[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1403.]
To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 269-272]
Bonallie Tower, Bournemouth, March 12, 1885
My dear Gosse,
I was indeed much exercised how I could be worked into Gray; and lo! when I saw it, the passage seemed to have been written with a single eye to elucidate the – worst? – well, not a very good poem of Gray’s.
Your little life is excellent, clean, neat, efficient. I have read many of your notes, too, with pleasure. […] Your connection with Gray was a happy circumstance; it was a suitable conjunction.
I did not answer your letter from the States, for what was I to say? I liked getting it and reading it; I was rather flattered that you wrote it to me; and then I’ll tell you what I did – I put it in the fire. Why? Well, just because it was very natural and expansive; and thinks I to myself, if I die one of these fine nights […], this is just the letter that Gosse would not wish to go into the hands of third parties.
Was I well inspired? And I did not answer it because you were in your high places, sailing with supreme dominion, and seeing life in a particular glory; and I was peddling in a corner, confined to the house, overwhelmed with necessary work, which I was not always doing well, and, in the very mild form in which the disease approaches me, touched with a sort of bustling cynicism. Why throw cold water? How ape your agreeable frame of mind? In short, I held my tongue.
I have now published on 101 small pages The Complete Proof of Mr. R. L. Stevenson’s Incapacity to Write Verse, in a series of graduated examples with table of contents.
I think I shall issue a companion volume of exercises: ‘Analyse this poem. Collect and comminate the ugly words. Distinguish and condemn the chevilles. State Mr. Stevenson’s faults of taste in regard to the measure. What reasons can you gather from this example for your belief that Mr. S. is unable to write any other measure?’ They look ghastly in the cold light of print; but there is something nice in the little ragged regiment for all; the blackguards seem to me to smile, to have a kind of childish treble note that sounds in my ears freshly; not song, if you will, but a child’s voice.
I was glad you enjoyed your visit to the States. Most Englishmen go there with a confirmed design of patronage, as they go to France for that matter; and patronage will not pay. Besides, in this year of – grace, said I? – of disgrace, who should creep so low as an Englishman?
‘It is not to be thought of that the flood’ – ah, Wordsworth, […] you would change your note were you alive to-day!
I am now a beastly householder, but have not yet entered on my domain. When I do, the social revolution will probably cast me back upon my dung heap. There is a person called Hyndman whose eye is on me; his step is beHynd me as I go.
I shall call my house Skerryvore when I get it: SKERRYVORE: c’est bon pour la poéshie.
I will conclude with my favourite sentiment: ‘The world is too much with me.’
Robert Louis Stevenson
The Hermit of Skerryvore.
Author of ‘John Vane Tempest: a Romance,’
‘Herbert and Henrietta: or the Nemesis of Sentiment,’ ‘The Life and Adventures of Colonel Bludyer Fortescue,’ ‘Happy Homes and Hairy Faces,’
‘A Pound of Feathers and a Pound of Lead,’
part author of ‘Minn’s Complete Capricious Correspondent: a Manual of Natty, Natural, and Knowing Letters,’ and editor of the ‘Poetical Remains of Samuel Burt Crabbe, known as the melodious Bottle-Holder.’
Uniform with the above:
‘The Life and Remains of the Reverend Jacob Degray Squah,’ author of ‘Heave-yo for the New Jerusalem,’
‘A Box of Candles; or the Patent Spiritual Safety Match,’
and ‘A Day with the Heavenly Harriers.’