“A man’s wife gets into his fiction, for better, for worse”

[For correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2159.]

To David Christie Murray [Murray, Recollections, 1908, pp. 299-302]

Honolulu [? April 1889]

Dear Mr Christie Murray,

Here is a strange place for me to date a letter from, to a Brother Briton, a Brother artist and (unless your three names belie you strangely) a Brother Scot.

David Chrisie Murray (1847-1907) was a journalist and prolific novelist, then living in Santa Cruz. He came from a Staffordshire family [www.westbromwichhistory.com]

But the truth is I am committed to the South Seas (where I find averything to interest me and more health than I am used to have) for some time;

“Going up to dinner, a temperance house”, by Isobel Strong (Belle). A caricature of the Stevenson household depicting them going to dinner carrying various beverages. RLS heads to line carrying white wine; then Margaret Stevenson with whiskey; Fanny with claret; Lloyd Osbourne with beer; Joe Strong with porter and Austin Strong with soda water [www.capitalcollections.org.uk]

and I must do that by letter which I had rather do by word of mouth. “By the Gates of the Sea”

Murray’s novel “By the Gate of the Sea” was serialised in Cornhill 1883.
1887 edition [http://omeka.philaathenaeum.org]

was my first introduction to your work; since then I have had a great deal of pleasure from your pages; and this last week, I have been making up lee-way with Aunt Rachel, Hearts,

1885 edition [http://omeka.philaathenaeum.org]

The Weaker Vessel,

and First Person Singular, which I lay down to write to you.

1886 edition [http://omeka.philaathenaeum.org]

I wish to thank you, and to congratulate you; setting aside George Meredith,  our elder and better,

George Meredith (1828-1909), English novelist and poet,
seven times nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature

I read none of my contemporaries with the same delight; and whatever you may think of my own productions, I think you will be like me in this, that you will set a value on the admiration of any fellow craftsman. I should not say what I meant if I did not add my thanks from the tone of your writing; several times you have encouraged me – and several times rebuked.

Take this very stupid scrawl from a worked-out man, who is reduced to the level of writing blank verse when he tries to write prose – (do you know the stage?) – and take it for a little more than it is worth;

RLS’s letter as reproduced in Christie Murray’s “Recollections”.

for had I been my own man, and could I express adequately what I feel at this moment, you should have had a charming letter. Mrs Stevenson sends her compliments to Mrs Murray,

which I do more humbly; for the result of a prolonged course of your novels is to make us inclined not only to like yourself, but your wife: a man’s wife gets into his fiction, for better, for worse.

Murray’s plaque, West Bronwich, West Midlands. The English novelist answered about his second wife, Alice: “the poor thing suffered dreadfully for years and took refuge in opium and brandy… has no strength to cure herself, and now for two years I have not seen her” (cf. Mehew 6, 2159)

Some day,  I hope we may meet, and an now,

Your truly obliged reader

Robert Louis Stevenson

For Heaven’s sake, don’t answer this: I know what a business it is; only, when you hear I am back, and have a chance, be as kindly as your books and come to see me.


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