[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1909.]
To William Sharp [E. Sharp, W. Sharp: A Memory, 1910, pp. 138-139]
[Saranac Lake, ? Mid-October 1887]
Dear Mr. Sharp,
What is the townsman’s blunder? — though I deny I am a townsman, for I have lived, on the whole, as much or more in the country: well, perhaps not so much.
Is it that the thrush does not sing at night? That is possible.
I only know most potently the blackbird (his cousin) does: many and many a late evening in the garden of that poem have I listened to one that was our faithful visitor;
and the sweetest song I ever heard was past nine at night in the early spring, from a tree near the N. E. gate of Warriston cemetery.
That I called what I believe to have been a merle
by the softer name of mavis (and they are all turdi, I believe)
is the head and front of my offence against literal severity, and I am curious to hear if it has really brought me into some serious error.
Your article is very true and very kindly put: I have never called my verses poetry: they are verse, the verse of a speaker not a singer; but that is a fair business like another. I am of your mind too in preferring much the Scotch verses,
and in thinking “Requiem” the nearest thing to poetry that I have ever “clerkit.”
Yours very truly,
Robert Louis Stevenson
R.L.S. Saranac, New York.