TEMPLE BAR appears to like my 'Villon,' so I may count on another market there in the future, I hope. At least, I am going to put it to the proof at once, and send another story, 'The Sire de Maletroit's Mousetrap': a true novel, in the old sense; all unities preserved moreover, if that's anything, and I believe with some little merits; not so CLEVER perhaps as the last, but sounder and more natural.
My 'Villon' is out this month; I should so much like to know what you think of it. Stephen has written to me apropos of 'Idlers,' that something more in that vein would be agreeable to his views. From Stephen I count that a devil of a lot.
I am honestly so tired this morning that I hope you will take this for what it's worth and give me an answer in peace. - Ever yours,
Letter: TO MRS. SITWELL
[PENZANCE, AUGUST 1877.]
. . . YOU will do well to stick to your burn, that is a delightful life you sketch, and a very fountain of health. I wish I could live like that but, alas! it is just as well I got my 'Idlers' written and done with, for I have quite lost all power of resting. I have a goad in my flesh continually, pushing me to work, work, work. I have an essay pretty well through for Stephen; a story, 'The Sire de Maletroit's Mousetrap,' with which I shall try TEMPLE BAR; another story, in the clouds, 'The Stepfather's Story,' most pathetic work of a high morality or immorality, according to point of view; and lastly, also in the clouds, or perhaps a little farther away, an essay on the 'Two St. Michael's Mounts,' historical and picturesque; perhaps if it didn't come too long, I might throw in the 'Bass Rock,' and call it 'Three Sea Fortalices,' or something of that kind. You see how work keeps bubbling in my mind. Then I shall do another fifteenth century paper this autumn - La Sale and PETIT JEHAN DE SAINTRE, which is a kind of fifteenth century SANDFORD AND MERTON, ending in horrid immoral cynicism, as if the author had got tired of being didactic, and just had a good wallow in the mire to wind up with and indemnify himself for so much restraint.
Cornwall is not much to my taste, being as bleak as the bleakest parts of Scotland, and nothing like so pointed and characteristic. It has a flavour of its own, though, which I may try and catch, if I find the space, in the proposed article. 'Will o' the Mill' I sent, red hot, to Stephen in a fit of haste, and have not yet had an answer. I am quite prepared for a refusal. But I begin to have more hope in the story line, and that should improve my income anyway. I am glad you liked 'Villon'; some of it was not as good as it ought to be, but on the whole it seems pretty vivid, and the features strongly marked. Vividness and not style is now my line; style is all very well, but vividness is the real line of country; if a thing is meant to be read, it seems just as well to try and make it readable. I am such a dull person I cannot keep off my own immortal works. Indeed, they are scarcely ever out of my head. And yet I value them less and less every day. But occupation is the great thing; so that a man should have his life in his own pocket, and never be thrown out of work by anything. I am glad to hear you are better. I must stop - going to Land's End. - Always your faithful friend,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO A. PATCHETT MARTIN
DEAR SIR, - It would not be very easy for me to give you any idea of the pleasure I found in your present. People who write for the magazines (probably from a guilty conscience) are apt to suppose their works practically unpublished. It seems unlikely that any one would take the trouble to read a little paper buried among so many others; and reading it, read it with any attention or pleasure. And so, I can assure you, your little book, coming from so far, gave me all the pleasure and encouragement in the world.
I suppose you know and remember Charles Lamb's essay on distant correspondents? Well, I was somewhat of his way of thinking about my mild productions.