A land of the windmill, and the west wind, and the flowering hawthorn with a little scented letter in the hollow of its trunk

Written in acknowledgment of the gift of a desk, used for writing in bed.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1396.]

Bonallie Towers, Bournemouth [Postmark 26 February 1885]

To Austin Dobson [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 252-253]

Dear Dobson,

Set down my delay to your own fault; I wished to acknowledge such a gift from you in some of my inapt and slovenly rhymes; but you should have sent me your pen and not your desk.

 

NPG Ax29611; (Henry) Austin Dobson by Frederic G. Hodsoll

Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921), poet and man of letters, a great friend of E.W. Gosse and his colleague at the Board of Trade [http://images.npg.org.uk]

628da7e0d074afa7fc98bac3f25258ef1

Victorian bed tray [http://img.carters.com.au]

 

The verses stand up to the axles in a miry cross-road, whence the coursers of the sun shall never draw them;

an00015026_001_l

Attic calyx-krater, c. 430 BC: the sun drives his chariot, pulled by four winged horses, up out of the ocean, while the stars are shown as boys, diving and disappearing into the water [www.britishmuseum.org]


hence I am constrained to this uncourtliness, that I must appear before one of the kings of that country of rhyme without my singing robes. For less than this, if we may trust the book of Esther, favourites have tasted death;

 

01esther

Filippino Lippi, Three Scenes from the Story of Esther, 1470-75: The Lamentation of Mordecai; The Swooning of Esther Come to Ask her Husband, the King of Persia Ahasuerus, to Save the Jews of the Kingdom; The Grand Vizier Aman Asks in Vain for Esther’s mercy [www.wga.hu]

 

but I conceive the kingdom of the Muses mildlier mannered;

27apollo_and_muses_on_mount_parnassus272c_tin-glazed_earthenware_plate2c_cincinnati

Apollo and Muses on Mount Parnassus, tin-glazed earthenware plate, c. 1535 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

and in particular that county which you administer and which I seem to see as a half-suburban land; a land of hollyhocks and country houses;

hollyhocks20in20front20of20a20country20house

[www.lovethegarden.com]

 

a land where at night, in thorny and sequestered bypaths, you will meet masqueraders going to a ball in their sedans,

 

g-_borgelli

G. Borgelli, A Rococo Scene, late 19th century [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

and the rector steering homeward by the light of his lantern;

 

arnold_bc3b6cklin_-_das_irrlicht_-1882

Arnold Böcklin, will-o’-the-wisp, 1882 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

a land of the windmill, and the west wind,

Linnell, John, 1792-1882; Landscape with Windmill

John Linnell (1792–1882), Landscape with Windmill [http://static.artuk.org]

 

and the flowering hawthorn with a little scented letter in the hollow of its trunk,

 

hawthorn

[www.forestryfocus.ie]

10-agosto-290

[https://aminanarimidotcom.files.wordpress.com]

 

and the kites flying over all in the season of kites, and the far away blue spires of a cathedral city.

 

flying_kites_montmartre_study_1906

W.J. Glackens, Flying Kites, Montmartre, 1906 [http://hoocher.com]

6021946784_c5ceb776d8_o

[https://farm7.staticflickr.com]

 

Will you forgive me, then, for my delay and accept my thanks not only for your present, but for the letter which followed it, and which perhaps I more particularly value, and believe me to be, with much admiration, yours very truly,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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One Response to A land of the windmill, and the west wind, and the flowering hawthorn with a little scented letter in the hollow of its trunk

  1. rdury says:

    I was struck by the series of little stories and pictures (‘a land where at night, in thorny and sequestered bypaths, you will meet masqueraders going to a ball in their sedans,’ etc.) — of an inventiveness and varied succession that reminded me of some of Bob Dylan’s fluid narratives.

    Like

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