We’ll no gie ower jist yet a bittie. We’ve seen waur; and dod, mem, it’s my belief that we’ll see better

Elizabeth Anne Ferrier (“Coggie”) was the sister of one of RLS’s oldest and most intimate friends of Edinburgh days, Walter, who had died of alcoholism the previous year. The “Perfessor and his wife, and the Prinshiple” (at the end of this letter) is probably Elizabeth’s other brother, John, with his family.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1324.]

To Elizabeth Anne Ferrier [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 247-248]

Bonallie Towers, Bournemouth, Nov. 12, 1884

My dear Coggie,

Many thanks for the two photos which now decorate my room. I was particularly glad to have the Bell Rock.


The Bell Rock Lighthouse, off the coast of Angus, Scotland, is the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse. It was built between 1807 and 1810 by RLS’s grangfather, Robert, on the Bell Rock (aka Inchcape) in the North Sea, 11 miles east of the Firth of Tay [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]

I wonder if you saw me plunge, lance in rest, into a controversy thereanent? It was a very one-sided affair. The man I attacked cried ‘Boo-hoo!’ and referred me to his big brother. And the big brother refused to move. […] So I slept upon the field of battle, paraded, sang Te Deum, and came home after a review rather than a campaign.


Samuel Smiles (1812-1904), Scottish author best known for his didactic work Self-Help (1859), which enshrined the basic Victorian values associated with the “gospel of work.” The controversy here mentioned had been one in which Smiles and others had taken part, concerning the rival claims of Robert Stevenson and John Rennie to have been the chief engineers of the Bell Rock Lighthouse [www.mackinac.org]


S. Smiles, Lives of the Engineers, vol. 2, 1862 [https://ia801309.us.archive.org]



The Bell Rock Lighthouse, 1807-1810. Rennie was, by some, credited with the design and execution. Actually, Robert Stevenson, surveyor to the Commissioners of Northern Lights, drew the original plans, and, at his suggestion, the commissioners called Rennie to assist him. Stevenson did not accept many of the modifications proposed by Rennie, but the two men remained on friendly terms.




John Rennie (1761–1821) was a Scottish civil engineer who designed many bridges, canals, and docks[https://upload.wikimedia.org]


Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) and the Bell Rock Lighthouse [http://lowres-picturecabinet.com.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com]

Please tell Campbell I got his letter.


Lewis Campbell (1830–1908), Scottish classical scholar [http://america.pink]

The Wild Woman of the West […] has been much amiss and complaining sorely. I hope nothing more serious is wrong with her than just my ill-health, and consequent anxiety and labour; but the deuce of it is, that the cause continues. I am about knocked out of time now: a miserable, snuffling, shivering, fever-stricken, nightmare-ridden, knee-jottering, hoast-hoast-hoasting [= coughing] shadow and remains of man.


RLS and Fanny (“The Wild Woman of the West”) at Bournemouth in 1885, by J. S. Sargent [https://singbookswithemily.files.wordpress.com]

But we’ll no gie ower jist yet a bittie. We’ve seen waur; and dod, mem, it’s my belief that we’ll see better. I dinna ken ‘at I’ve muckle mair to say to ye, or, indeed, onything; but jist here’s guid-fallowship, guid health, and the wale o’ guid fortune to your bonny sel’; and my respecs to the Perfessor and his wife, and the Prinshiple, an’ the Bell Rock, an’ ony ither public chara’ters that I’m acquaunt wi’.


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