“It looks like a mixture of an aztec idol, a lion, an Indian Rajah, and a woman”

RLS’s parents had been thinking of trying a winter at Bournemouth for the sake of being near their son, a plan which was eventually carried out. His health was now fast and painfully breaking.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1647.]

To his Parents [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 342-343]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, July 7th, 1886

My dear people,

It is probably my fault, and not yours, that I did not understand. I think it would be well worth trying the winter in Bournemouth; but I would only take the house by the month – this after mature discussion. My leakage still pursues its course; if I were only well, I have a notion to go north and get in (if I could) at the inn at Kirkmichael, which has always smiled upon me much.

Kirkmichael village, Perth and Kinross [https://upload.wikimedia.org]




If I did well there, we might then meet and do what should most smile at the time.

Meanwhile, of course, I must not move, and am in a rancid box here, feeling the heat a great deal, and pretty tired of things.

Skerryvore Cottage, Bournemouth [www.awesomestories.com]

Alexander did a good thing of me at last;

John White Alexander (1856-1915), American painter, had been commissioned by the Century Magazine to make a portrait of RLS [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

it looks like a mixture of an aztec idol, a lion, an Indian Rajah, and a woman; and certainly represents a mighty comic figure.


Alexander’s drawing was reproduced in the issue for April 1888 of the Century Magazine, with Henry James’s essay on RLS.


F[anny] and Lloyd both think it is the best thing that has been done of me up to now.

[…] You should hear Lloyd on the penny whistle, and me on the piano!

Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958), The Tinwhistle Boy. The tin whistle, also called the penny whistle or English flageolet is a simple, six-holed woodwind instrument [www.newyorkirisharts.com]


RLS’s piano, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney [https://maas.museum]

Dear powers, what a concerto! I now live entirely for the piano, he for the whistle; the neighbours, in a radius of a furlong and a half, are packing up in quest of brighter climes. – Ever yours,


P.S. – Please say if you can afford to let us have money for this trip, and if so, how much. I can see the year through without help, I believe, and supposing my health to keep up; but can scarce make this change on my own metal. […]







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