EdRLS

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

x or n?

with 5 comments

When transcribing Stevenson’s manuscripts certain letters can be deceptive. One of these is ‘x’.

1868-70

In an early period, Stevenson formed his ‘x’ like a multiplication sign:

Screenshot 2015-11-05 17.41.59

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Indeed, in the case of example 3 (‘Reminiscences of Colinton Manse’), the 2-stroke-x helps confirm a dating to c. 1870.

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Change

In mid-1872 Stevenson worked for a time in an Edinburgh law firm, Messrs. Skene and Peacock. During that time he wrote a journal of a few pages, recently sold at auction; I suspect that if examined, this would contain the s-c ‘x’ (like the letter used in algebra): in a law firm he would have to write a ‘clerkly hand’ (i.e. a form of roundhand) and in this hand the ‘x’ is formed in this way.

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1873 onwards

Whether this is true or not, from 1873 onwards, we only find the s-c form for ‘x’, as in the following examples (the first is the old-form, included for comparison):

Screenshot 2015-11-05 17.49.53

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‘x’ vs ‘n’

Screenshot 2015-11-05 17.35.33

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Written by rdury

05/11/2015 at 5:05 pm

Posted in News

5 Responses

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  1. Regarding the ambiguous letter in the “Co?e’s gymnasium” note in the Spring Song ms., I still have these doubts:

    Contemporary sources (source 1, source 2) for John Cox’s Gymnasium never seem to spell Cox with an “e.” Was Stevenson just careless about the spelling?

    Why did he use gymnase and not gymnasium?

    Why does Koning’s Gymnase fit so neatly into Low’s description of their itinerary?

    All your examples look like “x’s”, except perhaps in “sexton,” but the ambiguous letter in “Co?e’s” looks just like an “n”.

    1. https://books.google.com/books?id=j0zQAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA90&dq=%22john+cox%22+gymnasium&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAmoVChMI7r2ttP_5yAIVjNQmCh2a7AYj#v=onepage&q=%22john%20cox%22%20gymnasium&f=false

    2. https://books.google.com/books?id=yjxOAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA267&dq=%22john+cox%22+gymnasium&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CD4Q6AEwBWoVChMIlLDl9P75yAIVy-smCh1LOQCy#v=onepage&q=%22john%20cox%22%20gymnasium&f=false

    John F.M. Russell

    05/11/2015 at 7:50 pm

    • 1. Stevenson uses a number of ‘personal spellings’, both systematically (‘niether’) and as one-off forms. His own pronunciation probably lies behind some of these, e.g. a Scottish lack of distinction of the vowel in ‘cot’ and ‘coat’ might account for spellings such as ‘rod’ (for ‘road’, 1876), ‘conevent’ (for ‘convent’, 1870), and maybe ‘Coxe’ for ‘Cox’.
      2. ‘Coxe’ does exist as a surname so could have been confused with ‘Cox’.
      3. The letter in ‘Co?e’ let’s say is open to doubt (though I see a shallow upper negative space and a c-like second part) so needs to be judged with other evidence: such as the annotation ‘Edinburgh’ (on Lewis’s testimony) on one of the copies, and the inclusion of ‘Spring Song’ in a series of fair-copy MSS many of which are dated, but only 1870 or 1871. (I’ll leave aside here handwriting and the style of the poem, which require a longer treatment.)
      4. Stevenson often uses Gallicisms: mixing cognate English and French words and meanings (‘rumour’ for ‘sound’, for example: ‘the rumour of the turbulent sea’). ‘Coxe’s gymnase’ for ‘Cox’s Gymnasium’ seems quite a possible mis-spelling and Gallicism; ‘Cone’s gymnase’ for ‘Koning’s Gymnase’ presupposes a familiarity with Koning, a bandying about of the name (not just a knowledge of the name)—for which we have no evidence.
      5. The main weight of evidence for an 1880s date seems to be the very interesting and persuasive analysis of the poem following the music of the song that inspired it. But though Stevenson only took up the piano in 1886, might it not be possible that he knew enough music in the early 70s to experiment in this way?

      rdury

      06/11/2015 at 8:51 am

      • And of course Mendelssohn’s piano pieces were very popular in 19th century salons!

        mafalda

        06/11/2015 at 9:44 am

      • 4. RLS read and contributed to The Academy. He could have seen the reference to Koning in the October 16, 1880 issue for which I provided the facsimile.

        In a Google book search for the 19th century, Koning and Gymnase appear together 2,390 times. The same search for Cox and Gymnasium results in 10 hits.

        5. It’s not necessary to read music to write lyrics. RLS could, and probably did, just copy Heine’s meter. However the interrogative ending of both the poem and the music seems striking to me.

        John F.M. Russell

        06/11/2015 at 7:07 pm

  2. With regard to points 1- 2, see Booth-Mehew letter 1399, March 1885, the last paragraph where he speaks of the bravery of Police Officers Cole and Cox. As least in this case RLS was aware of the difference between Cox and Coxe.

    John F.M. Russell

    06/11/2015 at 7:49 pm


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