It is a world full of surprises, a romantic world… I was known there; even I

The address, ‘Printing Office Davos’, was actually printed by LLoyd, RLS’s stepson, on much of the writing paper used at this period.

Some of the habitual readers of Young Folks had written objecting to the early instalments of Treasure Island, and Clinton, the editor, had come forward in the author’s defence in the following terms: “That which you condemn is really the best story now appearing in the paper, and the impress of an able writer is stamped on every paragraph of The Treasure Island. You will probably share this opinion when you have read a little more of it.”

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 866.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1912. pp. 154-155]



The Chalet [November 9, 1881].

Dear Weg,

If you are taking Young Folks, for God’s Sake Twig the editorial style; it is incredible; we are all left panting in the rear; twig, O twig it. His name is Clinton; I should say the most melodious prosewriter now alive; it’s like buttermilk and blacking; it sings and hums away in that last sheet, like a great old kettle full of bilge water. You know: none of us could do it, boy. See No. 571, last page: an article called “Sir Claude the Conqueror,” and read it aloud in your best rhythmic tones; mon cher, c’est épatant.


Observe in the same number, how Will J. Shannon girds at your poor friend; and how the rhythmic Clinton […] steps chivalrously forth in his defence. […] First the Rev. Purcell; then Will J. Shannon: thick fall the barbèd arrows.

The Rev. Edward Purcell had written an unfavourable review of RLS’s book of essays, ‘Virginibus Puerisque’ in the Academy for 9 July 1881 []

A. Mantegna, St. Sebastian, 1480 []

I wish I could play a game of chess with you.

H. Daumier, The Chess Players, 1865 []

If I survive, I shall have Clinton to dinner: it is plain I must make hay while the sun shines; I shall not long keep a footing in the world of penny writers, or call them obolists.

Athenian obol, after 449 BC []

A 19th century obol from the British-occupied Ionian Islands, 1819 []

It is a world full of surprises, a romantic world. Weg, I was known there; even I. The obolists, then, sometimes peruse our works. It is only fair; since I so much batten upon theirs. Talking of which, in Heaven’s name, get The Bondage of Brandon (3 vols.) by Bracebridge Hemming. It ‘s the devil and all for drollery. There is a Superior (sic) of the Jesuits, straight out of Skelt. […]

Samuel Bracebridge Heming (1841-1901), prolific writer of boys’ stories including a very popular series about Jack Harkaway which began in ‘The Boys of England’,1871 []

A sheet of Skelt’s Toy Theater []

And now look here, I had three points: Clinton – disposed of – (2nd) Benjamin Franklin – do you want him? (3rd) A radiant notion begot this morning over an atlas: why not, you who know the lingo, give us a good legendary and historical book on Iceland? It would, or should, be as romantic as a book of Scott’s; as strange and stirring as a dream. Think on ‘t. My wife screamed with joy at the idea; and the little Lloyd clapped his hands; so I offer you three readers on the spot.

Crossing the þjórsá, Isecald (Auguste Mayer, 1842) []

Öxaráfoss, at Þingvellir, was described by J.R. Browne in 1865 []

The table-mountain Herðubreið, shown on the left in a rather stylized version by Ebenezer Henderson around 1810 []

Fanny and I have both been in bed, tended by the hired sick nurse; Lloyd has a broken finger (so he did not clap his hands literally); Wogg has had an abscess in his ear; our servant is a devil. I am yours ever, with both of our best regards to Mrs. Gosse,

Robert Louis Stevenson,

The Rejected Obolist.


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