“I fear the railroad car as abjectly as I do an earwig”

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1972.]

To Harriet Monroe [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 36-37]

Saranac Lake, New York [December 19, 1887]

Dear Miss Monroe,

Many thanks for your letter and your good wishes.


The American poet Harriet Monroe (1860–1936) was to become a future editor, scholar, literary critic, and patron of the arts [www.buckeyemuse.com]

It was much my desire to get to Chicago:


Chicago, 1887 [www.chicagoinphotographs.com]

had I done − or if I yet do − so, I shall hope to see the original of my photograph, which is one of my show possessions; but the fates are rather contrary. My wife is far from well; I myself dread, worse than almost any other imaginable peril, that miraculous and really insane invention the American Railroad Car.


America Railroad Car, Harpers Magazine 1885.


Pullman Sleeping Car, 1887 [www.railswest.com]

Heaven help the man − may I add the woman − that sets foot in one! Ah, if it were only an ocean to cross, it would be a matter of small thought to me − and great pleasure.


A. Jacobsen (1850-1921, manner of), The Steamship Ludgate Hill in Choppy Water [https://media.mutualart.com]

But the railroad car − every man has his weak point; and I fear the railroad car as abjectly as I do an earwig,



and, on the whole, on better grounds. You do not know how bitter it is to have to make such a confession; for you have not the pretension nor the weakness of a man.

If I do get to Chicago, you will hear of me: so much can be said. And do you never come east?

I was pleased to recognise a word of my poor old Deacon in your letter.

Brodies Close

Brodie’s Close, Edinburgh. The play ‘Deacon Brodie’ (by RLS and W.E. Henley) was at this time being performed at Chicago, with Henley’s brother (E.J.) in the title-part [www.eyeonedinburgh.net]

It would interest me very much to hear how it went and what you thought of piece and actors; and my collaborator, who knows and respects the photograph, would be pleased too.


W.E. Henley(1849-1903), RLS’s collaborator at the play ‘Deacon Brodie’ [http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk]

− Still in the hope of seeing you, I am, yours very truly,

Robert Louis Stevenson



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:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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.