[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2192.]
To Edward L. Burlingame [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 169-71]
Schooner Equator, at sea,
Wednesday, 4th December 1889
My dear Burlingame,
We are now about to rise, like whales, from this long dive,
and I make ready a communication which is to go to you by the first mail from Samoa. How long we shall stay in that group I cannot forecast; but it will be best still to address at Sydney, where I trust, when I shall arrive, perhaps in one month from now, more probably in two or three, to find all news.
Business […]. – […] Will you be likely to have a space in the Magazine for a serial story, which should be ready, I believe, by April, at latest by autumn?
It is called The Wrecker; and in book form will appear as number I of South Sea Yarns by R.L.S. and Lloyd Osbourne. Here is the table as far as fully conceived, and indeed executed.
[Table of chapter headings follows...]
The story is founded on fact, the mystery I really believe to be insoluble;
the purchase of a wreck has never been handled before, no more has San Francisco.
These seem all elements of success. There is, besides, a character, Jim Pinkerton, of the advertising American, on whom we build a good deal; and some sketches of the American merchant marine,
opium smuggling in Honolulu, etc.
It should run to (about) three hundred pages of my MS. […]
I would like to know if this tale smiles upon you, if you will have a vacancy, and what you will be willing to pay. It will of course be copyright in both the States and England. I am a little anxious to have it tried serially, as it tests the interest of the mystery.
Pleasure. – We have had a fine time in the Gilbert group, though four months on low islands, which involves low diet, is a largeish order;
and my wife is rather down. […]
I am myself, up to now, a pillar of health, though our long and vile voyage of calms, squalls, cataracts of rain, sails carried away, foretopmasts lost, boats cleared and packets made on the approach of a p. d. reef, etc., has cured me of salt brine, and filled me with a longing for beef steak and mangoes not to be depicted.
The interest has been immense. Old King Tembinoka of Apemama, the Napoleon of the group, poet, tyrant, altogether a man of mark, gave me the woven corselets of his grandfather, his father and his uncle, and, what pleased me more, told me their singular story,
then all manner of strange tales, facts, and experiences for my South Sea book, which should be a Tearer, Mr. Burlingame: no one at least has had such stuff.
We are now engaged in the hell of a dead calm, the heat is cruel –
it is the only time when I suffer from heat: I have nothing on but a pair of serge trousers, and a singlet without sleeves of Oxford gauze – O, – yes, and a red sash about my waist; and yet as I sit here in the cabin, sweat streams from me.
The rest are on deck under a bit of awning; we are not much above a hundred miles from port, and we might as well be in Kamschatka.
However, I should be honest; this is the first calm I have endured without the added bane of a heavy swell, and the intoxicated blue-bottle wallowings and knockings of the helpless ship.
I wonder how you liked the end of The Master; that was the hardest job I ever had to do; did I do it?
My wife begs to be remembered to yourself and Mrs. Burlingame. Remember all of us to all friends, particularly Low, in case I don’t get a word through for him […]. – I am, yours very sincerely,
Robert Louis Stevenson