“Not roses to the rose, I trow, the thistle sends”

Frederick Locker-Lampson, the friend of Tennyson and most accomplished writer of vers de société in his time, had through their common friend Andrew Lang asked RLS for a set of verses, and RLS had sent the following – which were first printed at the head of a very scarce volume by Locker-Lampson, Rowfant Rhymes, 1895, with an introduction by Austin Dobson.

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1692.]

To Frederick Locker-Lampson [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 349-350]

Skerryvore, September 4, 1886

Not roses to the rose, I trow,

The thistle sends, nor to the bee

Do wasps bring honey. Wherefore now

Should Locker ask a verse from me?



Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821-1895), Civil Servant, poet, anthologist and collector, added his second wife’s surname to his own in 1885 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


Martial, perchance, – but he is dead,

And Herrick now must rhyme no more;

Still burning with the muse, they tread

(And arm in arm) the shadowy shore.

Marcus Valerius Martialis (ca. 38-104 AD), Latin poet [http://izquotes.com]

Robert Herrick (1591-1674), English lyric poet [https://upload.wikimedia.org]



They, if they lived, with dainty hand,

To music as of mountain brooks,

Might bring you worthy words to stand

Unshamed, dear Locker, in your books.


But tho’ these fathers of your race

Be gone before, yourself a sire,

To-day you see before your face

Your stalwart youngsters touch the lyre.

RLS, by W.B. Richmond, August 1886.


On these – on Lang or Dobson – call,

Long leaders of the songful feast.

They lend a verse your laughing fall –

A verse they owe you at the least.

RLS’s friend Andrew Lang (11844-1912), Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and contributor to the field of anthropology [www.mainlesson.com]

Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921), English poet and essayst  [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


Robert Louis Stevenson







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“The public are weary of statues that say nothing”

The letter was published in The Times of 6 September 1886. It is a reply to an attack on Auguste Rodin. The painter Edward Armitage had contributed several letters to that newspaper, writing that he believed the rejection of Rodin’s sculpture by the Academy was due to ‘the intrinsic badness of the work itself’.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1691.]

To the Editor of The Times

[Lawton, The Life and Work of A. Rodin, 1906, 246-8]

Skerryvore [Early September 1886]


Mr. Armitage, R.A., repeating (by his own confession), in ignorance, that which he has gathered from the lips of the indiscriminating, comes before your readers with a strange account of Monsieur Rodin.


Edward Armitage (1817-1896), English painter of historical, classical and biblical subjects [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in 1862 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Portrait of Auguste Rodin by John Singer Sargent, 1884 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Auguste Rodin in 1891 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


That gentleman, I read, is called the ‘Zola of sculpture’, and his ‘work is too realistic and coarse even for the strong stomach of the French public’. I will not deny that he may have been called the Zola of sculpture, but I should like to know by whom. The point of such a phrase lies in the authority, and a byword is no argument; or which of the two popular views are we to accept of Mr. Gladstone, and which of the Academy?

William Ewart Gladstone (1909-1898). HThe third Gladstone Ministry had lasted from February to July, 1886 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

In 1868 the Royal Academy of Arts moved to Burlington House, Piccadilly [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


Monsieur Zola is a man of a personal and forceful talent, approaching genius, but of diseased ideals; a lover of the ignoble, dwelling complacently in foulness, and, to my sense, touched with erotic madness.

Émile Zola (1840-1902), by Édouard Manet, 1868 [http://restaurars.altervista.org]

Émile Zola (1840-1902) [https://letturepirata.files.wordpress.com]


Those defects mar his work so intimately that I have nothing further from my mind than to defend it. I do not think it can often have a good influence; I am inclined to fear it will always have a bad. And on this I would say one word, in passing, to Mr. Armitage – that national comparisons are seldom wise; and he will find (if he look around him) the dainty stomachs of the English supporting Monsieur Zola with a fortitude hardly to be distinguished from gratification, and that, in a translation from which the redeeming merits of the original have fled.

Manuscript by Zola, 1883 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

To Monsieur Rodin the first words of the above description may be applied, and the first words only. He, too, is a man of a personal and forceful talent, and there all comparison is at an end. Monsieur Rodin’s work is real in the sense that it is studied from the life and itself lives, but it has not a trace of realism in the evil, and that is in the privative sense. Monsieur Zola presents us with a picture to no detail of which can we take grounded exception. It is only on the whole that it is false. We find therein nothing lovable or worthy; no trace of the pious gladnesses, innocent loves, ennobling friendships, and not infrequent heroisms by which we live surrounded; nothing of the high mind and the pure aims in which we find our consolation. Hence we call his work realistic in the evil sense, meaning that it is dead to the ideal and speaks only to the senses.





Monsieur Rodin’s work is the clean contrary of this. His is no triumph of workmanship lending an interest to what is base, but to an increasing degree, as he proceeds in life, the noble expression of noble sentiment and thought. I was one of a party of artists that visited his studio the other day;

Rodin’s studio was in the Dépôt des Marbres, in the old Île des Cygnes, at 182 rue de l’Université, Paris [http://img.over-blog-kiwi.com]



Place of Rodin’s studio, at 182, rue de l’Université, Paris.

Rodin in his studio [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]



Rodin in his studio [http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk]

and, after having seen his later work, the ‘Dante,’

Rodin’s first Thinker (Le Penseur) was small, designed to be part of a bronze door he was making for the Musée des Arts Decoratifs. The Gates of Hell, unfinished, was inspired by The Divine Comedy, and The Thinker was interpreted as a portraid of Dante [https://upload.wikimedia.org]



the ‘Paolo and Francesca,’

A. Rodin, Paolo and Francesca [http://2.bp.blogspot.com]

the ‘Printemps qui passe,’

Eternal Springtime, c. 1884 [www.musee-rodin.fr]

we came forth again into the streets of Paris, silenced, gratified, humbled in the thought of our own efforts, yet with a fine sense that the age was not utterly decadent, and that there were yet worthy possibilities in art.

G. Caillebotte, Rue de Paris, temps de pluie, 1877 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


But, remark, it was not the sculptor we admired; nor was it his skill, admirable and unusual as that is, that we talked of as we went homeward. These questions of material talent had fallen below our thoughts; and the solemn face of the ‘Dante’ over the great door still spoke to our imagination.

Rodin’s studio with the Gate of Hell [http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk]

The public are weary of statues that say nothing. Well, here is a man coming forward, whose statues live and speak, and speak things worth uttering. Give him time, spare him nicknames and the cant of cliques, and I venture to predict this man will take a place in the public heart. – I am, etc.,

Robert Louis Stevenson














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Sorry, but I’ll not be blogging for about two weeks, just taking my holyday break. I’ll be back at the end of August

Best wishes for a nice summer!



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“Aubrey de Vere the poet has been to see me: in a front view, he is simply my father”

A fragment published in a catalogue of RLS’s manuscripts being sold in New York in 1921

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1690.]

To his parents [Catalogue of Brick Row Bookshop, NY 1921, 51]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth [1 September 1886]

[…] I have been a little out of sorts, but I am charmed to say I am getting on with Jenkin […]. I am so glad you found the notices.

RLS was working at his memoir of his old friend Professor Fleeming Jenkin, deceased the year before.

H.C. Fleeming Jenkin (1833-1885), a famous electrical engineer working on submarine telegraph cables, and RLS’s professor of Engineering at Edinburgh University in 1868 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Did Fanny send you the Athenaeum? It was good indeed, and by the best authority, Theodore Watts. […]

The Athenaeum was a literary magazine published in London from 1828 to 1921.

Theodore Watts-Dunton (1832-1914) was an English critic and poet, and a friend of Algernon Charles Swinburne, whom he rescued from alcoholism. He contributed regularly to the Athenaeum from 1875 until 1898, being for more than twenty years its principal critic of poetry [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]

Aubrey de Vere the poet has been to see me: in a front view, he is simply my father […]. I was quite moved to see him. […]

Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814-1902) was an Irish poet and critic. Phot. J.M. Cameron, 1864 [http://images.npg.org.uk]

Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814-1902) Phot. J.M. Cameron, 1915 [https://en.wikipedia.org]

Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887) [http://pharology.eu]







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– Ah, monsieur, vous êtes bien jeune! –

In his recent days in Paris, RLS’s chivalrous feelings had been shocked by the scene in the Demi-Monde of Dumas fils, where Suzanne d’Ange is trapped by Olivier de Jalin. William Archer, the Scottish critic and writer, had asked RLS what exactly took place; then he included the anecdote in his article in The Critic of 5 Nov 1887.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1687.]

To William Archer [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 51-52]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, late August – early September 1886]

My dear Archer,

It happened thus. I came forth from that performance in a breathing heat of indignation. (Mind, at this distance of time and with my increased knowledge, I admit there is a problem in the piece; but I saw none then, except a problem in brutality; and I still consider the problem in that case not established.)

A. Dumas, Le Demi-monde, 1855.


On my way down the Français stairs,

E.-J. Dantan, First Night at the Comedie Francaise, 1885. Since 1799, the Comédie-Française has been housed in the salle Richelieu at 2, rue de Richelieu. This theatre was enlarged and modified in the 1800s, then rebuilt in 1900 after a severe fire [https://image.pbs.org]

I trod on an old gentleman’s toes, whereupon with that suavity that so well becomes me, I turned about to apologise, and on the instant, repenting me of that intention, stopped the apology midway, and added something in French to this effect: No, you are one of the lâches who have been applauding that piece. I retract my apology. Said the old Frenchman, laying his hand on my arm, and with a smile that was truly heavenly in ternperance, irony, good-nature, and knowledge of the world, ‘Ah, monsieur, vous êtes bien jeune!’ – Yours very truly,

Robert Louis Stevenson








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“I am so well that I am afraid to speak of it, being a coward as to boasting”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1684.]

To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 348-349]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Late August 1886]

My dear Cummy,

I am home from a long holiday, vastly better in health. My wife not home yet, as she is being cured in some rather boisterous fashion by some Swedish doctors. I hope it may do her good, as the process seems not to be agreeable in itself.

Your cupboard has come, and it is most beautiful: it is certainly worth a lot of money, and is just what we have been looking for in all the shops for quite a while: so your present falls very pat. It is to go in our bedroom I think; but perhaps my wife will think it too much of a good thing to be put so much out of the way, so I shall not put it in its place till her return.

RLS’s pieces of furniture, Vailima, Samoa [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]

I am so well that I am afraid to speak of it, being a coward as to boasting. I take walks in the wood daily, and have got back to my work after a long break.

Talbot Woods, Bournemouth, 1909 [www.oldukphotos.com]



Talbot Woods, Bournemouth [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Talbot Woods, Bournemouth [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


The story I wrote you about was one you read to me in Cassell’s Family Paper long ago when it came out.

Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper []https://www.abebooks.co.uk]

It was astonishing how clearly I remembered it all, pictures, characters, and incidents, though the last were a little mixed and I had not the least the hang of the story. It was very pleasant to read it again, and remember old days, and the weekly excursion to Mrs. Hoggs after that precious journal.

John Hoggs was a stationer, 2 Pitts Street, Ednburgh.


Dear me, lang syne now! God bless you, dear Cummy. Your afft. boy,

R.L. Stevenson




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“Vous avez à la main une petite bêtise assez mal ecrite, assez bien traduite”

Written on the fly-leaf of the French translation of Treasure Island, which RLS bought in Paris. RLS and Fanny stayed a week or 10 days in Paris with Will and Berthe Low.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1677.]

To Berthe Low [Low, A Chronicle of Friendship, 1908, pp. 333-4]


Paris, 12 Rue Vernier, 18 Août 1886

Chère Madame Low,

Nous allons faire quelques petites fautes de Français, n’est ce pas ? – C’est convenu ? – Alors, me voilà content: me voilà à même de vous dire tout tranquillement que ce que vous avez à la main est une petite bêtise assez mal ecrite, assez bien traduite;

W.H. Low, Montigny sur Loing, 1876. The American painter had married in 1878 Berthe Julienne, who translated Treasure Island and Jekyll & Hyde French [https://image.invaluable.com]

First French translation of Treasure Island, 1885 [https://pictures.abebooks.com]


et que je vous prie de l’accepter en souvenir du boulevard Montparnasse,

The place of the ‘atélier des étudiants de Carol-Duran’, 81 Boulevard Montparnasse, Paris, ehere in 1874 RLS visited his cousin Bob and Will Low.


de Montigny sur Loing

Jacob Maris, View of Montigny-sur-Loing, 1870 [https://images.fineartamerica.com]

Montigny-sur-Loing, Seine et Marne, France [http://mw2.google.com]


et de la rue Vernier.


12 rue Vernier, Paris, the place where the Lows lived.


Mille amities à vous et à Will.

Robert Louis Stevenson




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