Soon after the date of the following letter, Miss Ferrier (born in Edinburgh in 1844) went out to Hyères and stayed with her friends through the trying weeks which followed. Her brother Walter, one of RLS’s oldest and most intimate friends of Edinburgh days, had died of alcoholism in 1883.
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1242.]
To Elizabeth Anne Ferrier [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 208-209]
La Solitude, Hyères [Postmark March 22, 1884]
My dear Miss Ferrier,
Are you really going to fail us? This seems a dreadful thing. My poor wife, who is not well off for friends on this bare coast, has been promising herself, and I have been promising her, a rare acquisition.
And now Miss Burn has failed, and you utter a very doubtful note. You do not know how delightful this place is, nor how anxious we are for a visit. Look at the names: ‘The Solitude’ – is that romantic?
The palm-trees? – how is that for the gorgeous East?
‘Var’? the name of a river – ‘the quiet waters by’! ‘Tis true, they are in another department, and consist of stones and a biennial spate; but what a music, what a plash of brooks, for the imagination!
The Gapeau river, near Hyères
We have hills;we have skies;
the roses are putting forth, as yet sparsely;
the meadows by the sea are one sheet of jonquils;
the birds sing as in an English May –
for, considering we are in France and serve up our song-birds, I am ashamed to say, on a little field of toast and with a sprig of thyme (my own receipt) in their most innocent and now unvocal bellies –
considering all this, we have a wonderful fair wood-music round this Solitude of ours.
What can I say more? – All this awaits you. Kennst du das Land, in short. – Your sincere friend,
Robert Louis Stevenson