RLS had been unable to finish for the Pall Mall Christmas number the tale he had first intended; had tried the publishers with Markheim (afterwards printed in the collection called Merry Men), which proved too short; had then furbished up as well as he could a tale drafted in 1881, while at Pitlochry, Perthshire: The Body Snatcher.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and criticaledition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1349.]
To his parents [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 257-258]
Bonallie Towers, Bournemouth, December 9, 1884
My dear people,
The dreadful tragedy of the Pall Mall has come to a happy but ludicrous ending: I am to keep the money, the tale writ for them is to be buried certain fathoms deep, and they are to flash out before the world with our old friend of Kinnaird, The Body Snatcher.
When you come, please to bring –
(1) My Montaigne, or, at least, the two last volumes.
(2) My Milton in the three vols. in green.
(3) The Shakespeare that Babington sent me for a wedding-gift.
(4) Hazlitt’s Table Talk and Plain Speaker.
If you care to get a box of books from Douglas and Foulis, let them be solid.
Correspondence of Napoleon,
History of Henry IV,
Lang’s Folk Lore, would be my desires.
I had a charming letter from Henry James about my Longman paper. I did not understand queries about the verses; the pictures to the Seagull I thought charming; those to the second have left me with a pain in my poor belly and a swimming in the head […].
About money, I am afloat and no more, and I warn you, unless I have great luck, I shall have to fall upon you at the New Year like a hundredweight of bricks. Doctor, rent, chemist, are all threatening; sickness has bitterly delayed my work; and unless, as I say, I have the mischief’s luck, I shall completely break down. Verbum sapientibus. I do not live cheaply, and I question if I ever shall; but if only I had a half-penny worth of health, I could now easily suffice. The last breakdown of my head is what makes this bankruptcy probable. Fanny is still out of sorts;
self fair, but a stranger to the blessings of sleep.
– Ever affectionate son,