[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1733.]
To Henry James
[Colvin 1912, pp. 223-224]
Skerryvore, Bournemouth [c. 23 December 1886]
All the salutations!
My dear James,
I send you the first sheets of the new volume, all that has yet reached me, the rest shall follow in course.
I am really a very fair sort of a fellow all things considered, have done some work; a silly Xmas story (with some larks in it) which won’t be out till I don’t know when.
I am also considering a volume of verse, much of which will be cast in my native speech, that very dark oracular medium:
I suppose this is a folly, but what then? As the nurse says in Marryat, “It was only a little one.”
[…] My wife is peepy and dowie:
two Scotch expressions with which I will leave you to wrestle unaided, as a preparation for my poetical works. She is a woman (as you know) not without art: the art of extracting the gloom of the eclipse from sunshine; and she has recently laboured in this field not without success or (as we used to say) not without a blessing. It is strange: “we fell out my wife and I” the other night;
she tackled me savagely for being a canary-bird;
I replied (bleatingly) protesting that there was no use in turning life into King Lear; presently it was discovered that there were two dead combatants upon the field, each slain by an arrow of the truth, and we tenderly carried off each other’s corpses.
Here is a little comedy for Henry James to write! the beauty was each thought the other quite unscathed at first. But we had dealt shrewd stabs.
You say nothing of yourself, which I shall take to be good news. Archer’s note has gone.
He is, in truth, a very clever fellow that Archer, and I believe a good one. It is a pleasant thing to see a man who can use a pen; he can: really says what he means, and says it with a manner; comes into print like one at his ease, not shame-faced and wrong-foot-foremost like’ the bulk of us. Well, here is luck, and here are the kindest recollections from the canary-bird and from King Lear, from the Tragic Woman and the Flimsy Man.
Robert Ramsay Fergusson Stevenson