Keep the jelly for the last

The persons mentioned below in the third paragraph are cousins of the writer and playmates of his childhood; two of them, christened Lewis like himself after their Balfour grandfather, had been nicknamed after their birthplaces ‘Delhi’ and ‘Cramond’ to avoid confusion. Cramond was Lewis (1850-1885), eldest son of doctor George William Balfour. Delhi was Lewis (1850-1894), son of John Balfour. Minnie was Cecilia Henrietta Balfour (b. 1852), daughter of Mackintosh Balfour. One of the Envoys in ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ is addressed to her.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1185.]

To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 153-154]

[Hyères, Late November 1883]

My dear Cummy,

Yes, I own I am a real bad correspondent, and am as bad as can be in most directions. I have been adding some more poems to your book. I wish they would look sharp about it; but, you see, they are trying to find a good artist to make the illustrations, without which no child would give a kick for it. It will be quite a fine work, I hope. The dedication is a poem too, and has been quite a long while written, but I do not mean you to see it till you get the book; keep the jelly for the last, you know, as you would often recommend in former days, so now you can take your own medicine.


RLS’s dedication to Cummy of ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’, illustrated edition, 1895.


I am very sorry to hear you have been so poorly; I have been very well; it used to be quite the other way, used it not?


RLS’s nurse, Alison Cunningham – ‘Cummy’ – in later life []

Do you remember making the whistle at Mount Chessie? I do not think it was my knife; I believe it was yours; but rhyme is a very great monarch, and goes before honesty, in these affairs at least.

(c) National Library of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

W. Geikie, Melville Mill, Lasswade, Midlothian. Mount Chessie is a beautiful place near Lasswade where the Stevensons stayed in June 1861: ‘Cummy’ has described his delight when she cut whistles for him there out of a plane-tree []


Lasswade, Midlothian []


Lasswade, Midlothian, 1911 []




Popular Science Monthly, 33, June 1888: how to make a wooden whistle []



Do you remember, at Warriston, one autumn Sunday, when the beech nuts were on the ground, seeing Heaven open? I would like to make a rhyme of that, but cannot.


In his essay ‘Rosa Quo Locorum’ RLS describes how he identified ‘death’s dark vale’ as a ‘certain archway in Warriston Cemetery’, Edinburgh []


Archway in Warriston Cemetery []


Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh []

Is it not strange to think of all the changes: Bob, Cramond, Delhi, Minnie, and Henrietta, all married, and fathers and mothers, and your humble servant just the one point better off? And such a little while ago all children together!

The time goes swift and wonderfully even; and if we are no worse than we are, we should be grateful to the power that guides us. For more than a generation I have now been to the fore in this rough world, and been most tenderly helped, and done cruelly wrong, and yet escaped; and here I am still, the worse for wear, but with some fight in me still, and not unthankful — no, surely not unthankful, or I were then the worst of human beings!

My little dog is a very much better child in every way, both more loving and more amiable; but he is not fond of strangers, and is, like most of his kind, a great, specious humbug.

1883 - with family and Wogg

RLS with his dog Woggs, 1883.


Fanny has been ill, but is much better again; she now goes donkey rides with an old woman, who compliments her on her French. That old woman — seventy odd — is in a parlous spiritual state.



Pretty soon, in the new sixpenny illustrated magazine, Wogg’s picture is to appear: this is a great honour! And the poor soul, whose vanity would just explode if he could understand it, will never be a bit the wiser!


A drawing of Woggs captioned ‘The Wife-beater’ is one of Randolph Caldecott’s illustrations to ‘The Character of Dogs’ in the English Illustrated Magazine for Feb. 1884, p. 302 []

— With much love, in which Fanny joins, believe me, your affectionate boy,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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2 Responses to Keep the jelly for the last

  1. rdury says:

    Many thanks for the ‘certain arch’ of Warrington Cemetery


  2. mafalda says:

    Glad you liked it!


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