MY DEAR STODDARD, - I am a dreadful character; but, you see, I have at last taken pen in hand; how long I may hold it, God knows. This is already my sixth letter to-day, and I have many more waiting; and my wrist gives me a jog on the subject of scrivener's cramp, which is not encouraging.
I gather you were a little down in the jaw when you wrote your last. I am as usual pretty cheerful, but not very strong. I stay in the house all winter, which is base; but, as you continue to see, the pen goes from time to time, though neither fast enough nor constantly enough to please me.
My wife is at Bath with my father and mother, and the interval of widowery explains my writing. Another person writing for you when you have done work is a great enemy to correspondence. To-day I feel out of health, and shan't work; and hence this so much overdue reply.
I was re-reading some of your South Sea Idyls the other day: some of the chapters are very good indeed; some pages as good as they can be.
How does your class get along? If you like to touch on OTTO, any day in a by-hour, you may tell them - as the author's last dying confession - that it is a strange example of the difficulty of being ideal in an age of realism; that the unpleasant giddy- mindedness, which spoils the book and often gives it a wanton air of unreality and juggling with air-bells, comes from unsteadiness of key; from the too great realism of some chapters and passages - some of which I have now spotted, others I dare say I shall never spot - which disprepares the imagination for the cast of the remainder.
Any story can be made TRUE in its own key; any story can be made FALSE by the choice of a wrong key of detail or style: Otto is made to reel like a drunken - I was going to say man, but let us substitute cipher - by the variations of the key. Have you observed that the famous problem of realism and idealism is one purely of detail? Have you seen my 'Note on Realism' in Cassell's MAGAZINE OF ART; and 'Elements of Style' in the CONTEMPORARY; and 'Romance' and 'Humble Apology' in LONGMAN'S? They are all in your line of business; let me know what you have not seen and I'll send 'em.
I am glad I brought the old house up to you. It was a pleasant old spot, and I remember you there, though still more dearly in your own strange den upon a hill in San Francisco; and one of the most San Francisco-y parts of San Francisco.
Good-bye, my dear fellow, and believe me your friend,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO J. A. SYMONDS
SKERRYVORE, BOURNEMOUTH [SPRING 1886].
MY DEAR SYMONDS, - If we have lost touch, it is (I think) only in a material sense; a question of letters, not hearts. You will find a warm welcome at Skerryvore from both the lightkeepers; and, indeed, we never tell ourselves one of our financial fairy tales, but a run to Davos is a prime feature. I am not changeable in friendship; and I think I can promise you you have a pair of trusty well- wishers and friends in Bournemouth: whether they write or not is but a small thing; the flag may not be waved, but it is there.
Jekyll is a dreadful thing, I own; but the only thing I feel dreadful about is that damned old business of the war in the members. This time it came out; I hope it will stay in, in future.
Raskolnikoff is easily the greatest book I have read in ten years; I am glad you took to it. Many find it dull: Henry James could not finish it: all I can say is, it nearly finished me. It was like having an illness. James did not care for it because the character of Raskolnikoff was not objective; and at that I divined a great gulf between us, and, on further reflection, the existence of a certain impotence in many minds of to-day, which prevents them from living IN a book or a character, and keeps them standing afar off, spectators of a puppet show. To such I suppose the book may seem empty in the centre; to the others it is a room, a house of life, into which they themselves enter, and are tortured and purified.