You have no idea what it costs me to wring out my work now

In the early months of the year 1882 RLS was kept indoors at Davos by a “knee tied up”, with a “slight displacement”, and “chronic inflammation”.

His essay ‘A Gossip on Romance’ was published in the first number of Longman’s Magazine (Nov 1882).

A fragmentary, unfinished MS essay ‘On the Ary of Literature’ is in RLS Museum at Silverado, St. Helena, California.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 913.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 78-79]

[Chalet am Stein, Davos-Platz, ? 16 February 1882]

My dear Henley,

Here comes the letter as promised last night. And first two requests: Pray send the enclosed to c/o Blackmore’s publisher, ’tis from Fanny;

Richard Doddridge Blackmore (1825-1900), novelist now best remembered for his novel ‘Lorna Doone’ []

R.D. Blackmore, ‘Lorna Doone’, 1869 []

second, pray send us Routledge’s shillingbook, Edward Mayhew’s Dogs, by return if it can be managed.


One of Routledge’s shillingbooks, 1867 []

Edward Mayhew, ‘Dogs: Their Management’, 1854 []


Our dog is very ill again, poor fellow, looks very ill too, only sleeps at night because of morphine; and we do not know what ails him, only fear it to be canker of the ear. He makes a bad, black spot in our life, poor, selfish, silly, little tangle; and my wife is wretched. Otherwise she is better, steadily and slowly moving up through all her relapses.


My knee never gets the least better; it hurts tonight, which it has not done for long. I do not suppose my doctor knows any least thing about it. He says it is a nerve that I struck, but I assure you he does not know.

RLS in 1882.

RLS in 1882.

I have just finished a paper, A Gossip on Romance, in which I have tried to do, very popularly, about one-half of the matter you wanted me to try. In a way, I have found an answer to the question. But the subject was hardly fit for so chatty a paper, and it is all loose ends. If ever I do my book on the Art of Literature, I shall gather them together and be clear.

Tomorrow, having once finished off the touches still due on this, I shall tackle San Francisco for you.

‘San Francisco’ was eventually published as ‘A Modern Cosmopolis’ in the Magazine of Art for May 1883 []


Then the tide of work will fairly bury me, lost to view and hope. You have no idea what it costs me to wring out my work now. I have certainly been a fortnight over this Romance, sometimes five hours a day; and yet it is about my usual length eight pages or so, and would be a d—d sight the better for another curry. But I do not think I can honestly re-write it all; so I call it done, and shall only straighten words in a revision currently.


I had meant to go on for a great while, and say all manner of entertaining things. But […] all’s gone. I am now an idiot. – Yours ever,



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