It is path-breaking and epoch-making; but I do not think the public will be readily convoked to its perusal

[A usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and criticaledition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1357.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 260-261]

Bonallie Towers, Bournemouth [Late December 1884]

My dear lad,

Here was I in bed; […] not writing, not hearing, and finding myself gently and agreeably ill used; and behold I learn you are bad yourself. Get your wife to send us a word how you are. I am better decidedly. […] Bogue got his Christmas card, and behaved well for three days after.

It may interest the cynical to learn that I started my last hemorrhage by too sedulous attentions to my dear Bogue. The stick was broken; and that night Bogue, who was attracted by the extraordinary aching of his bones, and is always inclined to a serious view of his own ailments, announced with his customary pomp that he was dying. In this case, however, it was not the dog that died. (He had tried to bite bis mother’s ankles.)


Fanny Stevenson at Bournemouth in 1885 []

I have written […] a long and peculiarly solemn paper on the technical elements of style.


RLS’s essay ‘On Style in Literature: Its Technical Elements’ was first publihed in The Contemporary Review for April 1885, and reprinted in Edinburgh Edition of his collected works, in 1895 []



It is path-breaking and epoch-making; but I do not think the public will be readily convoked to its perusal. Did I tell you that S[idney] C[olvin] had risen to the paper on James?


Sidney Colvin (1845-1927), photographed by Frederick Hollyer, ca. 1890 []


Henry James (1843-1916) had written holding out the prospect of a continuance of the friendly controversy which had thus been opened up between them on the aims and qualities of fiction []


At last! O but I was pleased; he’s (like Johnnie) been tang, lang o’ comin’, but here he is. He will not object to my future manoeuvres in the same field, as he has to my former. All the family are here; my father better than I have seen him these two years; […] my mother the same as ever.


RLS with his family and dog Bogue (French: ‘chesnut-burr’), 1883. His parents arrived at Bournemouth on 20 Dec 1884 to spend Christmas with him. His mothers recorded that he was too ill to come downstairs to dinner on Christmas Day and stayed in bed until 2 Jan 1885,

I do trust you are better, and I am yours ever,



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