It is bad enough to have to live by an art – but to think to live by an art combined with commercial speculation – that way madness lies

About Easter 1885, RLS and Fanny entered into occupation of a house of their own, given by Thomas Stevenson as a special gift to his daughter-in-law, and renamed Skerryvore, in reminiscence of one of the great lighthouse works carried out by the family firm off the Scottish coast.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1425.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1912, p. 203]

[Bournemouth, c. 14 April 1885]

Dear lad,

Much better, but rather unequal to do what I ought, a common complaint. The change of weather much helped me, not too soon.

Skerryvore cottage was at 61 Alum Chine Road, Westbourne. Previously known as Sea View, the house was damaged by a German bomb in 1940 and eplaced by a memorial garden.

Skerryvore cottage was at 61 Alum Chine Road, Westbourne. Previously known as Sea View, the house was damaged by a German bomb in 1940 and eplaced by a memorial garden. See below: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alwyn_ladell/17314255122/in/album-72157626217628176/

Skerryvore, 61 Alum Chine Road, Westbourne, Bournemouth, Dorset

 

I have thought as well as I could of what you said; and I come unhesitatingly to the opinion that the stage is only a lottery, must not be regarded as a trade, and must never be preferred to drudgery. If money comes from any play, let us regard it as a legacy, but never count upon it in our income for the year. In other words, I must go on and drudge at Kidnapped, which I hate, and am unfit to do; and you will have to get some journalism somehow. These are my cold and blighting sentiments. It is bad enough to have to live by an art – but to think to live by an art combined with commercial speculation – that way madness lies.

Portrait of Henley, by A. Rodin. He wrote prolifically on literature and art, championing Whistler and introducing Rodin's work to the English public [http://images.npg.org.uk]

Portrait of Henley, by A. Rodin. He wrote prolifically on literature and art, championing Whistler and introducing Rodin’s work to the English public [http://images.npg.org.uk]

[…] Time is our only friend. The Admiral, pulled simply in pieces and about half deleted, will act some day: such is my opinion. I can no more.

The play 'Admiral Guinea' was privately printed in 1884 and first performed in 1897.

The play ‘Admiral Guinea’ was privately printed in 1884, published in 1892, and first performed in 1897.

– Yours ever,

R.L.S.

 

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