I only know that side of Queen Square from the pavement and the back windows of Brunswick Row

Alicia Isobel Buckle, a daughter of the novelist and editor James Payn married to the editor of the Times, had laughingly remonstrated, through her father, on recognising some features of her own house in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, in the description of that tenanted by the fair Cuban in RLS’s Dynamiter.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1511.]

To James Payn [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 315-316]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Jan. 2nd, 1886

Dear James Payn,

Your very kind letter came very welcome;

James Payn (1830-1898), English editor and novelist, married Miss Louisa Adelaide Edlin (b. 1830 or 1831). They had nine children, the third of whom, Alicia Isabel (died 1898), married The Times editor George Earle Buckle. Payn edited Chamber’s Journal 1860-1875. In the pages of the Journal he published in 1864 his most popular story, 'Lost Sir Massingberd'. In 1883 he succeeded Leslie Stephen as editor of the Cornhill Magazine [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

James Payn (1830-1898), English editor and novelist, married Miss Louisa Adelaide Edlin (b. 1830 or 1831). They had nine children, the third of whom, Alicia Isabel (died 1898), married The Times editor George Earle Buckle. Payn edited Chamber’s Journal 1860-1875. In the pages of the Journal he published in 1864 his most popular story, ‘Lost Sir Massingberd’. In 1883 he succeeded Leslie Stephen as editor of the Cornhill Magazine [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

and still more welcome the news that you see [Powell]’s tale.

Walter A. Powell (?-1892), chemist at the Pharmacie Anglais, Hyères, Var, France, published ‘A Run of Luck in the Var’, in Cornhill for October 1886.

Walter A. Powell (?-1892), chemist at the Pharmacie Anglais, Hyères, Var, France, published ‘A Run of Luck in the Var’, in Cornhill for October 1886.

 

I will now tell you (and it was very good and very wise of me not to tell it before) that he is one of the most unlucky men I know, having put all his money into a pharmacy at Hyères, when the cholera (certainly not his fault) swept away his customers in a body.

Cholera Epidemic in France, 1884. Public health workers disinfect baggage at a quarantine station.

Cholera Epidemic in France, 1884. Public health workers disinfect baggage at a quarantine station.

Thus you can imagine the pleasure I have to announce to him a spark of hope, for he sits to-day in his pharmacy, doing nothing and taking nothing, and watching his debts inexorably mount up. […]

En 1892, Hyères had two english chemists; Powell's pharmacy was on the Avenue des Iles d'Or (www.departement06.fr) [http://japy-collection.fr]

En 1892, Hyères had two english chemists; Powell’s pharmacy was on the Avenue des Iles d’Or (www.departement06.fr) [http://japy-collection.fr]

To pass to other matters: your hand, you are perhaps aware, is not one of those that can be read running;

James Payn's handwriting [http://i.ebayimg.com]

Example of letter by James Payn [http://i.ebayimg.com]

and the name of your daughter remains for me undecipherable.

Payn’s third daughter, Alicia Isobel (1858-1898), married (1885) George Earle Buckle (1854-1935), editor of The Times. She was for long an invalid and died in 1898. They had one son, George Walter, and one daughter, Mabel Alicia [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]

Payn’s third daughter, Alicia Isobel (1858-1898), married (1885) George Earle Buckle (1854-1935), editor of The Times. She was for long an invalid and died in 1898. They had one son, George Walter, and one daughter, Mabel Alicia [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]

I call her, then, your daughter – and a very good name too – and I beg to explain how it came about that I took her house.

The hospital was a point in my tale; but there is a house on each side. Now the true house is the one before the hospital: is that No. 11?

In The Dynamiter, Harry Desborough has lodgings ‘next door to the Children’s Hospital’ in Queen Square (‘the fine and grave old square of Bloomsbury […] rejoicing in romantic silences and city peace’), but on the other side, i.e. to the left of the redbrick building in the photo. From a first-floor terrace at the back he looks down ‘upon a fine forest of back gardens’ and is overlooked by the windows of an empty house, where ‘the fair Cuban’, aka Clara Luxmore appears.

immagine

 

If not, what do you complain of? If it is, how can I help what is true? Everything in the Dynamiter is not true; but the story  of the Brown Box is, in almost every particular; I lay my hand on my heart and swear to it. It took place in that house in 1884; and if your daughter was in that house at the time, all I can say is she must have kept very bad society.

But I see you coming. Perhaps your daughter’s house has not a balcony at the back? I cannot answer for that; I only know that side of Queen Square from the pavement and the back windows of Brunswick Row.

Brunswick Row, in the north-west corner of Queen Square, 1827 [Thanks, Richard Dury!]

Brunswick Place, in the north-west corner of Queen Square, 1827. In 1874 Fanny Sitwell separated from her husband and went to work at the Working Women’s College (now the Mary Ward Centre) occupying the south side of Queen Square. She found lodgings at 2 Brunswick Row. At the entrance to the narrow street was a children’s hospital (the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Diseases, 19 Queen Square, now Alexandra House) [Thanks, Richard Dury!]

immagine

The Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Diseases, 19 Queen Square, now Alexandra House [Thanks, Richard Dury!]

 

Thence I saw plenty of balconies (terraces rather); and if there is none to the particular house in question, it must have been so arranged to spite me.

I now come to the conclusion of this matter. I address three questions to your daughter:

1st. Has her house the proper terrace?

2nd. Is it on the proper side of the hospital?

3rd. Was she there in the summer of 1884?

You see, I begin to fear that Mrs. Desborough may have deceived me on some trifling points, for she is not a lady of peddling exactitude. If this should prove to be so, I will give your daughter a proper certificate, and her house property will return to its original value.

Can man say more? Yours very truly,

Robert Louis Stevenson

I saw the other day that the Eternal had plagiarised from Lost Sir Massingberd: good again, sir! I wish he would plagiarise the death of Zero.

In Payn’s Lost Sir Massingberd (1864) the wicked baronet Sir Massingberd Heath mysteriously disappears. Several years later his skeleton is found in the hollow trunk of an oak-tree; he had apparently climbed into the treee to watch for poachers, fallen through and been unable to escape or to attract attention. The Times of 29 Dec 1885 reported that a ten-tear-old boy, Edward Light, of Bedminster near Bristol had been found in a starvin and emaciated condition in the hollow of an old elm-tree after being missing for nearly a week. He had run away from home, got through an opening in the treee, taken his shoes and sockings off, and fallen asleep; in the morning, his feet were badl frost-bitten and he was so benumbed with the cold that he could not get out.. After 6 days his moaning was heard by children playing nearby. Zero accidently blows himself up at Euston Station with his own dynamite in the closing pages of the Dynamiter.

In Payn’s Lost Sir Massingberd (1864) the wicked baronet mysteriously disappears. Several years later his skeleton is found in the hollow trunk of an oak-tree; he had apparently climbed into the treee to watch for poachers, fallen through and been unable to escape. The Times of 29 Dec 1885 reported that a 10-year-old boy of Bedminster (Bristol) had been found in an emaciated condition in the hollow of an old elm-tree after being missing for nearly a week. He had got through an opening in the tree, and fallen asleep; in the morning, his feet were frost-bitten and he could not get out. After 6 days his moaning was heard by children playing nearby. In the closing page of RLS’s Dynamiter, Zero accidently blows himself up at Euston Station with his own dynamite.

 

 

 

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

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One Response to I only know that side of Queen Square from the pavement and the back windows of Brunswick Row

  1. rdury says:

    There is still a chemist’s shop where Powell had his shop in Hyères: at the end of the Av. des Iles d’Or on the corner of the Place de la Portelet.

    Liked by 1 person

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