“I am sorry I ever left England, for here there are no books to be had”

When the Stevensons left Bournemouth, Miss Boodle gave RLS a paper-cutter. He promised her gift should go to sea with him. That piece is probably the one now kept at Vailima Museum, Samoa. RLS wrote this letter in the character of the paper-cutter.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2111.]

To Adelaide Boodle [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 81-2]

Taiti, October 10th, 1888

Dear Giver,

I am at a loss to conceive your object in giving me to a person so locomotory as my proprietor. The number of thousand miles that I have travelled,

RLS’s globe, Stevenson Museum, St. Helena, CA [http://stevensonmuseum.org]

the strange bed-fellows with which I have been made acquainted, I lack the requisite literary talent to make clear to your imagination. I speak of bed-fellows; pocket-fellows would be a more exact expression, for the place of my abode is in my master’s right-hand trouser-pocket; and there, as he waded on the resounding beaches of Nukahiva,

Beach of Nuku Hiva [https://etahititravel.com]

or in the shallow tepid water on the reef of Fakarava,

Fakarava atoll [www.unusualtraveler.com]

I have been overwhelmed by and buried among all manner of abominable South Sea shells,

Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia.

beautiful enough in their way, I make no doubt, but singular company for any self-respecting paper-cutter. He, my master – or as I more justly call him, my bearer; for although I occasionally serve him, does not he serve me daily and all day long, carrying me like an African potentate on my subject’s legs? – he is delighted with these isles, and this climate,

Garuae, Fakarava’s northern pass, is the largest in French Polynesia. ©Benthouard.com [https://welcome-tahiti.com]

and these savages,

“People from Oceania,” Bibliographisches Institut 1885-1890, Meyers Konversationslexikon [www.sea.edu]
P. Gauguin, Rupe rupe, 1899 [www.arte.it]

and a variety of other things. He now blows a flageolet with singular effects:

RLS playing his flageolet in bed when visiting Hawaii, 1889 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

sometimes the poor thing appears stifled with shame, sometimes it screams with agony; he pursues his career with truculent insensibility. Health appears to reign in the party.

Group portrait of RLS and his women, Sidney 1893 [https://i.pinimg.com]

It was very nearly sunk in a squall.

Shipwreck Off New Jersey Coast, 19th century [https://img.huffingtonpost.com]

I am sorry I ever left England, for here there are no books to be had, and without books there is no stable situation for, dear Giver, your affectionate

Wooden Paper-Cutter

When the Stevensons left Bournemouth, Miss Boodle gave RLS a paper-knife. He promised her gift should go to sea with him. It’s probably the piece now kept at Vailima Museum, Samoa.

A neighbouring pair of scissors snips a kiss in your direction.

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