Will Hicock Low was at that time teacher of drawing in the Cooper Institute, NY.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1327.]
To Will H. Low [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 240-242]
Bonallie Towers, Branksome Park, Bournemouth, Hants, England
First week in November, I guess, [c. 12 Nov.] 1884
My dear Low,
[…] Now, look here, the above is my address for three months, I hope; continue, on your part, if you please, to write to Edinburgh, which is safe, but if Mrs. Low thinks of coming to England, she might take a run down from London (four hours from Waterloo, main line) and stay a day or two with us among the pines. If not, I hope it will be only a pleasure deferred till you can join her.
My Children’s Verses will be published here in a volume called A Child’s Garden. The sheets are in hand;
I will see if I cannot send you the lot, so that you might have a bit of a start. In that case I would do nothing to publish in the States, and you might try an illustrated edition there; which, if the book went fairly over here, might, when ready, be imported.
But of this more fully ere long. You will see some verses of mine in the last Magazine of Art, with pictures by a young lady; rather pretty, I think.
If we find a market for Phasellulus loquitur, we can try another.
I hope it isn’t necessary to put the verse into that rustic printing. I am Philistine enough to prefer clean printer’s type; indeed, I can form no idea of the verses thus transcribed by the incult and tottering hand of the draughtsman, nor gather any impression beyond one of weariness to the eyes. Yet the other day, in the Century, I saw it imputed as a crime to Vedder that he had not thus travestied Omar Khayyàm.
We live in a rum age of music without airs, stories without incident, pictures without beauty, American wood engravings that should have been etchings, and dry-point etchings that ought to have been mezzotints. I think of giving ’em literature without words; and I believe if you were to try invisible illustration, it would enjoy a considerable vogue. So long as an artist is on his head, is painting with a flute, or writes with an etcher’s needle, or conducts the orchestra with a meat-axe, all is well; and plaudits shower along with roses. But any plain man who tries to follow the obtrusive canons of his art, is but a commonplace figure. To hell with him is the motto, or at least not that; for he will have his reward, but he will never be thought a person of parts […].
January 3, 1885. – And here has this been lying near two months. I have failed to get together a preliminary copy of the Child’s Verses for you, in spite of doughty efforts; but yesterday I sent you the first sheet of the definitive edition, and shall continue to send the others as they come.
If you can, and care to, work them – why so, well. If not, I send you fodder. But the time presses; for though I will delay a little over the proofs, and though it is even possible they may delay the English issue until Easter, it will certainly not be later. Therefore perpend, and do not get caught out. Of course, if you can do pictures, it will be a great pleasure to me to see our names joined; and more than that, a great advantage, as I dare say you may be able to make a bargain for some share a little less spectral than the common for the poor author.
But this is all as you shall choose; I give you carte blanche to do or not to do. – Yours most sincerely,
Robert Louis Stevenson
O, Sargent has been and painted my portrait; a very nice fellow he is, and is supposed to have done well; it is a poetical but very chicken-boned figure-head, as thus represented.
R.L.S. Go on.
P.P.S. – Your picture came; and let me thank you for it very much. I am so hunted I had near forgotten. I find it very graceful; and I mean to have it framed.