“Your father has brought you this day to see me”

The following is addressed to the son of the Irish-American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was at that time 8 years old.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 2097.]

To Homer Saint-Gaudens [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 69-70]

Manasquan, New Jersey, 27th May 1888

Dear Homer St. Gaudens,

Your father has brought you this day to see me, and he tells me it is his hope you may remember the occasion. I am going to do what I can to carry out his wish; and it may amuse you, years after, to see this little scrap of paper and to read what I write.

Homer Schiff Saint-Gaudens (1880–1958), aged 17 months, by his father Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1882 [https://cmoa-collection-images.s3.amazonaws.com]

I must begin by testifying that you yourself took no interest whatever in the introduction, and in the most proper spirit displayed a single-minded ambition to get back to play, and this I thought an excellent and admirable point in your character.

Homer Saint-Gaudens, aged 5, plaster bust by his father Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1885 [https://sgnhs.org]

You were also (I use the past tense, with a view to the time when you shall read, rather than to that when I am writing) a very pretty boy, and (to my European views) startlingly self-possessed.

Portrait of Homer Saint-Gaudens and his mother by John Singer Sargent, 1890 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

My time of observation was so limited that you must pardon me if I can say no more: what else I marked, what restlessness of foot and hand, what graceful clumsiness, what experimental designs upon the furniture, was but the common inheritance of human youth.

A portrait by Carlota Saint-Gaudens of her husband Lieutenant Homer Shiff Saint-Gaudens (1880-1958) in his US Army uniform in 1917 when he was in charge of the camouflage corps. He was also stage director for the American actress Maude Adams, 1908-17, and Director of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1922-50 [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]

But you may perhaps like to know that the lean flushed man in bed, who interested you so little, was in a state of mind extremely mingled and unpleasant: harassed with work which he thought he was not doing well, troubled with difficulties to which you will in time succeed,

RLS’s memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh [https://nicholshousemuseum.files.wordpress.com]

and yet looking forward to no less matter than a voyage to the South Seas and the visitation of savage and desert islands.

RLS, closest to camera, on the bowsprit of the Casco, 1888 [www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com]

– Your father’s friend,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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