In Death in Venice Thomas Mann says ‘desire is a result of imperfect knowledge’—’die Sehnsucht ist ein Erzeugnis mangelhafter Erkenntnis’. Ah yes, the mysterious stranger speaking another language! But this is true of feelings not only towards another person but also towards areas of knowledge.
For example, I find the Scandinavian settlement of eastern and northern England and part of southern Scotland in the ninth and tenth centuries constantly fascinating because we have so little information about it. A similar frustrated desire to know more also made itself felt today as I looked at a letter to Stevenson from his cousin Bob.
A letter from Bob Stevenson to RLS
In the collection of letters from Bob Stevenson to his cousin Louis at Yale there is an interesting undated letter (GEN MS 664 19, 5322-26 (B 5674)):
I was glad to get your letter yesterday as I thought you were never going to write and of course without your address could not initiate a correspondence. 
De Mattos a Cambridge Man (living near Falkenden)  whose acquaintance I made lately has all nearly of Spencer’s books. Unfortunately “First principles” he has lent to another Card [?] at present so I have been pegging into Biology and Psychology[.] Psychology is an extremely hitting off work especially the 1st part or description of the nervous system[.] It is the cleverest thing in the way of description I ever read. Every action of life for two or three days after becomes exciting because you imagine the whole process of discharges and compound discharges going on. How in the name of goodness did you wade [?] in for getting coin offered, and by what magazine. 
Please read Spencer’s “Education” first or rather after you have got the idea of your game down so as not to cramp you from fear of cribbing;  and then H Spencer will give you some prime games on Pere et fils work. I have read it[.] His “Biology” (HS Biology) is the Inductive or Scientific part I suspect of his theory. Until you have got to it I think he will continue to appear fanciful and a man with a Theory[;] it is very different work as far as I have looked into it. It is H.O2 C.O. &c. &c. Real. Prime Chemistry partly incomprehensible and totally tiresome I fear at least to asses like us who have neglected fostering the Scientific side of our nature and have at least as far as I know devoutly cultivated a hatred of chemistry particularly.
People find it difficult to bring a walking tour  fitly to a close. I suspect that will be a strained affair of yours I dont know why[.] Although if it [? is] in reality an Essay about Censure and Hope it is different[;] I think you could do that better. It is a good channel to convey infidelity in as you say not having the appearance of a Solemn attack with the heavy artillery of philosophy brought into the field.
I have been in the house 2 or 3 days with a sore eye so cannot tell Baxter that you will write in a few days until I go out. 
I have been to to Hallè and M. Neruda the other day  and sat facing Hallè as he played quite close down on the edge of the orchestra. I thought before that that no changes in his appearance took [? place] in correspondence to the nervous game that must be going on to produce the feeling in the music. But you see every blessed expression in the movements and his face when you are near.
Why cannot we work off to a certain extent the Programme Soiled Hands  all the world has soiled hands J.C. [presumably Jesus Christ] thought so too. Note for J.C. the peoples friend[.]
The letter apparently refers to a work accepted by a magazine  and two projects planned by Stevenson: an essay with something to do with education and father-son relations  and a walking tour essay that also involves thoughts on censure and hope . (There is also the possibility of a collaborative work, point .)
Concerning the location of Stevenson and Bob, Stevenson is not at home but has just gone to a new address , while Bob is in Edinburgh (as he says he can’t see Baxter until he’s well enough to go out ). ‘Falkenden’ (see ), which could be a place or a person, seems to be below the horizon of internet searches at the moment.
Dating the letter
As for the date, a good clue seems to be ‘How in the name of goodness did you wade [?] in for getting coin offered, and by what magazine’ (). At first sight, this suggests autumn 1873, as it sounds like Bob’s request for information about Stevenson’s first paid publication, i.e. ‘Roads’, accepted 23 October 1873 and published in the Portfolio in December of the same year. (The reference to the difficulty of finishing a travel essay could then apply to the unfinished ‘Cockermouth and Keswick’, probably first drafted in July 1873 and which Stevenson might have been trying to finish in the autumn. —Except that it isn’t about ‘Censure and Hope’ nor does it touch on ‘infidelity’, i.e. atheism.)
Incidentally, Stevenson did at first have problems finishing travel essays: ‘Night Outside the Wick Mail’ included in a letter in 1868 (L1: 169-172) and ‘An Autumn Effect’ published in 1875 both end a bit like a school composition with the essayist taking the train back home. He got better by the time of Travels with a Donkey.
But even if there is a rough fit with this autumn 1873 dating, we still have to coordinate it with the reference to the concert by Charles Hallé (conductor and pianist) and Madame Norman-Neruda (violin). Hallé, based in Manchester (and founder of the Hallé Orchestra in that city, still flourishing, and which I often saw performing in my student days), from 1869 gave an annual series of concerts from November/December to February in Edinburgh. Using the Scotsman online archive search facility and searching for ‘Hallé’ and ‘Neruda’, there is a notice in the issue of 15 November 1873 that Hallé and Neruda ‘will give’—and there the snippet view ends! I’m actually quite careful with my money and, being reluctant to pay a subscription just for this piece of information, I’ll assume it’s an announcement for a concert a few days later.
However, the date can’t be autumn 1873, since on 4 November RLS was ‘ordered south’ to Mentone and set off from London the following day. Bob’s letter makes no mention of this momentous piece of news, and his letter starts ‘I was glad to get your letter yesterday’, which can’t be a reference to a letter from RLS written from London before 4 November, as this is at least two weeks before any possibility of Bob hearing a Hallé concert in Edinburgh. Back to square one.
Could the letter be from January or February 1873, during the previous winter season of Hallé concerts? (The Scotsman search facility gives mentions on 13 January and 13 February.) Stevenson was at Great Malvern spa for his health for three weeks with his mother in January 1873. This letter (with Bob’s mention of ‘infidelity’) goes well with Stevenson’s announcement to his father that he was an agnostic on 31 January 1873. In a letter to Bob from Great Malvern which has only partially survived (L1: 272) he mentions an essay on spiritualism, of which however there is no mention in Bob’s letter here. And of course we have no information about a paid publication at this date, which adds to the mystery.
What about December 1872? Stevenson was at the Bridge of Allen for his health in this period. And the mention of Spencer in Bob’s letter would fit with a letter from RLS to his friend Ferrier of 23 November 1872 in which Stevenson says ‘I am reading Herbert Spencer just now very hard’ (L1: 259). —Except that Bob was actually at the Bridge of Allen with him until Christmas Day 1872 (L1: 265), so had no need of the address.
What about an earlier date? Unfortunately neither Letters not his mother’s diary record absences over the winters of 1869-70, 1870-71 or 1871-2. And the Hallé concerts apparently began in 1869.
Let’s rethink this. Could it possibly be after Stevenson’s departure for Mentone, perhaps early 1874? That would fit the recommendation of Spencer on education: ‘Please read Spencer’s “Education” first or rather after you have got the idea of your game’, as ‘your game’ could refer to early ideas for what became ‘Lay Morals’ from this period, which in the 1879 MS starts with a chapter on what should be taught to children as an ethical guide to conduct. —But, alas!, from some time in November 1873, Bob was in Antwerp studying painting and in the letter he is in Edinburgh.
At this point, I’m beginning to feel like Pooh and piglet going round and round the trees, following the tracks of the Woozle.
But let’s appeal to the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’ Applying this, the best fit is January 1873, since all the other Hallé season periods from December 1869 to February 1874 seem impossible. Of course, Stevenson may have been absent from home over the winters of 1869-70, 1870-71 or 1871-72 with this not recorded, so we can’t be sure, but January 1873 seems to be the best fit on the evidence we have.
Yet even if we have a possible date, this single letter apparently refers to four ‘games’ by Stevenson or which we have no other record:
- An article that Stevenson thought he was going to get published and paid for by a magazine. 
- An unfinished essay on a walking tour that is ‘in reality an Essay about Censure and Hope’ and touches on the lack of foundation of conventional faith. 
- A planned essay that has something to do with education and fathers and sons. 
- Perhaps a planned collaborative work called ‘Soiled Hands’. 
There are a lot of tantalizing unknowns here. Yet at the same time, the letter is revealing: it shows how before Stevenson met Colvin in July 1873 he was ‘beating about the bush’ in a series of unfocussed literary exercises, and it shows him engaged in an epistolary conversation with his cousin involving Spencer, an important influence on his thinking, and involving lack of faith, which was to come to a head at the end of January 1873.
Has anyone any suggestions concerning the above ‘games’, or concerning what walking tour could be intended, or any corrections to the reasoning about dating above?
The present contribution has been kindly provided by Roger G. Swearingen
[In my previous post I wrote by distraction that Stevenson’s letter with parts cut out was from 1887, this has now been corrected to November 1894, thanks to the comment below sent by Roger Swearingen, who adds a following interesting observation.]
There is only one letter from which lines on editorial matters were physically cut: RLS to Colvin, ca. 15 October, 4 and 6 November 1894, Letter 2797 [Letters 8: 382-4]. In note 2 it is remarked that the portion dictated to Belle on editorial matters (November 4 and 6) was masked out and the top quarter of the last sheet was cut away, affecting text on both sides of the page.
Bradford A. Booth, ‘The Vailima Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson’, Harvard Library Bulletin, 15:2 (April 1967), 117-128. Booth comments on this letter, 127-128, noting only that Colvin omitted the literary comments (except on St. Ives) from his publication of this letter and that when he sold the letter he ‘masked out key passages’. (Booth does not mention the cutting away of the top quarter.)
There is nothing in the previous post that you mention – ‘Colvin steps in with vim’, 24 May 2013 – about any letter in 1887 that was (also) cut. There, you refer correctly to the cuts made in the 1894 letter.
Colvin’s Version of RLS’s Letter
October and November 1894, Letter 2797
This letter was not published at all in the previously published Vailima Letters (1896) or Letters . . . to His Family and Friends (1899).
It is intriguing that this version has a short paragraph at the end that does not appear in the Yale Letters:
Things are going on here in their usual disheartening gait. The Treaty Officials are both good fellows whom I can’t help liking, but who will never make a hand of Samoa.
Possibly this paragraph was in the portion of this letter that was physically cut away but was included for its interest by Colvin in his expanded edition of the letters. I have not examined the letter itself (at Harvard) but cannot imagine that if this paragraph was (is) present Ernest Mehew could have overlooked it creating the (complete) text in the Yale Letters.
The publication of David Balfour/Catriona is an interesting example of the unusual circumstances surrounding the publication of Stevenson’s works from 1888 to his death in 1894. It is explored briefly in Barry Menikoff’s recently-published edition of the David Balfour manuscript (as mentioned in a previous post, section 3) and at length in a previous article by Menikoff: ‘Towards the Production of a Text: Time, Space, and David Balfour‘ in Studies in the Novel 27.3 (1995), pp. 351-62.
In this article Menikoff tells the story of the competing players involved in periodical publication and book publication in London and New York: the McClure syndicate, Cassells and Scribner’s, Baxter and Colvin, all with different interests and priorities.
McClure and magazine serialization
S.S. McClure had ‘signed agreements to provide a story [to Atalanta and newspapers] before he had a text’ (358), so had to ‘cajole Stevenson to produce the manuscript fast enough’. The manuscript, however, was sent to Baxter, who then forwarded it to Cassells who started preparing proofs and passing them to Robert McClure (S.S. McClure’s brother and London agent). Time was passing and in December 1892 serialization began in Atalanta, but McClure’s were still without the final chapters — Cassell’s, who had the whole manuscript, did not feel the same urgency about getting proofs prepared.
In addition, Robert McClure needed to correct obvious mistakes in the proofs, but he had no access to the MS (and he refused to do this checking in Cassell’s office). In part, this was because the MS was too precious, but also in part because of rather snooty distrust of McClure (p. 357), and a view of magazine publication as not important. In the end, Colvin corrected the Atalanta proofs himself (359-60).
Stevenson had repeatedly asked for proofs for the book publication and on 2 March 1893, two complete sets of Cassell’s proofs were sent out to Samoa: one clean set for Stevenson, and one with Colvin’s many ‘suggestions and corrections’ (359).
At this point, Cassells and Scribner’s started to get a bit impatient—this was another delay of at least three months (the journey took one month each way), so there was a risk (as actually happened) of the serialized version ending before the book publication (and this, it was felt, would have an adverse effect on sales). On 26 May 1893, the corrected proofs hadn’t arrived and Cassell sounded out Colvin as to whether he might correct the proofs in London so that the book could be got out quickly.
Colvin refused to do this, mainly, we might suspect, because he hoped not only for corrections but for revisions and improvements cued by his suggestions on the proofs. In June, Scribner’s accepted that they could not publish: ‘we must of course wait for Stevenson’s final corrections before publication’.
In July (over four months from dispatch of the proofs), Stevenson’s corrected proofs arrived in London. Colvin was crestfallen: somehow, most of his suggestions had been ignored!—’for all the alterations he has made, the book might as well have been out two months ago’, he complained.
Another complication in the process of book publication that Menikoff points out is the fact that Baxter and Stevenson had decided to change their business relationship with Scribner’s and had asked them to bid for the US copyright of David Balfour, rather than sign a contract and pay royalties as before (360; Stevenson’s letter is in L8: 569). (Baxter’s rather insensitive attitude to Scribner’s has already been seen in Glenda Norquay’s post about St Ives).
Colvin tidies up the record
I can add an interesting further detail to Menikoff’s account.
Stevenson sent Colvin a letter in early April 1893 in which he listed his first reactions to a number of Colvin’s proposals. These comments are to be found in volume 8 of the Letters (pp. 36-8; Letter 2549), and also in Colvin’s edition of the letters (Tusitala 35: 17-18). We have seen in a previous post how Colvin actually physically cut out parts of another letter from November 1894 referring to differing views about changes to Stevenson’s text. In Colvin’s edition of the April 1893 letter he (less drastically) leaves out a number of Stevenson’s comments from his edited text. These are obviously points that Colvin still felt sensitive about. They are as follows:
— Symon in the trial!
— Sow-gelding. I’ll try; but they had damnable tongues — (and have, ahem!)
— Dumkopf: all right: deleted.
— [Chapter XXX] […] About ‘no better than she should be’, you were wrong if you suppose Barbara would have stopped at that! You don’t know the brand as I do, and how they love the word that shocks.
— [slip 89.] O drew, drew! ‘see you naked.’
— [The end.] […] O come, I do not say that Alan kicked the sailor’s bottom; it is Alan who says so, and it is just the scornful word for him to use.
You seem to hint that Davie is not finished in the writing; which cuts me; and yet I think you deceive yourself.
Mehew identifies some of these in his notes, but now we have Menikoff’s edition of the manuscript text it shouldn’t be too difficult to identify them all. This, however, I generously leave to someone else.
The comment on ‘see you naked’ refers to the passage in the MS where Catriona says to David ‘I am thanking the good God he has let me see you naked’ (i.e. ‘undisguised’—see the post on Menikoff’s edition). But can anyone interpret ‘O drew, drew’?
Robert Louis Stevenson’s David Balfour, the original text, edited with an introduction and notes by Barry Menikoff (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 2016).
1. Sample pages
2. Editorial principles and practices
The present posting aims to be informative, not a review. The following will be of interest to other EdRLS editors. We may not always follow exactly the same practices, but it is always interesting to see how someone else does it.
1. Stevenson’s changes are assimilated without comment. Deleted earlier wordings are not generally recorded in the Notes, though a facsimile page on p. 236 enables us to see that the fair copy manuscript had a final deleted sentence:
For the life of man upon this world of ours is a funny business. They talk of the angels weeping; but I think they must more often be holding their sides as they look on; and there was one thing I determined to do when I began this long story, and that was to tell out everything as it befell. <If your father was something of a simpleton and your grandfather not better than a rogue, no harm that you should know it.>
2. Corrections are silently made of spelling and apostrophe use, and superscript letters have been dropped. However not all spellings are given standard form, e.g. ‘falsness’ (p. 41) (marked by the OED as found only up to the 16C).
There are also forms such as ‘dis-cretion’ (p. 115), which shows that the handwritten line between ‘s’ and a letter with left-facing bowl (c, d, g, o or q) has been interpreted as a hyphen. [For EdRLS, these marks have been interpreted as a non-significant link line; see this post in the blog and this one for a discussion. Barry defends his view in one of the comments to another post].
3. Unchanged are idiosyncratic capitalization of words not usually capitalized (e.g. ‘a Soft Tommy’), and the reverse case (latin, dutch, christian), in many case varying between the two usages (duke and Duke) as ‘this usage is so pervasive in the autograph, and poses no impediment to reading’ (p. lxvi). We therefore have ‘Tam Dale’ and ‘Tam dale’ in the first paragraph of ‘The Tale of Tod Lapraik’ (p. 107). To be honest, I must admit this did not cause me any problems in reading—and neither did examples like ‘I ken nae French and nae dutch’ (p. 106).
[This, like other editorial choices, is an area where each editor has to decide one way or another according to the aims of the edition. Menikoff gives us what the author wrote, while EdRLS (conservatively) emends MS texts—acting as publisher in a way accepted repeatedly by the author in other cases.]
3. Apart from supplying missing periods and question marks Stevenson’s punctuation has not been changed, e.g. a comma, semicolon or question marks followed by a dash, question marks followed by a lower-case letter. When punctuating ‘[t]he objective [for Stevenson] was to reproduce thought processes and heightened conversation informally, without slowing it down with arbitrary stops and formal new sentences’ (p. lxxv).
[In EdRLS transcribed texts we have sometimes supplied a missing comma that is so common (e.g. before ‘isn’t it?’) as to be considered codified and that would almost certainly be provided by a printer. Presumably this happened here too.]
4. Stevenson’s substantive mistakes are not corrected; I am thinking here of the first paragraph of ‘The Tale of Tod Lapraik’: ‘there were whiles when they but to fish and shoot solans for their diet’—’they but’ doesn’t seem right, a verb seems to be missing. (The sentence is identical in all editions, however. Can anyone solve this problem?)
5. Explanatory Notes: these are brief; they log all the citations of David Balfour in the OED, SLD and EDD (English Dialect Dictionary); most usefully, they indicate omissions in the first printed editions and also quote in full new passages supplied by Stevenson for the book edition at Colvin’s request.
6. References: Beinecke references to letters not by RLS are by date and McKay numbers, e.g. ‘July 13, 1892, Beinecke Library (B 4219), Yale University’.
3. Differences between the MS and the first printed editions
In the editorial part of the volume, the preparation of the first printed edition is discussed only briefly (though there is a reference to Menikoff’s article ‘Towards the Production of a Text: Time, Space, and David Balfour‘ in Studies in the Novel 27.3 (1995)). It is mentioned in the Introduction (‘The Lonely Trials of David Balfour’) on pp. xliii-xliv, and p. xlvi (‘Colvin had his hand on the manuscript and in his fashion excised a number of choice expressions and incidents. These have been restored and appear for the first time in this edition’). The subject returns again in the ‘Note on the Text’, pp. lxiv-lxv, which discusses ‘absurd cutting’, ‘deliberate censorship’ and ‘mangled phrases’. The latter is illustrated by how ‘the warsling of the sea [and the breaching of the sprays]’ in the MS (ch. 22) becomes a mis-reading, ‘the sailing of the sea’, in Atalanta and ‘the whistling of the wind’ (ch. 22) in the Cassell’s book edition. As the latter cannot be a misreading of the MS, it was a change presumably made in proofs, though we don’t know by whom. However, as ‘whistling of the wind’ is so much weaker than ‘warsling of the sea’, it just might have been made by Colvin, going to press, unable to decipher the MS, and unable to get a reply from Stevenson in less than two months, perhaps included in the proofs, but not picked up by Stevenson. Thanks to Menikoff’s work, it could be a good case for emendation in any edition of the text. Similar differences between MS and printed edition (‘innocency’ and ‘indifferency’ in the MS becoming ‘innocence’ and ‘indifference’) are also noted, though we cannot tell if the change was made by Stevenson or not (though probably not).
The notes contain significant differences between the manuscript and the periodical and Cassell publications and also ‘four summary paragraphs that are not in the manuscript or Atlanta but that Stevenson wrote for the book at Colvin’s urging’ (p. lxiv).
Changes to single words in Cassell 1893
To give an idea of the number of changes between MS and first book edition, here are the significant differences given in the notes to the first two chapters (pp. 1-15), set out as for a textual apparatus with the MS reading on the left and printed variants on the right (a swung dash standing for words identical in MS and printed edition):
p. 2 Thence to an armourer’s, where I got a stout, plain sword, to suit with my degree in life (MS and Atl) ] ~ a plain sword ~ (Cassell)
p. 2 cla’es (MS) ] claes (Atl, Cassell)
p. 10 Get a ship for him, quoth he! (MS and Atl) ] ~ quo’ he (Cassell)
Going by this sample, the printed texts are very close to the manuscript and all three changes could well be the author’s second thoughts expressed on the proofs of the book edition:
- the omission of ‘stout’ could be authorial: David wants a ‘walking sword’ to show his status, it’s not intended for fighting so does not need it to be ‘stout’;
- claes could be seen as a acknowledging the word as an independent Scots form, not an English word with ‘th’ missing. As the note says ‘There is no other form in the DSL‘, i.e. the Scottish national dictionary uses only the form without an apostrophe;
- the change to quo’ could be seen as a change to a more Scots form (the DSL headword is quo). Both DSL and OED actually give the form in this quotation from David Balfour as quot’, not found in any other of their citations, although there is also a common Scots form quod. It is possible that Stevenson’s quot’ (if this is the form used in Cassell) is a variant on quod — Stevenson’s attempt to discourage a pronunciation of ‘quod he’ as ‘quo dee‘ and a suggestion that in Scots use the ‘d’ was a voiceless flap of the tongue (like US English pronunciation of the ‘t’ in utter). In any case, it does seem a change to a more Scots form.
Many other changes to single words in Cassell 1893 must come from Stevenson and are clearly motivated, e.g. ‘Rhone wine’ drunk in Rotterdam (thus in the MS, p. 173, and Atalanta) is changed to the more appropriate ‘Rhenish wine’ in the first book edition.
An important point is where Catriona in the MS says to David ‘I am thanking the good God he has let me see you naked’ (p. 209), which is changed to ‘[…] see you as you are’ in Atalanta, a story magazine for girls, and to ‘[…] see you so’ in Cassell 1893. Though the meaning of ‘naked’ here is intended as ‘plain, undisguised’ (but surely with an intended frisson of associated meaning for the reader), I could imagine the author having second thoughts about it in proofs.
There seems to have been no attempt to change Scots to standard English in the proofs, if anything (and this is interesting) the reverse (as we’ve seen with ‘quoth’); MS ‘I knew the answer‘ (p. 156), and ‘Well’ (p. 217) were changed to ‘I ken the answer‘ and ‘Weel’ in both Atalanta and Cassell. ‘Ye cannae tell which way it is’ in the MS (p. 217), is identical in Atalanta but becomes ‘Ye cannae tell the tane frae the tither’ in Cassell—clearly in intervention of the author on the proofs.
Passages omitted from Cassell 1893
It is good to have the long interpolated story about shipwrecking in the chapter ‘The Bass’ (pp. 99-100) that was omitted from the book edition, yet one could understand Stevenson deleting it in proofs as too much like the explanatory back-story inserted by a historical novelist.
The other, short passages omitted in Cassell 1893 can for the most part be seen as possibly authorial. For example, in the first paragraph of ch. 9 David describes his state of mind:
And when I remembered James More, and the red head of Neil the son of Duncan, I thought there was perhaps a fourth in the confederacy, and what remained of Rob Roy’s old desperate sept of caterans would be banded against me with the others.<Yet there was that force in my innocency, that this league was driven to attempt my destruction underhand! I thought I would beat them all, and my blood heated with the thought.> (p. 60)
This could well have been omitted (and surely could only have been omitted by Stevenson) because considered inappropriately fiery for David.
At the beginning of ch. 10 another omission in Cassell 1893 can be seen as motivated by a desire for concision:
It was about half-past three when I came forth on the Lang Dykes <; and being now abroad again upon the world, began considering to what part of it I should first address myself. Not that the consideration held me long;>^.^ Dean was where I wanted to go.
Passages added to Cassell 1893
It’s also good to have transcribed in the notes the four summary paragraphs written by Stevenson at the suggestion of Colvin and included in the first book edition. To tell the truth, the story at this point is on the complicated side, and I think the readers of the book found it useful—as I did—to have these additional guides.
4. Barry Menikoff’s vigorous prose
I have tried to keep my comments as neutral as possible, wanting to avoid writing a full evaluative review of the volume. The reason for this is that this a posting about an edition of Stevenson for a Stevenson edition blog. Any edition involves many subjective decisions, and naturally everyone thinks their own subjective decisions are the best and defends them doggedly (with justifications that we delude ourselves are rational). It’s a bit like furniture arrangement in the home: we all know that it doesn’t really matter if the umbrella stand is placed inside, or outside, the front door, and yet we all want it where we want it. Such things can even lead to divorce. So this is me aiming at a calm tolerance above and beyond all that. Let me simply welcome this edition as a most valuable resource to have, the work of many years wrestling with manuscript transcription (I know how difficult this is in a small way, so can only respect this vast undertaking), and of course a welcome invitation to read David Balfour/Catriona once more.
As someone who has been involved in MS transcription for Essays IV in the new Stevenson edition, I can appreciate the vast amount of work involved and heroically undertaken by one editor. One can imagine that the following comment in ‘The Note on the Text’ incorporates an acquired personal understanding from Menikoff himself:
I have opted to print these words as he wrote them—as he wrote them, one hundred thousand words by hand, not once but twice. The sheer labor of the thing is almost unimaginable in a word-processed culture. […] He never complained about the physical labor, even if he did get writer’s cramp while composing Balfour; he regularly shifted the pen to his left hand, manifest in the painful scrawl on the pages, and reflected in Davie’s comment on his scribal work for Prestongrange—”The copying was a weary business.” (p. lxvi)
I can only envy Menikoff’s vigorous prose style:
he considered Le Vicomte de Bragelonne unequaled in its fusion of story and action, which is another way of saying adventure. (p. xxv)
we live through experience, which is our adventure, but our adventure lives only through art. A life of action, however grand, leads but to the grave; a life drawn in ink, with a steel stylus, becomes indelible. (p. xxx)
David […] is like an actor in a play unfolding before him in real time and desperately in need of the script. (p. xxx)
courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of action (p. xlix)
Sometimes it sounds a bit like Raymond Chandler:
No man signs up to cross a choppy ocean in winter and traverse a continent in an iron horse to a raucous port city shrouded in fog in order to sit in a parlor and sing “Love’s Sweet Song”. (p. xliv)
Sometimes, in the energetic wrestling of words and ideas, there are echoes of Stevenson himself, as in the elegant end to the introduction:
For all life is a story, as in the pages if David Balfour, a tale told, and the only predictable thing about it is the ending. As for its meaning, even in the plainest if cases, it eludes us, as it does the more cunning wisdom of Stevenson, which is why the final sentence, of whatever pen, cannot decide whether the angels above are looking down with peals of laughter, or are turning aside, fraught with tears. (p. lxi)
Menikoff seems to write himself into certain elegiac passages:
But in the end, as is his way, idealism comes down to earth, for in this world as God made it, as Black Andie would say, we all grow old, and innocence loses out in the trampling of time, and the romance that made it lovely when young can never be recaptured but in memory. This is why a great book like David Balfour is told in retrospect, turning back and grasping for love and beauty in their freshest hours, before marriage and children make their clamoring claims, and the story jump-cuts to the end, when age installs itself in its inescapable place in our mortal lives. (p. l)
Just as he enshrined memory in the dedication to Charles Baxter at the front of the book, he embedded it in an interior landscape that he transcribed in prose and compressed into place-names. They can be likened to the “floating world” of the Japanese ukiyo-e, only instead of pictures they are words of evanescent beauty, captured and held for their own sake, but ultimately transitory and perishable like life itself. (lvi)
All the introductory matter is a pleasure to read—and now that Barry Menikoff has successfully completed his trilogy of three Stevenson editions from the manuscripts (Falesá, Kidnapped and David Balfour), I look forward to enjoying his first volume of familiar essays: I’m sure they too will be a great pleasure to read.
Linda Dryden has offered to organize the next RLS conference at Edinburgh Napier University 6, 7 and 8 July 2017.
Some time back we looked at a page of mysterious story titles (Yale, B 6530), that seem to be organized according to archetypal story-types. Now another scrap of manuscript has been identified with a similar listing. But first, a summary of the of the previous posting.
1. Mysterious titles, late 1888/early 1889 (Yale, B 6530)
Here is the transcription:
…..Excellent old melodrama: the bottle Imp.
…..Aladdin, Pollock [?]
…..on a cue from a French author: the Twins
…..Humorous [?]: les trois Bossus.
…..Metempsychosis: from Magics [?]. The Body Changer.
…..Scientific, from an Axxxx xxxx Hoyten[?]: The Sand Bag [Bug?].
Return of the Husband:
…..Ulysses. (concealed [?] ^disguised^ Prince)
…. Enoch Arden
1. ‘The Sand Bag’ is possibly ‘The Sand Boy’, which looks like it could be:
Ottilie Wildemuth [1817-77], Der Sandbub’: oder, Wer hat’s am besten? (available in part in Google Books in the collection of Wildemuth’s tales Für Freistunden (Stuttgart, 1868), though probably published earlier).
This is a children’s moral tale, translated at least once: The Little Sand Boy; or Who is Best Off? (Edinburgh, 1877), 63 pp., though it may well have been translated previously as William the Sand Boy. Translated from the German (London, ).
2. ‘on a cue from a French author’, as previously remarked, reminds us of Stevenson’s own proposed titles ‘ The Bottle Imp: A Cue from an Old Melodrama’ and ‘The Waif Woman: A Cue from a Saga’ (L7, 436; Dec 1892).
The curious phrase ‘on a cue from’ meaning ‘from an idea in’ or ‘based on’ seems to have been used for the first time in Recreations of a Recluse (1870) and Cues from All Quarters, or Literary Musings of a Clerical Recluse (1871), published anonymously by the Rev. Francis Jacox. Several of the essays in these volumes have a title like ‘About a Little Candle’s Far-Thrown Beams—A Cue from Shakespeare’, and develop thoughts from a literary ‘text’. Google Advanced Book Search reveals no other uses before Stevenson
2. More mysterious titles, 1887-88? (from Notebook 53)
In one of Stevenson’s notebooks we find the following:
Disguised Prince <Disguised> & reverse. Scott’s Pirate. Ulysses & Suitors. Guest [?]
……………………Husband and Wife:-
1. Return of the Husband. Ulysses. Agamemnon.
False accusation…………………………….The House[?] of an [?our] unknown ill
…And we, the wise of ?now…………………Bind us upon the altar
…Not other wise in youth are fared[?];
…[verse continues for rest of page and onto the following page]
In the transcription the words in red correspond to words in the post-November 1888 list, while ‘Vendetta’ here in blue is similar to ‘Revenge’ in the other list.
The new list seems again to be universal story-types, but must be earlier. The Notebook contains war-games correspondence and maps, which date from one of the winters in Davos, i.e. 1880-81 or 1881-82, there is a list of chapter titles for ‘The Merry Men’ (mid-1881), a draft dedication for the New Arabian Nights (early 1882), a draft for ‘The Foreigner at Home’ (late 1881), notes for a Hazlitt biography (projected Dec 1881—late 1882)—so it looks as if the Notebook was mainly used 1881-82.
There is however an outline of chapters for Catriona/David Balfour headed ‘D.B. sequel.’, starting ‘I. Mr Stewart | II. An old friend at Lieth [sic]’ (back f. 6v., so quite near the list of mysterious titles). This must date from after May 1887, when Stevenson agreed to write a sequel to Kidnapped to be delivered ‘as soon as possible’ (Swearingen, 167), up to some time before September 1890, when Stevenson said he had one chapter of David Balfour finished (L7, 423).
So while the list on the loose sheet is almost certainly late 1888/early 1889, this notebook list could considerably earlier (1881–82, with most of the rest of the contents), a little earlier (May 1887 or shortly after, when David Balfour was first planned), or could be from the same period as the other list (before September 1880 when writing from David Balfour actually started). The lack of any mention of ‘Rahero’ or ‘The Bottle Imp’ in the notebook list suggests that it might ‘fit’ best with mid-1887 when the outline of David Balfour on a nearby notebook page was possibly made.
It is possible that both lists are connected with what became the volume Ballads (1890), the first of which, ‘Ticonderoga’, was written in May 1887. After completing this Stevenson perhaps started thinking of a volume of similar poems and drew up this list of universal story types. The rest of the volume ‘belongs mainly to the early South Seas period, 1888-90’ (Lewis, Coll. Poems, 458), which could correspond to a slightly later dating of the notebook list, though before November 1888, when Stevenson learnt the story of Rahero.
If these two lists correspond to brain-storming to find good subjects for what Stevenson called ‘ballads’, then it is possible that ‘The Bottle Imp’ in the longer list was first considered as a subject for a narrative poem before becoming the short prose narrative we know, written between December 1889 and January 1890.
Barry Menikoff’s edited reading transcription of the MSS of David Balfour/Catriona has just been published by the Huntington Library Press at the affordable price of $35.
At the moment of writing it is not available either through the Library’s online shop or through Amazon but doubtless it will arrive there shortly.
Barry Menikoff will be talking about the book at California venues in early April.
Attendees will learn how English publishers in Stevenson’s time took liberties with original texts, excising many of the Scottish words and phrases Stevenson used to evoke the suspense of his stories. From simple misreadings to deliberate revisions, subsequent printed editions of both “Kidnapped” and “David Balfour” represented major departures from Stevenson’s handwritten text. For this edition, however, “David Balfour” is based on Stevenson’s final manuscript of the novel, now in the Houghton Library at Harvard. Faithful to the author’s intentions, it incorporates passages that were omitted from previous editions and restores his distinctive language.