Today’s MS puzzle
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’.