You are one of the very few who can (if you will) help me. Pray believe that I lay on you no obligation; I know too well, you may believe me, how difficult it is to put even two sincere lines upon paper, where all, too, is to order. But if the spirit should ever move you, and you should recall something memorable of your friend, his son will heartily thank you for a note of it. - With much respect, believe me, yours sincerely,

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.

Letter: TO HENRY JAMES

[SARANAC LAKE, MARCH 1888.]

MY DEAR DELIGHTFUL JAMES, - To quote your heading to my wife, I think no man writes so elegant a letter, I am sure none so kind, unless it be Colvin, and there is more of the stern parent about him. I was vexed at your account of my admired Meredith: I wish I could go and see him; as it is I will try to write. I read with indescribable admiration your EMERSON. I begin to long for the day when these portraits of yours shall be collected: do put me in. But Emerson is a higher flight. Have you a TOURGUENEFF? You have told me many interesting things of him, and I seem to see them written, and forming a graceful and BILDEND sketch. My novel is a tragedy; four parts out of six or seven are written, and gone to Burlingame. Five parts of it are sound, human tragedy; the last one or two, I regret to say, not so soundly designed; I almost hesitate to write them; they are very picturesque, but they are fantastic; they shame, perhaps degrade, the beginning. I wish I knew; that was how the tale came to me however. I got the situation; it was an old taste of mine: The older brother goes out in the '45, the younger stays; the younger, of course, gets title and estate and marries the bride designate of the elder - a family match, but he (the younger) had always loved her, and she had really loved the elder. Do you see the situation? Then the devil and Saranac suggested this DENOUEMENT, and I joined the two ends in a day or two of constant feverish thought, and began to write. And now - I wonder if I have not gone too far with the fantastic? The elder brother is an INCUBUS: supposed to be killed at Culloden, he turns up again and bleeds the family of money; on that stopping he comes and lives with them, whence flows the real tragedy, the nocturnal duel of the brothers (very naturally, and indeed, I think, inevitably arising), and second supposed death of the elder. Husband and wife now really make up, and then the cloven hoof appears. For the third supposed death and the manner of the third reappearance is steep; steep, sir. It is even very steep, and I fear it shames the honest stuff so far; but then it is highly pictorial, and it leads up to the death of the elder brother at the hands of the younger in a perfectly cold-blooded murder, of which I wish (and mean) the reader to approve. You see how daring is the design. There are really but six characters, and one of these episodic, and yet it covers eighteen years, and will be, I imagine, the longest of my works. - Yours ever,

R. L. S.

READ GOSSE'S RALEIGH. First-rate. - Yours ever,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO THE REV. DR. CHARTERIS

SARANAC LAKE, ADIRONDACKS, NEW YORK, U.S.A., SPRING 1888.

MY DEAR DR. CHARTERIS, - The funeral letter, your notes, and many other things, are reserved for a book, MEMORIALS OF A SCOTTISH FAMILY, if ever I can find time and opportunity. I wish I could throw off all else and sit down to it to-day. Yes, my father was a 'distinctly religious man,' but not a pious. The distinction painfully and pleasurably recalls old conflicts; it used to be my great gun - and you, who suffered for the whole Church, know how needful it was to have some reserve artillery! His sentiments were tragic; he was a tragic thinker. Now, granted that life is tragic to the marrow, it seems the proper function of religion to make us accept and serve in that tragedy, as officers in that other and comparable one of war. Service is the word, active service, in the military sense; and the religious man - I beg pardon, the pious man - is he who has a military joy in duty - not he who weeps over the wounded.

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson - Volume 2 Page 37

Robert Louis Stevenson

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