[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.
I have already read, in this noble presentment, La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, Le Malade Imaginaire, and a part of Les Femmes Savantes;
I say, Poquelin took damned good care of himself: Argan and [Chrysale], what parts!
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.
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;
and in the evening Bob arrived, a simple seraph.
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.
And in the meanwhile, by a complementary process, I turn into a kind of hunchback with white hair! The devil.
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,