My dear Barrie, I am a little in the dark about this new work of yours: what is to become of me afterwards? You say carefully - methought anxiously - that I was no longer me when I grew up? I cannot bear this suspense: what is it? It's no forgery? And AM I HANGIT? These are the elements of a very pretty lawsuit which you had better come to Samoa to compromise. I am enjoying a great pleasure that I had long looked forward to, reading Orme's HISTORY OF INDOSTAN; I had been looking out for it everywhere; but at last, in four volumes, large quarto, beautiful type and page, and with a delectable set of maps and plans, and all the names of the places wrongly spelled - it came to Samoa, little Barrie. I tell you frankly, you had better come soon. I am sair failed a'ready; and what I may be if you continue to dally, I dread to conceive. I may be speechless; already, or at least for a month or so, I'm little better than a teetoller - I beg pardon, a teetotaller. It is not exactly physical, for I am in good health, working four or five hours a day in my plantation, and intending to ride a paper-chase next Sunday - ay, man, that's a fact, and I havena had the hert to breathe it to my mother yet - the obligation's poleetical, for I am trying every means to live well with my German neighbours - and, O Barrie, but it's no easy! To be sure, there are many exceptions. And the whole of the above must be regarded as private - strictly private. Breathe it not in Kirriemuir: tell it not to the daughters of Dundee! What a nice extract this would make for the daily papers! and how it would facilitate my position here! . . .
This is Sunday, the Lord's Day. 'The hour of attack approaches.' And it is a singular consideration what I risk; I may yet be the subject of a tract, and a good tract too - such as one which I remember reading with recreant awe and rising hair in my youth, of a boy who was a very good boy, and went to Sunday Schule, and one day kipped from it, and went and actually bathed, and was dashed over a waterfall, and he was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A dangerous trade, that, and one that I have to practise. I'll put in a word when I get home again, to tell you whether I'm killed or not. 'Accident in the (Paper) Hunting Field: death of a notorious author. We deeply regret to announce the death of the most unpopular man in Samoa, who broke his neck at the descent of Magagi, from the misconduct of his little raving lunatic of an old beast of a pony. It is proposed to commemorate the incident by the erection of a suitable pile. The design (by our local architect, Mr. Walker) is highly artificial, with a rich and voluminous Crockett at each corner, a small but impervious Barrieer at the entrance, an arch at the top, an Archer of a pleasing but solid character at the bottom; the colour will be genuine William- Black; and Lang, lang may the ladies sit wi' their fans in their hands.' Well, well, they may sit as they sat for me, and little they'll reck, the ungrateful jauds! Muckle they cared about Tusitala when they had him! But now ye can see the difference; now, leddies, ye can repent, when ower late, o' your former cauldness and what ye'll perhaps allow me to ca' your TEPEEDITY! He was beautiful as the day, but his day is done! And perhaps, as he was maybe gettin' a wee thing fly-blawn, it's nane too shune.
MONDAY, AUGUST 6TH.
Well, sir, I have escaped the dangerous conjunction of the widow's only son and the Sabbath Day. We had a most enjoyable time, and Lloyd and I were 3 and 4 to arrive; I will not tell here what interval had elapsed between our arrival and the arrival of 1 and 2; the question, sir, is otiose and malign; it deserves, it shall have no answer. And now without further delay to the main purpose of this hasty note. We received and we have already in fact distributed the gorgeous fahbrics of Kirriemuir. Whether from the splendour of the robes themselves, or from the direct nature of the compliments with which you had directed us to accompany the presentations, one young lady blushed as she received the proofs of your munificence. . . . Bad ink, and the dregs of it at that, but the heart in the right place. Still very cordially interested in my Barrie and wishing him well through his sickness, which is of the body, and long defended from mine, which is of the head, and by the impolite might be described as idiocy. The whole head is useless, and the whole sitting part painful: reason, the recent Paper Chase.
There was racing and chasing in Vailile plantation, And vastly we enjoyed it, But, alas! for the state of my foundation, For it wholly has destroyed it.
Come, my mind is looking up. The above is wholly impromptu. - On oath,
AUGUST 12, 1894
And here, Mr. Barrie, is news with a vengeance. Mother Hubbard's dog is well again - what did I tell you? Pleurisy, pneumonia, and all that kind of truck is quite unavailing against a Scotchman who can write - and not only that, but it appears the perfidious dog is married. This incident, so far as I remember, is omitted from the original epic -
She went to the graveyard To see him get him buried, And when she came back The Deil had got merried.
It now remains to inform you that I have taken what we call here 'German offence' at not receiving cards, and that the only reparation I will accept is that Mrs. Barrie shall incontinently upon the receipt of this Take and Bring you to Vailima in order to apologise and be pardoned for this offence. The commentary of Tamaitai upon the event was brief but pregnant: 'Well, it's a comfort our guest-room is furnished for two.'
This letter, about nothing, has already endured too long. I shall just present the family to Mrs. Barrie - Tamaitai, Tamaitai Matua, Teuila, Palema, Loia, and with an extra low bow, Yours,
Letter: TO DR. BAKEWELL
VAILIMA, AUGUST 7, 1894.
DEAR DR. BAKEWELL, - I am not more than human. I am more human than is wholly convenient, and your anecdote was welcome. What you say about UNWILLING WORK, my dear sir, is a consideration always present with me, and yet not easy to give its due weight to. You grow gradually into a certain income; without spending a penny more, with the same sense of restriction as before when you painfully scraped two hundred a year together, you find you have spent, and you cannot well stop spending, a far larger sum; and this expense can only be supported by a certain production. However, I am off work this month, and occupy myself instead in weeding my cacao, paper chases, and the like. I may tell you, my average of work in favourable circumstances is far greater than you suppose: from six o'clock till eleven at latest, and often till twelve, and again in the afternoon from two to four. My hand is quite destroyed, as you may perceive, to-day to a really unusual extent. I can sometimes write a decent fist still; but I have just returned with my arms all stung from three hours' work in the cacao. - Yours, etc.,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO JAMES PAYN
VAILIMA, UPOLU, SAMOA [AUGUST 11, 1894].
MY DEAR JAMES PAYN, - I hear from Lang that you are unwell, and it reminds me of two circumstances: First, that it is a very long time since you had the exquisite pleasure of hearing from me; and second, that I have been very often unwell myself, and sometimes had to thank you for a grateful anodyne.
They are not good, the circumstances, to write an anodyne letter. The hills and my house at less than (boom) a minute's interval quake with thunder; and though I cannot hear that part of it, shells are falling thick into the fort of Luatuanu'u (boom). It is my friends of the CURACOA, the FALKE, and the BUSSARD bombarding (after all these - boom - months) the rebels of Atua. (Boom-boom.) It is most distracting in itself; and the thought of the poor devils in their fort (boom) with their bits of rifles far from pleasant. (Boom-boom.) You can see how quick it goes, and I'll say no more about Mr. Bow-wow, only you must understand the perpetual accompaniment of this discomfortable sound, and make allowances for the value of my copy. It is odd, though, I can well remember, when the Franco-Prussian war began, and I was in Eilean Earraid, far enough from the sound of the loudest cannonade, I could HEAR the shots fired, and I felt the pang in my breast of a man struck. It was sometimes so distressing, so instant, that I lay in the heather on the top of the island, with my face hid, kicking my heels for agony. And now, when I can hear the actual concussion of the air and hills, when I KNOW personally the people who stand exposed to it, I am able to go on TANT BIEN QUE MAL with a letter to James Payn! The blessings of age, though mighty small, are tangible. I have heard a great deal of them since I came into the world, and now that I begin to taste of them - Well! But this is one, that people do get cured of the excess of sensibility; and I had as lief these people were shot at as myself - or almost, for then I should have some of the fun, such as it is.
You are to conceive me, then, sitting in my little gallery room, shaken by these continual spasms of cannon, and with my eye more or less singly fixed on the imaginary figure of my dear James Payn. I try to see him in bed; no go. I see him instead jumping up in his room in Waterloo Place (where EX HYPOTHESI he is not), sitting on the table, drawing out a very black briar-root pipe, and beginning to talk to a slim and ill-dressed visitor in a voice that is good to hear and with a smile that is pleasant to see. (After a little more than half an hour, the voice that was ill to hear has ceased, the cannonade is over.) And I am thinking how I can get an answering smile wafted over so many leagues of land and water, and can find no way.
I have always been a great visitor of the sick; and one of the sick I visited was W. E. Henley, which did not make very tedious visits, so I'll not get off much purgatory for them. That was in the Edinburgh Infirmary, the old one, the true one, with Georgius Secundus standing and pointing his toe in a niche of the facade; and a mighty fine building it was! And I remember one winter's afternoon, in that place of misery, that Henley and I chanced to fall in talk about James Payn himself. I am wishing you could have heard that talk! I think that would make you smile. We had mixed you up with John Payne, for one thing, and stood amazed at your extraordinary, even painful, versatility; and for another, we found ourselves each students so well prepared for examinations on the novels of the real Mackay. Perhaps, after all, this is worth something in life - to have given so much pleasure to a pair so different in every way as were Henley and I, and to be talked of with so much interest by two such (beg pardon) clever lads!
The cheerful Lang has neglected to tell me what is the matter with you; so, I'm sorry to say, I am cut off from all the customary consolations. I can't say, 'Think how much worse it would be if you had a broken leg!' when you may have the crushing repartee up your sleeve, 'But it is my leg that is broken.' This is a pity. But there are consolations. You are an Englishman (I believe); you are a man of letters; you have never been made C.B.; your hair was not red; you have played cribbage and whist; you did not play either the fiddle or the banjo; you were never an aesthete; you never contributed to -'S JOURNAL; your name is not Jabez Balfour; you are totally unconnected with the Army and Navy departments; I understand you to have lived within your income - why, cheer up! here are many legitimate causes of congratulation. I seem to be writing an obituary notice. ABSIT OMEN! But I feel very sure that these considerations will have done you more good than medicine.
By the by, did you ever play piquet? I have fallen a victim to this debilitating game. It is supposed to be scientific; God save the mark, what self-deceivers men are! It is distinctly less so than cribbage. But how fascinating! There is such material opulence about it, such vast ambitions may be realised - and are not; it may be called the Monte Cristo of games. And the thrill with which you take five cards partakes of the nature of lust - and you draw four sevens and a nine, and the seven and nine of a suit that you discarded, and O! but the world is a desert! You may see traces of discouragement in my letter: all due to piquet! There has been a disastrous turn of the luck against me; a month or two ago I was two thousand ahead; now, and for a week back, I have been anything from four thousand eight hundred to five thousand two hundred astern. If I have a sixieme, my beast of a partner has a septieme; and if I have three aces, three kings, three queens, and three knaves (excuse the slight exaggeration), the devil holds quatorze of tens! - I remain, my dear James Payn, your sincere and obliged friend - old friend let me say,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO MISS MIDDLETON
VAILIMA, SAMOA, SEPTEMBER 9, 1894.
DEAR MISS MIDDLETON, - Your letter has been like the drawing up of a curtain. Of course I remember you very well, and the Skye terrier to which you refer - a heavy, dull, fatted, graceless creature he grew up to be - was my own particular pet. It may amuse you, perhaps, as much as 'The Inn' amused me, if I tell you what made this dog particularly mine. My father was the natural god of all the dogs in our house, and poor Jura took to him of course. Jura was stolen, and kept in prison somewhere for more than a week, as I remember. When he came back Smeoroch had come and taken my father's heart from him. He took his stand like a man, and positively never spoke to my father again from that day until the day of his death. It was the only sign of character he ever showed. I took him up to my room and to be my dog in consequence, partly because I was sorry for him, and partly because I admired his dignity in misfortune.
With best regards and thanks for having reminded me of so many pleasant days, old acquaintances, dead friends, and - what is perhaps as pathetic as any of them - dead dogs, I remain, yours truly,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO A. CONAN DOYLE
VAILIMA, SAMOA, SEPTEMBER 9, 1894.
MY DEAR CONAN DOYLE, - If you found anything to entertain you in my TREASURE ISLAND article, it may amuse you to know that you owe it entirely to yourself. YOUR 'First Book' was by some accident read aloud one night in my Baronial 'All. I was consumedly amused by it, so was the whole family, and we proceeded to hunt up back IDLERS and read the whole series. It is a rattling good series, even people whom you would not expect came in quite the proper tone - Miss Braddon, for instance, who was really one of the best where all are good - or all but one! ... In short, I fell in love with 'The First Book' series, and determined that it should be all our first books, and that I could not hold back where the white plume of Conan Doyle waved gallantly in the front. I hope they will republish them, though it's a grievous thought to me that that effigy in the German cap - likewise the other effigy of the noisome old man with the long hair, telling indelicate stories to a couple of deformed negresses in a rancid shanty full of wreckage - should be perpetuated. I may seem to speak in pleasantry - it is only a seeming - that German cap, sir, would be found, when I come to die, imprinted on my heart. Enough - my heart is too full. Adieu. - Yours very truly,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
(in a German cap, damn 'em!)
Letter: TO CHARLES BAXTER
[VAILIMA, SEPTEMBER 1894.]
MY DEAR CHARLES, - . . . Well, there is no more Edmund Baxter now; and I think I may say I know how you feel. He was one of the best, the kindest, and the most genial men I ever knew. I shall always remember his brisk, cordial ways and the essential goodness which he showed me whenever we met with gratitude. And the always is such a little while now! He is another of the landmarks gone; when it comes to my own turn to lay my weapons down, I shall do so with thankfulness and fatigue; and whatever be my destiny afterward, I shall be glad to lie down with my fathers in honour. It is human at least, if not divine. And these deaths make me think of it with an ever greater readiness. Strange that you should be beginning a new life, when I, who am a little your junior, am thinking of the end of mine. But I have had hard lines; I have been so long waiting for death, I have unwrapped my thoughts from about life so long, that I have not a filament left to hold by; I have done my fiddling so long under Vesuvius, that I have almost forgotten to play, and can only wait for the eruption, and think it long of coming. Literally, no man has more wholly outlived life than I. And still it's good fun.
R. L. S.
Letter: TO R. A. M. STEVENSON
[VAILIMA, SEPTEMBER 1894.]
DEAR BOB, - You are in error about the Picts. They were a Gaelic race, spoke a Celtic tongue, and we have no evidence that I know of that they were blacker than other Celts. The Balfours, I take it, were plainly Celts; their name shows it - the 'cold croft,' it means; so does their country. Where the BLACK Scotch come from nobody knows; but I recognise with you the fact that the whole of Britain is rapidly and progressively becoming more pigmented; already in one man's life I can decidedly trace a difference in the children about a school door. But colour is not an essential part of a man or a race. Take my Polynesians, an Asiatic people probably from the neighbourhood of the Persian gulf. They range through any amount of shades, from the burnt hue of the Low Archipelago islander, which seems half negro, to the 'bleached' pretty women of the Marquesas (close by on the map), who come out for a festival no darker than an Italian; their colour seems to vary directly with the degree of exposure to the sun. And, as with negroes, the babes are born white; only it should seem a LITTLE SACK of pigment at the lower part of the spine, which presently spreads over the whole field. Very puzzling. But to return. The Picts furnish to-day perhaps a third of the population of Scotland, say another third for Scots and Britons, and the third for Norse and Angles is a bad third. Edinburgh was a Pictish place. But the fact is, we don't know their frontiers. Tell some of your journalist friends with a good style to popularise old Skene; or say your prayers, and read him for yourself; he was a Great Historian, and I was his blessed clerk, and did not know it; and you will not be in a state of grace about the Picts till you have studied him. J. Horne Stevenson (do you know him?) is working this up with me, and the fact is - it's not interesting to the public - but it's interesting, and very interesting, in itself, and just now very embarrassing - this rural parish supplied Glasgow with such a quantity of Stevensons in the beginning of last century! There is just a link wanting; and we might be able to go back to the eleventh century, always undistinguished, but clearly traceable. When I say just a link, I guess I may be taken to mean a dozen. What a singular thing is this undistinguished perpetuation of a family throughout the centuries, and the sudden bursting forth of character and capacity that began with our grandfather! But as I go on in life, day by day, I become more of a bewildered child; I cannot get used to this world, to procreation, to heredity, to sight, to hearing; the commonest things are a burthen. The prim obliterated polite face of life, and the broad, bawdy, and orgiastic - or maenadic - foundations, form a spectacle to which no habit reconciles me; and 'I could wish my days to be bound each to each' by the same open-mouthed wonder. They ARE anyway, and whether I wish it or not.
I remember very well your attitude to life, this conventional surface of it. You had none of that curiosity for the social stage directions, the trivial FICELLES of the business; it is simian, but that is how the wild youth of man is captured; you wouldn't imitate, hence you kept free - a wild dog, outside the kennel - and came dam' near starving for your pains. The key to the business is of course the belly; difficult as it is to keep that in view in the zone of three miraculous meals a day in which we were brought up. Civilisation has become reflex with us; you might think that hunger was the name of the best sauce; but hunger to the cold solitary under a bush of a rainy night is the name of something quite different. I defend civilisation for the thing it is, for the thing it has COME to be, the standpoint of a real old Tory. My ideal would be the Female Clan. But how can you turn these crowding dumb multitudes BACK? They don't do anything BECAUSE; they do things, write able articles, stitch shoes, dig, from the purely simian impulse. Go and reason with monkeys!
No, I am right about Jean Lillie. Jean Lillie, our double great- grandmother, the daughter of David Lillie, sometime Deacon of the Wrights, married, first, Alan Stevenson, who died May 26, 1774, 'at Santt Kittes of a fiver,' by whom she had Robert Stevenson, born 8th June 1772; and, second, in May or June 1787, Thomas Smith, a widower, and already the father of our grandmother. This improbable double connection always tends to confuse a student of the family, Thomas Smith being doubly our great-grandfather.
I looked on the perpetuation of our honoured name with veneration. My mother collared one of the photos, of course; the other is stuck up on my wall as the chief of our sept. Do you know any of the Gaelic-Celtic sharps? you might ask what the name means. It puzzles me. I find a M'STEIN and a MACSTEPHANE; and our own great- grandfather always called himself Steenson, though he wrote it Stevenson. There are at least three PLACES called Stevenson - STEVENSON in Cunningham, STEVENSON in Peebles, and STEVENSON in Haddington. And it was not the Celtic trick, I understand, to call places after people. I am going to write to Sir Herbert Maxwell about the name, but you might find some one.
Get the Anglo-Saxon heresy out of your head; they superimposed their language, they scarce modified the race; only in Berwickshire and Roxburgh have they very largely affected the place names. The Scandinavians did much more to Scotland than the Angles. The Saxons didn't come.
Enough of this sham antiquarianism. Yes, it is in the matter of the book, of course, that collaboration shows; as for the manner, it is superficially all mine, in the sense that the last copy is all in my hand. Lloyd did not even put pen to paper in the Paris scenes or the Barbizon scene; it was no good; he wrote and often rewrote all the rest; I had the best service from him on the character of Nares. You see, we had been just meeting the man, and his memory was full of the man's words and ways. And Lloyd is an impressionist, pure and simple. The great difficulty of collaboration is that you can't explain what you mean. I know what kind of effect I mean a character to give - what kind of TACHE he is to make; but how am I to tell my collaborator in words? Hence it was necessary to say, 'Make him So-and-so'; and this was all right for Nares and Pinkerton and Loudon Dodd, whom we both knew, but for Bellairs, for instance - a man with whom I passed ten minutes fifteen years ago - what was I to say? and what could Lloyd do? I, as a personal artist, can begin a character with only a haze in my head, but how if I have to translate the haze into words before I begin? In our manner of collaboration (which I think the only possible - I mean that of one person being responsible, and giving the COUP DE POUCE to every part of the work) I was spared the obviously hopeless business of trying to explain to my collaborator what STYLE I wished a passage to be treated in. These are the times that illustrate to a man the inadequacy of spoken language. Now - to be just to written language - I can (or could) find a language for my every mood, but how could I TELL any one beforehand what this effect was to be, which it would take every art that I possessed, and hours and hours of deliberate labour and selection and rejection, to produce? These are the impossibilities of collaboration. Its immediate advantage is to focus two minds together on the stuff, and to produce in consequence an extraordinarily greater richness of purview, consideration, and invention. The hardest chapter of all was 'Cross Questions and Crooked Answers.' You would not believe what that cost us before it assumed the least unity and colour. Lloyd wrote it at least thrice, and I at least five times - this is from memory. And was that last chapter worth the trouble it cost? Alas, that I should ask the question! Two classes of men - the artist and the educationalist - are sworn, on soul and conscience, not to ask it. You get an ordinary, grinning, red-headed boy, and you have to educate him. Faith supports you; you give your valuable hours, the boy does not seem to profit, but that way your duty lies, for which you are paid, and you must persevere. Education has always seemed to me one of the few possible and dignified ways of life. A sailor, a shepherd, a schoolmaster - to a less degree, a soldier - and (I don't know why, upon my soul, except as a sort of schoolmaster's unofficial assistant, and a kind of acrobat in tights) an artist, almost exhaust the category.
If I had to begin again - I know not - SI JEUNESSE SAVAIT, SI VIEILLESSE POUVAIT . . . I know not at all - I believe I should try to honour Sex more religiously. The worst of our education is that Christianity does not recognise and hallow Sex. It looks askance at it, over its shoulder, oppressed as it is by reminiscences of hermits and Asiatic self-tortures. It is a terrible hiatus in our modern religions that they cannot see and make venerable that which they ought to see first and hallow most. Well, it is so; I cannot be wiser than my generation.
But no doubt there is something great in the half-success that has attended the effort of turning into an emotional religion, Bald Conduct, without any appeal, or almost none, to the figurative, mysterious, and constitutive facts of life. Not that conduct is not constitutive, but dear! it's dreary! On the whole, conduct is better dealt with on the cast-iron 'gentleman' and duty formula, with as little fervour and poetry as possible; stoical and short.
. . . There is a new something or other in the wind, which exercises me hugely: anarchy, - I mean, anarchism. People who (for pity's sake) commit dastardly murders very basely, die like saints, and leave beautiful letters behind 'em (did you see Vaillant to his daughter? it was the New Testament over again); people whose conduct is inexplicable to me, and yet their spiritual life higher than that of most. This is just what the early Christians must have seemed to the Romans. Is this, then, a new DRIVE among the monkeys? Mind you, Bob, if they go on being martyred a few years more, the gross, dull, not unkindly bourgeois may get tired or ashamed or afraid of going on martyring; and the anarchists come out at the top just like the early Christians. That is, of course, they will step into power as a PERSONNEL, but God knows what they may believe when they come to do so; it can't be stranger or more improbable than what Christianity had come to be by the same time.
Your letter was easily read, the pagination presented no difficulty, and I read it with much edification and gusto. To look back, and to stereotype one bygone humour - what a hopeless thing! The mind runs ever in a thousand eddies like a river between cliffs. You (the ego) are always spinning round in it, east, west, north, and south. You are twenty years old, and forty, and five, and the next moment you are freezing at an imaginary eighty; you are never the plain forty-four that you should be by dates. (The most philosophical language is the Gaelic, which has NO PRESENT TENSE - and the most useless.) How, then, to choose some former age, and stick there?
R. L. S.
Letter: TO SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
VAILIMA, SAMOA, SEPTEMBER 10, 1894.
DEAR SIR HERBERT MAXWELL, - I am emboldened by reading your very interesting Rhind Lectures to put to you a question: What is my name, Stevenson?
I find it in the forms Stevinetoun, Stevensoune, Stevensonne, Stenesone, Stewinsoune, M'Stein, and MacStephane. My family, and (as far as I can gather) the majority of the inglorious clan, hailed from the borders of Cunningham and Renfrew, and the upper waters of the Clyde. In the Barony of Bothwell was the seat of the laird Stevenson of Stevenson; but, as of course you know, there is a parish in Cunningham and places in Peebles and Haddington bearing the same name.
If you can at all help me, you will render me a real service which I wish I could think of some manner to repay. - Believe me, yours truly,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
P.S. - I should have added that I have perfect evidence before me that (for some obscure reason) Stevenson was a favourite alias with the M'Gregors.
Letter: TO ALISON CUNNINGHAM
[VAILIMA], OCTOBER 8TH 1894.
MY DEAR CUMMY, - So I hear you are ailing? Think shame to yourself! So you think there is nothing better to be done with time than that? and be sure we can all do much ourselves to decide whether we are to be ill or well! like a man on the gymnastic bars. We are all pretty well. As for me, there is nothing the matter with me in the world, beyond the disgusting circumstance that I am not so young as once I was. Lloyd has a gymnastic machine, and practises upon it every morning for an hour: he is beginning to be a kind of young Samson. Austin grows fat and brown, and gets on not so ill with his lessons, and my mother is in great price. We are having knock-me-down weather for heat; I never remember it so hot before, and I fancy it means we are to have a hurricane again this year, I think; since we came here, we have not had a single gale of wind! The Pacific is but a child to the North Sea; but when she does get excited, and gets up and girds herself, she can do something good. We have had a very interesting business here. I helped the chiefs who were in prison; and when they were set free, what should they do but offer to make a part of my road for me out of gratitude? Well, I was ashamed to refuse, and the trumps dug my road for me, and put up this inscription on a board:-
'CONSIDERING THE GREAT LOVE OF HIS EXCELLENCY TUSITALA IN HIS LOVING CARE OF US IN OUR TRIBULATION IN THE PRISON WE HAVE MADE THIS GREAT GIFT; IT SHALL NEVER BE MUDDY, IT SHALL GO ON FOR EVER, THIS ROAD THAT WE HAVE DUG!' We had a great feast when it was done, and I read them a kind of lecture, which I dare say Auntie will have, and can let you see. Weel, guid bye to ye, and joy be wi' ye! I hae nae time to say mair. They say I'm gettin' FAT - a fact! - Your laddie, with all love,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO JAMES PAYN
VAILIMA, SAMOA, NOV. 4, 1894.
MY DEAR JAMES PAYN, - I am asked to relate to you a little incident of domestic life at Vailima. I had read your GLEAMS OF MEMORY, No. 1; it then went to my wife, to Osbourne, to the cousin that is within my gates, and to my respected amanuensis, Mrs. Strong. Sunday approached. In the course of the afternoon I was attracted to the great 'all - the winders is by Vanderputty, which upon entering I beheld a memorable scene. The floor was bestrewn with the forms of midshipmen from the CURACOA - 'boldly say a wilderness of gunroom' - and in the midst of this sat Mrs. Strong throned on the sofa and reading aloud GLEAMS OF MEMORY. They had just come the length of your immortal definition of boyhood in the concrete, and I had the pleasure to see the whole party dissolve under its influence with inextinguishable laughter. I thought this was not half bad for arthritic gout! Depend upon it, sir, when I go into the arthritic gout business, I shall be done with literature, or at least with the funny business. It is quite true I have my battlefields behind me. I have done perhaps as much work as anybody else under the most deplorable conditions. But two things fall to be noticed: In the first place, I never was in actual pain; and in the second, I was never funny. I'll tell you the worst day that I remember. I had a haemorrhage, and was not allowed to speak; then, induced by the devil, or an errant doctor, I was led to partake of that bowl which neither cheers nor inebriates - the castor-oil bowl. Now, when castor-oil goes right, it is one thing; but when it goes wrong, it is another. And it went WRONG with me that day. The waves of faintness and nausea succeeded each other for twelve hours, and I do feel a legitimate pride in thinking that I stuck to my work all through and wrote a good deal of Admiral Guinea (which I might just as well not have written for all the reward it ever brought me) in spite of the barbarous bad conditions. I think that is my great boast; and it seems a little thing alongside of your GLEAMS OF MEMORY illustrated by spasms of arthritic gout. We really should have an order of merit in the trade of letters. For valour, Scott would have had it; Pope too; myself on the strength of that castor-oil; and James Payn would be a Knight Commander. The worst of it is, though Lang tells me you exhibit the courage of Huish, that not even an order can alleviate the wretched annoyance of the business. I have always said that there is nothing like pain; toothache, dumb-ague, arthritic gout, it does not matter what you call it, if the screw is put upon the nerves sufficiently strong, there is nothing left in heaven or in earth that can interest the sufferer. Still, even to this there is the consolation that it cannot last for ever. Either you will be relieved and have a good hour again before the sun goes down, or else you will be liberated. It is something after all (although not much) to think that you are leaving a brave example; that other literary men love to remember, as I am sure they will love to remember, everything about you - your sweetness, your brightness, your helpfulness to all of us, and in particular those one or two really adequate and noble papers which you have been privileged to write during these last years. - With the heartiest and kindest good-will, I remain, yours ever,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO LIEUTENANT EELES
VAILIMA, SAMOA, NOVEMBER 24, 1894.
MY DEAR EELES, - The hand, as you will perceive (and also the spelling!), is Teuila's, but the scrannel voice is what remains of Tusitala's. First of all, for business. When you go to London you are to charter a hansom cab and proceed to the Museum. It is particular fun to do this on Sundays when the Monument is shut up. Your cabman expostulates with you, you persist. The cabman drives up in front of the closed gates and says, 'I told you so, sir.' You breathe in the porter's ears the mystic name of COLVIN, and he immediately unfolds the iron barrier. You drive in, and doesn't your cabman think you're a swell. A lord mayor is nothing to it. Colvin's door is the only one in the eastern gable of the building. Send in your card to him with 'From R. L. S.' in the corner, and the machinery will do the rest. Henry James's address is 34 De Vere Mansions West. I cannot remember where the place is; I cannot even remember on which side of the park. But it's one of those big Cromwell Road-looking deserted thoroughfares out west in Kensington or Bayswater, or between the two; and anyway, Colvin will be able to put you on the direct track for Henry James. I do not send formal introductions, as I have taken the liberty to prepare both of them for seeing you already.
Hoskyn is staying with us.
It is raining dismally. The Curacoa track is hardly passable, but it must be trod to-morrow by the degenerate feet of their successor the Wallaroos. I think it a very good account of these last that we don't think them either deformed or habitual criminals - they seem to be a kindly lot.
The doctor will give you all the gossip. I have preferred in this letter to stick to the strictly solid and necessary. With kind messages from all in the house to all in the wardroom, all in the gunroom, and (may we dare to breathe it) to him who walks abaft, believe me, my dear Eeles, yours ever,
R. L. STEVENSON.
Letter: TO SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
VAILIMA, SAMOA, DECEMBER 1, 1894.
DEAR SIR HERBERT, - Thank you very much for your long and kind letter. I shall certainly take your advice and call my cousin, the Lyon King, into council. It is certainly a very interesting subject, though I don't suppose it can possibly lead to anything, this connection between the Stevensons and M'Gregors. Alas! your invitation is to me a mere derision. My chances of visiting Heaven are about as valid as my chances of visiting Monreith. Though I should like well to see you, shrunken into a cottage, a literary Lord of Ravenscraig. I suppose it is the inevitable doom of all those who dabble in Scotch soil; but really your fate is the more blessed. I cannot conceive anything more grateful to me, or more amusing or more picturesque, than to live in a cottage outside your own park-walls. - With renewed thanks, believe me, dear Sir Herbert, yours very truly,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO ANDREW LANG
VAILIMA, SAMOA, DECEMBER 1, 1894.
MY DEAR LANG, - For the portrait of Braxfield, much thanks! It is engraved from the same Raeburn portrait that I saw in '76 or '77 with so extreme a gusto that I have ever since been Braxfield's humble servant, and am now trying, as you know, to stick him into a novel. Alas! one might as well try to stick in Napoleon. The picture shall be framed and hung up in my study. Not only as a memento of you, but as a perpetual encouragement to do better with his Lordship. I have not yet received the transcripts. They must be very interesting. Do you know, I picked up the other day an old LONGMAN'S, where I found an article of yours that I had missed, about Christie's? I read it with great delight. The year ends with us pretty much as it began, among wars and rumours of wars, and a vast and splendid exhibition of official incompetence. - Yours ever,
R. L. STEVENSON.
Letter: TO EDMUND GOSSE
VAILIMA, SAMOA, DECEMBER 1, 1894.
I AM afraid, MY DEAR WEG, that this must be the result of bribery and corruption! The volume to which the dedication stands as preface seems to me to stand alone in your work; it is so natural, so personal, so sincere, so articulate in substance, and what you always were sure of - so rich in adornment.
Let me speak first of the dedication. I thank you for it from the heart. It is beautifully said, beautifully and kindly felt; and I should be a churl indeed if I were not grateful, and an ass if I were not proud. I remember when Symonds dedicated a book to me; I wrote and told him of 'the pang of gratified vanity' with which I had read it. The pang was present again, but how much more sober and autumnal - like your volume. Let me tell you a story, or remind you of a story. In the year of grace something or other, anything between '76 and '78 I mentioned to you in my usual autobiographical and inconsiderate manner that I was hard up. You said promptly that you had a balance at your banker's, and could make it convenient to let me have a cheque, and I accepted and got the money - how much was it? - twenty or perhaps thirty pounds? I know not - but it was a great convenience. The same evening, or the next day, I fell in conversation (in my usual autobiographical and . . . see above) with a denizen of the Savile Club, name now gone from me, only his figure and a dim three-quarter view of his face remaining. To him I mentioned that you had given me a loan, remarking easily that of course it didn't matter to you. Whereupon he read me a lecture, and told me how it really stood with you financially. He was pretty serious; fearing, as I could not help perceiving, that I should take too light a view of the responsibility and the service (I was always thought too light - the irresponsible jester - you remember. O, QUANTUM MUTATUS AB ILLO!) If I remember rightly, the money was repaid before the end of the week - or, to be more exact and a trifle pedantic, the sennight - but the service has never been forgotten; and I send you back this piece of ancient history, CONSULE PLANCO, as a salute for your dedication, and propose that we should drink the health of the nameless one, who opened my eyes as to the true nature of what you did for me on that occasion.
But here comes my Amanuensis, so we'll get on more swimmingly now. You will understand perhaps that what so particularly pleased me in the new volume, what seems to me to have so personal and original a note, are the middle-aged pieces in the beginning. The whole of them, I may say, though I must own an especial liking to -
'I yearn not for the fighting fate, That holds and hath achieved; I live to watch and meditate And dream - and be deceived.'
You take the change gallantly. Not I, I must confess. It is all very well to talk of renunciation, and of course it has to be done. But, for my part, give me a roaring toothache! I do like to be deceived and to dream, but I have very little use for either watching or meditation. I was not born for age. And, curiously enough, I seem to see a contrary drift in my work from that which is so remarkable in yours. You are going on sedately travelling through your ages, decently changing with the years to the proper tune. And here am I, quite out of my true course, and with nothing in my foolish elderly head but love-stories. This must repose upon some curious distinction of temperaments. I gather from a phrase, boldly autobiographical, that you are - well, not precisely growing thin. Can that be the difference?
It is rather funny that this matter should come up just now, as I am at present engaged in treating a severe case of middle age in one of my stories - 'The Justice-Clerk.' The case is that of a woman, and I think that I am doing her justice. You will be interested, I believe, to see the difference in our treatments. SECRETA VITAE, comes nearer to the case of my poor Kirstie. Come to think of it, Gosse, I believe the main distinction is that you have a family growing up around you, and I am a childless, rather bitter, very clear-eyed, blighted youth. I have, in fact, lost the path that makes it easy and natural for you to descend the hill. I am going at it straight. And where I have to go down it is a precipice.
I must not forget to give you a word of thanks for AN ENGLISH VILLAGE. It reminds me strongly of Keats, which is enough to say; and I was particularly pleased with the petulant sincerity of the concluding sentiment.
Well, my dear Gosse, here's wishing you all health and prosperity, as well as to the mistress and the bairns. May you live long, since it seems as if you would continue to enjoy life. May you write many more books as good as this one - only there's one thing impossible, you can never write another dedication that can give the same pleasure to the vanished