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

MS transcription: further or farther?

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In the “Note on the Text” to his edition of Kidnapped (a reading transcription of the MS), Barry Menikoff says

“Stevenson’s hand makes it a judgment call to distinguish further from farther” (p. lxv).

This quite frequent word usually looks very much like “farther” in all cases. Here are a series of examples from the “Reminiscences of Colinton Manse” (early 1870s, Beinecke B 6788):

— all these look like “farther” and, normally using that form for distance, I would use it in the first example “a good bit farther” (but might also say “further” for “in addition”) and perhaps in the second example “on the[deletion] farther (side)”; but probably not for the “further course of the river/stream” and definitely not for “the further attraction” (“the additional attraction”).

So how does RLS write “far”? There’s one example in the MS — “at the far end”, and it looks like “fur”, dammit; it’s true there seems to be an attempt to make the bowl of the  “a” — but then that seems visible in the first example of “furniture” too. At least the last example is a clear “u”.

So where does that leave us?

RLS is capable of making a clear “fu” sequence when he wants to (the last example), but usually he gets to the end of the “f” crossbar and then curves back and down, making what looks like the left-hand side of an a-like letter.

Back at square one. With his “u” capable of looking like an “a”, I suppose we should adopt the more normal choice of further/farther, even in those five “squashed-letter” cases at the top that look very much like “a”. We are imposing our usage on the text, to a certain extent, but we aren’t imposing a strangeness that we can’t be sure was intended.

Or has anyone a better way of deciding?


Addition (September 2013). In an early MS (‘Victor Hugo’s Romances’) there is a very clear example of ‘farther’, in the sense of ‘to a greater distance’—in time in this case:

[in Hugo’s romances] we shall find the revolutionary tradition of Scott carried farther.

This form was then used for the magazine version and later for the volume Familiar Studies; Colvin and the Edinburgh Edition, however, changed it to ‘further’—probably because they thought ‘farther’ should be confined to spatial distance only.


Addition (December 2013). In ‘Forest Notes’, three uses of ‘further’ are changed by Colvin to ‘farther’ in the Edinburgh Edition, all of them referring to spatial distance:

the shadows stretching further into the open

which will send us somewhere further off than Grez.

and say farewell noisily to all the good folk going further.

Addition (July 2014). The ‘Forest Notes’ proofs (Princeton) have ‘calling you further in’ corrected to ‘farther’.


Addition (December 2014). On the 1880 proofs of The Amateur Emigrant (galley 19), ‘without entering further into details’ has been changed by Stevenson to ‘farther‘ — showing that he used this form for both spatial distance and metaphorical distance.


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