Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 1

Contents:
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Letter: to Mrs. Sitwell

17 HERIOT ROW, EDINBURGH, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1873.

I HAVE been to-day a very long walk with my father through some of the most beautiful ways hereabouts; the day was cold with an iron, windy sky, and only glorified now and then with autumn sunlight. For it is fully autumn with us, with a blight already over the greens, and a keen wind in the morning that makes one rather timid of one’s tub when it finds its way indoors.

I was out this evening to call on a friend, and, coming back through the wet, crowded, lamp-lit streets, was singing after my own fashion, DU HAST DIAMANTEN UND PERLEN, when I heard a poor cripple man in the gutter wailing over a pitiful Scotch air, his club-foot supported on the other knee, and his whole woebegone body propped sideways against a crutch. The nearest lamp threw a strong light on his worn, sordid face and the three boxes of lucifer matches that he held for sale. My own false notes stuck in my chest. How well off I am! is the burthen of my songs all day long - DRUM IST SO WOHL MIR IN DER WELT! and the ugly reality of the cripple man was an intrusion on the beautiful world in which I was walking. He could no more sing than I could; and his voice was cracked and rusty, and altogether perished. To think that that wreck may have walked the streets some night years ago, as glad at heart as I was, and promising himself a future as golden and honourable!

SUNDAY, 11.20 A.M. - I wonder what you are doing now? - in church likely, at the TE DEUM. Everything here is utterly silent. I can hear men’s footfalls streets away; the whole life of Edinburgh has been sucked into sundry pious edifices; the gardens below my windows are steeped in a diffused sunlight, and every tree seems standing on tiptoes, strained and silent, as though to get its head above its neighbour’s and LISTEN. You know what I mean, don’t you? How trees do seem silently to assert themselves on an occasion! I have been trying to write ROADS until I feel as if I were standing on my head; but I mean ROADS, and shall do something to them.

I wish I could make you feel the hush that is over everything, only made the more perfect by rare interruptions; and the rich, placid light, and the still, autumnal foliage. Houses, you know, stand all about our gardens: solid, steady blocks of houses; all look empty and asleep.

MONDAY NIGHT. - The drums and fifes up in the Castle are sounding the guard-call through the dark, and there is a great rattle of carriages without. I have had (I must tell you) my bed taken out of this room, so that I am alone in it with my books and two tables, and two chairs, and a coal-skuttle (or SCUTTLE) (?) and a DEBRIS of broken pipes in a corner, and my old school play-box, so full of papers and books that the lid will not shut down, standing reproachfully in the midst. There is something in it that is still a little gaunt and vacant; it needs a little populous disorder over it to give it the feel of homeliness, and perhaps a bit more furniture, just to take the edge off the sense of illimitable space, eternity, and a future state, and the like, that is brought home to one, even in this small attic, by the wide, empty floor.

You would require to know, what only I can ever know, many grim and many maudlin passages out of my past life to feel how great a change has been made for me by this past summer. Let me be ever so poor and thread-paper a soul, I am going to try for the best.

These good booksellers of mine have at last got a WERTHER without illustrations. I want you to like Charlotte. Werther himself has every feebleness and vice that could tend to make his suicide a most virtuous and commendable action; and yet I like Werther too - I don’t know why, except that he has written the most delightful letters in the world. Note, by the way, the passage under date June 21st not far from the beginning; it finds a voice for a great deal of dumb, uneasy, pleasurable longing that we have all had, times without number. I looked that up the other day for ROADS, so I know the reference; but you will find it a garden of flowers from beginning to end. All through the passion keeps steadily rising, from the thunderstorm at the country-house - there was thunder in that story too - up to the last wild delirious interview; either Lotte was no good at all, or else Werther should have remained alive after that; either he knew his woman too well, or else he was precipitate. But an idiot like that is hopeless; and yet, he wasn’t an idiot - I make reparation, and will offer eighteen pounds of best wax at his tomb. Poor devil! he was only the weakest - or, at least, a very weak strong man.

R. L. S.

Contents:

Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options


Title: Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 1

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 1

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Robert Louis Stevenson, "Letter: To Mrs. Sitwell," Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 1, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906 in Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson—Volume 1 Original Sources, accessed February 7, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94LGIP51A3RI63A.

MLA: Stevenson, Robert Louis. "Letter: To Mrs. Sitwell." Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 1, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906, in Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson—Volume 1, Original Sources. 7 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94LGIP51A3RI63A.

Harvard: Stevenson, RL, 'Letter: To Mrs. Sitwell' in Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson— Volume 1, ed. and trans. . cited in , Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson—Volume 1. Original Sources, retrieved 7 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94LGIP51A3RI63A.