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

Today’s MS puzzle

with 7 comments


Spread 2 of the Winter’s Walk notebook contains two versions of a poem which we might call ‘In the weary long ago’ (from the repeated refrain). The first one, on the left-hand side, contains the following two lines

which I am sure you will all be able to read immediately as:

   She and I would wander on;
Through the gai?t disfigured land,

So what is the mystery word? A good-ish fit would be ‘gaunt’ but we can see a dot for an ‘i’ and there aren’t enough ‘peaks’ for ‘un’ between the ‘a’ and the ‘t’.

A suggestion made by Neil is ‘gaist’, i.e. Scots for ‘ghost’ – i.e. ‘the ghost-disfigured land’. It would be the only Scots word in the poem, and the conjectural ‘s’ should have come back down to the line (as in the ‘dis’ in the following word)—but then conditions for writing this were possibly not ideal for the correct formation of letters.

Can anyone see any other letter in there that makes a good fit?

Written by rdury

17/06/2012 at 7:17 am

Posted in News

7 Responses

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  1. While transcribing the ForestNotes MS.B6631, I find (f. 2r, line 9, last word) the word ‘lonely’, ending with a peculiar sign for -ly: it looks very similar to the last letter of ‘gaist’, but for the horizontal stroke…
    ‘gaily’, with a smudge?


    17/06/2012 at 10:22 am

  2. Thanks for this – RLS’s final -ly is very distinctive, indeed – but more like an l with a tail – and there’s nothing below the line here. I can see what you mean – that dark ending could be the tail for the ‘y’. But then the word doesn’t fit into the context very well.
    But Marina in an email suggested a good solution, which I asked her to post herself, as I didn’t want to steal her thunder (so watch this space).


    17/06/2012 at 11:11 am

  3. I think it _could_ actually be : what looks like a dot could be a bit of the cross-bar of the …

    Marina Dossena

    17/06/2012 at 11:18 am

  4. sorry, I used angular brackets and the word didn’t show up: I meant gaunt, of course

    Marina Dossena

    17/06/2012 at 11:19 am

    • Of course, thank you!


      17/06/2012 at 11:26 am

    • I think you may have it: looking again, I can see that the crossbar of the ‘t’ starts with a kind of little hook (which we took for the dot on the ‘i’) and then (now I can see it!) a faint line that continues in the clear line.

      RLS writes the bowl of the ‘u’, omits the downline and reduces the ‘n’ to a slight ondulation in the line going up to the ‘t’. So the best transcription is ‘gaunt’


      17/06/2012 at 2:48 pm

  5. Thanks to Mafalda and Marina for their help. Cloud consultation seems a good way of solving MS puzzles – it’s amazing how different eyes can see the things that you are just not seeing.


    17/06/2012 at 3:13 pm

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