“As to whether the long-eared British public may take to it, all think it more than doubt”

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1612.]

To his Father [Colvin 1911, 2, p. 333]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, May 1886]

My dear Father,

The David problem has today been decided.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, First Edition, Cassell, 1886 - Title Page

‘Kidnapped’, First Edition, Cassell, 1886. Want of health preventing RLS at this time from carrying the adventures of David Balfour through to their issue as originally designed, it was resolved to wind them up for the present with the discomfiture of the wicked uncle [www.somerbooks.com]

I am to leave the door open for a sequel if the public take to it, and this will save me from butchering a lot of good material to no purpose.

RLS was then leaving open the possibility of a sequel of ‘Kidnapped’: that was supplied six years later in “Catriona”.



Your letter from Carlisle was pretty like yorself, sir, as I was pleased to see; the hand of Jekyll not the hand of Hyde.

RLS’s parents stayed at Carlisle on their way back home from Matlock Bank Hydropathic (Smedley’s), where RLS had taken care of his father for a week in April [www.andrewsgen.com]

I am for action quite unfit, and even a letter is beyond me; so pray take these scraps at a vast deal more than their intrinsic worth. I am in great spirits about David,

David Balfour in ‘Kidnapped’ 1925 edition, ill. F. Godwin [http://img-fotki.yandex.ru]

Colvin agreeing

Sidney Colvin, c. 1890 [http://media.vam.ac.uk]

with Henley,

William Ernest Henley, c. 1890 [http://media.vam.ac.uk]

Fanny Stevenson, 1885 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

and myself


RLS, 1886 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

in thinking it far the most human of my labours hitherto. As to whether the long-eared British public may take to it, all think it more than doubtful;

Webster Free Circulating Library, NY, c. late 19th century [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

I wish they would, for I could do a second volume with ease and pleasure, and Colvin thinks it sin and folly to throw away David and Alan Breck upon so small a field as this one.

Statue of Alan Stewart (left) and the fictional David Balfour (right), from RLS’s ‘Kidnapped, on the N side of Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, near ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ where they parted at the end of the novel [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

– Ever your affectionate son,








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