Some day climb as high as Halkerside for me, and sprinkle some of the well water on the turf

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1795.]

To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 368-370]

Skerryvore, April 16th, 1887

My dearest Cummy,

As usual, I have been a dreary bad fellow and not written for ages; but you must just try to forgive me, to believe (what is the truth) that the number of my letters is no measure of the number of times I think of you, and to remember how much writing I have to do.


The weather is bright, but still cold;

Sunset over Bournemouth Pier []



and my father, I’m afraid, feels it sharply. He has had − still has, rather − a most obstinate jaundice, which has reduced him cruelly in strength, and really upset him altogether. I hope, or think, he is perhaps a little better; but he suffers much, cannot sleep at night, and gives John and my mother a severe life of it to wait upon him.

Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887) []


Margaret Isabella Balfour Stevenson (1829-1897) []


My wife is, I think, a little better, but no great shakes.

Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson (1840-1914) []

[…] I keep mightily respectable myself. […]

RLS by John Singer Sargent, Bournemouth, April 1887 []

Coolin’s Tombstone is now built into the front wall of Skerryvore,

‘Coolin’ had been a favourite Skye terrier of Heriot Row days. He was killed in 1869. His tombstone, complete with Latin epitaph by RLS, had been moved from Swanston cottage to Skerryvore []


Skerryvore cottage at RLS’s time []



and poor Bogie’s (with a Latin inscription also) is set just above it. Poor, unhappy wee man, he died, as you must have heard, in fight, which was what he would have chosen; for military glory was more in his line than the domestic virtues.

1883 - with family and Wogg

RLS with his family and dog Bogie (aka Woggs), 1883. ‘Bogie’ was the final transformation of Wogg’s name: In French “Bogue” means chesnut-burr.


I believe this is about all my news, except that, as I write, there is a blackbird singing in our garden trees, as it were at Swanston.

RLS spent several summers in Swanston in the 1870s, as a result of his father taking out a lease for Swanston Cottage (on a spur road to the NW of the village) from 1867 to 1880. Cummy lived in the small house on the left hand side of the lane leading to Swanston Cottage, from 1880 to 1893 (having lived in the Cottage with them whilst they lived there) []


I would like fine to go up the burnside a bit, and sit by the pool and be young again –

RLS’s bedroom, Swanston cottage, 1867.

RLS as a Student

RLS, as a student, 1872 []

− or no, be what I am still, only there instead of here, for just a little. Did you see that I had written about John Todd? In this month’s Longman it was; if you have not seen it, I will try and send it you.



immagine 1

The shepherd John Todd’s cottage at Swanston.


Some day climb as high as Halkerside for me (I am never likely to do it for myself), and sprinkle some ofthe well water on the turf. I am afraid it is a pagan rite, but quite harmless, and ye can sain it wi’ a bit prayer.

The name ‘Halkerside’ is not found on maps. RLS says in ‘Pastoral’: ‘that nameless trickle that springs in the green bosom of Allermuir, and is fed from Halkerside with a perennial teacupful, and threads the moss under the Shearer’s Knowe, and makes one pool there, overhung by a rock, where I loved to sit and make bad verses …’ From E.B. Simpson: ‘R. L. Stevenson Originals’ (1912). So Halkerside was the source of the Hare Burn on the slopes of Allermuir, Pentlands, SW of Swanston village. For Allermuir, see

The Pentland Hills from Allermuir []

Tell the Peewies that I mind their forbears well.


My heart is sometimes heavy and sometimes glad to mind it all. But for what we have received, the Lord make us truly thankful. Don’t forget to sprinkle the water, and do it in my name; I feel a childish eagerness in this.

Remember me most kindly to James, and with all sorts of love to yourself, believe me, your laddie,

Robert Louis Stevenson

P.S. − I suppose Mrs. Todd ought to see the paper about her man; judge of that, and if you think she would not dislike it, buy her one from me, and let me know. The article is called ‘Pastoral’, in Longman’s Magazine for April. I will send you the money; I would today, but it’s the Sabbie day, and I cannae.


Remembrances from all here.














This entry was posted in Letters, Robert Louis Stevenson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.