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.

robert-louis-stevenson-a-childs-garden-of-verses-1903-dedication-to-alison-cunningham

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?

picture-a3

RLS’s nurse, Alison Cunningham – ‘Cummy’ – in later life [http://digital.nls.uk]

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 [http://ichef.bbci.co.uk]

lasswade79

Lasswade, Midlothian [www.henniker.org.uk]

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Lasswade, Midlothian, 1911 [http://lifeaccordingtogramps.co.uk]

edinburghshire20lasswade20from20the20railway20station

[www.oldukphotos.com]

psm_v33_d187_wooden_whistle

Popular Science Monthly, 33, June 1888: how to make a wooden whistle [https://upload.wikimedia.org/]

folder200828111

[www.olddominionforge.com]

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.

warristoncemeteryir08

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

warristoncemetery10

Archway in Warriston Cemetery [www.henniker.org.uk]

warristoncemetery24

Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh [www.henniker.org.uk]

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.

1281-recto

[www.mistercard.net]

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!

immagine

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 [http://babel.hathitrust.org]

— 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

    Like

  2. mafalda says:

    Glad you liked it!

    Like

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