. . .
I see I must write some more to you about my Monastery. I am a weak brother in verse. You ask me to re-write things that I have already managed just to write with the skin of my teeth. If I don't re-write them, it's because I don't see how to write them better, not because I don't think they should be. But, curiously enough, you condemn two of my favourite passages, one of which is J. W. Ferrier's favourite of the whole. Here I shall think it's you who are wrong. You see, I did not try to make good verse, but to say what I wanted as well as verse would let me. I don't like the rhyme 'ear' and 'hear.' But the couplet, 'My undissuaded heart I hear Whisper courage in my ear,' is exactly what I want for the thought, and to me seems very energetic as speech, if not as verse. Would 'daring' be better than 'courage'? JE ME LE DEMANDE. No, it would be ambiguous, as though I had used it licentiously for 'daringly,' and that would cloak the sense.
In short, your suggestions have broken the heart of the scald. He doesn't agree with them all; and those he does agree with, the spirit indeed is willing, but the d-d flesh cannot, cannot, cannot, see its way to profit by. I think I'll lay it by for nine years, like Horace. I think the well of Castaly's run out. No more the Muses round my pillow haunt. I am fallen once more to the mere proser. God bless you.
R. L S.
Letter: TO EDMUND GOSSE
SWANSTON, LOTHIANBURN, EDINBURGH, JULY 24, 1879.
MY DEAR GOSSE, - I have greatly enjoyed your articles which seems to me handsome in tone, and written like a fine old English gentleman. But is there not a hitch in the sentence at foot of page 153? I get lost in it.
Chapters VIII. and IX. of Meredith's story are very good, I think. But who wrote the review of my book? whoever he was, he cannot write; he is humane, but a duffer; I could weep when I think of him; for surely to be virtuous and incompetent is a hard lot. I should prefer to be a bold pirate, the gay sailor-boy of immorality, and a publisher at once. My mind is extinct; my appetite is expiring; I have fallen altogether into a hollow-eyed, yawning way of life, like the parties in Burne Jones's pictures. . . . Talking of Burns. (Is this not sad, Weg? I use the term of reproach not because I am angry with you this time, but because I am angry with myself and desire to give pain.) Talking, I say, of Robert Burns, the inspired poet is a very gay subject for study. I made a kind of chronological table of his various loves and lusts, and have been comparatively speechless ever since. I am sorry to say it, but there was something in him of the vulgar, bagmanlike, professional seducer. - Oblige me by taking down and reading, for the hundredth time I hope, his 'Twa Dogs' and his 'Address to the Unco Guid.' I am only a Scotchman, after all, you see; and when I have beaten Burns, I am driven at once, by my parental feelings, to console him with a sugar-plum. But hang me if I know anything I like so well as the 'Twa Dogs.' Even a common Englishman may have a glimpse, as it were from Pisgah, of its extraordinary merits.
'ENGLISH, THE: - a dull people, incapable of comprehending the Scottish tongue. Their history is so intimately connected with that of Scotland, that we must refer our readers to that heading. Their literature is principally the work of venal Scots.' - Stevenson's HANDY CYCLOPAEDIA. Glescow: Blaikie & Bannock.
Remember me in suitable fashion to Mrs. Gosse, the offspring, and the cat. - And believe me ever yours,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO SIDNEY COLVIN
17 HERIOT ROW, EDINBURGH [JULY 28, 1879].
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I am just in the middle of your Rembrandt. The taste for Bummkopf and his works is agreeably dissembled so far as I have gone; and the reins have never for an instant been thrown upon the neck of that wooden Pegasus; he only perks up a learned snout from a footnote in the cellarage of a paragraph; just, in short, where he ought to be, to inspire confidence in a wicked and adulterous generation.