“I am, my dear fellow, the most purely unhappy card on ground”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 2094.]

To Charles Baxter

[Baxter Letters, 1956, pp. 228-9, at www.hathitrust.org]

[Manasquan, N.J., 26 May 1888]

My dear Charles,

I shall just have to ask you to write no more about this affair for a while; I can open no more letters that bear upon it. It has quite smashed me, and I am beginning to fear I may loose my cruise after all, which would be hard on Lloyd.

The schooner Casco. On 27 June 1888, RLS and family left for a cruise of the Pacific islands, including the Marquesas, the Paumotus and Tahiti, ending in Honolulu on 24 January 1889 [https://searcharchives.vancouver.ca]

Lloyd Osbourne (1868-1947), RLS’s stepson [www.robert-louis-stevenson.org]

I cannot sleep; I can never get the thought out of my head. I had the most hideous revulsion after writing so sternly to Katharine, and it was three days before I could forgive myself.

Katharine Elizabeth Alan Stevenson de Mattos (1851-1939), RLS’s cousin. RLS dedicated ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ to her. They quarreled after Fanny published the short story “The Nixie”. W.E. Henley accused Fanny of plagiarizing the story from Katharine’s own. RLS took his wife’s side, hurting Katharine’s feelings and alienating himself from Henley [http://ic.pics.livejournal.com]

But even now, when I am more sure that I did right, and the only thing right, my heart is wretched. I was not meant to punish sinners.

Of course I am sure you will make it right in time with Henley, but do not let me hear for awhile.

William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) [http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk]

I could not bear another disappointment. Really, something would happen.

I wish you would be prepared to pay £10 per mensem to Young the San Francisco man.

San Francisco, 1880s. E.B. Young was RLS’s lawyer there [https://i.ebayimg.com]

It is an allowance to Belle, which I have been paying myself;

Isobel “Belle” Osbourne Strong (1858–1953), RLS’s stepdaughter, was at that time living in San Francisco. Portrait by her husband Josepg Strong.

but if I go to the voyage, I shall have to pass on the duty to him, and tell him to draw on you. He will communicate with you when I have seen him. I am also about to give a little charge to Miss Boodle to look after our Mary Ann, and if she finds it necessary to help the family, pray give her what she may require.

Miss Adelaide Ann Boodle (1858-1934) was the 6th of the 7 daughters of Edward, a London barrister and his wife Julia Barrie. After her father’s death, they came to Bournemouth because Adelaide was threatened with lung trouble; they were neighbours of RLS. Adelaide became a devoted friend of the Stevensons: her book “RLS and his Sine Qua Non” (1926) will give an affectionate account of life at Skerryvore [https://babel.hathitrust.org]
Mary Ann Watts was RLS’s housekeeper at Skerryvore [https://babel.hathitrust.org]

I am, my dear fellow, the most purely unhappy card on ground

The Moon, Italian tarot,19th century [www.picclickimg.com]

– or so my egotism thinks, when there are (I daresay) a thousand who might envy me.

Ever yours affectionately,


P.S. We leave Monday, if I shall be able – a dreadful doubt which I keep to myself, but I am doubtful.

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