Long life to our friendship, and that means, I do most firmly believe, to these clay continents on which we fly our colours!

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and criticaledition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1330.]

To W.E. Henley  [Colvin 1912, pp. 198-199]

Bonaille Towers, Bournemouth, 14 November 1884.

My dear boy,

A thousand thanks for the Molière.



Henley had sent the “new and beautiful edition of the works of Poquelin”, in 8 voll., by D. Jouast, 1882-83 [https://ia902607.us.archive.org]

I have already read, in this noble presentment, La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, Le Malade Imaginaire, and a part of Les Femmes Savantes;


Théâtre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, ed. D. Jouast 1882-83, vol. 8, Index [https://archive.org]

I say, Poquelin took damned good care of himself: Argan and [Chrysale], what parts!


Argan the hypocondriac, by H. Daumier, c. 1850 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


‘Les femmes savantes’, engraving by Moreau le jeune (1741-1814): Henriette and Clitandre, in order to marry, must overcome an obstacle, the attitude of Henriette’s family. Her sensible father, Chrysale, is in favour of the marriage but under  the thumb of his wife [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Many thanks also for John Silver’s pistol; I recognise it; that was the one he gave Jim Hawkins at the mouth of the pit; I shall get a plate put upon it to that effect.


Treasure Island, 1883: Ch. XXXIII. Henley replied that he pistol was a birthday gift from his brother Joseph Warton [https://ia801409.us.archive.org]

My birthday was a great success; I was better in health; I got delightful presents; I received the definite commission from the P.M.G., and began to write the tale;


Pall Mall Gazette Christmas Extra, 1884, publishing RLS’s short story, ‘The Body Snatcher’ [www.thelancet.com]

and in the evening Bob arrived, a simple seraph.


Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (cousin Bob) (1847-1900) [http://stevensonmuseum.org]

We have known each other ten years; and here we are, too, like the pair that met in the infirmary: why can we not mellow into kindness and sweetness like Bob? What is the reason? Does nature, even in my octogenarian carcase, run too strong that I must be still a bawler and a brawler and a treader upon corns? You, at least, have achieved the miracle of embellishing your personal appearance to that point that, unless your mother is a woman of even more perspicacity than I suppose, it is morally impossible that she can recognise you. When I saw you ten years ago, you looked rough and — […] kind of stigmatised, a look of an embittered political shoemaker; where is it now? You now come waltzing around like some light-hearted monarch; essentially jovial, essentially royal; radiant of smiles.


William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)[https://upload.wikimedia.org]

And in the meanwhile, by a complementary process, I turn into a kind of hunchback with white hair! The devil.

1885 - portrait with cloak in Bournemouth 2, part.

RLS in Bournemouth, 1885.


Well, let us be thankful for our mercies: in these ten years what a change from the cell in the hospital, and the two sick boys in the next bed, to the influence, the recognition, the liberty, and the happiness of today! Well, well; fortune is not so blind as people say; you dreed a good long weird [= endured your fate]; but you have got into a fine green paddock now to kick your heels in. And I, too, what a difference; what a difference in my work, in my situation, and unfortunately, also in my health! But one need not complain of a pebble in the shoe,



when by mere justice one should rot in a dungeon.



Many thanks to both of you; long life to our friendship, and that means, I do most firmly believe, to these clay continents on which we fly our colours; good luck to one and all, and may God continue to be merciful. — Your old and warm friend,


This entry was posted in Letters, Robert Louis Stevenson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.