T. S., C.E., possesses some, whatever he may say. I can't look at it practically however: that will come, I suppose, like grey hair or coffin nails.
Our pole is snapped: a fortnight's work and the loss of the Norse schooner all for nothing! - except experience and dirty clothes. - Your affectionate son,
R. L. STEVENSON.
Letter: TO MRS. CHURCHILL BABINGTON
[SWANSTON COTTAGE, LOTHIANBURN, SUMMER 1871.]
MY DEAR MAUD, - If you have forgotten the hand-writing - as is like enough - you will find the name of a former correspondent (don't know how to spell that word) at the end. I have begun to write to you before now, but always stuck somehow, and left it to drown in a drawerful of like fiascos. This time I am determined to carry through, though I have nothing specially to say.
We look fairly like summer this morning; the trees are blackening out of their spring greens; the warmer suns have melted the hoarfrost of daisies of the paddock; and the blackbird, I fear, already beginning to 'stint his pipe of mellower days' - which is very apposite (I can't spell anything to-day - ONE p or TWO?) and pretty. All the same, we have been having shocking weather - cold winds and grey skies.
I have been reading heaps of nice books; but I can't go back so far. I am reading Clarendon's HIST. REBELL. at present, with which I am more pleased than I expected, which is saying a good deal. It is a pet idea of mine that one gets more real truth out of one avowed partisan than out of a dozen of your sham impartialists - wolves in sheep's clothing - simpering honesty as they suppress documents. After all, what one wants to know is not what people did, but why they did it - or rather, why they THOUGHT they did it; and to learn that, you should go to the men themselves. Their very falsehood is often more than another man's truth.
I have possessed myself of Mrs. Hutchinson, which, of course, I admire, etc. But is there not an irritating deliberation and correctness about her and everybody connected with her? If she would only write bad grammar, or forget to finish a sentence, or do something or other that looks fallible, it would be a relief. I sometimes wish the old Colonel had got drunk and beaten her, in the bitterness of my spirit. I know I felt a weight taken off my heart when I heard he was extravagant. It is quite possible to be too good for this evil world; and unquestionably, Mrs. Hutchinson was. The way in which she talks of herself makes one's blood run cold. There - I am glad to have got that out - but don't say it to anybody - seal of secrecy.
Please tell Mr. Babington that I have never forgotten one of his drawings - a Rubens, I think - a woman holding up a model ship. That woman had more life in her than ninety per cent. of the lame humans that you see crippling about this earth.
By the way, that is a feature in art which seems to have come in with the Italians. Your old Greek statues have scarce enough vitality in them to keep their monstrous bodies fresh withal. A shrewd country attorney, in a turned white neckcloth and rusty blacks, would just take one of these Agamemnons and Ajaxes quietly by his beautiful, strong arm, trot the unresisting statue down a little gallery of legal shams, and turn the poor fellow out at the other end, 'naked, as from the earth he came.' There is more latent life, more of the coiled spring in the sleeping dog, about a recumbent figure of Michael Angelo's than about the most excited of Greek statues. The very marble seems to wrinkle with a wild energy that we never feel except in dreams.
I think this letter has turned into a sermon, but I had nothing interesting to talk about.
I do wish you and Mr. Babington would think better of it and come north this summer. We should be so glad to see you both. DO reconsider it. - Believe me, my dear Maud, ever your most affectionate cousin,
Letter: TO ALISON CUNNINGHAM
MY DEAR CUMMY, - I was greatly pleased by your letter in many ways. Of course, I was glad to hear from you; you know, you and I have so many old stories between us, that even if there was nothing else, even if there was not a very sincere respect and affection, we should always be glad to pass a nod.