Stevenson’s copy of Beauties of Caledonia
This post is contributed by Roger G. Swearingen, author of The Prose Works of Robert Louis Stevenson etc., presently working on a biography of Stevenson and an edition (not for EdRLS) of The South Seas.
.Note: John F. Russell in his recent post Wandering Willie Changes His Tune establishes that Stevenson’s ‘Home no more home to me, whither must I wander?’, though subtitled ‘To the Tune of Wandering Willie’, is actually written to another tune (‘Bonie Dundee’), mistakenly titled ‘Wandering Willie’ in a music book he owned: Beauties of Caledonia.
The song-book titled Beauties of Caledonia: or, Gems of Scottish Song (1845) was later expanded by the addition of pages at the end, from 99 pages originally to a total of 200 pages, in a new edition first published as Gems of Scottish Song in 1866. The musical details of ‘Wandering Willie’ and Stevenson’s version of it – the heart of John Russell’s brilliant discovery and analysis – are the same in both editions. So it doesn’t matter, musically, which edition Stevenson had. But it does seem likely that he had some version of the expanded edition first published in 1866.
Both editions were published by the firm of Oliver Ditson & Co. in Boston. An advertisement for the expanded edition from the newspaper Golden Era, San Francisco, 9 December 1866, describes the expanded edition as follows:
Copies of the plain and the full gilt versions are in the G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns at the University of South Carolina and are listed in the Illustrated Catalogue of that collection, ed. Elizabeth A. Sudduth and Clayton Carlyle Tarr (2009), 121.
A copy of Gems of Scottish Song previously owned by Stevenson was sold in the Isobel Field Sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, 24 November 1914, Part I, Lot 237, and later in the George S. Hellman sale, Anderson Galleries, 26 November 1919, Lot 28. It was among nine books formerly in Stevenson’s library at Vailima that were given by a later owner to the then Head of State of Samoa, Tupua Tamasese, in recognition of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The present location of these books is unknown.
According to The Journal of the Robert Louis Stevenson Club (London), February 1954, RLS’s copy of Gems of Scottish Song had the stamped impression of Gray’s Music Store, 623 and 625 Clay Street, San Francisco. Established in 1852, Matthias Gray’s music business was at this address from at least 1869 until he left for other premises on 1 October 1875, ultimately moving to 206 and 208 Post Street around 1882. In 1879 and 1880 Gray was at 117 Post Street.
This date stamp suggests that Stevenson may have bought the song-book during his first stay in San Francisco during the winter of 1879-1880, possibly to enjoy with musically-inclined friends there such as Chares Warren Stoddard and Frank Unger. He would have had it shipped home to Edinburgh with their other possessions when he and Fanny and Lloyd returned to Britain in August 1880. John Russell’s suggestion that Stevenson bought Gems of Scottish Song on the eve of the Casco voyage in June 1888 is also, of course, entirely possible. His analysis of Stevenson’s handling of the song is unaffected.