Vailima Letters

Page 53

I had but the one desire, to get the thing as right as might be, and avoid false concords - even if that! And it was more than there was time for. However, there it is: done. And if Samoa turns up again my book has to be counted with, being the only narrative extant. Milton and I - if you kindly excuse the juxtaposition - harnessed ourselves to strange waggons, and I at least will be found to have plodded very soberly with my load. There is not even a good sentence in it, but perhaps - I don't know - it may be found an honest, clear volume.


Never got a word set down, and continues on Thursday 19th May, his own marriage day as ever was. News; yes. The C. J. came up to call on us! After five months' cessation on my side, and a decidedly painful interchange of letters, I could not go down - could not - to see him. My three ladies received him, however; he was very agreeable as usual, but refused wine, beer, water, lemonade, chocolate and at last a cigarette. Then my wife asked him, 'So you refuse to break bread?' and he waved his hands amiably in answer. All my three ladies received the same impression that he had serious matters in his mind: now we hear he is quite cock-a-hoop since the mail came, and going about as before his troubles darkened. But what did he want with me? 'Tis thought he had received a despatch - and that he misreads it (so we fully believe) to the effect that they are to have war ships at command and can make their little war after all. If it be so, and they do it, it will be the meanest wanton slaughter of poor men for the salaries of two white failures. But what was his errand with me? Perhaps to warn me that unless I behave he now hopes to be able to pack me off in the CURACOA when she comes.

I have celebrated my holiday from SAMOA by a plunge at the beginning of THE YOUNG CHEVALIER. I am afraid my touch is a little broad in a love story; I can't mean one thing and write another. As for women, I am no more in any fear of them; I can do a sort all right; age makes me less afraid of a petticoat, but I am a little in fear of grossness. However, this David Balfour's love affair, that's all right - might be read out to a mothers' meeting - or a daughters' meeting. The difficulty in a love yarn, which dwells at all on love, is the dwelling on one string; it is manifold, I grant, but the root fact is there unchanged, and the sentiment being very intense, and already very much handled in letters, positively calls for a little pawing and gracing. With a writer of my prosaic literalness and pertinency of point of view, this all shoves toward grossness - positively even towards the far more damnable CLOSENESS. This has kept me off the sentiment hitherto, and now I am to try: Lord! Of course Meredith can do it, and so could Shakespeare; but with all my romance, I am a realist and a prosaist, and a most fanatical lover of plain physical sensations plainly and expressly rendered; hence my perils. To do love in the same spirit as I did (for instance) D. Balfour's fatigue in the heather; my dear sir, there were grossness - ready made! And hence, how to sugar? However, I have nearly done with Marie- Madeleine, and am in good hopes of Marie-Salome, the real heroine; the other is only a prologuial heroine to introduce the hero.


Anyway, the first prologuial episode is done, and Fanny likes it. There are only four characters; Francis Blair of Balmile (Jacobite Lord Gladsmuir) my hero; the Master of Ballantrae; Paradon, a wine-seller of Avignon; Marie-Madeleine his wife. These two last I am now done with, and I think they are successful, and I hope I have Balmile on his feet; and the style seems to be found. It is a little charged and violent; sins on the side of violence; but I think will carry the tale. I think it is a good idea so to introduce my hero, being made love to by an episodic woman. This queer tale - I mean queer for me - has taken a great hold upon me. Where the devil shall I go next? This is simply the tale of a COUP DE TETE of a young man and a young woman; with a nearly, perhaps a wholly, tragic sequel, which I desire to make thinkable right through, and sensible; to make the reader, as far as I shall be able, eat and drink and breathe it.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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