So I moralise blandly as we sit together on the devil’s garden-wall

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1328.]

To his father [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 243-244]

Bonallie Towers, Bournemouth, [c. 12] November 1884

My dear Father,

I have no hesitation in recommending you to let your name go up; please yourself about an address; though I think, if we could meet, we could arrange something suitable.

the_royal_society_building2c_george_street2c_edinburgh

About this time RLS’s father was in some hesitation as to letting himself be proposed for the office of President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

What you propose would be well enough in a way, but so modest as to suggest a whine. From that point of view it would be better to change a little; but this, whether we meet or not, we must discuss. Tait, Chrystal, the Royal Society, and I, all think you amply deserve this honour and far more;

tait_peter_guthrie

Peter Guthrie Tait (1831–1901), Scottish mathematical physicist and fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

george_chrystal

George Chrystal (1851-1911), Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University 1879-1911 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

it is not the True Blue to call this serious compliment a ‘trial’; you should be glad of this recognition. As for resigning, that is easy enough if found necessary; but to refuse would be husky and unsatisfactory […]. Sic subs.

R.L.S.

My cold is still very heavy; but I carry it well. Fanny is very very much out of sorts, principally through perpetual misery with me. I fear I have been a little in the dumps, which, as you know, sir, is a very great sin. I must try to be more cheerful; but my cough is so severe […] that I have sometimes most exhausting nights and very peevish wakenings. However, this shall be remedied, and last night I was distinctly better than the night before. There is, my dear Mr. Stevenson (so I moralise blandly as we sit together on the devil’s garden-wall) no more abominable sin than this gloom, this plaguy peevishness; why (say I) what matters it if we be a little uncomfortable – that is no reason for mangling our unhappy wives.

And then I turn and girn on the unfortunate Cassandra.

fanny_stevenson

Fanny Stevenson at Bournemouth, 1885. ‘Cassandra’ was a nickname of RLS’s father for his daughter-in-law [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

– Your fellow culprit,

R.L.S.

[…]

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