Possibly some of these days soon I may get together a talk on things current, which should go in (if possible) earlier than either. I am now less nervous about these papers; I believe I can do the trick without great strain, though the terror that breathed on my back in the beginning is not yet forgotten.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE I have had to leave aside, as I was quite worked out. But in about a week I hope to try back and send you the first four numbers: these are all drafted, it is only the revision that has broken me down, as it is often the hardest work. These four I propose you should set up for me at once, and we'll copyright 'em in a pamphlet. I will tell you the names of the BONA FIDE purchasers in England.
The numbers will run from twenty to thirty pages of my manuscript. You can give me that much, can you not? It is a howling good tale - at least these first four numbers are; the end is a trifle more fantastic, but 'tis all picturesque.
Don't trouble about any more French books; I am on another scent, you see, just now. Only the FRENCH IN HINDUSTAN I await with impatience, as that is for BALLANTRAE. The scene of that romance is Scotland - the States - Scotland - India - Scotland - and the States again; so it jumps like a flea. I have enough about the States now, and very much obliged I am; yet if Drake's TRAGEDIES OF the WILDERNESS is (as I gather) a collection of originals, I should like to purchase it. If it is a picturesque vulgarisation, I do not wish to look it in the face. Purchase, I say; for I think it would be well to have some such collection by me with a view to fresh works. - Yours very sincerely,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
P.S. - If you think of having the MASTER illustrated, I suggest that Hole would be very well up to the Scottish, which is the larger part. If you have it done here, tell your artist to look at the hall of Craigievar in Billing's BARONIAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL ANTIQUITIES, and he will get a broad hint for the hall at Durrisdeer: it is, I think, the chimney of Craigievar and the roof of Pinkie, and perhaps a little more of Pinkie altogether; but I should have to see the book myself to be sure. Hole would be invaluable for this. I dare say if you had it illustrated, you could let me have one or two for the English edition.
R. L. S.
Letter: TO WILLIAM ARCHER
[SARANAC, WINTER 1887-8.]
MY DEAR ARCHER, - What am I to say? I have read your friend's book with singular relish. If he has written any other, I beg you will let me see it; and if he has not, I beg him to lose no time in supplying the deficiency. It is full of promise; but I should like to know his age. There are things in it that are very clever, to which I attach small importance; it is the shape of the age. And there are passages, particularly the rally in presence of the Zulu king, that show genuine and remarkable narrative talent - a talent that few will have the wit to understand, a talent of strength, spirit, capacity, sufficient vision, and sufficient self-sacrifice, which last is the chief point in a narrator.
As a whole, it is (of course) a fever dream of the most feverish. Over Bashville the footman I howled with derision and delight; I dote on Bashville - I could read of him for ever; DE BASHVILLE JE SUIS LE FERVENT - there is only one Bashville, and I am his devoted slave; BASHVILLE EST MAGNIFIQUE, MAIS IL N'EST GUERE POSSIBLE. He is the note of the book. It is all mad, mad and deliriously delightful; the author has a taste in chivalry like Walter Scott's or Dumas', and then he daubs in little bits of socialism; he soars away on the wings of the romantic griffon - even the griffon, as he cleaves air, shouting with laughter at the nature of the quest - and I believe in his heart he thinks he is labouring in a quarry of solid granite realism.
It is this that makes me - the most hardened adviser now extant - stand back and hold my peace. If Mr. Shaw is below five-and- twenty, let him go his path; if he is thirty, he had best be told that he is a romantic, and pursue romance with his eyes open; - or perhaps he knows it; - God knows! - my brain is softened.