This is the first real grey hair in my character: rapacity had begun to show, the greed of the protuberant guttler

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1086.]

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 129-131]

Chalet la Solitude, Hyères [April 1883]

My dear friend,

I am one of the lowest of the – but that’s understood. I received the copy, excellently written, with I think only one slip from first to last. I have struck out two, and added five or six; so they now number forty-five; when they are fifty, they shall out on the world.

Fanny Sitwell had at RLS’s request been writing and despatching to him fair copies of the various sets of verses for his ‘Child’s Garden of Verses’ which he had been time to time sending home from South France []

Draft of the poem “Historical Associations” which appeared in ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’. Whole stanzas are crossed out, and the ordering changes within the draft then again in publication. Dartmouth College Library []

I have not written a letter for a cruel time; I have been, and am, so busy, drafting a long story (for me, I mean), about a hundred Cornhill pages, or say about as long as the Donkey book: Prince Otto it is called, and is, at the present hour, a sore burthen but a hopeful.

RLS, ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes’, 1879 []

RLS, ‘Prince Otto’, 1885 []


If I had him all drafted, I should whistle and sing. But no: then I’ll have to rewrite him; and then there will be the publishers, alas! But some time or other, I shall whistle and sing, I make no doubt. I am going to make a fortune, it has not yet begun, for I am not yet clear of debt; but as soon as I can, I begin upon the fortune. I shall begin it with a half-penny, and it shall end with horses and yachts and all the fun of the fair.

1883 halfpenny []

E. Degas, ‘Before the race’, 1882-1884 []

Yacht race, 19th century []

1884 []

This is the first real grey hair in my character: rapacity had begun to show, the greed of the protuberant guttler. Well, doubtless, when the hour strikes, we must all guttle and protube. But it comes hard on one who was always so willow-slender and as careless as the daisies.

H. Daumier, Louis Philippe as Rabelais’ Gargantua []

Slender willow (Salix petiolaris) []


Truly I am in excellent spirits […]. I have crushed through a financial crisis; Fanny is much better; I am in excellent health, and work from four to five hours a day – from one to two above my average, that is; and we all dwell together and make fortunes in the loveliest house you ever saw, with a garden like a fairy story, and a view like a classical landscape.

Chalet La Solitude, Hyères []

Little? Well, it is not large. And when you come to see us, you will probably have to bed at the hotel, which is hard by. But it is Eden, madam, Eden and Beulah and the Delectable Mountains and Eldorado and the Hesperidean Isles and […] Bimini.

Beulah and the Delectable Mountains are both in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ []

Bimini, the fabulous island in the Bahamas containing the fountain of youth, was the subject of a long poem by Heine, 1852; here its beginning []

We both look forward, my dear friend, with the greatest eagerness to have you here. It seems it is not to be this season; but I appoint you with an appointment for next season. You cannot see us else: remember that. Till my health has grown solid like an oak-tree, till my fortune begins really to spread its boughs like the same monarch of the woods (and the acorn, ay de mi! is not yet planted), I expect to be a prisoner among the palms.




Yes, it is like old times to be writing you from the Riviera, and after all that has come and gone, who can predict anything? How fortune tumbles men about! Yet I have not found that they change their friends, thank God.

Both of our loves to your sister and yourself. As for me, if I am here and happy, I know to whom I owe it; I know who made my way for me in life, if that were all, and I remain, with love, your faithful friend,

Robert Louis Stevenson



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1 Response to This is the first real grey hair in my character: rapacity had begun to show, the greed of the protuberant guttler

  1. rdury says:

    I like the 1883 halfpenny and the daisies near Edinburgh castle!


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