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

Archive for September 2013

Numbering notebook pages

leave a comment »

EdRLS will be referring to RLS’s Notebooks and so we need an agreed system for indexing and referring to pages; here’s my proposal.

1. Start with the ‘front’, the side with a label, but note (by reference to the lines on the pages) whether it was originally the back. Guiding rule: call ‘front’ the side that looks like the front from outside to someone confronted with the notebook: this will help confusion when ordering images. (RLS seems to have often preferred to write from the back (subsequently labelled as the front). Perhaps somebody could think of a psychological reason for this; maybe it’s related to the reason why I start reading a magazine from the back.)

2. Open the cover, if there is a decorated endpaper, note this on your table of Nb contents as p. 0 (the endpaper at the other end will be p. 00); if there is a writable inside cover on the left, record this first as ifc (inside front cover);

3. The first writable right-hand (recto) side is p. 1; the back of this will be p. 1v.; note the incipit on your table.

The object on the right of the binding is strictly speaking a ‘leaf’ with two ‘pages’, one on either side; but the ‘p.’ abbreviation has the advantage of being more visible and distinctive than ‘l.’, also used for ‘line’, and the word ‘page’ is also commonly used for the two-sided hinged object that you can turn, tear out etc..

Numbering in this way has additional advantages: (i) the numbers are the same as spread numbers, so if you want to order an image of both pages of an opening, p. 1 will be on the right-hand side of spread 1; (ii) counting out the numbers of pages is easier if you count one higher number as you turn a page (1, 2, 3 …) rather than two higher (1, 3, 5…); (iii) as a rule RLS (and I suspect most people) writes in sequence on the recto sides of a notebook, so a continuous text can be recorded as on Nb pp. 1–4, whereas if we number pages/sides then the same text is on pp. 1, 3, 5, 7.

4. Turn over: the left hand page is p. 1v; if you’re making a table index, note incipit, ‘blank’ or (if it’s upside down) b.s. (back sequence).

5. Work through the Nb to ibc (inside back cover); turn the Nb round and then record and content of a back sequence as bp. 1, bp. 2 etc. (‘bp.’ is a reasonably understandable abbreviation for ‘back sequence page’).

6. Write a header note at the top of the document confirming the system of numbering, whether the ‘front’ was originally the back etc. In particular, note any variation to the above system, e.g. where the pages are actually numbered it is sensible to follow that system as this will be the most useful to users. In this case, a writable endpaper before a page numbered “1” will be called ‘endpaper’. The guiding principle is that there should be as little possibility of confusion as possible and that the system should help users find the right page easily.

Written by rdury

17/09/2013 at 8:59 am

Stevenson’s love of slang

leave a comment »

RLS collecting words

I should like to relate how he pounced upon every Americanism I chanced to utter, not deriding it, but shaking it in the teeth of a pleased curiosity as a bit of treasure-trove, a new fragment of speech with an origin, a history, a utility that must be learned; and in other ways to explain what a zest he had for those myriad little interests, little occupations, discoveries, and acquisitions, which make existence a perpetual joy to a fresh and questing mind, but which most adult minds have grown too stiff and dull to value.
(Mrs M.G. Van Rensselaer’ reports on visiting RLS in New York in 1887 in the Century Magazine Nov. 1895).

RLS not only liked collecting words, he also liked to use them:

A fine fellow (as we see so many) takes his determination, votes for the sixpences, and in the emphatic Americanism, ‘goes for’ them.
(‘Apology for Idlers’, 1877)

Me collecting words

At the moment I am rereading the letters making an index for the use of the essay editors of references relevant to the EdRLS essays volumes. The indexes of each of the eight volumes of the Yale letters are invaluable but not without errors (but I think we can allow a percentage of error in all human works) and of course are in eight different places (I did write to Yale University Press asking if I could have the digital files of the indexes to make one merged index to be published on the internet, but they told me this was one of their last books not produced from digital files). The indexer also did not pick up references to ‘my first essay’ and similar allusions. Then of course there are many points of interest to essay editors that an indexer with only a finite number of pages cannot cover: references to style, talk, morality etc. Another useful class of entries are to keywords of significance to the essays: words such as ‘sympathy’, ‘picturesque’, ‘gusto’, ‘romantic’, ‘ideal’ etc.

While doing this (I’m only on volume 6), I’ve also—while I’m at it—been collecting RSL’s use of slang and Americanisms, just for my own interest. Mehew tells us (L6, 207n) that Andrew Lang referred to RLS’s ‘boyish habit of slang’: ‘I think it was he who called Julius Caesar “the howlingest cheese who ever lived’ (Adventures among Books, 46).

Here then is a list of the slang (and similar) words collected so far (with volume and page references). Any comments welcomed.

Slang words used by Stevenson in his Letters

a bird — L3 10

a brick — L5 226

a cad — L3 37

a card — L1 472, 499

a cove — L1 136, 144

a facer — L3 36

a game (writing project; idea, project, act, art, thing for me, thing) — L1 357; L2 331; L3 8, 45n, 123, 142, 159, 324, 350; L4 12, 95, 181, 200; L5 270, 305

a hum — L1 136

a night hawk — L3 40

a scoot — L4 21

a sell — L1 103

a trump — L3 153

a/the cheese — L2 246; L3 101, 186; L5 63

bang goes — L3 46

blame me — L1 197

bloody — L1 391

bully for you — L3 69

bumming (screaming?) — L3 270

cheesy — L4 109

cut up — L1 295

dead on — L3 143

dished — L3 13

fucked out — L3 27

gave it to me — (I appear to have lost this page reference: it’s somewhere in vols 1-5!)

Hell on — L1 415

huffy — L3 23

in a bag — L3 26

jack-tired [Californian slang?] — L3 60

kind of — L3 28

like hell — L3 22

mint-sauce (=money) — L3 325

nuts (= delicious, wonderful) — L3 57; L4 67

off the venue — L3 31

Old Harry — L1 276

plugged up — L2 257

pooped — L1 162

prime — L1 148

rather/all to smash — L1 364, 365

screwed — L1 467

shop — L3 142

slick — L1 136

snoozer — L3 324

split me — L3 13

square off (with determination) — L3 338

stow it — L3 47

stumped — L4 194

the nut (=the best?) — L3 189

the real touch — L4 169

to be caught on the hop — L3 64

to be down on — L1 428

to be in a box — L5 326

to blow the gaff — L3 193

to burk — L5 261

to chortle — L5 225

to clean out — L3 77

to come to the scratch — L3 48

to cripple on — L1 197

to do the trick — L1 250

to gas — L1 248

to go a mucker — L1 459

to play old billy — L1 270

to put in a crasher — L1 156

to scamp — L4 269

to shell out — L4 45

to sponge (on) — L2 257; L3 15

to stand Sam (=pay for the drinks) — L3 332

to stow — L1 505

to sugar it with — L3 66

to take a cut (= make a short journey) — L4 45

to twig — L1 125, 126, 160; L2 87, 159, 245, 246-7, 313; L3 64; L4 220

to walk into — L1 173

twaddle, twaddley — L1 144, 460; L4 67, 202

American slang

Some of those above may be American slang. But I have also indexed separately items that I felt sure were US slang:

a dead hand at — L3 66

boss (adj) — L3 113

cute — L1 124, 159

death on — L1 391, 491, 505; L2 61, 65, 322; L5 308

didn’t I wish…? — L1 201

hand my checks in — L2 52

hatchet — L3 46

hatchet, to bury/dig up the — L3 78, 83

not worth a cent — L3 76

quit — L3 26

real (=very) — L3 16

sick (=ill) — L3 74

some pumpkins — L1 261

stock-dologered — L5 119

swell — L1 388

to raise Ned — L3 66

to raise the partic’lar Harry [Californian?] — L3 66

Written by rdury

14/09/2013 at 7:00 am

Sandbox: can an editor use a new title?

with 5 comments


Titles and terminology are protected by a certain sanctity: they are labels used by society and (to confine ourselves to written language) contained in an unknowable number of documents that would become, with any change, inexact.

Yet one would still like to change some of them. Of inadequate terminology, the young Stevenson himself had something to say in his ‘Numbered Notes’ of 1873-74 (the, ahem!, new title that—in this sandbox anyway—I wish to use for the, let’s admit it, rather inadequate title ‘Selections From His Notebook’):

Scientific language like most other language is extremely unsatisfactory, as being a series of petitiones principii—as being committed from beginning to end to former and less perfect theories. Look at the degraded terminology of Mechanics—the very name being a misnomer with its so-called mechanical powers and other misleading and incorrect expressions. Any attempt, again, to talk scientifically about heat or the variation of temperature involves, on the now proved dynamical hypothesis, a series of misstatements—a string of verbal confusions.


In the first volume of Stevenson’s uncollected essays, there are a few titles I am tempted to tweak. I hasten to add: only with minor works that seem to have been given inappropriate titles by other editors. Perhaps the best way to proceed would be to look at them one by one.

1. Dunoon

a.k.a. ‘A Retrospect’ (Edinburgh Edition; Swearingen); ‘Dunoon. Encounter with a Fortune-Teller, 1870’ and ‘Dunoon. Visit at a House in 1870 where R.L.S. had Spent a Week in Childhood’ (McKay and Yale finding aid)

Here we have an early manuscript (B 6174): five sheets written on both sides numbered 5–13, i.e. missing pp. 1–4 and, since the text started on p. 13 is truncated at the end of the page, missing following pages too. It consists of several separate pieces: on Hazlitt (abandoned), on Dunoon (the contrast between impressions on a recent revisitation and memories of a distant childhood visit) (which reaches a conclusion), on Imagination (just a paragraph, though possibly finished—a pensée) and Obermann (continued on lost sheets). These pieces are separated by short centred lines: apparently a collection of essay ideas written out neatly, on both sides of the sheets to save paper.

Then we have a later manuscript (B 6173—McKay thought it was earlier, hence the lower number), written on the same paper, in which RLS decided to link together his thoughts on Hazlitt and his anecdote about childhood memory (perhaps they were always intended to be linked, as he talks specifically of Hazlitt’s ‘On the Past and Future’ and adopts Hazlitt’s points in that essay that the future is nothing, while the past is a ‘real and substantial a part of our being’). However, he also decides to insert another element before the second part: the telling of his fortune by a crazy Highland woman on the occasion of the same recent revisitation Dunoon. Clearly, Dunoon had become a crossroads of timelines and an appropriate place for thinking about past and future. Unfortunately, he abandons the project shortly after starting to rewrite what is now the third section, the one about childhood memories, though the anecdote can be be picked up on the earlier draft, in front of RLS as he wrote.

A more accurate title would be perhaps ‘Dunoon: a prophecy and a recollection’ (‘recollection’ occurs eight times in the later draft), as this is announced in a summary sentence of the later draft:

What led me to the consideration of this subject and what has made me take up my pen tonight, is the rather strange coincidence of two very different accidents—a prophecy of my future and a return into my past.

Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 22.48.40

However, following a principle of least intervention, I propose to call the (fragmentary) essay ‘Dunoon’, which is a name used by McKay and is also contained in Colvin’s note placed under the title ‘(A Fragment: written at Dunoon, 1870)’. Colvin’s title ‘A Retrospect’ only refers to the anecdote about childhood memory and seems therefore to be based on a misunderstanding of Stevenson’s intentions as shown in the quotation above.

One might add that Colvin’s essay is also not exactly the same as the one we will publish, as he ends the anecdote of how childhood memories clashed with impressions on a return visit with a note ‘[Added the next morning]—’ and then continues with the pensée about, not memory, but the imagination, as if it were part of the same text, which it clearly is not.

Is the proposed title a legitimate intervention, or should I add the other title after it: ‘Dunoon (A Retrospect)’?

2. Scotland and England

a.k.a. ‘Differences of Country’ (Swearingen), ‘Differences of Country. Beginning of an Essay’ (McKay), ‘”Differences of country…”‘ (Yale finding aid, i.e. identifying it as an incipit rather than a title)

This, an unpublished fragment of an essay, starts with a series of notes to guide composition, each one separated by a dot with a space on either side (a sort of linear bullet-list):

Differences of country . The Channel & Tra los Montes . North and south
La verte Écosse et la bonne Italie . Skelts Dramas . Trees . Scotch Scene
Scotch & English houses . The Hill farm . &c.

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 18.47.50

Unfortunately the MS ends in mid-sentence at the bottom of p. 3, so continued in a section now lost. What remains is a paragraph and a bit covering the first two points ‘Differences of country . The Channel & Tra los Montes’:

(Para 1) The individuality of a country that we remember depends on significant physical differences (for instance, ‘A country with a long bare seaboard must leave a very different impression from one into which the bright sea enters deeply, and the firths run far inland and lie about the roots of mountains for all the world like lakes, and the islands are so thickly scattered that they make the sea-run between them look shrunken and tortuous like a firth’) and differences of landscape created by different cultures and tastes , basically unchanged for centuries (and he cites a medieval French illumination with features of the countryside still typical today).
(Para 2) The Channel has done much to influence English thought; in Gautier’s Tra los montes we read of how a traveller going south sees a gradual change from France into Spain… (And here the MS ends.)

On 14 January 1875 RLS writes to Colvin:

I shall have another PRTFL [Portfolio] paper, so soon as I am done with this story [‘When the Devil was Well’] […] The Prtfl paper will be about Scotland and England.

‘When the Devil was Well’ seems to be written on the same paper as this fragment (I’ll be checking this in the Beinecke), which (another clue to dating) makes reference to the typical landscape of Romney Marsh—undoubtedly showing the influence of Basil Champneys’ A Quiet Corner of England, which he read in Oct-Nov 1874 (cf L2: 79), his review being published in The Academy of 5 Dec 1874. The ‘Prtfl paper about Scotland and England’ also fits in well with the summary notes at the top of p. 1 of our MS, which seem to sketch out an introduction about differences of landscape between different countries before moving on to specific landscape differences between Scotland and England (an interest already present in the obvious evocation of Scottish lochs and islands in Para 1). The reference to Skelt’s Dramas must be to the memory he includes in ‘A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured’:

England, the hedgerow elms, the thin brick houses, windmills, glimpses of the navigable Thames—England, when at last I came to visit it, was only Skelt made evident: to cross the border was, for the Scotsman, to come home to Skelt; there was the inn-sign and there the horse-trough, all foreshadowed in the faithful Skelt.

So we have ‘Differences of country’, first item in a series of notes for the essay that is most probably the one ‘about Scotland and England’ referred to in the letter. I’d like to call it ‘Scotland and England’ Or should it be ‘Scotland and England (Differences of Country)’, or ‘Differences of Country (Scotland and England)’? Or no change at all?

3. Lay Morals (Man and Money)

‘Lay Morals’, an essay-treatise divided into four chapters, is a different case:  as it is a well-know work, changing the title is not advisable. However, RLS never refers to it with this title, written in pencil by another hand at the top of the 1879 MS.

The first two chapters seem to have been given the title ‘What We Teach’ (which covers the content of these chapters quite well) in an outline sketch in a notebook, and RLS refers in a letter to the whole project as ‘Man and Money’ (L2, 308; late March 1879) (and we find the following titles in lists of planned essays in the 1870s: ‘Morality and Money’, ‘Money’, ‘On Money’ and ‘Money and Morals’). Even though this latter title seems to apply most to Chapter IV, it also embraces Chapter II, sections 9 and 10 (the long personal anecdote and about living on unearned income and the explanation of how ‘stealing’ covers certain kinds of common economic behaviour), as well as the criticism in Chapter III of the conventional doctrine of profit.

The traditional title, apparently supplied by Colvin, provides a general title for a text that is occupied with more than money (criticisms of conventional moral education and hypocrisy, the impossibility of governing conduct by precepts because of the continually changing nature of life, the guiding of conduct by an internal sense of right, the importance of accepting bodily desires, and how the privileged classes should make service correspond to income and not waste money on undesired luxuries). The ethics of money is certainly a major interest but its development in ch. IV seems to be unsuccessfully attached to ch. I and II on moral education and ch. III on how conduct is to be judged in the absence of a divine moral guide. This latter is certainly a constant theme of the essay (making ‘Lay Morals’ an appropriate title), even if never explicitly stated.

Given Stevenson’s one explicit reference, I would like to use the title ‘Lay Morals (Man and Money)’.

This would also have the advantage of distinguishing the work from the untitled 1883 fragment, which incorporates parts of ch. III and seems to have the same aim of bringing together Stevenson’s thoughts on morality in the form of a guide to the young (and specifically states this in an Introduction) but does not mention money, a dominant element in the earlier work. It might possibly be referred to as ‘Lay Morals (Youth and Morality)’ using for the second part a title in a list of planned essay titles in a notebook of early 1882—but I leave this to the editor of the later volume.

4. At Sea, A Night in the South of France, Time

a.k.a 1. ‘A Note at sea’, 2. ‘A night in France’ (Mckay, Yale finding aid, Swearingen), ‘Fragment of an Essay on Time’ (Osbourne auction catalogue, 1914), ‘On Time’ (Swearingen)

These are three fragments (the third untraced since publication in the 1923 Vailima Edition). For the first, ‘A Note’ seems more of a description of the type of document, left over from the title in the auction catalogue, when ‘At Sea’ would be more elegant. It seems close in style to the 1875 ‘Prose Poems’.

The second, previously believed to be part of the ‘Forest Notes’ drafts (it was written in the same notebook) was actually written in Mentone and records thoughts of hearing a piano playing Scottish airs (also mentioned in a letter of February 1874). Various more accurate titles could be imagined, but a minimum intervention would be to add ‘the South of’ to the title.

The third, though only 309 words, could possibly be finished, and it looks very similar in topic and style to the 1873–74 ‘Numbered Notes’: thoughts on various mainly philosophical topics. ‘On Time’ suggests a longer treatise, while ‘Time’ would be a sufficient title for this short piece (and in line with the titles of the ‘Numbered Notes’). Indeed ‘Time’ is the title used in the 1923 Vailima Edition and the Tusitala Edition that derives from it. As Swearingen indexes the item as ‘Time, On’ it will cause minimum confusion to adopt the shorter title, the one used in previous editions that included it.

However, in the first two cases, I can see I am forcing matters. ‘A Night in France’ is perhaps a good enough title. If I am honest, I can also see that I want to call the first ‘At Sea’ because I want to make it like the Prose Poems. So, in the end I am inclined resist title tweaking and to keep these two titles unchanged. (Or does anyone think ‘At Sea’ would be permissible?)


Using this free area of play has been very useful: as I wrote I started to get second thoughts, to see matters from another side, started to suspect my own motives. Any helpful contributions to the debate will be welcomed.

Conference report for RLS 2013: Stevenson, Time and History (UNSW)

with 3 comments

by Naomi Carle (Durham University)

I have to confess, I was more than a little sceptical that I would be able to identify a group of Stevensonians among the crowd gathered on the steps of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, but I needn’t have worried. Although this was to be my first Stevenson conference (well over-due), a collection of amiable and interested faces affirmed I was in the right place. Roslyn Jolly’s inspired decision to begin the conference with a tour of Stevenson’s Sydney was both convivial and informative. We viewed pictures illustrative of the ‘sham candy cane’ tropics that Stevenson strove to correct; saw an exhibition of manuscripts collated especially for the conference at the State Library and marvellously contextualised by Roger Swearingen’s extensive notes; rested in the very chair Stevenson often occupied when hiding away from his womenfolk at the Union Club (albeit now housed in a rather impressive skyscraper that would have been entirely alien to him); and wondered at his vehement hatred of the inoffensive Post Office Tower. Roslyn’s helpful revelation that one of his manuscripts was ingested by its corridors never to re-emerge went some way to explaining things. As with all good tours, ours ended in a bar – a rather marvellous institution tucked beneath the majestic sails of the Opera House, just above the harbour. By the time we began to peel off into the night, I felt like I was parting from old friends.

Union Club, Sydney

Roslyn and Chris Danta continued the spirit of the previous evening in their official warm welcome to the conference, which included a respectful acknowledgement of the indigenous peoples whose land we met on. Business began with Adrian Poole’s masterful keynote, which utilised Alan’s ‘grand memory for forgetting’ (uttered in genuine Scots) as a fruitful point of departure for a discussion of individual and collective memory as models for writing in Stevenson’s works. From a polite agreement between friends, to rats nibbling at the edges of a vicar’s sermon and fin-de-siècle preoccupations with psychology, history, points of origin and genetics, we arrived by steps and leaps at a new appreciation for Stevenson’s uneasy understanding of survivals which resonated with many subsequent discussions. There followed a day of illuminating and incredibly inter-related panels, despite their diversity in topic and approach. The many faces of Stevenson were discussed in relation to the historical novel, the anxiety of influence, the reception of his work in French literary circles and Portuguese translation, and his complex relationship with the law. These papers provoked interesting elaborations on Stevenson’s playfulness as a writer, the contention between history and fiction in his writing, and his desire to be innovative and experimental in all while remaining acutely aware of the limitations of his chosen medium. During lunch, we were treated to the book launch of Juvenilia Press’s edition of Stevenson’s Early Writings, edited by Christine Alexander and Elise McPherson. The volume contains some remarkable sketches drawn to accompany his writings, which show that an interest in the dialogue between artistic forms began at an early age.


The themes of memory and Stevenson’s unsettling ability to leave his reader with a startling pictorial impression carried through into the second day. We enjoyed panels on Stevenson’s manipulation of narrative time, his strong interest in science and medicine, the tension between tradition and modernity and his important Samoan connection. One of the most arresting of Stevenson’s characteristics to emerge was the plasticity of his approach, the immense capacity he had for seeing, and capturing oral tradition in his writing. After the day’s proceedings, we were privileged to attend the unveiling of a newly discovered Stevenson poem, ‘Birthday verses to a Lady’, at Sancta Sophia College. Roslyn Jolly delivered a wide-ranging lecture on the poem’s context in Stevenson’s oeuvre, elucidating the meaning of the find: the manuscript had been tucked away in College archives, undisturbed for years. Caroline Howlitt, one of the conference delegates, provided an authentic Scottish accent for another of Stevenson’s related verses, adding an international flavour to the evening.

The final day brought with it a further windfall of stimulating papers – spanning the sundry aspects of Stevenson’s writings from childhood, his creativity with both words and pictures, and his highly developed interest in the dynamics of process, change and movement. Alongside these panels, we were treated to some rather out of the ordinary presentations. Penny Fielding and Anthony Mandal gave us a preview of the current working format for the much-anticipated Edinburgh Edition, including a list of the anticipated dates for publication of the individual volumes. Anthony then returned after lunch to tell us about his highly innovative Jekyll 2.0 project which will bring the experience of Jekyll’s London to life for participants. Using technology that monitors cardiac and sensory responses to the simulated world, players will be guided through their own unique version of Jekyll’s experience of transforming into Hyde. Anthony shared the closing panel with Jo Henwood, who – like all the independent scholars participating in the conference – gave a refreshing and insightful portrayal of her personal engagement with Stevenson through her profession as a storyteller. In an entertaining and unscripted presentation, she took us right to the heart of Stevenson’s craft in her survey of his narrative techniques designed to exploit the power of suggestion and lure an audience in.

I left Sydney determined to contribute to Virginia 2015, and eager to return to my study and inject something of the intellectual vibrancy of the past three days into my thesis.

Written by Anthony Mandal

05/09/2013 at 2:51 pm