Vailima Letters

Page 52

I am desperately hunted to finish my Samoa book before the mail goes; this last chapter is equally delicate and necessary. The prayers of the congregation are requested. Eheu! and it will be ended before this letter leaves and printed in the States ere you can read this scribble. The first dinner gong has sounded; JE VOUS SALUE, MONSIEUR ET CHER CONFRERE. TOFA, SOIFUA! Sleep! long life! as our Samoan salutation of farewell runs.


Well, the last chapter, by far the most difficult and ungrateful, is well under way, I have been from six to seven hours upon it daily since I last wrote; and that is all I have done forbye working at Samoan rather hard, and going down on Wednesday evening to the club. I make some progress now at the language; I am teaching Belle, which clears and exercises myself. I am particularly taken with the FINESSE of the pronouns. The pronouns are all dual and plural and the first person, both in the dual and plural, has a special exclusive and inclusive form. You can conceive what fine effects of precision and distinction can be reached in certain cases. Take Ruth, i. VV. 8 to 13, and imagine how those pronouns come in; it is exquisitely elegant, and makes the mouth of the LITTERATEUR to water. I am going to exercitate my pupil over those verses to-day for pronoun practice.


Yesterday came yours. Well, well, if the dears prefer a week, why, I'll give them ten days, but the real document, from which I have scarcely varied, ran for one night. I think you seem scarcely fair to Wiltshire, who had surely, under his beast-ignorant ways, right noble qualities. And I think perhaps you scarce do justice to the fact that this is a place of realism A OUTRANCE; nothing extenuated or coloured. Looked at so, is it not, with all its tragic features, wonderfully idyllic, with great beauty of scene and circumstance? And will you please to observe that almost all that is ugly is in the whites? I'll apologise for Papa Randal if you like; but if I told you the whole truth - for I did extenuate there! - and he seemed to me essential as a figure, and essential as a pawn in the game, Wiltshire's disgust for him being one of the small, efficient motives in the story. Now it would have taken a fairish dose to disgust Wiltshire. - Again, the idea of publishing the Beach substantively is dropped - at once, both on account of expostulation, and because it measured shorter than I had expected. And it was only taken up, when the proposed volume, BEACH DE MAR, petered out. It petered out thus: the chief of the short stories got sucked into SOPHIA SCARLET - and Sophia is a book I am much taken with, and mean to get to, as soon as - but not before - I have done DAVID BALFOUR and THE YOUNG CHEVALIER. So you see you are like to hear no more of the Pacific or the nineteenth century for a while. THE YOUNG CHEVALIER is a story of sentiment and passion, which I mean to write a little differently from what I have been doing - if I can hit the key; rather more of a sentimental tremolo to it. It may thus help to prepare me for SOPHIA, which is to contain three ladies, and a kind of a love affair between the heroine and a dying planter who is a poet! large orders for R. L. S.

O the German taboo is quite over; no soul attempts to support the C. J. or the President, they are past hope; the whites have just refused their taxes - I mean the council has refused to call for them, and if the council consented, nobody would pay; 'tis a farce, and the curtain is going to fall briefly. Consequently in my History, I say as little as may be of the two dwindling stars. Poor devils! I liked the one, and the other has a little wife, now lying in! There was no man born with so little animosity as I. When I heard the C. J. was in low spirits and never left his house, I could scarce refrain from going to him.

It was a fine feeling to have finished the History; there ought to be a future state to reward that grind! It's not literature, you know; only journalism, and pedantic journalism.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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