A beautiful scene at night

The volume of RLS’s republished essays here mentioned is Familiar Studies of Men and Books.

RLS had got testimonials from his acquaintances in support of his candidature for the Edinburgh History Chair (the thing went to nothing).

‘The silly story of the election’ refers to Hamerton’s failure as a candidate for the Edinburgh Chair of Fine Arts (see my previous post, November 14, 2014).

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 878.]

To P.G. Hamerton [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 71-72]

[Chalet am Stein, Davos, c. 9 December 1881]

My dear Mr. Hamerton,

My conscience has long been smiting me, till it became nearly chronic. My excuses, however, are many and not pleasant. Almost immediately after I last wrote to you, I had a hemorreage (I can’t spell it), was badly treated by a doctor in the country, and have been a long while picking up – still, in fact, have much to desire on that side. Next, as soon as I got here, my wife took ill; she is, I fear, seriously so; and this combination of two invalids very much depresses both.

Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-94), English painter and art critic, author and editor of The Portfolio periodical [https://sp.yimg.com/]

I have a volume of republished essays coming out with Chatto and Windus; I wish they would come, that my wife might have the reviews to divert her.

RLS’s ‘Familiar Studies of Men and Books’, 1882: along with essays on Hugo, Villon, Whitman, and Thoreau, this collection reprinted two essays on Scottish topics, “John Knox and Women” (1875) and the essay on Robert Burns (1875-9) [http://library.sc.edu/]


Otherwise my news is nil. I am up here in a little chalet, on the borders of a pinewood, overlooking a great part of the Davos Thal, a beautiful scene at night, with the moon upon the snowy mountains, and the lights warmly shining in the village.


The English Church of St. Luke, Davos [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Davos Thal [http://shgwef.ch/]

E.L. Kirchner, Winter Landscape in Moonlight, 1919 [http://uploads8.wikiart.org/]

J.A. Symonds is next door to me, just at the foot of my Hill Difficulty (this you will please regard as the House Beautiful), and his society is my great stand-by.

J.A. Symonds, 1890 [https://s.yimg.com/]

Did you see I had joined the band of the rejected? ‘Hardly one of us,’ said my confrères at the bar.

I was blamed by a common friend for asking you to give me a testimonial; in the circumstances he thought it was indelicate. Lest, by some calamity, you should ever have felt the same way, I must say in two words how the matter appeared to me. That silly story of the election altered in no tittle the value of your testimony: so much for that. On the other hand, it led me to take quite a particular pleasure in asking you to give it; and so much for the other. I trust, even if you cannot share it, you will understand my view.

I am in treaty with Bentley for a life of Hazlitt; I hope it will not fall through, as I love the subject, and appear to have found a publisher who loves it also. That, I think, makes things more pleasant. You know I am a fervent Hazlittite; I mean regarding him as the English writer who has had the scantiest justice. Besides which, I am anxious to write biography; really, if I understand myself in quest of profit, I think it must be good to live with another man from birth to death. You have tried it, and know.

George Bentley (1828-1895) and his father were the editors of Temple Bar magazine [http://image0-rubylane.s3.amazonaws.com/]

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, as the greatest art critic of his age, and as a drama critic, social commentator, and philosopher [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

How has the cruising gone?

P.G. Hamerton, A Difficult Place, etching 1871 [http://4.bp.blogspot.com/]

Pray remember me to Mrs. Hamerton and your son, and believe me, yours very sincerely,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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