RLS had been asked by his father to look over the proofs of a paper which the latter was about to read, as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, ‘On the Principal Causes of Silting in Estuaries,’ in connection with the Manchester Ship Canal Scheme.
‘Mr Dick”, is James Dick, for many years head clerk and confidential assistant in the Stevenson firm at Edinburgh.
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1379.]
To his father [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 263-264]
Bonallie Towers, Bournemouth, 14th January 1885
My dear Father,
I am glad you like the changes. I own I was pleased with my hand’s darg [= a day’s work]; you may observe, I have corrected several errors which (you may tell Mr. Dick) he had allowed to pass his eagle eye; I wish there may be none in mine; at least, the order is better. The second title, ‘Some new Engineering Questions involved in the M[anchester] S[hip] C[anal] Scheme of last Session of P[arliament],’ likes me the best.
I think it a very good paper; and I am vain enough to think I have materially helped to polish the diamond. I ended by feeling quite proud of the paper, as if it bad been mine; the next time you have as good a one, I will overhaul it for the wages of feeling as clever as I did when I had managed to understand and helped to set it clear. I wonder if I anywhere misapprehended you? I rather think not at the last; at the first shot I know I missed a point or two. Some of what may appear to you to be wanton changes, a little study will show to be necessary.
Yes, Carlyle was ashamed of himself as few men have been; and let all carpers look at what he did.
He prepared all these papers for publication with his own hand; all his wife’s complaints, all the evidence of his own misconduct: who else would have done so much?
Is repentance, which God accepts, to have no avail with men? nor even with the dead? I have heard too much against the thrawn, discomfortable dog: dead he is, and we may be glad of it; but he was a better man than most of us, no less patently than he was a worse. To fill the world with whining is against all my views: I do not like impiety. But — but — there are two sides to all things, and the old scalded baby had his noble side.
[…] — Ever affectionate son,