The weather has been hot and heartless and un-Davosy

This letter speaks of contributions to the Magazine of Art (in these years edited by RLS’s friend, W.E. Henley) from J.A. Symonds and from RLS himself, “Bunyan” meaning the essay on the cuts in Bagster’s edition of the Pilgrim’s Progress.

The address, ‘Printing Office Davos’, was printed by LLoyd, RLS’s stepson, on much of the writing paper, using a toy press, just then set up fot him in the chalet at Davos.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 872.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1912, pp. 155-157]



The Chalet [Late November, 1881].

Dear Henley,

I have done better for you than you deserved to hope; the Venice Medley is withdrawn; and I have a Monte Oliveto (short) for you, with photographs and sketches. I think you owe luck a candle; for this no skill could have accomplished without the aid of accident.

Symond’s essay, ‘A Venetian Medley’, was eventually published in ‘Italian Byways’, 1883 []

Symond’s essay, ‘The Convent of Monte Oliveto near Siena’, eventually published in Cornhill for May 1882, was reprinted in ‘Italian Byways’, 1883 []

The Convent of Monte Oliveto near Siena, Tuscany []

How about carving and gilding? I have nearly killed myself over Bunyan; and am too tired to finish him today, as I might otherwise have done. For his back is broken. For some reason, it proved one of the hardest things I ever tried to write; perhaps – but no – I have no theory to offer – it went against the spirit. But as I say I girt my loins up and nearly died of it.

The first essay saw the light on the Magazine of Art as ‘Bagster’s Pilgrim’s Progress’ (the first of the series, ‘Byways of Book illustration”) in Feb 1882 []









In five weeks, six at the latest, I should have a complete proof of Treasure Island. It will be from 75 to 80,000 words; and with anything like half-good pictures, it should sell. I suppose I may at least hope for eight pic’s? I aspire after ten or twelve. You had better

– Two days later.

Bunyan skips to-day, pretty bad, always with an official letter. Yours came last night. I had already spotted your Dickens; very pleasant and true. […]

Henley’s ‘Dickens’ was a review in the ‘Athenaeum’ of 19 November 1881 of the third volume of the Letters of Charles Dickens.[]


My wife is far from well; quite confined to bed now; drain poisoning. I keep getting better slowly; appetite dicky; but some days I feel and eat well. The weather has been hot and heartless and un-Davosy.

E.L. Kirchner (1880-1838), Blick aus Davos []

I shall give Symonds his note in about an hour from now.

Have done so; he will write Vesalius and of Botticelli’s Dante for you.

J.A. Symmonds (1840-1893) []

Henley asked RLS to ask Symonds to contribute an article for the series ‘Byways of Book illustration’ on the great work of Human Anatomy by the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) []

Botticelli designed 19 woodcuts for an edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy produced in Florence in 1481. Neither of Symond’s articles appeared in the Magazin of Art []

S. Botticelli, Inferno 1 []

S. Botticelli, Purgatorio 9 []

S. Botticelli, Paradiso 23 []

Morris’s Sigurd is a grrrrreat poem; that is so. I have cried aloud at this re-reading; he had fine stuff to go on, but he has touched it, in places, with the hand of a master. Yes. Regin and Fafnir are incredibly fine.

The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs,1877, a loose translation on verse by William Morris of the Icelandic Volsunga Saga []


Sigurd and Regin baking the heart of the dragon Fáfnir. Door of Hylestad church, 13th century []

Love to all. – Yours ever,



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