Forbidden … even to play Patience, that last of civilised amusements

As a young art student, Arthur Trevor Haddon (1864-1941), English portrait painter, had written to RLS after reading his essay on Walt Whitman. He won a scholarship at the Slade School in 1883.

The Edinburgh Courant reported RLS’s illness and continued: ‘his present condition is said to be complicated by a suspicion of verdigris poisoning from a copper vessel used in preparing special delicacies suitable to him in his invalid condition.’

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1030.]

To A. Trevor Haddon [Colvin 1912, p. 165-166]

Campagne Defli, St. Marcel, Dec. 29th, 1882.

Dear Sir,

I am glad you sent me your note, I had indeed lost your address, and was half thinking to try the Kingstown one; but far from being busy, I have been steadily ill.

Arthur Trevor Haddon (1864-1941) []

A. Trevor Haddon’s signature []

A. Trevor Haddon, An elegant interior []

I was but three or four days in London, waiting till one of my friends was able to accompany me, and had neither time nor health to see anybody but some publisher people. Since then I have been worse and better, better and worse, but never able to do any work and for a large part of the time forbidden to write and even to play Patience, that last of civilised amusements.

English playing-cards, 19th century []

In brief, I have been “the sheer hulk” to a degree almost outside of my experience, and I desire all my friends to forgive me my sins of omission this while back. I only wish you were the only one to whom I owe a letter, or many letters.

But you see, at least, you had done nothing to offend me; and I dare say you will let me have a note from time to time, until we shall have another chance to meet. Yours sincerely,

Robert Louis Stevenson

An excellent new year to you, and many of them.

If you chance to see a paragraph in the papers describing my illness, and the “delicacies suitable to my invalid condition” cooked in copper, and the other ridiculous and revolting yarns, pray regard it as a spectral illusion, and pass by.

French copper fish poacher, 19th century []

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