Early in January 1884, RLS, after a week’s visit at Hyères from his friends Charles Baxter and W.E. Henley, accompanied them as far as Nice, and there suddenly went down with an attack of acute congestion, first of the lungs and then of the kidneys. At one moment there seemed no hope, but he recovered slowly and returned to Hyères. His friends had not written during his illness, fearing him to be too far gone to care for letters. As he got better he began to chafe at their silence.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1269.]
To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1912, pp. 186-188]
[Hyères, ? 2 May 1884.]
[upside down] TANDEM DESINO
I CANNOT read, work, sleep, lie still, walk, or even play patience. These plagues will overtake all damned silencists; among whom, from this day out, number
the fiery indignator
Roland Little Stevenson.
I counted miseries by the heap,
But now have had my fill,
I cannot see, I do not sleep,
But shortly I shall kill.
[laterally, right] Eructavit cor Timonis
Of many letters, here is a
The last will and testament of
a demitting correspondent.
My indefatigable pen
I here lay down for ever. Men
Have used, and left me, and forgot;
Men are entirely off the spot:
Men are a blague and an abuse;
And I commit them to the deuce!
Roderick Lamond Stevenson.
I had companions, I had friends,
I had of whiskey various blends.
The wiskey was all drunk; and lo!
The friends were gone for evermo!
[upside down] The loquacious man at peace.
And when I marked the ingratitude,
I to my maker turned, and spewed.
Randolph Lovel Stevenson.
A pen broken, a subverted ink-pot.
All men are rot; but there are two –
Sidney, the oblivious Slade, and you –
Who from the rabble stand confest
Ten million times the rottenest.
When I was sick and safe in gaol
I thought my friends would never fail.
One wrote me nothing; t’ other bard
Sent me an insolent post-card.
[laterally, left] Here endeth the
Familiar correspondence of
[laterally, right] Explicuerunt Epistolae
IF NOBODY WRITES TO ME I
I now write no more.
Richard Lefanu Stevenson,
Duke of Indignation
[laterally, left] Terminus: Silentia.
[laterally, right] FINIS Finaliter finitum
The finger on the mouth