Soon after he was settled again at Hyères, RLS had a great shock in the death (of alcoholism) of one of the oldest and most intimate of his friends of Edinburgh days, James Walter Ferrier. See RLS’s essay Old Mortality in Memories and Portraits, 1887: “Well, now he is out of the fight: the burden that he bore thrown down before the great deliverer”.
Ferrier’s sister Elizabeth Ann was born in Edinburgh in 1844.
[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1138.]
To Elizabeth Ann Ferrier [Colvin 1912, p. 179]
La Solitude, Hyères [Mid-September, 1883]
My dear Miss Ferrier,
They say Walter is gone. You, who know how I have neglected him, will conceive my remorse. I had another letter written; when I heard he was worse, I promised myself to wake up for the last time. Alas, too late!
My dear Walter, set apart that terrible disease, was, in his right mind, the best and gentlest gentleman. God knows he would never intentionally hurt a soul.
Well, he is done with his troubles and out of his long sickness, and I dare say is glad to be at peace and out of the body, which in him seemed the enemy of the fine and kind spirit. He is the first friend I have ever lost, and I find it difficult to say anything and fear to intrude upon your grief. But I had to try to tell you how much I shared it.
Could you get any one to tell me particulars? Do not write yourself of course — I do not mean that; but some one else.