Vailima Letters

Page 07

How this works and fits, time is to show. But I believe, in time, I shall get the whole thing in form. Now, up to date, that is all my design, and I beg to warn you till we have the whole (or much) of the stuff together, you can hardly judge - and I can hardly judge. Such a mass of stuff is to be handled, if possible without repetition - so much foreign matter to be introduced - if possible with perspicuity - and, as much as can be, a spirit of narrative to be preserved. You will find that come stronger as I proceed, and get the explanations worked through. Problems of style are (as yet) dirt under my feet; my problem is architectural, creative - to get this stuff jointed and moving. If I can do that, I will trouble you for style; anybody might write it, and it would be splendid; well-engineered, the masses right, the blooming thing travelling - twig?

This I wanted you to understand, for lots of the stuff sent home is, I imagine, rot - and slovenly rot - and some of it pompous rot; and I want you to understand it's a LAY-IN.

Soon, if the tide of poeshie continues, I'll send you a whole lot to damn. You never said thank-you for the handsome tribute addressed to you from Apemama; such is the gratitude of the world to the God-sent poick. Well, well:- 'Vex not thou the poick's mind, With thy coriaceous ingratitude, The P. will be to your faults more than a little blind, And yours is a far from handsome attitude.' Having thus dropped into poetry in a spirit of friendship, I have the honour to subscribe myself, Sir,

Your obedient humble servant, SILAS WEGG.

I suppose by this you will have seen the lad - and his feet will have been in the Monument - and his eyes beheld the face of George. Well!

There is much eloquence in a well! I am, Sir Yours

The Epigrammatist





MY DEAR COLVIN, - I wanted to go out bright and early to go on with my survey. You never heard of that. The world has turned, and much water run under bridges, since I stopped my diary. I have written six more chapters of the book, all good I potently believe, and given up, as a deception of the devil's, the High Woods. I have been once down to Apia, to a huge native feast at Seumanutafa's, the chief of Apia. There was a vast mass of food, crowds of people, the police charging among them with whips, the whole in high good humour on both sides; infinite noise; and a historic event - Mr. Clarke, the missionary, and his wife, assisted at a native dance. On my return from this function, I found work had stopped; no more South Seas in my belly. Well, Henry had cleared a great deal of our bush on a contract, and it ought to be measured. I set myself to the task with a tape-line; it seemed a dreary business; then I borrowed a prismatic compass, and tackled the task afresh. I have no books; I had not touched an instrument nor given a thought to the business since the year of grace 1871; you can imagine with what interest I sat down yesterday afternoon to reduce my observations; five triangles I had taken; all five came right, to my ineffable joy. Our dinner - the lowest we have ever been - consisted of ONE AVOCADO PEAR between Fanny and me, a ship's biscuit for the guidman, white bread for the Missis, and red wine for the twa. No salt horse, even, in all Vailima! After dinner Henry came, and I began to teach him decimals; you wouldn't think I knew them myself after so long desuetude!

I could not but wonder how Henry stands his evenings here; the Polynesian loves gaiety - I feed him with decimals, the mariner's compass, derivations, grammar, and the like; delecting myself, after the manner of my race, MOULT TRISTEMENT. I suck my paws; I live for my dexterities and by my accomplishments; even my clumsinesses are my joy - my woodcuts, my stumbling on the pipe, this surveying even - and even weeding sensitive; anything to do with the mind, with the eye, with the hand - with a part of ME; diversion flows in these ways for the dreary man.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book