The novel Kidnapped, telling the adventures of David Balfour, had at this time just been taken up again, and the writer explained the course of the story to his father, who had taken the deepest interest in it since they visited together the scene of the Appin murder, in June 1882.
[As ususal, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1523.]
To his Father [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 319-320]
[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, January 25, 1886]
My dear Father,
Many thanks for a letter quite like yourself. I quite agree with you, and had already planned a scene of religion in Balfour; the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge furnishes me with a catechist whom I shall try to make the man.
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) was the oldest Anglican mission organisation [www.fremontanglicans.com]
I have another catechist, the blind, pistol-carrying highway robber, whom I have transferred from the Long Island to Mull.
RLS’s source was ‘Travels in the Western Hebrides from 1782 to 1790’ by the Revd John L. Buchanan, who worked as a missionary in the Hebrides on commission from the SPCK.
In ch. X (244) Buchanan describes ‘Questars…that go about from house to house… many of them worthless drunkards’, and in particular ‘a blind bully of this type… who… carries about, with him,… loaded pistols’.
Long Island or Outer Hebrides or Western Isles [www.insiders-scotland-guide.com]
Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides (after Skye), off the west coast of Scotland [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
David and the blind catechist, 1886 edition of ‘Kidnapped’.
I find it a most picturesque period, and wonder Scott let it escape.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
The Covenant is lost on one of the Tarrans,
The wreck of the ‘Covenant’, 1913 edition of ‘Kidnapped’ [https://img1.etsystatic.com]
The Torran Rocks [www.loweswatercam.co.uk]
The Torran Rocks [www.sailscotland.net]
and David is cast on Earraid, where (being from inland) he is nearly starved before he finds out the island is tidal;
On the island of Earraid, 1913 edition of ‘Kidnapped’ [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Earraid, the cottages constructed by the Northern Lighthouse Board c. 1872 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
then he crosses Mull to Torosay, meeting the blind catechist by the way;
Craignure village, in the Parish of Torosay [https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com]
Drovers Inn, Craignure, Torosay (18th Century) [www.craignure-inn.co.uk]
then crosses Morven from Kinlochaline to Kingairloch, where he stays the night with the good catechist;
Approaching Morven from the east [www.munromagic.com]
Kinlochaline Castle [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]
Kingairloch Church and Camasnacroise from the East [www.frogwell.com]
that is where I am; next day he is to be put ashore in Appin, and be present at Colin Campbell’s death.
The cairn marking the site of the 1752 Appin murder [www.scotclans.com]
To-day I rest, being a little run down. Strange how liable we are to brain fag in this scooty [= insignificant (Scots)] family! But as far as I have got, all but the last chapter, I think David is on his feet, and (to my mind) a far better story and far sounder at heart than Treasure Island.
Jim Hawkins hiding in the apple-barrel, listening to the pirates [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Kidnapped cover, by William Brassey Hole, London edition, Cassell and Company, 1886 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
I have no earthly news, living entirely in my story, and only coming out of it to play patience.
The Shelleys are gone;
Sir Percy Florence Shelley (1819-1889), the poet’s son [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]
Lady Shelley, Jane St John, née Gibson [http://shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk]
the Taylors kinder than can be imagined.
Around the time of Mary Shelley’s death in 1851 her son Sir Percy moved with his wife to Boscombe Manor near Bournemouth, where he lived until his death in 1889 [http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk]
Sir Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist and poet, 1885. From 1861 he had spent the summer months at Bournemouth, and there bought a house, to which he ultimately retired. Taylor married Theodosia Alice Spring Rice, daughter of Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, in 1839. They had five children, including the biographer Ida Alice Ashworth Taylor [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Study of King David by Julia Margaret Cameron. Depicts Sir Henry Taylor, 1866 [https://img-fotki.yandex.ru]
The other day, Lady Taylor drove over and called on me; she is a delightful old lady, and great fun. I mentioned a story about the Duchess of Wellington which I had heard Sir Henry tell; and though he was very tired, he looked it up and copied it out for me in his own hand. […]
Catherine Sarah Dorothea Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington (née Pakenham, 1773–1831) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
[…] Your most affectionate son,
Robert Louis Stevenson
The ‘Stevenson Way’ from Mull to Edinburgh, based on RLS’s book ‘Kidnapped’ [www.stevensonway.org.uk]