“I am like to be a millionaire if this goes on, and be publicly hanged at the social revolution”

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1907.]

To William Archer [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 18-19]

Saranac Lake, [Mid-]October 1887

Dear Archer,

Many thanks for the Wondrous Tale.


The Wondrous Tale referred to is RLS’s novel ‘The Black Arrow’, which had been through Archer’s hands in proof. Cover of the First Edition published in 1888 by Cassel [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


‘The Black Arrow’, first Scribner Brothers’ American edition, 1888 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


It is scarcely a work of genius, as I believe you felt. Thanks also for your pencilings; though I defend ‘shrew,’ or at least many of the shrews.

We are here (I suppose) for the winter in the Adirondacks, a hill and forest country on the Canadian border of New York State, very unsettled and primitive and cold, and healthful, or we are the more bitterly deceived.


Homer Dodge Martin, In the Adirondacks, 1881 [http://2.bp.blogspot.com]

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, A Tight Fix: Bear Hunting in Early Winter, 1856 [http://collection.crystalbridges.org]

A Home in the Wilderness, Currier & Ives (American, active New York, 1857–1907), Colored lithograph

Currier and Ives, A home in the wilderness, 1870 [https://images.metmuseum.org]


I believe it will do well for me; but must not boast.

My wife is away to Indiana to see her family;


East-side Public Square, Danville, Indiana. Fanny had left Saranac Lake on October 6th, 1887, to visit there her mother and sister Josephine (a banker’s wife) [http://pix.epodunk.com]

my mother, Lloyd, and I remain here in the cold, which has been exceeding sharp, and the hill air, which is inimitably fine.


Autumn in the Adirondacks [https://i.pinimg.com]


We all eat bravely, and sleep well, and make great fires, and get along like one o’clock.

The expression ‘like one o’clock’ is taken from Dickens’s ‘Bleak House’, 1853, see next picture.

‘Like one o’clock’: “that is to say, breathing stertorously with his chin upon his breast, and quite insensible to any external sounds, or even to gentle shaking”.


I am now a salaried party; I am a bourgeois now; I am to write a weekly paper for Scribner’s, at a scale of payment which makes my teeth ache for shame and diffidence. The editor is, I believe, to apply to you; for we were talking over likely men, and when I instanced you, he said he had had his eye upon you from the first.


William Archer (1856-1924), Scottish writer, a leading drama critic of his day and the foremost translator and supporter of Ibsen [www.buscabiografias.com]

It is worth while, perhaps, to get in tow with the Scribners; they are such thorough gentlefolk in all ways that it is always a pleasure to deal with them.


Charles Scribner II (1854-1930), president of Charles Scribner’s Sons [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


Arthur Hawley Scribner (1859-1932), Charles II’s younger brother [https://images.findagrave.com]


I am like to be a millionaire if this goes on, and be publicly hanged at the social revolution: well, I would prefer that to dying in my bed; and it would be a godsend to my biographer, if ever I have one. What are you about? […] I hope you are all well and in good case and spirits, as I am now, after a most nefast experience of despondency before I left; but indeed I was quite run down.

Remember me to Mrs. Archer, and give my respects to Tom.

Archer, T Profile Picture

Archer’s only child, Thomas (1885-1918), who called himself ‘Tomarcher’, was then a highly imaginative boy. He was killed in the World War I [https://dulwichcollege1914-18.co.uk]

– Yours very truly,

Robert Louis Stevenson







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