[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1473.]
To Will H. Low [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 287-289]
Skerryvore, Bournemouth, October 22, 1885
My dear Low,
I trust you are not annoyed with me beyond forgiveness; for indeed my silence has been devilish prolonged. I can only tell you that I have been nearly six months (more than six) in a strange condition of collapse, when it was impossible to do any work, and difficult (more difficult than you would suppose) to write the merest note.
I am now better, but not yet my own man in the way of brains, and in health only so-so. […] I suppose I shall learn (I begin to think I am learning) to fight this vast, vague feather-bed of an obsession that now overlies and smothers me; but in the beginnings of these conflicts, the inexperienced wrestler is always worsted, and I own I have been quite extinct. I wish you to know, though it can be no excuse, that you are not the only one of my friends by many whom I have thus neglected;
and even now, having come so very late into the possession of myself, with a substantial capital of debts, and my work still moving with a desperate slowness – as a child might fill a sandbag with its little handfuls –
and my future deeply pledged, there is almost a touch of virtue in my borrowing these hours to write to you. Why I said ‘hours’ I know not; it would look blue for both of us if I made good the word.
I was writing your address the other day, ordering a copy of my next, Prince Otto, to go your way. I hope you have not seen it in parts; it was not meant to be so read; and only my poverty (dishonourably) consented to the serial evolution.
I will send you with this a copy of the English edition of the Child’s Garden.
I have heard there is some vile rule of the post-office in the States against inscriptions; so I send herewith a piece of doggerel which Mr. Bunner may, if he thinks fit, copy off the fly-leaf.
[…] Sargent was down again and painted a portrait of me walking about in my own dining-room, in my own velveteen jacket, and twisting as I go my own moustache; at one corner a glimpse of my wife, in an Indian dress, and seated in a chair that was once my grandfather’s; but since some months goes by the name of Henry James’s, for it was there the novelist loved to sit – adds a touch of poesy and comicality.
It is, I think, excellent, but is too eccentric to be exhibited. I am at one extreme corner; my wife, in this wild dress, and looking like a ghost, is at the extreme other end; between us an open door exhibits my palatial entrance hall and a part of my respected staircase. All this is touched in lovely, with that witty touch of Sargent’s; but, of course, it looks dam queer as a whole.
Pray let me hear from you, and give me good news of yourself and your wife, to whom please remember me. Yours most sincerely, my dear Low,
Robert Louis Stevenson