I fear my affections are not strong to my past works

The play of Deacon Brodie, the joint work of RLS and W.E. Henley, was to be performed in London early in July 1884.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1288.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1912, p. 193]

 [Hotel Chabassière, Royat, June 1884.]

Dear S. C.,

Books received with great thanks. Very nice books, though I see you underrate my cecity: I could no more read their beautiful Bible than I could sail in heaven.




A 19th century book illustration, showing grossly misleading fictional versions of superior mirages [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


However, I have sent for another and can read the rest for patience.

I quite understand your feelings about the Deacon, which is a far way behind; but I get miserable when I think of Henley cutting this splash and standing, I fear, to lose a great deal of money. It is about Henley, not Brodie, that I care. […] I fear my affections are not strong to my past works; they are blotted out by others; and anyhow the Deacon is damn bad.

I am half asleep and can no more discourse. Say to your friends, “Look here, some friends of mine are bringing out a play; it has some stuff; suppose you go and see it.”


William Brodie (1741-88) was a skilful cabinet-maker and a member of Edinburgh Town Council as well as deacon (head) of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons. However, he had a secret night-time occupation as the leader of a gang of burglars. An extra-curricular activity that was necessary to support his extravagant lifestyle which included two mistresses, numerous children and a gambling habit. Brodie was hanged at the Tolbooth with his accomplice George Smith. It is said that Brodie’s bizarre double-life inspired RLS [www.lloydsbankinggroup.com]


Brodie advertising figure on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


Wardrobe made by Deacon Brodie and owned by the Stevensons. Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh [www.simonseeks.com]


Cabinet made by Deacon Brodie [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]


Three Plays by Henley and RLS, first edition 1892 [https://ia800204.us.archive.org]




The play of Deacon Brodie, the joint work of RLS and W.E. Henley, was to be performed in London on 2 July 1884. Henley’s brother played the part of the Deacon Brodie.


[…] But I know I am a cold, unbelieving fellow, incapable of those hot claps that honour you and Henley and therefore —  I am asleep. Child’s Garden (first instalment) come.


A Child’s Garden of Verses will be published only next year, 1885 [http://lot-images.atgmedia.com]

Fanny ill; self asleep.



Carolus-Duran, Sleeping Man, 1861 [www.the-athenaeum.org]

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