“We cam’ so near gaun heels ower hurdies”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2111.]

To Charles Baxter

[Baxter Letters, 1956, pp. 236-7, at http://www.hathitrust.org]

[Envelope marked “Private”]

Taiti (as ever was) [? 9 October 1888]

But then, my dear Charles, I have seen nothing of it, having been in bed ever since Fakarava, in the Low Archipelago.

Fakarava is part of the Tuamotu (or Low) Archipelago, one of the five Archipelagos that make up the country French Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean. The Tuamotus Archipelago home to less than 16 000 people which are living across 78 atolls (not all are inhabited) that form the most extensive chain Atolls in the entire world, over an area of 850 square km almost the same size as western Europe. Fakarava is roughly rectangular shaped and is 60 km long and 21 km wide. The widest part of the Atoll is around 300 m and the shortest part only around 30 m across [www.unusualtraveler.com]

This illiness, which has been pretty sharp and is now leaving me very slowly, has done one good thing. Since those miseries, I have never felt myself, and now I begin to recover. I thank God I shall soon have some news of all I love: in the first rank of whom I need not tell you my poor Henley is.

W.E. Henley (1849-1903) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

You will receive a lot of mostly very bad proofs of photographs: the paper was so bad.

Forward deck of the Casco: RLS sitting on deck near the deckhouse (left).
Fanny and RLS at Farakava, September 1888, phot. by Lloyd.
Fanny and RLS round a stove, Farakava, September 1888, phot. by Lloyd.

Please keep them very private, as they are for the book. We send them, having learned so dread a fear of the sea, that we wish to put our eggs in different baskets. We have been thrice within an ace of being ashore: we were lost (!) for about twelve hours in the Low Archipelago,

Map of the Low Archipelago (Tuamotu), 1845 [https://psmaps.com]
The Low Archipelago (Tuamotu) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

but by God’s blessing had quiet weather all the time; and once, in a squall, we cam’ so near gaun heels ower hurdies [= buttocks] that I really dinnae ken why we didnae athegether. Hence, as I say, a great desire to put our eggs in different baskets, particularly on the Pacific (aw-haw-haw) Pacific Ocean.


You can have no idea what a mean time we have had, owing to incidental beastlinesses, nor what a glorious, owing to the intrinsic interest of these isles. I hope the book will be a good one;

RLS’s journal was to be published after his death, in 1896.

nor do I really very much doubt that – the stuff is so curious; what I wonder is, if the public will rise to it. A copy of my journal, or as much of it as is made, shall go to you also;

Lloyd’s typewriter, now at Vailima, Samoa. RLS’s mother and stepson had made a typed copy of his journal [https://media-cdn.tripadvisor]

it is, of course, quite imperfect, much being to be added and corrected; but O, for the eggs in the different baskets.

All the rest are well enough, and all have enjoyed the cruise so far, in spite of its drawbacks. We have had an awfae time in some ways, Mr. Baxter; and if I wasnae sic a verra patient man (when I ken that I have to be) there wad hae been a braw row; and aince if I hadnae happened to be on deck aboot three in the mornin’, I think there would have been murder done. The American Mairchant Marine is a kent service;


ye’ll have heard its praise, I’m thinkin’; an’ if ye never did, ye can get Twa Years Before the Mast, by Dana,

‘Two Years Before the Mast’, by Richard Henry Dana Jr, 1840, was his journal as a common sailor from Boston round Cape Horn to California, and return.

whaur forbye a great deal o’ pleisure, ye’ll get a’ the needcessary information. Love to your father and all the family. – Ever your affectionate friend,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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