[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1454.]
To Joseph and Elizabeth Pennell [Colvin 1912, pp. 203-204]
[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Late July, 1885.]
Dear Sir and Madam,
This horrible delay must be forgiven me. It was not caused by any want of gratitude; but by the desire to acknowledge the dedication more suitably (and to display my wit) in a copy of verses. Well, now I give that up, and tell you in plain prose, that you have given me much pleasure by the dedication of your graceful book.
Joseph Pennell (1857-1926), American etcher [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Joseph Pennell, by William Strang, 1903 [www.victorianweb.org]
Elizabeth Robins (1855-1936), American writer, had married Joseph Pennell in 1884 [http://2.bp.blogspot.com]
Elizabeth Pennell in 1885, by her husband [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
The book described the travel made by the Pennells, cycling pioneers, and was published in June 1885 [https://ia801408.us.archive.org]
‘A Canterbury Pilgrimage’ with text by Mrs. Pennell and illustrations her husband, published in June 1885, bore the didication to RLS.
As I was writing the above, I received a visit from Lady Shelley, who mentioned to me that she was reading Mrs. Pennell’s Mary Wollstonecraft with pleasure.
The English edition of Elizabeth Pennell’s ‘Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’ appeared in May 1885.
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1759–97), mother-in-law of Percy Bysshe Shelley, early feminist and wife of the Enlightenment anarchist William Godwin [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Sir Percy Florence Shelley (1819-89) the and only surviving child of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft [http://knarf.english.upenn.edu]
Caricature of Sir Percy Florence Shelley, “The Poet’s Son”, 1879 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Jane Gibson St. John married Sir Percy Florence Shelley in 1848, when she was a 28-year-old widow. Around the time of Mary Shelley’s death in 1851 they moved to Boscombe Manor near Bournemouth, where he lived until his death in 1889 [http://shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk]
It is odd how streams cross. Mr. Pennel’s work, I have, of course, long known and admired:
J. Pennell, Plow Inn Yard, 1881; etching [www.allinsongallery.com]
J. Pennell, Bethlehem Steel Works in May 1881 [http://imgc.allpostersimages.com]
J. Pennell. Delphine’s New Orleans, 1882 [www.philaprintshop.com]
J. Pennell, The Ponte Vecchio, Florence, 1883 [www.victorianweb.org]
J. Pennell, A Temple Bar, 1885 [http://archive.cnx.org]
J. Pennell, Christ Church, Canterbury, ca. 1885 [www.philaprintshop.com]
J. Pennell, Le Puy Temple [https://woodmereartmuseum.org]
J. Pennell, Out of my London window [http://paintingandframe.com]
J. Pennell, Letter L, self-portrait of the artist, seated [www.lib.udel.edu]
and I believe there was once some talk, on the part of Mr. Gilder, that we should work together; but the scheme fell through from my rapacity; and since then has been finally rendered impossible (or so I fear) by my health.
Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909), editor of the Century Magazine, NY [http://image1.findagrave.com]
I should say that when I received the Pilgrimage, I was in a state (not at all common with me) of depression; and the pleasant testimony that my work had not all been in vain did much to set me up again.
The 1880s was an exhilarating time for cycling pioneers like Elizabeth and Joseph Pennell.
You will therefore understand, late as is the hour, with what sincerity I am able to sign myself – Gratefully yours,
Robert Louis Stevenson
Mr. And Mrs. Pennell,
I see I should explain that this is all in my own hand, I have not fobbed you off with an amanuensis; but as I have two handwritings (both equally bad in these days) I might lead you to think so.
RLS in a photograph by Sir Percy Shelley, Bournemouth 1885 [http://rogers99.users.sonic.net]