Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 2

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Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Letter: To Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin, [Skerryvore, Bournemouth, April 1886]

MY DEAR MRS. JENKIN, - The Book - It is all drafted: I hope soon to send you for comments Chapters III., IV., and V. Chapter VII. is roughly but satisfactorily drafted: a very little work should put that to rights. But Chapter VI. is no joke; it is a MARE MAGNUM: I swim and drown and come up again; and it is all broken ends and mystification: moreover, I perceive I am in want of more matter. I must have, first of all, a little letter from Mr. Ewing about the phonograph work: IF you think he would understand it is quite a matter of chance whether I use a word or a fact out of it. If you think he would not: I will go without. Also, could I have a look at Ewing’s PRECIS? And lastly, I perceive I must interview you again about a few points; they are very few, and might come to little; and I propose to go on getting things as well together as I can in the meanwhile, and rather have a final time when all is ready and only to be criticised. I do still think it will be good. I wonder if Trelat would let me cut? But no, I think I wouldn’t after all; ’tis so quaint and pretty and clever and simple and French, and gives such a good sight of Fleeming: the plum of the book, I think.

You misunderstood me in one point: I always hoped to found such a society; that was the outside of my dream, and would mean entire success. BUT - I cannot play Peter the Hermit. In these days of the Fleet Street journalist, I cannot send out better men than myself, with wives or mothers just as good as mine, and sisters (I may at least say) better, to a danger and a long-drawn dreariness that I do not share. My wife says it’s cowardice; what brave men are the leader-writers! Call it cowardice; it is mine. Mind you, I may end by trying to do it by the pen only: I shall not love myself if I do; and is it ever a good thing to do a thing for which you despise yourself? - even in the doing? And if the thing you do is to call upon others to do the thing you neglect? I have never dared to say what I feel about men’s lives, because my own was in the wrong: shall I dare to send them to death? The physician must heal himself; he must honestly TRY the path he recommends: if he does not even try, should he not be silent?

I thank you very heartily for your letter, and for the seriousness you brought to it. You know, I think when a serious thing is your own, you keep a saner man by laughing at it and yourself as you go. So I do not write possibly with all the really somewhat sickened gravity I feel. And indeed, what with the book, and this business to which I referred, and Ireland, I am scarcely in an enviable state. Well, I ought to be glad, after ten years of the worst training on earth - valetudinarianism - that I can still be troubled by a duty. You shall hear more in time; so far, I am at least decided: I will go and see Balfour when I get to London.

We have all had a great pleasure: a Mrs. Rawlinson came and brought with her a nineteen-year-old daughter, simple, human, as beautiful as - herself; I never admired a girl before, you know it was my weakness: we are all three dead in love with her. How nice to be able to do so much good to harassed people by - yourself! Ever yours,

R. L. S.

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Chicago: Robert Louis Stevenson, "Letter: To Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin, [Skerryvore, Bournemouth, April 1886]," Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 2, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906 in Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson—Volume 2 Original Sources, accessed April 25, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKFEEH8HYYCVG9C.

MLA: Stevenson, Robert Louis. "Letter: To Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin, [Skerryvore, Bournemouth, April 1886]." Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 2, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906, in Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson—Volume 2, Original Sources. 25 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKFEEH8HYYCVG9C.

Harvard: Stevenson, RL, 'Letter: To Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin, [Skerryvore, Bournemouth, April 1886]' in Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 2, ed. and trans. . cited in , Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson—Volume 2. Original Sources, retrieved 25 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKFEEH8HYYCVG9C.