[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1508.]
To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 305-306]
[Skerryvore, Bournemouth] Jan. 1st, 1886
My dear Kinnicum,
I am a very bad dog, but not for the first time. Your book, which is very interesting, came duly; and I immediately got a very bad cold indeed, and have been fit for nothing whatever. I am a bit better now, and aye on the mend; so I write to tell you, I thought of you on New Year’s Day; though, I own, it would have been more decent if I had thought in time for you to get my letter then.
Well, what can’t be cured must be endured, Mr. Lawrie; and you must be content with what I give. If I wrote all the letters I ought to write, and at the proper time, I should be very good and very happy; but I doubt if I should do anything else.
I suppose you will be in town for the New Year; and I hope your health is pretty good. What you want is diet;
but it is as much use to tell you that as it is to tell my father.
And I quite admit a diet is a beastly thing. I doubt, however, if it be as bad as not being allowed to speak, which I have tried fully, and do not like. When, at the same time, I was not allowed to read, it passed a joke. But these are troubles of the past, and on this day, at least, it is proper to suppose they won’t return. But we are not put here to enjoy ourselves: it was not God’s purpose; and I am prepared to argue, it is not our sincere wish. As for our deserts, the less said of them the better, for somebody might hear, and nobody cares to be laughed at. A good man is a very noble thing to see, but not to himself; what he seems to God is, fortunately, not our business; that is the domain of faith; and whether on the first of January or the thirty-first of December, faith is a good word to end on.
My dear Cummy, many happy returns to you and my best love. – The worst correspondent in the world,
Robert Louis Stevenson