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

Archive for February 2014

Songs of Travel manuscript puzzle solved

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This post is contributed by John F. Russell, author and editor of  The Music of Robert Louis Stevenson.


List of poems for what became ‘Songs of Travel’

Songs of Travel is a posthumous collection of poems first published in 1895 (in vol. XIV of the Edinburgh Edition), but already planned by Stevenson before his death. Among the draft outlines of the collection is Beinecke ms. 6895.

This ms. is divided into four sections and lists 43 poems, many of which later appeared in Songs of Travel. The section “Songs” contains 13 items and appears below.

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Yale Gen MSS 664 box 43 folders 943-945 (Beinecke 6895)

(Note how RLS, the professional writer, is able to predict this will occupy “21 pp” in the note bottom left.)

The manuscript is transcribed by Roger C. Lewis on pp. 480-481 of his Collected Poems of Robert Louis Stevenson, where he says that title number 10 is illegible. His reluctance to guess the title is understandable, as readers will discover if they interpret the title as something like “Cr… & Sev…”:

Screenshot 2014-02-24 14.31.28

However, a quick look at other RLS manscripts shows that he rarely closes the loop of a capital A, and it often looks like “C” instead.  Knowing that, it is much easier to see that title number 10 in fact reads “Aubade & Serenade.”

Aubade and Serenade

Of course there is no RLS poem with this title. However the preceding numbers 8 and 9 on the list are the familiar “I will make you brooches” and “In the highlands” found towards the beginning of Songs of Travel. So what was “Aubade and Serenade”?

Beinecke ms. 6896 is similar to 6895 but contains a list of 19 items under the heading “Songs”, including all the titles in ms. 6895:

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Yale Gen MSS 664 box 43 folders 943-945 (Beinecke 6896)

(An interesting puzzle for someone would be to work out what all the numerical calculations mean.)

In this longer list, “I will make you brooches” is again no. 8, and no. 9 is again “In the highlands.”  Number 10 is “Let beauty awake.”

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“Let Beauty Awake” is a two stanza poem in which the first is about the morning and the second about the evening. An aubade is a song for the morning while a serenade is for the evening.

So I conclude that item number 10 in both lists is the same and that “Aubade & Serenade” is “Let beauty awake.”

John F. Russell