A succession of RLS’s friends had visited and spent part of the day or the evening with him at his hotel in London, on Sunday, August 20th 1887, each bringing some farewell gift or another. On the morning of the 21st Colvin accompanied RLS to the docks, saw him and his party embarked on board the steamer Ludgate Hill, sailing from the port of London and carrying animals and freight as well as passengers. They had chosen to go by this route for the sake alike of economy and amusement, rather than by one of the sumptuous lines sailing from Liverpool or Southampton. Leaving the ship’s side as she weighed anchor, and waving farewell to the party from the boat which landed him, Colvin little knew what was the truth, that he was looking on the face of his friend for the last time.
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1876.]
To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 4-5; Mehew 6, 1876]
off Havre de Grace,
this 22nd day of August
[actually 23 August 1887]
The weather has been hitherto inimitable.
Inimitable is the only word that I can apply to our fellow-voyagers, whom a categorist, possibly premature, has been already led to divide into two classes ― the better sort consisting of the baser kind of Bagman,
and the worser of undisguised Beasts of the Field.
The berths are excellent,
the pasture swallowable,
the champagne of H. James (to recur to my favourite adjective) inimitable.
As for the Commodore,
he slept awhile in the evening, tossed off a cup of Henry James with his plain meal, walked the deck till eight, among sands and floating lights and bouys
and wrecked brigantines,
came down (to his regret) a minute too soon to see Margate lit up,
turned in about nine, slept, with some interruptions, but on the whole sweetly, until six, and has already walked a mile or so of deck, among a fleet of other steamers waiting for the tide, within view of Havre,
and pleasantly entertained by passing fishing-boats,
and […] Vulgarians pairing on deck with endearments of primitive simplicity.
There, sir, can be viewed the sham quarrel, the sham desire for information, and every device of these two poor ancient sexes (who might, you might think, have learned in the course of the ages something new) down to the exchange of head-gear. […] ― I am, sir, yours,
Bold Bob Boldsprit
B.B.B. (alias the Commodore) will now turn to his proofs.
Havre de Grace is a city of some show. It is for-ti-fied; and, so far as I can see, is a place of some trade. It is situ-ated in France, a country of Europe.You always complain there are no facts in my letters.