Professor Fleeming Jenkin, who in RLS’s early student days at Edinburgh had been both the warmest and the wisest of his elder friends, died unespectedly on 12 June 1885 after a minor operation.
Austin was Mr. and Mrs. Jenkin’s eldest son.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1445.]
To Anne Jenkin [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 283-284]
[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, 14 or 15 June 1885]
My dear Mrs. Jenkin,
You know how much and for how long I have loved, respected, and admired him;
I am only able to feel a little with you. But I know how he would have wished us to feel. I never knew a better man, nor one to me more lovable; we shall all feel the loss more greatly as time goes on. It scarce seems life to me; what must it be to you? Yet one of the last things that he said to me was, that from all these sad bereavements of yours he had learned only more than ever to feel the goodness and what we, in our feebleness, call the support of God;
he had been ripening so much – to other eyes than ours, we must suppose he was ripe, and try to feel it. I feel it is better not to say much more. It will be to me a great pride to write a notice of him: the last I can now do.
What more in any way I can do for you, please to think and let me know. For his sake and for your own, I would not be a useless friend: I know, you know me a most warm one; please command me or my wife, in any way. Do not trouble to write to me; Austin, I have no doubt, will do so, if you are, as I fear you will be, unfit.
My heart is sore for you. At least you know what you have been to him; how he cherished and admired you; how he was never so pleased as when he spoke of you; with what a boy’s love, up to the last, he loved you. This surely is a consolation. Yours is the cruel part to survive; you must try and not grudge to him his better fortune, to go first. It is the sad part of such relations that one must remain and suffer; I cannot see my poor Jenkin without you. Nor you indeed without him; but you may try to rejoice that he is spared that extremity. Perhaps I (as I was so much his confidant) know even better than you can do what your loss would have been to him; he never spoke of you but his face changed; it was – you were – his religion.
I write by this post to Austin and to the Academy.
– Yours most sincerely,
Robert Louis Stevenson