“I shall not be home this summer”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2147.]

To Tati Salmon [The Bookman 43, 1916, pp. 594-6]

Honolulu [23 March 1889]

My dear Chief,

Here is the mischief to pay! I shall not be home this summer. I stay on to go farther afield in the Pacific, and see more, and get more health, and get (I do not doubt) to love this part of the world better than ever: but the deuce of it is I shall not be at home to receive my Chieftain.

Ari’i Teuraitera’i Tati Salmon (1850-1918) hereditary high chief of the Tevas at Papara, the greatest and oldest native family in Tahiti, was educated in England and was an authority on Tahitian legends and poetry. He was one of the 10 children of Alexander Salmon, an Anglo-Jewish trader who married the famous Teva chiefess Ariitaimai (1821-97) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Alexander Salmon (1820–1866), Tati’s father, was an English merchant and first Jew to reside in Tahiti. He became secretary to Queen Pomare IV and married her adopted half-sister Ariitaimai [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
The Teva Chiefess Ariitaimai (1821-97), Tati’s mother [http://histoire.assemblee.pf]

I send you herewith two introductions: the first of them, that to Mr. Colvin (to whom I write), I beg you as a personal favour to find (or make) the time to present; for he is my most valued friend and a man of the most exceptional distinction. The other I should like you to give also; I should insist more on the second if I did not wish to lay all weight on Mr. Colvin’s.

Sidney Colvin (1845-1927), RLS’s friend, was keeper of prints and drawings in the British Museum [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

If I am thus debarred the pleasure of meeting you in Europe I am not in the least, for all that, writing farewell. Whatever I do, and I have two schemes in view, one thing is at least certain: Bar accidents to health and life, I shall find my way back to Tahiti by the Richmond some time next January or February or about a year from now, say; and shall go again to see my dear Arii, and (if he will take a gift of me) my Chief into the bargain.

Tati did not get to England and the letters were therefore never presened. Those to Colvin and James had been destroyed by rats and only the one to Lang survived [http://2.bp.blogspot.com]

It is then we shall be able to talk ballads and compare stories and names and customs; for I shall (or ought to) know something of the islands before then.

RLS’s volume ‘Ballads? was to be published next year, 1890.

I write to prepare Colvin for your appearance and I wish to assure you if you find him at the first sight anyway dry it is a question of manner and you will soon see how very noble and kind a nature lies behind. I have seen many men; never a finer; nor is there any more dear to me.

Sidney Colvin, ca. 1890 [http://media.vam.ac.uk]

Mr. Lang is a great authority on folk-lore, ballads, etc., and the first of those I had meant to consult about your volume.

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), RLS’s friend, Scots poet, novelist, literary critic, best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales, 1884 [http://media.vam.ac.uk]

The first (I mean) after Colvin, for he comes first with me, cela va sans dire, in all things. You will do well, I think, to speak of the volume to both. I am a very good man,

RLS, ca. 1889.

but I am going most probably to Micronesia; and these are on the spot.


When I reach Tahiti you will give me news of England; it seems strange! Pray remember me to your family and the Frenchman that is in your gates;

Tati’s son, Opuhara Salmon (1875-1908) as an adult. The Frenchmen mentioned by RLS was the tutor of Opuhara, then 14 years old [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

and believe me (in spite of my defection),

Your loyal Clansman,


Robert Louis Stevenson.

I add a 3rd letter to Mr. Henry James the novelist.

Henry James, 1889.RLS’s letters to Colvin and James were destroyed by rats and only the one to Lang survived [www.literaryhistory.com]


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