Its sentiments, although parsonic, will not offend even you, I believe." (_Letters_, II, 100.) Writing to Miss Adelaide Boodle in April 1888, he said, "I wrote a paper the other day--_Pulvis et Umbra_;--I wrote it with great feeling and conviction: to me it seemed bracing and healthful, it is in such a world (so seen by me), that I am very glad to fight out my battle, and see some fine sunsets, and hear some excellent jests between whiles round the camp fire. But I find that to some people this vision of mine is a nightmare, and extinguishes all ground of faith in God or pleasure in man. Truth I think not so much of; for I do not know it. And I could wish in my heart that I had not published this paper, if it troubles folk too much: all have not the same digestion nor the same sight of things.... Well, I cannot take back what I have said; but yet I may add this. If my view be everything but the nonsense that it may be--to me it seems self-evident and blinding truth--surely of all things it makes this world holier. There is nothing in it but the moral side--but the great battle and the breathing times with their refreshments. I see no more and no less. And if you look again, it is not ugly, and it is filled with promise." (_Letters_, II, 123.) The words _Pulvis et Umbra_ mean literally "dust and shadow": the phrase, however, is quoted from Horace "pulvis et umbra sumus"--_we are dust and ashes_. It forms the text of one of Stevenson's familiar discourses on Death, like _Aes Triplex_.

[Note 1: _Find them change with every climate_, etc. For some striking illustrations of this, see Sudermann's drama, _Die Ehre_ (Honour).]

[Note 2: NH3 and H2O. The first is the chemical formula for ammonia: the second, for water.]

[Note 3: _That way madness lies. King Lear_, III, 4, 21.]

[Note 4: _A pediculous malady ... locomotory_. Stevenson was fond of strange words. "Pediculous" means covered with lice, lousy.]

[Note 5: _The heart of his mystery. Hamlet_, Act III, Sc. 2, "you would pluck out the heart of my mystery." Mystery here means "secret," as in I. _Cor_. XIII, "Behold, I tell you a mystery."]

[Note 6: _The thought of duty_. Kant said, "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: _the starry heavens above and the moral law within_." (Conclusion to the _Practical Reason_--_Kritik der praktischen Vernunft_, 1788.)]

[Note 7: _Assiniboia ... Calumet_. Assinibioia is a district of Canada, just west of Manitoba. _Calumet_ is the pipe of peace, used by North American Indians when solemnizing treaties etc. Its stem is over two feet long, heavily decorated with feathers etc.]

[Note 8: _Drowns her child in the sacred river_. The sacred river of India is the Ganges; before British control, children were often sacrificed there by drowning to appease the angry divinity.]

[Note 9: _The touch of pity_. "No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity." _Richard III_, Act I, Sc. 2, vs. 71. _This ennobled lemur_. A lemur is a nocturnal animal, something like a monkey.]

[Note 10: _A new doctrine_. Evolution. Darwin's _Origin of Species_ was published in 1859. Many ardent Christians believe in its general principles to-day; but at first it was bitterly attacked by orthodox and conservative critics. A Princeton professor cried, "Darwinism is Atheism!"]

[Note 11: _Cultus_. Stevenson liked this word. _The swarming ant_. "The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer."--_Proverbs_, XXX. 25. For a wonderful description of an ant battle, see Thoreau's _Walden_.]

[Note 12: _Everest_. Mount Everest in the Himalayas, is the highest mountain in the world, with an altitude of about 29,000 feet.]

[Note 13: _The whole creation groaneth. Romans_, VIII, 22.]

[Note 14: _That double law of the members_. See Note 10 of Chapter VI above.]

[Note 15: _Den of the vivisectionist_. See Note 2 of Chapter VI above.]

[Note 16: _In our isle of terror_. Cf. Herriet, _The White Island_.

Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book