As for my wife, that was the best investment ever made by man

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1181.]

To his mother [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 181-182]

La Solitude, Hyères [November 1883]

My dear Mother,

You must not blame me too much for my silence; I am over head and ears in work, and do not know what to do first. I have been hard at Otto, hard at Silverado proofs, which I have worked over again to a tremendous extent; cutting, adding, rewriting, until some of the worst chapters of the original are now, to my mind, as good as any. I was the more bound to make it good, as I had such liberal terms; it’s not for want of trying if I have failed.

I got your letter on my birthday; indeed, that was how I found it out about three in the afternoon, when postie comes. Thank you for all you said. As for my wife, that was the best investment ever made by man; but ‘in our branch of the family’ we seem to marry well.


Frances (Fanny) Matilda Van de Grift Osbourne, at the time of her marriage with RLS, 1880 []


Margaret Isabella Stevenson, née Balfour (1829 – 1897), RLS’s mother []

[…] I, considering my piles of work, am wonderfully well; I have not been so busy for I know not how long. I hope you will send me the money I asked however, as I […] am not only penniless, but shall remain so in all human probability for some considerable time. I have got in the mass of my expectations; and the £100 which is to float us on the new year cannot come due till Silverado is all ready; I am delaying it myself for the moment; then will follow the binders and the travellers and an infinity of other nuisances; and only at the last, the jingling-tingling.


Under the contract, Chatto and Windus received exclusive rights in Silverado Squatters for 5 years on payment of £100 within 3 months, less £10 for Chatto sending advance sheets to Roberts Brothers []

Do you know that Treasure Island has appeared? In the November number of Henley’s Magazine, a capital number anyway, there is a funny publisher’s puff of it for your book;


Treasure Island was published on 14 Nov 1883 in an edition of 2000 copies. Casell’s advertisement on p. II of the Advertising Sheet for the Nov Magazine of Art called it ‘the sort of book that boys – of all ages – delight in always’, went on to refer to Poe’s ‘The Gold Beetle’ and Dumas’ Monte Cristo and ended by describing it as ‘a kind of schoolboy Odyssey, which is exciting and irresistible from beginning to end’ []

also a bad article by me. Lang dotes on Treasure Island: ‘Except Tom Sawyer and the Odyssey,’ he writes, ‘I never liked any romance so much.’ I will inclose the letter though.


RLS’s friend, Andrew Lang (1844–1912) was a Scots poet, novelist, literary critic, best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales []


First English edition of Tom Sawyer, 1876 []



S.H. Butcher and A. Lang, ‘The Odyssey of Homer Done into English Prose’, 1879 []

The Bogue is angelic, although very dirty.


‘Bogue’ was the final transformation of Wogg’s name: in French it means chesnut-burr []

It has rained – at last! It was jolly cold when the rain came.

I was overjoyed to hear such good news of my father. Let him go on at that! […] – Ever your affectionate,


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