The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

Archive for February 2012

Fanny Stevenson’s short stories

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Sarah Ames, research assistant for New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter, has this request for anyone out there interested in Fanny Stevenson:

Work is currently well underway for the EdRLS edition of More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter, which is being edited by John Lyon (University of Bristol). This was Stevenson’s only prose narrative collaboration with Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson (they also collaborated on a play, “The Hanging Judge”), and the Introduction of our edition will naturally examine the nature of that collaboration, and the question of Fanny’s contribution to the text. In order to do this we will be comparing samples of Fanny Stevenson’s writings with the text of The Dynamiter, to see if there are any similarities between the language in the texts, such as distinctive choices of words and sentence constructions.

With this in mind, we are currently working on digitizing Fanny Stevenson’s published short stories, with the aim of publishing them certainly as an on-line resource, and possibly as an appendix to the edition. Tracking these down, however, has been difficult, and has involved searching for a number of ‘different’ authors: ‘Fanny Stevenson’; ‘Fanny Van de Grift’; ‘Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson’ (with ‘Vandegrift’ variants); ‘Fanny Osbourne’, ‘F. M. Osbourne’; ‘Mrs Robert Louis Stevenson’…. With the help of Roger Swearingen and Richard Dury, our list now stands as follows:

‘Too Many Birthdays’ (St. Nicholas, 1878)
‘Chy Lung, The Chinese Fisherman’ (St. Nicholas, 1880)
‘The Warlock’s Shadow’ (Belgravia, 1886)
‘Miss Pringle’s Neighbors’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1887)
‘The Nixie’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1888)
‘The Half-White’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1891)
‘Under Sentence of the Law: The Story of a Dog’ (McClure’s, 1893)
‘Anne’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1899)

So far, we have digitized about half of these; we are still looking for scanned copies of: ‘Too Many Birthdays’, ‘The Warlock’s Shadow’ and ‘Chy Lung’.

Any help with our hunt for Fanny Stevenson’s texts would be gratefully received: does anyone possess scanned copies or scannable photocopies (or original magazines) of the two texts mentioned above? And does anyone know of any other of her short stories, besides the ones listed above, which were published?

Today’s MS puzzle (cont)

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Neil Macara Brown (one of the team transcribing the notebook) posted the following comment with reference to some words earlier on the same page. As we can’t insert images in the comments, here’s a new posting with Neil’s comment and the relevant image:

Neil: Convinced it’s ‘small vices of’ – compare with that in ‘spittoons full of buckies’ above:

i.e. the unproblematic ‘of’ in the first case is too like the first letters of the mystery word to be anything different.

There is something in that: the first letter doesn’t go down to the line; but ‘p’ and ‘f’ can be very similar; and it still leaves us withthe mystery of what comes after.

Let’s try another strategy: what word am I expecting here? For me, something like “small vices of an isolated community”. Hmm. still doesn’t get us anywhere.

Written by rdury

20/02/2012 at 9:48 am

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Today’s MS puzzle

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When RLS reached Dunure Castle on his “Winter’s Walk” in January 1876, he wrote the following in his notebook:

This we have transcribed as follows:

snow white beach, clearer sea, snow in

the old vaults, ennui, mediæval graves [?square],

small vices of a-city[?opacity; but n.b. no dot for an ‘i’]; sea with faint

round wrinkles like a feeble forehead.

This shows how difficult it can be sometimes. Anyway, we do have the printed essay to help us. In this case, it helps us with ‘ennui’, but not the mystery word(s) of the third line:

The snow had drifted into the vaults.  The clachan dabbled with snow, the white hills, the black sky, the sea marked in the coves with faint circular wrinkles, the whole world, as it looked from a loop-hole in Dunure, was cold, wretched, and out-at-elbows.  If you had been a wicked baron and compelled to stay there all the afternoon, you would have had a rare fit of remorse.  How you would have heaped up the fire and gnawed your fingers!  I think it would have come to homicide before the evening – if it were only for the pleasure of seeing something red!

Line three of the MS is the problem: neither ‘vices of a city’, not ‘vices of opacity’ mean much, and in addition, there is no dot for an ‘i’, and (as you can see from this small sample) the dot is always there in other cases. Perhaps the second word isn’t ‘vices’.

Any ideas?

Written by rdury

19/02/2012 at 4:31 pm

Manuscript transcription: volunteer helpers

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Elaine Greig

Elaine will be familiar to many as the former curator of the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum, battling gallantly with the city corporation’s apparent indifference to a unique institution. She has recently been transcribing “On the Choice of a Profession”. She writes about her involvement in EdRLS:

“Like Stevenson, I was born and raised in Edinburgh, attending both school and university (MA Hons, Scottish Historical Studies, 1983, Edinburgh University) here.   Unlike him – although I have travelled widely in North America and Europe (including Russia) – I have always returned home to Auld Reekie where I live with my husband and two children.

I was always aware of Stevenson’s influence as a writer, having read Child’s Garden, Kidnapped and Treasure Island, but I only became more immersed in his life and writings when I became responsible for the collections of The Writers’ Museum as a curator with the City of Edinburgh Museums Service.  For over 20 years, Stevenson was a daily part of my life – while I received many enquiries relating to Burns, Scott and other Scottish writers, by far the most had a Stevenson connection. These came from people of all walks of life and from all over the world. A very interesting and rewarding occupation!

Due to family commitments, I left the Writers’ Museum at the end of 2008 but was keen to maintain my involvement with a man who had been part of my life for so long (my husband sees him as a serious rival!!). I am still a committee member of the RLS Club (and have been for over 20 years), and the opportunity to help transcribe Stevenson’s work was one I couldn’t miss! However, even with a good knowledge of Stevenson’s handwriting (and the benefit of having studied palaeography while at university) some of his writing can present a challenge!!

A definitive edition of Stevenson’s many works is long overdue and I am privileged to be able to play a small part in its achievement.”

Elaine Greig

Written by rdury

18/02/2012 at 9:13 am

MS transcription; mis- and dis-

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It is often said that RLS puts a hyphen after the prefixes ‘mis-‘ and ‘dis-‘ (see earlier discussion). I think this is merely a linking line between ‘s’ and c/d/e/g/o/q and no attempt to write the prefix separately.

Here are two examples from the 1879 Lay Morals MS (B6498) of ‘disciple’ and ‘discipleship’ where ‘dis’ is certainly not a prefix, but where we still see the hyphen-like lead-in line to the following small-bowl letter:

Stevenson’s interest in Scots

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Stevenson and Scots

Stevenson would have learnt Scots from Cummie, other servants, his maternal grandfather (“My grandfather… was one of the last, I suppose, to speak broad Scots and be a gentleman”, “Memoirs of Himself”, Tus. 29, p. 152), as well as Scots-influenced English of his parents and others.

He also consciously studied it: in “Pastoral” ! he describes learning words form the speech of John Todd, the Swanston shepherd. And in some the manuscripts we are now transcribing, we find records of conversations in Scots or just snatches of speech overheard that he has noted down.

Records of Scots in the notebooks

Stevenson tells us that “All through my boyhood and youth […] I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in” (“A College Magazine”). Many of his notebooks have survived and EdRLS intends to transcribe some of these and offer them as an online resource.

At the moment, we (Mafalda Cipollone, Robert-Louis Abrahamson, Neil Macara Brown and myself) have almost finished transcribing the “Winter’s Walk” notebook. In this document we can see RLS noting down odd snatches of Scots he overhears as he walks along the coast road south of Ayr in January 1876. For example, he notes the following fascinating fragment:

dogs at farms, boys & snawbles. “Heres a mawn”. “Mither, Jock’s eatin snaw.”

The “Winter’s Walk” notebook (Yale, Beinecke GEN MSS 664 box 39 folder 859) contains a number of such transcribed snatches and longer dialogues, apparently written on the spot (the jerky handwriting shows that he was often walking along as he wrote). For example, in a village between Stranraer and Wigtown he overhears two locals talking about unsuccessful attempts to take the pledge and stop getting drunk:

Are ye goin to be teatotal again

I hafe no need of it.

Deed, ye’ve just as much need of it as me […]

– Aye.

– Hxxxx [unclear] Macfadyen just as much need of it as me.

– Deed, Weeliam I think about as much. (muckle?) […]

– I kept it nine month, by God and Macfadyen kept it a week.

– Aye Weeliam, ye kept it a long time.

– Deed; I kept it long enough, and he drunk.

“Keept” throughout

Notice the way that Stevenson is annotating the transcription: “(muckle?)” looks like a question to himself about whether the man said “much” or “muckle”, or whether “muckle” can be used here (in the phrase “as ….. as”); and the final comment records the way the two men pronounced “kept”. Does anyone know if this is a typical Ayrshire pronunciation?

A puzzle

In another notebook (Yale, GEN MS 664 Box 39 Folder 857: Notebook RLS/S) he writes notes of a visit to Greyfriar’s Churchyard, probably made on the spot, and includes the brief note of a phrase overheard, probably from the conversation of two sextons: “No that ill stockit”. Does this mean “Not so unpleasantly stubborn”? Could this refer to something (like a gate or flagstone) that was less difficult to open than forseen? Any ideas?