I don’t want no such a parent… his gloom is gallows-worthy

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1205.]

To his mother [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 193-194]

[La Solitude, Hyères] Last Sunday of ’83 [30 December]

My dear Mother,

I give my father up. I give him a parable: that the Waverley novels are better reading for every day than the tragic Life.

12

Scott’s ‘Waverley Novels, 1863 illustrated edition, 48 vols [http://i.ebayimg.com]

immagine

Lockhart’s Life of Scott, 1839 ed. [https://ia700404.us.archive.org]

sir_william_allan_-_sir_walter_scott2c_1771_-_1832-_novelist_and_poet_-_google_art_project

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

And he takes it backside foremost, and shakes his head, and is gloomier than ever.

2012aa46714

Thomas Stevenson, potrait by Sir george Reid [www.nationalgalleries.org]

Tell him that I give him up. I don’t want no such a parent. This is not the man for my money. I do not call that by the name of religion which fills a man with bile […]. I write him a whole letter, bidding him beware of extremes, and telling him that his gloom is gallows-worthy; and I get back an answer – Perish the thought of it.

Here am I on the threshold of another year, when, according to all human foresight, I should long ago have been resolved into my elements; here am I, who you were persuaded was born to disgrace you – and, I will do you the justice to add, on no such insufficient grounds – no very burning discredit when all is done; here am I married, and the marriage recognised to be a blessing of the first order, A1 at Lloyd’s.

10173

John Singer Sargent, RLS and his wife, 1885 [www.jssgallery.org]

404px-lloyd_osbourne_in_1880

Lloyd Osbourne, RLS’s stepchild, 1880 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

There is he, at his not first youth, able to take more exercise than I at thirty-three, and gaining a stone’s weight, a thing of which I am incapable.

portrait_of_thomas_stevenson

Thomas Stevenson [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

There are you; has the man no gratitude?

picture_of_margaret_isabella_balfour

Margaret Isabella Stevenson [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

There is Smeoroch: is he blind?

immagine

RLS’s father was a great lover of dogs: Smeoroch was a favourite Skye terrier [https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com]

Tell him from me that all this is

NOT THE TRUE BLUE!

I will think more of his prayers when I see in him a spirit of praise. Piety is a more childlike and happy attitude than he admits. Martha, Martha, do you hear the knocking at the door? But Mary was happy.

johannes_28jan29_vermeer_-_christ_in_the_house_of_martha_and_mary_-_google_art_project

Johannes Vermeer, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, c. 1654 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Even the Shorter Catechism, not the merriest epitome of religion, and a work exactly as pious although not quite so true as the multiplication table – even that dry-as-dust epitome begins with a heroic note. What is man’s chief end?

immagine

A. Whyte, A Commentary to the Shorter Catechism, 1856 ed. [https://ia801409.us.archive.org]

immagine

[https://ia801409.us.archive.org]

 

Let him study that; and ask himself if to refuse to enjoy God’s kindest gifts is in the spirit indicated. Up, Dullard! It is better service to enjoy a novel than to mump.

I have been most unjust to the Shorter Catechism, I perceive. I wish to say that I keenly admire its merits as a performance; and that all that was in my mind was its peculiarly unreligious and unmoral texture; from which defect it can never, of course, exercise the least influence on the minds of children.

immagine

The child’s book on the Westminster shorter catechism, 1855 [https://ia700802.us.archive.org]

immagine

[https://ia700802.us.archive.org]

 

But they learn fine style and some austere thinking unconsciously.

[…]

– Ever your loving son,

R.L.S.

[…]

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Letters, Robert Louis Stevenson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s