The Juge d'Instruction I thought a wonderful, weird, touching, ingenious creation: the drunken father, and Sonia, and the student friend, and the uncircumscribed, protaplasmic humanity of Raskolnikoff, all upon a level that filled me with wonder: the execution also, superb in places. Another has been translated - HUMILIES ET OFFENSES. It is even more incoherent than LE CRIME ET LE CHATIMENT, but breathes much of the same lovely goodness, and has passages of power. Dostoieffsky is a devil of a swell, to be sure. Have you heard that he became a stout, imperialist conservative? It is interesting to know. To something of that side, the balance leans with me also in view of the incoherency and incapacity of all. The old boyish idea of the march on Paradise being now out of season, and all plans and ideas that I hear debated being built on a superb indifference to the first principles of human character, a helpless desire to acquiesce in anything of which I know the worst assails me. Fundamental errors in human nature of two sorts stand on the skyline of all this modem world of aspirations. First, that it is happiness that men want; and second, that happiness consists of anything but an internal harmony. Men do not want, and I do not think they would accept, happiness; what they live for is rivalry, effort, success - the elements our friends wish to eliminate. And, on the other hand, happiness is a question of morality - or of immorality, there is no difference - and conviction. Gordon was happy in Khartoum, in his worst hours of danger and fatigue; Marat was happy, I suppose, in his ugliest frenzy; Marcus Aurelius was happy in the detested camp; Pepys was pretty happy, and I am pretty happy on the whole, because we both somewhat crowingly accepted a VIA MEDIA, both liked to attend to our affairs, and both had some success in managing the same. It is quite an open question whether Pepys and I ought to be happy; on the other hand, there is no doubt that Marat had better be unhappy. He was right (if he said it) that he was LA MISERE HUMAINE, cureless misery - unless perhaps by the gallows. Death is a great and gentle solvent; it has never had justice done it, no, not by Whitman. As for those crockery chimney-piece ornaments, the bourgeois (QUORUM PARS), and their cowardly dislike of dying and killing, it is merely one symptom of a thousand how utterly they have got out of touch of life. Their dislike of capital punishment and their treatment of their domestic servants are for me the two flaunting emblems of their hollowness.
God knows where I am driving to. But here comes my lunch.
Which interruption, happily for you, seems to have stayed the issue. I have now nothing to say, that had formerly such a pressure of twaddle. Pray don't fail to come this summer. It will be a great disappointment, now it has been spoken of, if you do. - Yours ever,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Letter: TO W. H. LOW
[SKERRYVORE, BOURNEMOUTH, MARCH 1886.]
MY DEAR LOW, - This is the most enchanting picture. Now understand my state: I am really an invalid, but of a mysterious order. I might be a MALADE IMAGINAIRE, but for one too tangible symptom, my tendency to bleed from the lungs. If we could go, (1ST) We must have money enough to travel with LEISURE AND COMFORT - especially the first. (2ND) You must be prepared for a comrade who would go to bed some part of every day and often stay silent (3RD) You would have to play the part of a thoughtful courier, sparing me fatigue, looking out that my bed was warmed, etc. (4TH) If you are very nervous, you must recollect a bad haemorrhage is always on the cards, with its concomitants of anxiety and horror for those who are beside me.
Do you blench? If so, let us say no more about it.
If you are still unafraid, and the money were forthcoming, I believe the trip might do me good, and I feel sure that, working together, we might produce a fine book. The Rhone is the river of Angels. I adore it: have adored it since I was twelve, and first saw it from the train.