“Hawaii ponoi nana i kou moi (Hawaiian God save the King)”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2143.]

To Charles Baxter

[Baxter Letters, pp. 242-3: http://www.hathitrust.org]

Honolulu, [Postmark 8] March 1889

My dear Charles,

At last I have the accounts: the doer has done excellently, and in the words of Galpin, “I reciprocate every step of your behaviour.”

Galpin was, with Cassell, Petter & Co., one of the publishers of The Magazine of Art, London.

Only upon one point would I protest, in re my mother. (1) The house is hers; she might live in it if she chose and pay no rent to the trust; therefore, if she lets it, the rent is hers, and (in my contention) the trust has nothing to do with it.

RLS’s house at 17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, 1901.
17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, today a bed and breakfast dedicated to RLS [http://britainunlimited.com]

But (2) suppose you have some argument I do not follow which disposes of No. 1, I cannot see how you are to charge her with the rent received for the use of the house during the winter before my father’s death. It was let then to meet extra expenses in the South; the extra expenses were incurred by my father; why, then, is my mother to be charged with the covering sum? I see no answer to that, anyway.

Margaret Isabella Balfour Stevenson (1829-1897) [https://upload.wikimedia.org ]

And still, if I am dull and there should be a reason, I should like to make up my mother’s money to what it was. Possibly we had better wait to decide this till we meet, so that I can make sure I follow. – The £5 and £20 paid on account of my mother is all right: let it slide. I used to embezzle from her: turn about is fair play.

Quite right you were, of course, about Bob, Henley, and the book of verses. Let Bob’s interest slide: it’s only an annoyance to him and bookkeeping for your clerks; to me it would not make the change of a hair. I send a letter for Bob in your care, as I don’t know his L’pool address, by which (for he is to show you part of it) you will see we have got out of this adventure – or hope to have – with wonderful fortune.

Robert Alan Mowbray (“Bob” or “RAM”) Stevenson (1847-1900), RLS’s cousin, had been appointed professor of art at the University College, Liverpool [https://alchetron.com ]
Liverpool College of art, early 20th century [www.ljmu.ac.uk ]

I have the retrospective horrors on me when I think of the liabilities I incurred, but thank God I think I’m in port again, and I have found one climate in which I can enjoy life. Even Honolulu is too cold for me,


but the South Isles were a heaven upon earth to a poor catarrhal party like Johns’one.

RLS shaving in Honolulu, 1889. Johnstone was one of his nicknames since university.

We think, as Tahiti is too complete a banishment,

to try Madeira.

The island of Madeira.

It’s only a week from England, good communications, and I suspect in climate and scenery not unlike my own dear islands; in people, alas, there can be no comparison. But friends could go, and I could come in summer; so I should not be quite cut off.

Lloyd and I have finished a story, The Wrong Box. If it is not funny, I’m sure I don’t know what is. I have split over writing it.

Since I have been here, I have been toiling like a galley slave: three numbers of The Master to rewrite; five chapters of The Wrong Box to write and rewrite; and about five hundred lines of a narrative poem to write, rewrite, and re-rewrite.

The narrative poem referred to is ‘The Feast of Famine’, composed on board of the Casco and published with others in the collection of 1890 Ballads.

Now I have The Master waiting me for its continuation – 2 numbers more; when that’s done, I shall breathe.

The Master of Ballantrae, RLS’s novel was published in book form in 1889.

This spasm of activity has been chequered with champagne parties. Happy and Glorious Hawaii ponoi nana i kou moi (Native Hawaiians, dote upon your monarch!) – Hawaiian God save the King.

“A Party at the King’s boathouse, Honolulu 1889 [www.capitalcollections.org.uk]
Hawaiian feast, Honolulu, 26 January1889: (from left) Belle Osbourne Strong (RLS’s stepdaughter), King Kalakatua, Margaret Balfour Stevenson (RLS’s mother), Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson (RLS’s wife), Henry Poor (Superintendent of the Postal Savings Bank) [www.capitalcollections.org.uk]
King Kalakaua’s visit on board the Casco, Honolulu 1889 [www.capitalcollections.org.uk]

(In addition to my other labours I am learning the language with a native moonshee.)

Mohammed Abdul Karim (1863-1909), the moonshee (munshi) or attendant of Queen Victoria [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Kalakaua is a terrible companion: a bottle of fizz is like a glass of sherry to him;

he thinks nothing of five or six in an afternoon as a whet for dinner. Look here: Van Laun,

Henry Van Laun (1820-96), author and teacher of French, translator of Molière’s plays, French master at the Edinburgh Accademy 1869-74. He’s buried in Brookwood Cemetery [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


Edmonston & Douglas were publishers based at 87 Princes Street, Edinburgh.

Charles Mackay,

Charles Mackay (1814-89), Scottish journalist and minor poet, was the father of the musician and mystic novelist Mary Corelli (1855-1924) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

and Sam Bough

Samuel Bough (1822-1878) was an English landscape painter who spent much of his career working in Scotland. In 1878 RLS wrote his obituary notice for The Academy [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

– he could have taken all four, one up, another down; as for you, you poor creature, he could settle you before breakfast. You should see a photograph of our party after an afternoon with H.H.M.: my! what a crew! The proud drunkenness of Lloyd, the soppy swan-neckery of R.L.S., my mother – let us draw a veil till you see it.

“Hawaiian feast given by H.M. King Kalakaua of Hawaiian Islands to RLS and party at Waikiki, Sandwich Islands” [www.capitalcollections.org.uk]

Yours ever affectionately,

Robert Louis Stevenson

I enclose one of many Income Tax things I have received. What’s wrong?

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