very gay and pleasant.

The ‘poet’ was RLS’s friend, Edmund Gosse [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

He told me much: […] he is simply the most active young man in England, and one of the most intelligent […]. ‘He shall o’er Europe, shall o’er earth extend.’ He is now extending over adjacent parts of Scotland.

The line ‘they shall o’er Europe…’ is from a cancelled passage in Landor’s ‘Gebir’, quoted in Colvin’s essay, 1881: that referred to Napoleon Bonaparte [https://ia902706.us.archive.org/]

I propose to follow up The Sea Cook at proper intervals by

Jerry Abershaw: A Tale of Putney Heath (which or its site I must visit),

The Leading Light: A Tale of the Coast,

The Squaw Men: or the Wild West,

and other instructive and entertaining work. Jerry Abershaw should be good, eh? […]

Louis Jeremiah Abershaw (1773-95), a notorious highwayman on the roads between London, Kingston and Wimbledon, who was hanged for murdering a constable [www.stand-and-deliver.org.uk/]


I love writing boys’ books. This first is only an experiment; wait till you see what I can make ’em with my hand in.









and a chalk better by St. Christopher; or at least as good. You’ll see that even by The Sea Cook. […]

William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-82) had been immensely successful in the 1840s as an historical novelist, but was by now virtually destitute []

Jerry Abershaw – O what a title! […] Jerry Abershaw: d-n it, sir, it’s a poem. The two most lovely words in English; and what a sentiment! Hark you, how the hoofs ring! Is this a blacksmith’s? No, it’s a wayside inn. Jerry Abershaw. ‘It was a clear, frosty evening, not 100 miles from Putney,’ etc. Jerry Abershaw.

The Green Man on Putney Heath, frequented by Jerry Abershaw [http://image1.findagrave.com/]

A track on Putney Heath, quite typical of the old coach roads that crossed the area [http://image1.findagrave.com/]

The gibbet hill at Putney Heath, right near “Jerry’s Hill” [http://image1.findagrave.com/]

Purported graves of highwaymen at Putney Heath [http://image1.findagrave.com/]


Jerry Abershaw.

Henry Downes Miles, ‘Jerry Abershaw, or the Mother’s Curse’, 1847 [http://2.bp.blogspot.com/]


Jerry Abershaw […]. The Sea Cook is now in its sixteenth chapter, and bids for well up in the thirties. Each three chapters is worth £2, 10s. So we’ve £12, 10s. already.

Don’t read Marryat’s Pirate anyhow; it is written in sand with a salt-spoon: arid, feeble, vain, tottering production. But then we’re not always all there. He was all somewhere else that trip. It’s damnable, Henley. I don’t go much on the Sea Cook; but, Lord, it’s a little fruitier than the Pirate by Cap’n Marryat.

Captain Frederick Marryat (1792–1848), British Royal Navy officer, novelist, and early pioneer of the sea story. He is now known for a widely used system of maritime flag signalling [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Frederick Marryat, ‘The Pirate and the Three Cutters’, 1836 [https://ia902703.us.archive.org/]

Since this was written The Cook is in his nineteenth chapter. Yo-heave ho!


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