“I write this from bed, snow pouring without, and no circumstance of pleasure except your letter”

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1569.]

To Will H. Low [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 326-328]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, 5 March 1886]

My dear Low,

This is the most enchanting picture.

Will H. Low (1853-1933). The editor of the Century Magazine suggested, like he had done nearly 3 years previously, that RLS and his friend Low should make a joint excursion down the Saône and Rhone; the result should be a book written by RLS and illustrated by Low. Considerations of health caused the plan to be abandoned for the second time [https://nicholshousemuseum.files.wordpress.com]

Now understand my state: I am really an invalid, but of a mysterious order. I might be a malade imaginaire, but for one too tangible symptom, my tendency to bleed from the lungs.

RLS in 1885, Sketches by John Singer Sargent.


If we could go (1st) We must have money enough to travel with leisure and comfort – especially the first. (2nd) You must be prepared for a comrade who would go to bed some part of every day and often stay silent. (3rd) You would have to play the part of a thoughtful courier, sparing me fatigue, looking out that my bed was warmed, etc. (4th) If you are very nervous, you must recollect a bad hemorrhage is always on the cards, with its concomitants of anxiety and horror for those who are beside me.

Do you blench? If so, let us say no more about it. If you are still unafraid, and the money were forth-coming, I believe the trip might do me good, and I feel sure that, working together, we might produce a fine book.

RLS’s first travelogue, An Inland Voyage (1878), recounted a canoe trip he and his friend Sir Walter G. Simpson made in 1876. Setting out from Antwerp, they paddled through Belgium and France along canals and the Oise River.


The Rhône is the river of Angels.


I adore it: have adored it since I was twelve, and first saw it from the train.

Lastly, it would depend on how I keep from now on. I have stood the winter hitherto with some credit, but the dreadful weather still continues, and I cannot holloa till I am through the wood. Subject to these numerous and gloomy provisos, I embrace the prospect with glorious feelings. I write this from bed, snow pouring without, and no circumstance of pleasure except your letter.

That, however, counts for much. I am glad you liked the doggerel:

RLS’s poem ‘To Will H. Low’ (see previous letter, Mehew 5, 1503), was published in The century Magazine for May 1886.


I have already had a liberal cheque, over which I licked my fingers with a sound conscience. I had not meant to make money by these stumbling feet, but if it comes, it is only too welcome in my handsome but impecunious house.


Let me know soon what is to be expected – as far as it does not hang by that inconstant quantity, my want of health. Remember me to Madame with the best thanks and wishes;

In the 1970s, while living in France, Low met and married Berthe Julienne. In 1890 she will publish the French translation of Jekyll and Hyde [http://gallica.bnf.fr]

and believe me your friend,

Robert Louis Stevenson

[Fanny continues]










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