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Back in London for missing Stevenson articles in London magazine

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The story so far

Those who follow this blog will know of our search for possible unnoticed articles by Stevenson in London magazine—ending up with a closer analysis of a list of 1878 payments for work on London, after which I concluded that I would need to look more closely at the four numbers of 13 July to 3 August 1878. R.-L. Abrahamson and myself had already looked through these numbers, but found nothing that we thought was even possibly by Stevenson, apart from ‘A Story-teller’ and a note on George Eliot (for 13 July), and notes from ‘a correspondent in Paris’ (for 20 July). We suspected that a poem on 13 July (from comments in a letter by Henley) might be by Stevenson, but we were interested in prose. To tell the truth, I was prepared to let it rest there: if whatever was in the 27 July and 3 August numbers had not been distinctive enough to be visible to us before, and there was no guarantee that another trip to London would be accompanied by sudden enlightenment.

A (deceptive) letter from Lang changes the picture

Then I was looking through Marysa Demoor’s useful edition of letters from Andrew Lang to Stevenson and my eye was caught by an undated letter from 1877 in which he says, ‘I’ve sent for the new book on Villon’, which probably refers to Longnon’s innovative biographical study, which must have been published in February 1877, as the Academy gives a report of the publication in its ‘Paris Letter’ in the issue of 3 March (95–6). Andrew Lang seems to be indirectly praising Stevenson in this letter when he writes,

‘I wish your C. B. would get a political fellow as good in his way as the author of Balzac’s correspondence and George Eliot’ (Demoor, 42–3).

By ‘C. B.’ he meant the editor of London, Robert Glasgow Brown, who Lang thought was ‘Caldwell Brown’ (Demoor, 6n); by ‘Balzac’s Correspondence’ he is referring to the review article with that title in the second issue of London on 10 February 1877, p. 44. This is an article that R.-L. Abrahamson and myself identified as probably by Stevenson on our first look into London at the old Colindale Newspaper Library back in January 2013. It hasn’t previously been reported here—well, we’ve got to keep something for the album. When I saw Lang’s letter I thought: could he be indirectly praising Stevenson for the article on ‘Balzac’s Correspondence’—and for another on George Eliot too? That decided it: I had to go back to London to investigate this possibility for February 1877, and combine it with a closer look at the issues of the magazine for July and early August 1878.

britishlibrarycourtyard Return to the Newsroom

So it was that on a pleasant morning in June I crossed the British Library forecourt with RLA (who this time had to look at microfilms of Chatto records of Virginibus Puerisque—this will be the first of our essay volumes to appear, in the first half of next year). I went straight to the Newsroom, picked up the five hefty volumes of London and immediately turned to February 1877 and located the article on George Eliot in the issue of February 10, p. 43. Immediate disappointment: Stevenson could not begin an essay in this way:

The cultus of George Eliot is one of the great social facts of the age. Its adherents include nearly the whole of the reading public. For purposes of generalisation they may be classed under three headings—Conformist, Disciples, and Sceptics.

The article then continues with a humorous paragraph on the reception of Eliot by each of these three classes of reader and a final paragraph collecting some epigrams about her and her novels. Such a preliminary announcement of categories followed by a paragraph apiece is, as far as I remember, not to be found in any of Stevenson’s writings. In addition, the article contains no Stevensonsonian language-play (new meaning created by use, unexpected epithets, calques from French), no intelligently concise formulations, no typical use of semicolons etc. It is true that in the fourth paragraph contains the following:

With very, very few exceptions, he [the Sceptic] knows that all of them [‘the gay young fellows it has pleased her to put forward as men’] have a comb concealed among their back-hair.

This reminds us immediately of Stevenson’s ‘Virginibus Puerisque’, published in August 1876:

Even women, who understand men so well for practical purposes, do not know them well enough for the purposes of art. Take even the very best of their male creations, take Tito Melema [in George Eliot’s Romola], for instance, and you will find he has an equivocal air, and every now and again remembers he has a comb at the back of his head.

But the later passage in London must be Henley (who probably wrote the article) cheekily ‘borrowing’ from his friend’s recent essay. With no more internal evidence than this, we cannot take the article as by Stevenson.  Lang letter: red herring.

July—August 1878 again

OK—now for the 1878 volume. Henley, talking about the 13 July number says in a letter to Stevenson:

Don’t tax me with ‘Ce Que Se Dit’. I only brushed it up. In doing so, I’ve made it presentable, but I’ve broken the author’s heart. (Atkinson, 52)

This sounds like Henley not apologising for having changed a poem by Stevenson (the person who might ‘tax’ him about it). Here it is: Screenshot 2015-06-29 18.34.51on the strict Q.T., ‘confidential (quiet)’ (first Advanced Google Books Search hits: 1877; 1877 song by Lydia Thompson; called ‘a crude expression’ in George Moore’s A Mummer’s Wife (1884));
rather! ‘yes! I should think so!’ (OED (1904) calls this ‘vulgar’, the online OED identifies this as ‘Brit. colloq.‘; first OED citation 1836);
ripping! ‘great, excellent, stunning’ (first OED citation 1776).

My guess is that this may have been about Fanny Osbourne with the last line a piece of American slang, that Henley changed to British slang (to make it presentable)—absolutely no proof, except that ‘You feel you’re tripping’ doesn’t fit well into the previous two lines and seems inserted to rhyme with ‘ripping’. Well, it’s perhaps not worth losing any sleep about, whatever the story is behind it.

6 July number

This was a week with ‘an article also’ opposite the payment for the ‘Arabian’ episode but a payment that corresponded only to that episode. I looked again, but could find nothing

27 July number

Subtracting the estimated payment for the ‘Arabian’ episode from the total payment, left me looking for a contribution of about half a column. The ‘Whispering Gallery’ section has three items of news from Paris, one in particular about the Jurors of the Exposition (and Stevenson was nominal secretary to one of them, Fleeming Jenkins). It starts ‘The Exposition has developed inventions undreamt of by the carnal mind of the casual observer. For instance, amongst the Jurors hospitality reigns’ (where ‘carnal mind’ could have a Stevensonian epithet). It goes on to mention that dishes with new names have been invented and gives a menu with items like ‘Potage. Emaillé de Printanier’ and ‘Truits. Patinée à Génèvoise’. This could be the Stevenson contribution—nothing earth-shaking, as you can see.

3 August number

Here, again, I was looking for something of half a column or less. And, again in the ‘Whispering Gallery’ section there is a contribution ‘from a letter’ that sounds as if it might be from Stevenson, containing a nonsense rhyme: Screenshot 2015-06-30 18.17.17Here, the French word béquille ‘crutch’ and béquiller ‘walk with crutches’ has clearly touched the poet’s funny nerve (maybe because a homophone béquiller (from bec ‘beak’) is a slang word for ‘eat’) and he creates a calque in English ‘to beckle’ which he repeats and varies in a crazy progression that threatens to extend to infinity.

There is a good chance this is by Stevenson: it is from a letter (the origin of other contributions from Stevenson in this period), it involves play with French, which we often find him doing, the creation through use of a new meaning of ‘fulfilled’  at the end of the third stanza reminds one of Stevenson’s typical word-play, and Stevenson writes similar verse in other letters to Henley in this period (e.g. L2, 259).

That’s it

With that, I had more-or-less accounted for the four annotations of ‘an article also’ on the 1878 list of payments. That list, of course, only goes up to 10 August and it is possible that Stevenson continued contributing short pieces and poems after that. But this I generously leave to another researcher.

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Missing Stevenson articles in London magazine, part 2

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Summary: Following Part 1 of this investigation, we here justify the assumption that the list of 1878 payments covers only the first ten episodes of ‘Latter-Day Arabian Nights’; we calculate a rough rate of payment for articles in London; predict  the location and length of the missing ‘articles’, and give some more extracts from them.
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The ‘Inland Voyage’ Notebook

The ‘Inland Voyage’ notebook in the Beinecke Library  contains a page of income for 1878, the first part drawn up in ink in early June 1878 (since the last item written in ink—the opening episode of the ‘Later-Day Arabian Nights’—was published on 8 June), and continued afterwards in pencil:

E4.1978_payments.InVoy_Nb.numb_p.13v

Inland Voyage Notebook (Beinecke GM 664 3, 851 (B 6452), Notebook ‘RLS/F’), numbered p. 13v

Generously leaving the pencil additions on the right of the page and the totals top right and bottom left to be explained by another researcher, the main list can be transcribed as follows:.

Screenshot 2014-11-09 17.51.08

The first thing to note is that the list does not cover all Stevenson’s publications in 1878, as we can see if we look at the table below of 1878 publications in chronological order, with items on the Notebook list in bold:

Screenshot 2014-11-09 18.02.44

Stevenson’s 1878 publications

The Notebook list is in chronological order, except for Inland Voyage in third place, probably because payment for this book was made before publication. However, the list does not name any titles after ‘English Admirals’; the three unnamed final payments in the Notebook list must be a continuation of the series of payments for ‘New Arabian Nights’.

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Can we find evidence for 1878 payments in other documents?

Charles Baxter acted as Stevenson’s banker and investment manager, and kept a record of receipts and payments in his ‘Accounts Current between Robert Louis Stevenson […] and Mitchell and Baxter W.S.’ (these records in the The Harry Ransom Center at the Univesity of Texas). However, it seems clear that a number of payments did not pass through Baxter’s Accounts but were kept by RLS for his current expenses, so this record will not be complete. Additional evidence of payments comes from letters (in this case, Henley’s letters to RLS and to Baxter).

Baxter’s ‘Accounts Current’ for 23 August record a payment of £3 7s ‘Cheque from Mr Sutton [Alfred Sutton, the publisher of London], London’. This does not correspond to any item on the list, suggesting that the the latter ends before 23 August, or the number of London that the payment refers to: assuming this was a payment for the ‘Latter-Day Arabian Nights’, and since there was no episode on 24 August, it must have been a late payment for the episode of 17 August or an early payment, on receipt of the MS, for the episode of 31 August. We’ll look at this later when we’ve worked out the probable rate of payment made by London. [Added later: it’s probably for 17 August episode; £3 7s works out as 28 pence per hundred words, a very similar rate to that of the other ‘Arabian’ episodes.]

A letter written by Henley to Baxter dated 12 September 1878 (Yale, B 4555) mentions that it includes two payments of £3 5s and £2, but this does not correspond to any payment on the list and would confirm that the Notebook list covers only part of the year.

Baxter’s Accounts also have a payment dated 13 September of £8 8s. ‘in payment of contribution to “Cornhill”’, which although identical to the Cornhill payment for ‘The English Admirals’ on the list must be for ‘Child’s Play’, published in the same magazine that month.

In an earlier letter of Henley to RLS of 20 June 1878 (Atkinson 51), WEH send £4 in sovereigns and owes 7/6 because he ‘can’t post three half-crowns’, even though he has received them (from the publisher to forward to contributors): this must correspond to the £4 payment of item 10 on the Notebook list, corresponding to the ‘Arabian’ episode of 15 June (see below, ‘Payments for the “Latter-Day Arabian Nights’). The list, if this is true, records only actual payments received and could be seen as Stevenson’s way of keeping account of his limited income and expenditure while living with Fanny Osbourne in Paris.

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Payments for articles in London

Let’s take ‘A Plea for Gas Lamps’ and its payment of £1 11s 6d or 378 pence, and see how this relates to the number of words (payment by column or column-inch would be proportionate to this). The essay has 1325 words, so this works out as 29 pence per hundred words. ‘Pan’s Pipes’ receives an identical fee, but is slightly longer: 1430 words (it is also longer in columns or column inches). This immediately tells us that any measurement of length was made roughly. The rate here is 26 pence per hundred words. ‘El Dorado’ is paid less, £1 6s or 312 pence, and is in fact shorter at 1166 words, which works out at 27 pence per hundred words.

Screenshot 2014-11-14 08.54.38

Calculated rates of payment for three essays published in London

It looks at this point as if these three contributions are paid by length at about 27 pence per hundred words or 19 pence per column inch, with length roughly measured or rounded up and down by a system we cannot know. We can get a better idea of the rate by looking at the payments for the ‘Latter-Day Arabian Nights’.

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Payments for the ‘Latter-Day Arabian Nights’

If the payments without any title in the Notebook list all refer to the ‘Latter-Day Arabian Nights’ then there are 9 payments for ‘Arabs’. One of them, however, is for £9 so it must be for two episodes. If the list contains all the payments for the first ten episodes, then it goes from 8 June to 10 August, the date when the list was abandoned (soon after Stevenson returned from France), thus leaving 8 episodes unrecorded, including the £3 7s recorded by Baxter on 23 August:

1878 Notebook payments associated with 'Arab' episodes and calculated payemnts. In yellow, presumed payment for two episodes; in orange, payments apparently for 'Arab' and something else and the weeks associated with an 'article also' in the list

Possible assigment of ‘Arab’ episodes to Notebook list payments

If we calculate the rate per hundred words of these episodes, then the £9 covers episodes 3 and 4 very neatly and there is a close approximation of weeks with a higher rate per hundred words (56, 34, 33, 35) and the weeks (if this association of payments and episodes is correct) when the Notebook marks an ‘article also’:

Screenshot 2014-11-11 08.58.32

1878 Notebook payments associated with ‘Arab’ episodes and calculated rates per 100 words. In yellow, presumed payment for two episodes; in orange, payments apparently for ‘Arab’ and something else and the weeks associated with an ‘article also’ in the list

The payment for the first five episodes comes out as 29, 27, 29 and 29 pence per hundred words, which looks very close to the payment for the three essays in London, 29, 26 and 27 pence per hundred words. The second payment has a slightly lower rate—but if this is the £4 which Henley paid on 20 June (Atkinson, 51), then the full payment owed would be £4 7s 6d,  which works out as 29 pence per hundred words for this episode also. Hence, for the calculations of the payments we’ll take 29 pence per hundred words as the standard payment for ‘Arabs’. This will probably not be the actual rate (paid by page or column) but will give us results that are roughly correct.

It should be said that the words have been calculated from the sections published in London (the list of opening and closing words of each episode kindly supplied by Roger Swearingen), as they were reprinted in the 1882 volume New Arabian Nights—it may well be that these sections were slightly longer or shorter in the book version, so for the moment (and I am generously leaving the counting of the words in the London version to another researcher) these must be seen as rough calculations only, though probably not too far from the actual numbers.

Taking then these numbers of words for the episodes in London, we see that payments for episodes 6—9 (13 Jul—3 Aug) are clearly accompanied by payments for additional items. The notebook list, however, suggests the additional items were associated with episodes 5—8 (6 Jul—27 Jul). The first of these, 6 July, is one of the payments of £4. Could it be that this is the payment of £4 made by Henley on 20 June? £4, as we see, covers payment for ‘Arab’ episode six at 29 pence per hundred words (henceforth, I’m afraid: ‘pphw’); in this case—and the reader will here be aware that I am adding a series of possibilities one on the other, a structure which, like a house of cards, has its limits; but who knows, we may arrive at a single convincing hypothesis at the end covering everything satisfactorily—in this case, the 7s 6d that Henley owed Stevenson would be for that ‘article also’, published on the 6 July, and (using the rough rates discovered) just over 300 words long. This would be about 25 lines or a third of a column in length, so a very short piece, probably in the weekly odd items section called ‘Whispering Gallery’.

Unfortunately in looking through the 6 July number, RLA and myself had not noted anything that seemed to be by Stevenson. The only item that caught our attention in that number was ‘The Ethics of Lying’, which might have started him thinking about ‘Truth of Intercourse’—but, apart from the un-Stevensonsonian style, this is much longer, about 1800 words in length. Perhaps the short item in question was published on 13 July?

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Additional Stevenson contribution to the 13 July number?

There was in fact an item in the 13 July number of London that both RLA and myself thought was almost certainly by Stevenson. It is unfortunately just under 300 words, 272 words to be exact. Anyway, here it is, from the ‘Whispering Gallery’ section of the magazine:

And by the way, what amazing devil (to quote the late Charles Dickens) is it that impels the distinguished lady who wrote “Adam Bede” to write such bitter dulness as “A College Breakfast Party”? Why should this woman of genius in prose imperil her soul by endeavouring to be also a woman of genius in verse? Surely if she be not all-wise herself, she has friends who are wise enough to save her from such a shame? Or is it true that the wicked world must approach her on its bended knees, and that her words are one and all oracular? I am not an enthusiast of hers, but I even am sorry. Her blank verse always reminds me of deals in a timber yard, or bricks stacked up for use at a builder’s; and never a whit of poetry. Before “A College Breakfast Party” even Professor Dowden and Mr. G. H. Lewes, I should think, would “tremble and turn and be changed.” But there’s no accounting for tastes, and no disputing them neither. What to you and me, dear reader of my heart, is only dulness and awkwardness and a mistake, may be to others one of the greatest works of the human mind. It is amazing how desperately a personal interest will modify one’s views! And let us not forget that while we (you and I, that is) are thanking heaven we are not as they are, they—the elect—are thanking heaven (or its equivalent) they are not as we are. And so the world wags on, and bad literature is let look for half a minute like good. (London, 13 July 1878, p. 36)

‘A College Breakfast Party’ had been published in Macmillan’s Magazine for July 1878. The view of George Eliot in this brief London note is similar to that expressed by Stevenson in a letter of December 1877, in which he also uses the phrase ‘woman of genius’:

George Eliot: a high but, may we not add? − a rather dry Lady.[…] Hats off, all the same, you understand: a woman of genius. (Letters 2, 228)

The piece also contains some unexpected phrases that sound Stevensonian: ‘bitter dulness’, ‘I even am sorry’, and ‘let look’ (‘bad literature is let look for half a minute like good’)—the second and third are examples of how Stevenson invents new syntactical combinations that are perfectly understandable but strange at the same time. The third-to-last sentence (‘It is amazing how desperately a personal interest will modify one’s views!’) and the sentence that follows are also reminiscent of the passage in ‘Virginibus Puerisque’ (from 1876) about how everyone believes their own opinions to be true:

The word “facts” is, in some ways, crucial. I have spoken with Jesuits and Plymouth Brethren, mathematicians and poets, dogmatic republicans and dear old gentlemen in bird’s-eye neckcloths; and each understood the word “facts” in an occult sense of his own. Try as I might, I could get no nearer the principle of their division. What was essential to them seemed to me trivial or untrue. We could come to no compromise as to what was, or what was not, important in the life of man. Turn as we pleased, we all stood back to back in a big ring, and saw another quarter of the heavens, with different mountain-tops along the sky-line and different constellations overhead. We had each of us some whimsy in the brain, which we believed more than anything else, and which discoloured all experience to its own shade. How would you have people agree, when one is deaf and the other blind?

The cheekiness of ‘thanking heaven (or its equivalent)’ is also reminiscent of Stevenson’s 1870s essays, as is the slightly crazy nonchalance of ‘Her blank verse always reminds me of deals in a timber yard, or bricks stacked up for use at a builder’s; and never a whit of poetry’.

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Adding up possible Stevensonian contributions to the 13 July number

The payment of £5 (1200 pence) for an ‘Arabian’ episode and ‘an article also’ would correspond to 4138 words (at 29 pphw). If it refers to the 13 July number of London, does this payment correspond to Stevenson’s certain and probable contributions to that number? i.e. episode six of the ‘Arabs’, ‘A Story-teller’ (see Part 1 of this report) and this brief notice on George Eliots’s ‘A College Breakfast Party’? Let’s see:

Screenshot 2014-11-23 07.37.55

RLS contributions to London 13 July

We are still 749 words short of the quantity of ‘copy’ that should correspond to the £5 payment. Zut, alors! In our examination of the bound volumes in October, neither RLA nor myself identified anything else clearly by Stevenson in this number, and—alas!—we did not make scans (so inexpensive and so easy to make in the new British Library Newsroom!) which we could now be examining at our leisure. However, there is another clue from a letter by Henley to RLS dated 12 July. Talking about the contents for 13 July number:

Don’t tax me with ‘Ce Que Se Dit’. I only brushed it up. In doing so, I’ve made it presentable, but I’ve broken the author’s heart. (Atkinson, 52)

Atkinson’s footnote to ‘Ce Que Se Dit’ says ‘A three verse unsigned poem in the issue of 13 July’. Judging by Henley’s comment it could have been a poem by RLS that Henley revised without consultation and is now trying to pre-empt criticism by making a joke about it. Unfortunately, we don’t have a scan of this page, nor do we have any idea of the rate of payment for verse: it’s unlikely to be 749 words but perhaps it was paid by the column inch.

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And the 20 July number?

RLA and myself identified several connected short items probably by Stevenson in the ‘Whispering Gallery’ section about Paris and the 1878 Paris Exhibition in the 20 July number of London. The series of short items begins like this:

Screenshot 2014-11-23 09.00.02

London, 20 July 1878, p. 61

On 7 June 1878, RLS had left Edinburgh for Paris, where he was secretary to Fleeming Jenkins, a member of the Jury for the Paris Exposition. He stayed in Hotel Mirabeau, moving to Hotel du Val de Grace, rue St Jacques in late June/early July. On 11 July he left Paris for Grez.

He must have written these notes just before leaving, as Henley writes to him on 12 July ‘I have received notes and Hansom Cabs. […] Shall print and pay for Whispers. Next week’ (Atkinson, 52). By ‘next week’ he meant the issue of 20 July, when the first part of ‘The Adventure of the Hansom Cabs’ appeared and also these Notes from Paris in the ‘Whispering Gallery’ section. The notes include a section about the good-natured festive crowd on what must be the Avenue de l’Opéra lit by electric lights; as he mentions the singing of the Marseillaise, this must be the celebration of the Republic on 30 June, which was also a popular expression of national pride after the defeat of 1870, with music and singing in the streets until late and much waving of flags (celebrated in a painting by Monet). He describes the hotel chambermaid preparing to go out into the festive streets (the opening comment is by Henley):

Screenshot 2014-11-23 14.37.08

We can see Stevenson’s typical unexpected epithet in ‘the conspicuous morning’; the French way of proclaiming feelings is also commented on in ‘Forest Notes’ (1876)—people recommended Grez for its beauty, adding ‘ “Il y a de l’eau,” […] with an emphasis, as if that settled the question’.

The Notes also contain a description of the first post-Revolutionary 14 July celebrations—officially comemorating the centenary of the death of Rousseau, after the govenment had forbidden any street celebrations for the fall of the Bastille—including a description of the main celebration in the Cirque Myers led by Louis Blanc. This is perhaps not by Stevenson, who would have had to return to Paris from Grez and then send a supplementary note. Excluding this from his contribution also makes sense from the point of view of the payment.

In fact, 3414 words (for the ‘Arab’) and 575 words (Paris Notes without the 14 July event) make 3989 words. Paid at 29 pphw, this number of words would correspond to 1157 pence—practically identical with the 1152 pence paid (£4 16s).

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27 July?

This gets a bit embarassing. For 27 July, if our assignment of dates to the Notebook entries is correct, 3852 words (for the ‘Arab’) needs to be complemented by 534 words (‘an article also’) to make the 4386 words that correspond to the 1272 pence (£5 6s) paid. This is assuming that everything is paid at 29 pphw (the extra article would be 574 words if paid at 27 pphw).

Unfortunately, we only noted one item in the 27 July number that we thought could be by Stevenson, a review entitled ‘History of the Indian Mutiny’ (p. 90) and we gave it a vote of two out of five, so practically excluded it, though we know that Stevenson was interested in this episode of history. I have no record of its length, nor (alas!) a scan, which would have been so easy to make…

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And 3 August?

Similarly for 3 August the payment of 1080 pence (£4 10s) covers the 3108 words of the ‘Arab’ episode and 744 words (or a bit more if the rate of payment was lower) of the extra ‘article’.

Here, we noted the following as possible candidates: ‘The Humours of “Bradshaw”‘ (pp. 111-12), ‘Bohemia: Emile Augier III. The Dramatist’ (pp. 112-13), ‘Modern Frenchmen’ (pp. 113-14). We gave a vote of two to the first; the same vote to the second (which, however, is the third of a series of articles), and one to the third. We did not make a scan for these pages either.

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The assignment of dates to the ‘Latter-Day Arabian Nights’ episodes in the Notebook list finds a good correspondence between payments and the length of the ‘Arab’ episodes and has also helped us to identify three contributions by Stevenson.

The unique copies of London in the British Library contain much of interest: the many poems written by Henley and perhaps by Stevenson; the contributions by Katherine De Mattos and Walter Ferrier (much admired by Stevenson), possible contributions from Bob, as well as Henley’s important input. It deserves a study of its own, to which the present study has made a small and incomplete contribution. (If only we’d made those scans…)

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Missing Stevenson articles in London magazine, part 1

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The story so far

In January 2013, Robert-Louis Abrahamson and myself went to the Colindale Newspaper Library to try and identify possible unsigned articles by Robert Louis Stevenson in the weekly magazine London, edited by his friend W. E. Henley. We found a couple of possible candidates from early 1877 but didn’t have time to look through all the issues from 1877 to 1879, the period of the magazine’s short life.

It was only later that the significance of a list of 1878 publications made in the ‘Inland Voyage’ notebook became clear to me: four additional and unnamed ‘articles’ were listed along with payments for episodes of Stevenson’s ‘Arabian Nights’. Shortly after our visit, however, the British Library closed the Colindale Newspaper Library with no access to the collection for a year while it was moved to the new repository at Boston Spa in Yorkshire.

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The new British Library Newsroom

Screenshot 2014-11-13 08.01.52Then in October this year, having received an assurance that London was among the journals now available, I stayed with RLA once more for a few days and we went to look at London for 1878.

The new Newsroom at the British Library is a pleasant, luminous space, extending down to the left of the first desks in the photograph (right), and looking down, on this long side, over a double-height lower level below. It wasn’t crowded, conditions were ideal, and at the end we made copies on a huge scanner ourselves: 45p each because we had paper copies, but even less if you copy onto a memory stick.

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A mistake

By an unfortunate chance, when preparing the trip I’d referred to a file of my calculations based on the supposition that all the ‘Arabian Nights’ payments were in the Notebook list and that the additional articles must be located between August (when RLS had returned from France with Fanny and family) and October (before the start of what became ‘Providence and the Guitar’—not included in the list—in November).

So we started working through this period, turning over the pages, ignoring articles on political, financial and sporting subjects and looking at the others: RLA read the beginning paragraph while I looked at the last one on the page. This seemed a good way to do things with limited time. We then consulted and gave a vote from 0 (definitely not by Stevenson) to 5 (definitely by Stevenson). In this way we spent the morning with no vote going above 1 or 2 (= almost certainly not Stevenson).

Then we had lunch on one of the pleasant British Library terraces overlooking the atrium, and afterwards, still at the table, we looked again at an image of the list of 1878 payments. It was then that the penny dropped: three of these articles are listed before ‘English Admirals’, published in the Cornhill in July 1878, and the fourth immediately after. So the period where we should be looking was June and July and perhaps early August. We returned to the Newsroom and started searching with renewed attention.

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What we found

The first thing we found was a letter with the title ‘A Story-teller’ and signed ‘Rue Saint Jacques’, which we knew was Stevenson’s address in Paris at the time. It was in praise of a writer who we didn’t know Stevenson was familiar with, Sheridan Le Fanu. There is no mention of him in the letters or essays, and it is only in a letter of Henley to Colvin about 1885 that we learn that Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly was ‘a book for which R. L. S. had a profound respect’ and was the basis for the idea of the play ‘The Hanging Judge’. The article—not really a letter, as London had no regular correspondence column and this contribution was undoubtedy paid for (for which, see part 2)—also mentions a favourite character named ‘Jekyl’ and another book (Wylder’s Hand) which we know contains a minor character with the same name (and contains a troubling hand reminiscent of the hand of Hyde). An extract is given below.

We also found in the ‘Whispering Gallery’ section of short news items a series of notes about Paris and the 1878 Exhibition which are clearly also by Stevenson and are in fact referred to in a letter of Henley in this period.

And that was it: we found some other pieces to which we gave a vote of 3 or 4. One of them was ‘The Ethics of Lying’ which did not seem to me to contain any stylistic clues, but which RLA thought could have set Stevenson thinking about ‘Truth of Intercourse’ written shortly after.

So there are still two ‘articles’ unfound—though we looked through every possible candidate and debated their merits. There was also poem called ‘Choice of a Profession’, the title of an unpublished essay written by Stevenson shortly after. We didn’t think it was by Stevenson, but thought perhaps Henley wrote it as a joke after having heard of Stevenson’s idea to write something. (We had noticed on the previous visit a poem with the title ‘Virginibus Puerisque’, which we thought might be a similar joke or kind of indirect promotion.)

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A story-teller

(an extract)
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To construct a story, Mr. Editor, is no very commonplace accomplishment. To be able first to construct, and then to tell, a story, is to be a man among ten thousand. Now, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was a man who could build up a fable on the eternal principles: not to irritate the mind for the first volume or so with a mystery which must sooner or later leak out and prove a disappointment, but to raise one picturesque and speaking situation on another, and to satisfy amply, as well as to suspend, the reader’s curiosity. His stories have a profile; he throws a sunset behind a situation with the hand of a master; the oddest things go on in the moonlight; and his old houses are filled with threatening whispers and events. Do you remember the fellow who was shipwrecked with the gold ring? or the butterfly of light that played over Lily Dogger as she lay half asleep in the cupboard off the kitchen? or Wylder’s hand appearing suddenly from the landslip? or the scuffle in the stable lane in Haunted Lives? I will hardily confess, Mr. Editor, and I call on you to confess, that this was a writer who had a mighty sensitive touch for the picturesque. I try all sorts of competitors against him in my mind; I try Wilkie Collins and his dry bones; I try Mr. Payn with his somewhat meagre execution. Again, I look on the other side of the water, and try Gaboriau, and try Féval, and try De Boisgobey, so skilful to begin, so incapable of finishing, his vast machines; and I say, without fear of contradiction, that Le Fanu possesses a sounder scheme of story-making and had better effects in his repertory than any man among the lot.

And then, after a fashion, he could write the things he fancied. He had a capital assortment of types; he had a young lady that was as good as new at the end of a dozen novels; he had an old lady with a temper who possesses all our sympathies from first to last; he was a dead hand with lawyers, clergymen, and horse-jockeys; and for the wicked squire he held a patent that has never been infringed. I am a cordial admirer of Le Fanu’s wicked country gentlemen. His temper is the genuine article; it is temper, and bad temper, too, and imposes on the respect of a timid man like me. And, then, he is never too wicked; he has always the raw material of goodness under his shooting-jacket; he is a true human being, and I do not find I weary of him after he has appeared under a dozen different pseudonyms and at a dozen different ages. All this without prejudice to the charming country houses, in which this luxurious writer makes a point of honour to instal him, and the admirable cigars with which he supplies him from the first page to the last.

Of course, Le Fanu’s writing is just where he sins. A man who could write so well ought simply to be well birched for not having written better. He was hurried, slovenly, unconscientious; positively dishonest to the public and the Smiling Providence who made him. And the man who could make Sir Jekyl Marlow converse so magisterially with his brother Dives, ought to have hidden his head in the nearest conduit whenever he remembered the disgraceful rubbish he suffered to escape his pen at other times. You must not judge Le Fanu from his foot, for it was of a very inferior sort of clay and carelessly prepared.

Written by rdury

14/11/2014 at 6:55 am

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Missing Manuscripts

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Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing career spanned only twenty years (1873–94) yet in that time he produced an amazing number and in particular an amazing variety of works—for him each work was a new start, he was continually experimenting. He started publishing in the 1870s as a brilliant and very personal London-based essayist. Then in August 1879 he undertook his punishing journey to California to join his future wife. A year later he returned to Europe and picked up his essay-writing career together with short-story writing. One turning point came with the writing of Treasure Island in the second half of 1881 and then in January 1886 came his ‘break-through book’, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and, later in the same amazing year, Kidnapped. His departure for the USA in August 1887 marks a final turning point as he abandoned London literary life and, as a writer, moved close to literary Realism, adopting a new setting and new themes for the works he wrote in the South Seas (1888–94).

Naturally enough, there are few manuscripts extant from his early career: young writers tend to throw such things into the fire and so unfortunately we will never see the manuscript of Treasure Island. Stevenson’s constant travels, created many breaking-up-home situations where odd piles of manuscript could be thrown away, lost or put down and only in part picked up again: the last three chapters of the Kidnapped manuscript probably got lost in this way and the middle fifty per cent of the Jekyll and Hyde manuscript must have disappeared, after a loose shuffle, in a similar way. After his death, his widow and stepdaughter gave away odd pages of manuscript as keepsakes and Christmas presents.

Stevenson’s widow inherited his manuscripts and library and when she died in 1914, her heirs decided to sell off almost everything: this led to the three auctions at the Anderson Galleries in New York in November 1914, continuing in January 1915 and February 1916. The catalogues of these sales are essential reference for Stevenson collectors as they list and describe the vast majority of extant Stevenson manuscripts. These then reappeared in later sales and now most of them have ended up in libraries open to scholars, the lion’s share being at Yale University, most of these the donation of Edwin J. Beinecke.

However, a tantalising number of manuscripts surfaced at sales but have never appeared again. Some of these may even be in public libraries as yet unnoticed. Though this is less likely in the computer age of Google searches, it could still happen that a library has manuscripts that have not yet been signalled to Stevenson scholars. Syracuse University Library had a small collection of Stevenson manuscripts from 1970 (including the essay ‘My First Book: Treasure Island’) but this was unremarked by Stevenson scholars until over thirty years later.

Other manuscripts are undoubtedly still in private hands, most probably in the USA. Two of them, however, were ‘last seen’ in Britain: the essays ‘Virginibus Puerisque’ and ‘On Falling in Love’, outstanding works of Stevenson’s early career, were sold at a British Red Cross fund-raising sale in 1918 but have been unheard of since. At least these were published, so we can read the final versions, but other manuscripts, even more tantalising, are known to us only by the title. One of these is the autobiographical ‘Memoirs of Himself’, which Stevenson wrote when living alone in San Francisco in 1880: Book I about his childhood is at Harvard, Book II about his youth and University days has disappeared, but Book III entitled ‘From Jest to Earnest’ about his early career and marriage should still exist somewhere: it was sold at the Anderson sale in 1914 but has never been heard of since. Other interesting works that have disappeared from view are his article for boys ‘On the Value of Books and Reading’, sold in 1914; and the journal he wrote as a law clerk in Edinburgh, sold in 1924.

 The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson would be very interested to learn of the whereabouts of any ‘lost manuscripts’ by RLS, either in overlooked collections in small public libraries or still in private collections.

Written by rdury

17/09/2010 at 6:44 pm

Writing Explanatory Notes

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I don’t know about you, but when I pick up a new annotated edition I go straight to the explanatory notes—the salted peanuts of the volume as far as deliciousness and difficulty of stopping are concerned. Unlike salted peanuts, however, they are all different: more like a series of entries in that fascinating publication Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It would seem that we are hard wired as a species to like random information—which might explain, to a puzzled observer like myself, the addictive nature of mobile phones.

When it comes to writing such notes, however, you are immediately aware of a series of problems, and it was to share ideas about this that Prof. Burkhard Niederhoff kindly invited fellow essay-editor Lesley Graham and myself to speak for a morning in June this year at the University of Bochum. This gave us an opportunity to think about our experience in writing notes; what follows are a few notes about what was said, followed by a summary of a recent article and information about a conference on this very subject.

 

General considerations (Lesley Graham)

1. What we annotate. 1. literary, biblical and historical allusions; 2. words that are not immediately understandable; 3. words in a foreign language; 4. proper names; 5. cross-references to themes covered by Stevenson elsewhere; 6. biographical details; 7. facts that can be checked.

2. The imagined reader. Someone a little like ourselves. Not a school child, but not a literary expert either. Not an expert in either essays, history, philosophy, the life of Stevenson or 19th Century philosophy, but someone with a curious mind. Not necessarily a Westerner, but someone with at least a basic knowledge of the Western literary canon. Not a fluent speaker of French or Italian or Scots, or German, nor a reader of Latin, but someone that knows what voilà and al fresco mean. And probably someone who will occasionally like to take some of these notes a little further.
[RD: 1. For the essays in particular, we imagine a range of readers: the notes here, apart from as a way of understanding the text, are going to be read for a wide range of documentary reasons, so, for example, it’s a good idea to provide relevant background biographical information.]

3. Wouldn’t digital annotation be better? Hyperlinks can be detrimental to a profound reading experience; the affect is engaged in different ways when we see an essay as a whole self-standing thing with its own current and internal logic rather than an organic, pulsing jump off point. Our job in the volume is to accompany the reader, without allowing him/her to go off on long detours, in a reflective reading experience, to facilitate the reading of the work, to accompany the reader’s understanding and appreciation of it but doing some of the hard work of establishing context, definition, and allusion but none (or very little) of the joyful, heuristic work.

4. Restraint. There are so many fascinating facts to be found and that may seem highly relevant but when you step back and look at the whole thing again, you realize you have to cull the extraneous material if you want to preserve the joy of discovering the essay for the reader.

5. Some problems found while annotating the essays.
1. Stevenson writes either two or three parish churches: should we supply information where the author is deliberately vague? (in this case, no).
2. Obscure terminology, e.g. travellers, and headers, and rubble, and polished ashlar: should we define terms that Stevenson did not expect his readers to know? (we decided, yes in this case).
3. Avoid self-indulgent additional information, e.g. Turnberry Point: should we mention the Trump golf-course there now? (no; restraint required). Dunfermline, in whose royal towers the king may be still observed (in the ballad) drinking the blood-red wine: in supplying the allusion to the ballad should we add historical information about royal connections of the town (we thought not).
4. And a lord he was (reading a Greek New Testament on the beach of Fair Isle): do we need to identify him? (yes;  Stevenson does so in his letter from Fair Isle).
[RD: Item (iv) is a case of Stevenson’s use of allusions that are known to only a small number of readers or often only by himself. The essay editors in their discussions have called these ‘bald allusions’ and Barry Menikoff, with reference to Kidnapped, has called the phenomenon ‘subtextual meaning’: ‘Stevenson actually defies rather than helps his real readers. He forces them to uncover the allusions for themselves, but nothing is lost if they do not. For the surface prose is sufficient unto itself; the literal meaning of the text can be followed with no difficulty whatever’ (Narrating Scotland, 60; see also 59-60, 91-2, 109). I think it’s clear that the reader of an annotated edition will want to have these allusions explained.]
5. My business lay in the two Anstruthers: do we provide date and Stevenson’s reason for being there? (yes: the essays will be used by those interested in Stevenson’s biography.)
6. Shell House: should we supply more information about this place? (yes: the essay will be used by those interested in local history, so we need to explain the ‘snatches of verse’ and to point out that its location as an ‘outpost’ to Anstruther Wester is the result of a confusion with another shell-decorated house).

6. Excluded from Explanatory Notes in the essays.
1. any analysis of the structure of the essay, of its internal logic.
2.the editor’s personal reading, irrelevant in a scholarly edition. This is at once frustrating (I would love to tell you about how I believe ‘An Education of an Engineer’ is really about the difficulty of communication and the risk of miscommunication, but also humbling and affords freedom for follow up studies and analyses.)

7. Lightness (RD). 1. put first the most important and the relevant things; 2. put things in chronological (and other ‘natural’) order; 3. don’t use complicated series of subordinate clauses etc.; 4. give the most probable explanation without too much hedging.

 

Writing definitions (Richard Dury)

1. Place the gloss or definition first.
Scots law the legal system of Scotland: under the 1707 Act etc. [more information]
A medlar the fewer on the three-legged medlar-tree! one rotten fruit the fewer on the gallows tree; medlar: etc. [glosses and commentary on ‘medlar’ and ‘three-legged’].

2. Make the gloss syntactically equivalent to the lemma. Examples: check-string cord etc (not ‘a cord’); doubled … with played by the same actor as. The definition should ideally be able to replace the lemma in the text.

3. Don’t copy-and-paste the OED definition. This is difficult in our edition anyway, where the note starts with a lower case letter if preceded by an elided ‘is’ or ‘means’ (e.g. ‘Scots law [is] the legal system of Scotland’) and OED definitions always start with a capital letter; difficult anyway because you will often be glossing a noun or verb not in the dictionary citation form, so the ‘lemma’ followed by the OED definition would not make a coherent sentence (see previous item). Other reasons for adapting the OED definition or writing your own definition are given in the following points. [LG It may be useful to compare the OED definition with other dictionary definitions]

4. Make OED definition clearer and more concise if necessary. OED definitions will cover many cases, for the Explanatory Notes only the relevant parts should be included. You may also be able to make the formulation less wordy than in the OED: e.g. : check-string a string by which the occupant of a carriage may signal to the driver to stop (OED) / cord inside a carriage, pulled to tell the driver to stop.

5. Look critically at OED definitions and the citations. The OED, like all sublunary things, is not perfect; you may need to write a definition not found there, e.g. the entry for hold the candle does not mention its use (from French) of ‘assist in a love affair’, though Stevenson uses the phrase alluding to this meaning on at least a couple of occasions. In other cases, reading the citations carefully will reveal a meaning not listed. [LG: When the citation is the very sentence you seek to elucidate, give yourself a clap on the back]

6. Look elsewhere for help in defining a word or phrase. 1. Look elsewhere in Stevenson’s works, e.g. a puzzling use of motive may be resolved by finding that he sometimes uses the word to mean ‘motif’ (for this you will need a corpus of Stevenson’s writings; I’ll try and provide this asap). 2. Look in related entries in the OED, e.g. a reference to Henry James and his humorists of ordinary life may be solved by looking at ‘humour’ meaning ‘a particular disposition, inclination, or liking’. 3. Search internet (including using Google Advanced Book Search) so that, instead of the general OED definition, sinnet, for example, can be defined with relevance to its use in the text: ‘braided, rather than twisted, cordage, (here) the typical flat, plaited coconut-fibre cords of the Pacific islands’. 4. Take into account what the reader needs to understand, phenomena possibly assumed as known by the OED, e.g. aspects and connotations of vanished Victorian domestic life such as pass-key and area. 5. Inspect the cognate word in French (see next point).

7. Be aware that Stevenson often invents new uses of words. The context is of more importance than the OED in determining Stevenson’s ‘nonce’ meanings, e.g. a generic in the following: ‘Boswell’s is, indeed, a very special case, and almost a generic’. After studying the whole context very carefully it seems clear that Stevenson is using ‘a generic’ to mean ‘a case apart, i.e. a genus on its own’, not found in the OED. Stevenson’s nonce-words or -uses are often calques from French: checking in the online Trésor de la lange française is a good strategy in doubtful cases. Check with Google Advanced Book Search to confirm a suspected original use by Stevenson.

8. The OED may only provide negative information (show what is not possible). For example blowing in the key cannot mean ‘thrusting in the key’ as there are no examples of ‘to blow’ as a verb derived from (the etymologically unrelated) noun ‘a blow’ (it means ‘blowing to remove any dust from the key before inserting it’).

 

3. An article on annotation

Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirke (2017), ‘Explanatory Annotation of Literary Texts and the Reader: Seven Types of Problems’, International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 11.ii (2017): 212-232.

The second part of the article describes a model of layered annotations for digital editions, but the following notes are only on the first part, which examines seven ways that existing annotations  do not take into account readerly needs. The comments there are of interest to both print and digital annotation.

The authors propose not to attempt guidance by an imagined readership but to provide annotations that are of use to a variety of readers and do not think that interpretation should be discarded from annotations altogether. They then analyze a series of actual annotations by asking two questions: (A) What knowledge does the annotation presuppose? (B) What knowledge does it provide? Here are the seven types of annotation problems.

1. Stating the obvious: explaining something that any potential reader will know already or can gather from the text itself.

2. Inconsistent assumptions and unclear functions: where the explanation assumes lack of knowledge in an area but uses unexplained terms from the same area; or provides information which does not have a clear function in understanding the text.

3. Presupposing (expert) knowledge: the assumption of knowledge that is never made explicit, as for example in a quotation from the same author that supplies a wider context (an enriching rather than explanatory annotation), when this is not clearly related to the text being annotated (just introduced by something like ‘Compare’).

4. Sending the reader on the wrong track: for example, using a general definition from the OED that omits important contextual meaning in the text being annotated or meanings supplied by the author’s personal use elsewhere.

5. Delimiting interpretation: giving one definition/explanation where more than one is plausibly present.

6. Offering intuitions without evidence: giving personal reactions (in an essay-like fashion)—the text annotated ‘becomes an occasion to think about one’s experiences and feelings’

7. Missing annotations: a missing annotation tells us either that nothing is to be explained or that explanation is impossible—in the latter case the difficulty should be dealt with in a note anyway.

The second half of the article gives information about digital annotation using the ‘Tübingen Explanatory Annotation System’ (TEASys), using three levels of information and eight categories that classify the content. As NEd is not using digital annotation, this part is less directly relevant to us. But here are the eight categories of annotation content which could well be of interest:

A   linguistic (lexicon, syntax etc.)
B   formal (verse, narrative structure, iconicity etc.)
C   intratextual (motifs, recurring structures etc.)
D   intertextual (relations to other texts)
E   contextual (biography, history, philosophy, theology, etc.)
F   interpretative (synthesis of A–E)
G   textual (variants relevant to the understanding of the text)
H   questions (items that require annotation; comments on research already done relating to an item).

 

A conference on annotation

‘Understanding (through) Annotations’ (15th International Connotations Symposium): July 28 – August 1 2019, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen (Germany).

We invite papers that are concerned with annotations to specific literary texts written in English and address their functions. Papers may also reflect on the speakers’ own  annotation projects, analyse existing annotations, offer suggestions as to a more systematic approach to the practise of annotating texts, and/or discuss historical and theoretical dimensions involved, such as the relation of lemma and context, part and whole, the envisaged reader of annotations, etc.

Please send an abstract (300 words max.) to the editors of Connotations by October 15, 2018 at symposium2019@connotations.de

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by rdury

27/09/2018 at 1:55 pm

Stevenson’s nonsense poem

with 2 comments

In a previous post I suggested that the nonsense poem ‘A Legend’ in the issue of London for 3 August 1878 was by Stevenson.

This is now confirmed by the last item on Andrew Lang’s ‘At the Sign of the Ship’ column in Longman’s Magazine, 7 (Apr 1886): 664-5:

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Lang gives the definition supplied by Stevenson ‘to tap hurriedly with crutches’ but the rest is his; and ‘or a stick, like the blind man, Pew, in “Treasure Island”‘ is his winking acknowledgement that he knows the identity of the author. This fits into the  custom of playful allusions to fellow writers by periodical writers at the time, perhaps especially by Andrew Lang. This is then followed by ‘This useful word, “unknown to Keats” etc.’—a mock-philological comment and quotation invented by Lang entering into the spirit of the game.

Written by rdury

16/07/2018 at 10:36 am

Stevenson’s David Balfour: a new edition edited from the MS by Barry Menikoff

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Robert Louis Stevenson’s David Balfour, the original text, edited with an introduction and notes by Barry Menikoff (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 2016).

Screenshot 2016-08-10 16.53.13

1. Sample pages

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davicbalfourNoteText_002

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2. Editorial principles and practices

The present posting aims to be informative, not a review. The following will be of interest to other EdRLS editors. We may not always follow exactly the same practices, but it is always interesting to see how someone else does it.

1. Stevenson’s changes are assimilated without comment. Deleted earlier wordings are not generally recorded in the Notes, though a facsimile page on p. 236 enables us to see that the fair copy manuscript had a final deleted sentence:

For the life of man upon this world of ours is a funny business. They talk of the angels weeping; but I think they must more often be holding their sides as they look on; and there was one thing I determined to do when I began this long story, and that was to tell out everything as it befell. <If your father was something of a simpleton and your grandfather not better than a rogue, no harm that you should know it.>

2. Corrections are silently made of spelling and apostrophe use, and superscript letters have been dropped. However not all spellings are given standard form, e.g. ‘falsness’ (p. 41) (marked by the OED  as found only up to the 16C).

There are also forms such as ‘dis-cretion’ (p. 115), which shows that the handwritten line between ‘s’ and a letter with left-facing bowl (c, d, g, o or q) has been interpreted as a hyphen. [For EdRLS, these marks have been interpreted as a non-significant link line; see this post in the blog and this one for a discussion. Barry defends his view in one of the comments to another post].

3. Unchanged are idiosyncratic capitalization of words not usually capitalized (e.g. ‘a Soft Tommy’), and the reverse case (latin, dutch, christian), in many case varying between the two usages (duke and Duke) as ‘this usage is so pervasive in the autograph, and poses no impediment to reading’ (p. lxvi). We therefore have ‘Tam Dale’ and ‘Tam dale’ in the first paragraph of ‘The Tale of Tod Lapraik’ (p. 107). To be honest, I must admit this did not cause me any problems in reading—and neither did examples like ‘I ken nae French and nae dutch’ (p. 106).
[This, like other editorial choices, is an area where each editor has to decide one way or another according to the aims of the edition. Menikoff gives us what the author wrote, while EdRLS (conservatively) emends MS texts—acting as publisher in a way accepted repeatedly by the author in other cases.]

3. Apart from supplying missing periods and question marks Stevenson’s punctuation has not been changed, e.g. a comma, semicolon or question marks followed by a dash, question marks followed by a lower-case letter. When punctuating ‘[t]he objective [for Stevenson] was to reproduce thought processes and heightened conversation informally, without slowing it down with arbitrary stops and formal new sentences’ (p. lxxv).
[In EdRLS transcribed texts we have sometimes supplied a missing comma that is so common (e.g. before ‘isn’t it?’) as to be considered codified and that would almost certainly be provided by a printer. Presumably this happened here too.]

4. Stevenson’s substantive mistakes are not corrected; I am thinking here of the first paragraph of ‘The Tale of Tod Lapraik’: ‘there were whiles when they but to fish and shoot solans for their diet’—’they but’ doesn’t seem right, a verb seems to be missing. (The sentence is identical in all editions, however. Can anyone solve this problem?)

5. Explanatory Notes: these are brief; they log all the citations of David Balfour in the OED, SLD and EDD (English Dialect Dictionary); most usefully, they indicate omissions in the first printed editions and also quote in full new passages supplied by Stevenson for the book edition at Colvin’s request.

6. References: Beinecke references to letters not by RLS are by date and  McKay numbers, e.g. ‘July 13, 1892, Beinecke Library (B 4219), Yale University’.

3. Differences between the MS and the first printed editions

In the editorial part of the volume, the preparation of the first printed edition is discussed only briefly (though there is a reference to Menikoff’s article ‘Towards the Production of a Text: Time, Space, and David Balfour‘ in Studies in the Novel 27.3 (1995)). It is mentioned in the Introduction (‘The Lonely Trials of David Balfour’) on pp. xliii-xliv, and p. xlvi (‘Colvin had his hand on the manuscript and in his fashion excised a number of choice expressions and incidents. These have been restored and appear for the first time in this edition’). The subject returns again in the ‘Note on the Text’, pp. lxiv-lxv, which discusses ‘absurd cutting’, ‘deliberate censorship’ and ‘mangled phrases’. The latter is illustrated by how ‘the warsling of the sea [and the breaching of the sprays]’ in the MS (ch. 22) becomes a mis-reading, ‘the sailing of the sea’, in Atalanta and ‘the whistling of the wind’ (ch. 22) in the Cassell’s book edition. As the latter cannot be a misreading of the MS, it was a change presumably made in proofs, though we don’t know by whom. However, as ‘whistling of the wind’ is so much weaker than ‘warsling of the sea’, it just might have been made by Colvin, going to press, unable to decipher the MS, and unable to get a reply from Stevenson in less than two months, perhaps included in the proofs, but not picked up by Stevenson. Thanks to Menikoff’s work, it could be a good case for emendation in any edition of the text. Similar differences between MS and printed edition (‘innocency’ and ‘indifferency’ in the MS becoming ‘innocence’ and ‘indifference’) are also noted, though we cannot tell if the change was made by Stevenson or not (though probably not).

The notes contain significant differences between the manuscript and the periodical and Cassell publications and also ‘four summary paragraphs that are not in the manuscript or Atlanta but that Stevenson wrote for the book at Colvin’s urging’ (p. lxiv).

Changes to single words in Cassell 1893

To give an idea of the number of changes between MS and first book edition, here are the significant differences given in the notes to the first two chapters (pp. 1-15), set out as for a textual apparatus with the MS reading on the left and printed variants on the right (a swung dash standing for words identical in MS and printed edition):

p. 2 Thence to an armourer’s, where I got a stout, plain sword, to suit with my degree in life (MS and Atl) ] ~ a plain sword ~ (Cassell)
p. 2 cla’es (MS) ] claes (Atl, Cassell)
p. 10 Get a ship for him, quoth he! (MS and Atl) ] ~ quo’ he (Cassell)

Going by this sample, the printed texts are very close to the manuscript and all three changes could well be the author’s second thoughts expressed on the proofs of the book edition:

  • the omission of ‘stout’ could be authorial: David wants a ‘walking sword’ to show his status, it’s not intended for fighting so does not need it to be ‘stout’;
  • claes could be seen as a acknowledging the word as an independent Scots form, not an English word with ‘th’ missing. As the note says ‘There is no other form in the DSL‘, i.e. the Scottish national dictionary uses only the form without an apostrophe;
  • the change to quo’ could be seen as a change to a more Scots form (the DSL headword is quo). Both DSL and OED actually give the form in this quotation from David Balfour as quot’, not found in any other of their citations, although there is also a common Scots form quod. It is possible that Stevenson’s quot’ (if this is the form used in Cassell) is a variant on quod — Stevenson’s attempt to discourage a pronunciation of ‘quod he’ as ‘quo dee‘ and a suggestion that in Scots use the ‘d’ was a voiceless flap of the tongue (like US English pronunciation of the ‘t’ in utter). In any case, it does seem a change to a more Scots form.

Many other changes to single words in Cassell 1893 must come from Stevenson and are clearly motivated, e.g. ‘Rhone wine’ drunk in Rotterdam (thus in the MS, p. 173, and Atalanta) is changed to the more appropriate ‘Rhenish wine’ in the first book edition.

An important point is where Catriona in the MS says to David ‘I am thanking the good God he has let me see you naked’ (p. 209), which is changed to ‘[…] see you as you are’ in Atalanta, a story magazine for girls, and to ‘[…] see you so’ in Cassell 1893. Though the meaning of ‘naked’ here is intended as ‘plain, undisguised’ (but surely with an intended frisson of associated meaning for the reader), I could imagine the author having second thoughts about it in proofs.

There seems to have been no attempt to change Scots to standard English in the proofs, if anything (and this is interesting) the reverse (as we’ve seen with quoth’);  MS ‘I knew the answer‘ (p. 156), and ‘Well’ (p. 217) were changed to ‘I ken the answer‘ and ‘Weel’ in both Atalanta and Cassell. ‘Ye cannae tell which way it is’ in the MS (p. 217), is identical in Atalanta but becomes ‘Ye cannae tell the tane frae the tither’ in Cassell—clearly in intervention of the author on the proofs.

Passages omitted from Cassell 1893

It is good to have the long interpolated story about shipwrecking in the chapter ‘The Bass’ (pp. 99-100) that was omitted from the book edition, yet one could understand Stevenson deleting it in proofs as too much like the explanatory back-story inserted by a historical novelist.

The other, short passages omitted in Cassell 1893 can for the most part be seen as possibly authorial. For example, in the first paragraph of ch. 9 David describes his state of mind:

And when I remembered James More, and the red head of Neil the son of Duncan, I thought there was perhaps a fourth in the confederacy, and what remained of Rob Roy’s old desperate sept of caterans would be banded against me with the others.<Yet there was that force in my innocency, that this league was driven to attempt my destruction underhand! I thought I would beat them all, and my blood heated with the thought.> (p. 60)

This could well have been omitted (and surely could only have been omitted by Stevenson) because considered inappropriately fiery for David.

At the beginning of ch. 10 another omission in Cassell 1893 can be seen as motivated by a desire for concision:

It was about half-past three when I came forth on the Lang Dykes <; and being now abroad again upon the world, began considering to what part of it I should first address myself. Not that the consideration held me long;>^.^ Dean was where I wanted to go.

Passages added to Cassell 1893

It’s also good to have transcribed in the notes the four summary paragraphs written by Stevenson at the suggestion of Colvin and included in the first book edition. To tell the truth, the story at this point is on the complicated side, and I think the readers of the book found it useful—as I did—to have these additional guides.

4. Barry Menikoff’s vigorous prose

I have tried to keep my comments as neutral as possible, wanting to avoid writing a full evaluative review of the volume. The reason for this is that this a posting about an edition of Stevenson for a Stevenson edition blog. Any edition involves many subjective decisions, and naturally everyone thinks their own subjective decisions are the best and defends them doggedly (with justifications that we delude ourselves are rational). It’s a bit like furniture arrangement in the home: we all know that it doesn’t really matter if the umbrella stand is placed inside, or outside, the front door, and yet we all want it where we want it. Such things can even lead to divorce. So this is me aiming at a calm tolerance above and beyond all that. Let me simply welcome this edition as a most valuable resource to have, the work of many years wrestling with manuscript transcription (I know how difficult this is in a small way, so can only respect this vast undertaking), and of course a welcome invitation to read David Balfour/Catriona once more.

As someone who has been involved in MS transcription for Essays IV in the new Stevenson edition, I can appreciate the vast amount of work involved and heroically undertaken by one editor. One can imagine that the following comment in ‘The Note on the Text’ incorporates an acquired personal understanding from Menikoff himself:

I have opted to print these words as he wrote them—as he wrote them, one hundred thousand words by hand, not once but twice. The sheer labor of the thing is almost unimaginable in a word-processed culture. […] He never complained about the physical labor, even if he did get writer’s cramp while composing Balfour; he regularly shifted the pen to his left hand, manifest in the painful scrawl on the pages, and reflected in Davie’s comment on his scribal work for Prestongrange—”The copying was a weary business.” (p. lxvi)

I can only envy Menikoff’s vigorous prose style:

he considered Le Vicomte de Bragelonne unequaled in its fusion of story and action, which is another way of saying adventure. (p. xxv)

we live through experience, which is our adventure, but our adventure lives only through art. A life of action, however grand, leads but to the grave; a life drawn in ink, with a steel stylus, becomes indelible. (p. xxx)

David […] is like an actor in a play unfolding before him in real time and desperately in need of the script. (p. xxx)

courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of action (p. xlix)

Sometimes it sounds a bit like Raymond Chandler:

No man signs up to cross a choppy ocean in winter and traverse a continent in an iron horse to a raucous port city shrouded in fog in order to sit in a parlor and sing “Love’s Sweet Song”. (p. xliv)

Sometimes, in the energetic wrestling of words and ideas, there are echoes of Stevenson himself, as in the elegant end to the introduction:

For all life is a story, as in the pages if David Balfour, a tale told, and the only predictable thing about it is the ending. As for its meaning, even in the plainest if cases, it eludes us, as it does the more cunning wisdom of Stevenson, which is why the final sentence, of whatever pen, cannot decide whether the angels above are looking down with peals of laughter, or are turning aside, fraught with tears. (p. lxi)

Menikoff seems to write himself into certain elegiac passages:

But in the end, as is his way, idealism comes down to earth, for in this world as God made it, as Black Andie would say, we all grow old, and innocence loses out in the trampling of time, and the romance that made it lovely when young can never be recaptured but in memory. This is why a great book like David Balfour is told in retrospect, turning back and grasping for love and beauty in their freshest hours, before marriage and children make their clamoring claims, and the story jump-cuts to the end, when age installs itself in its inescapable place in our mortal lives. (p. l)

Just as he enshrined memory in the dedication to Charles Baxter at the front of the book, he embedded it in an interior landscape that he transcribed in prose and compressed into place-names. They can be likened to the “floating world” of the Japanese ukiyo-e, only instead of pictures they are words of evanescent beauty, captured and held for their own sake, but ultimately transitory and perishable like life itself. (lvi)

All the introductory matter is a pleasure to read—and now that Barry Menikoff has successfully completed his trilogy of three Stevenson editions from the manuscripts (Falesá, Kidnapped and David Balfour), I look forward to enjoying his first volume of familiar essays: I’m sure they too will be a great pleasure to read.

Elusive London

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Missing book

Have you ever had that experience of approaching open-stack shelving, and seeing a gap at about the point where the book you want should be, and—first fearing, then hoping against hope, then knowing—as you reach the spot and trace your finger right and left along the call-numbers on the spines that, yes: the gap corresponds to that very book?

I had a similar experience the other day in the Beinecke Library with Robert-Louis Abrahamson, when we called up their copy of London (remember: the only copy outside the British Library and that one now “in quarantine”). The months from July to September, we had discovered, possibly contained four ‘articles’ by RLS. HScreen shot 2013-10-20 at 07.18.39ere are the holdings—a full set, you might think, covering 1877-79. But when the ponderous volumes arrived and I asked for the one covering July to September 1878, I discovered that there is a curious gap in the series: that very period.

(By the way, if the image comes out ‘squashed’, just click on it and then use the back button: this works for me.)

Presumably Edwin Beinecke had these copies made (they are negative photographic prints but perfectly legible) and would have had the whole series. Has one been lost? But how does you lose such a bulky and weighty item?

After this, I sent an email to the British Library Newspaper Division, on the off-chance—but they replied saying there’s no chance of having a look at London before March 2014.

Slight compensation

RLA and myself are working in the Beinecke on adjacent tables and the day after this disappointment he handed me this letter from Bob to Henley of December 1878:

Much obliged for London and Article on the Pictures by you of course. There was one on evidence in Court which I concluded Louis to have written or suggested for many reasons.

So here we have something to look at in one of the volumes at Yale—not seriously expecting anything but curious to see why (apart form the subject-matter) Bob might have thought it was by RLS. …Except that I had already checked in the volumes, and the full catalogue entry now reads:

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 07.05.05“v. 4 1878: Oct.-Dec. Checked Out – Due on 04-16-2014”! No, I don’t believe it: already checked out again and due back on 16 April? No, that must refer to the period we were given to consult the volumes, with the record not yet updated. Mustn’t it?

Written by rdury

20/10/2013 at 12:43 pm

Sandbox: can an editor use a new title?

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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.

Titles

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’:

Summary:
(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?)

Sandbox

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.

Another transcriber of Tahitian tales

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This post is contributed by Letitia Henville, presently preparing a PhD (Univ. Toronto) on late nineteenth century ballad translations.

 Ballad Puzzles (Part Two)

In my first post, I described the strange piece of manuscript I found in the Beinecke Rare Books Library at Yale University, and its relationship to Stevenson’s Tahitian ballad “Song of Rahéro.” The second puzzle piece that I found during that trip was held not in the library but in the Yale University Art Gallery, which, during my stay in New Haven, happened to be hosting a special exhibition of works called John La Farge’s Second Paradise: Voyages in the South Seas, 1890–1891. La Farge, an American painter and writer who spent a year travelling in the South Pacific, had met Stevenson in Samoa in October 1890; La Farge described this meeting in a letter to the New York Times published shortly after Stevenson’s death.

La Farge’s Sketchbook #8, “Tahiti – 1891, 32v, 33r

La Farge’s Sketchbook #8, “Tahiti – 1891,” 32v, 33r

La Farge’s Sketchbook #8, “Tahiti – 1891,” includes transcriptions of indigenous Tahitian legends. Stevenson claimed that “as many as five different persons have helped me with details” of the story that became his “Song of Rahéro”. It is probable that these five persons were (i) Ori a Ori, the dedicatee of the poem; (ii) the Teva matriarch Ari’i Taimai, and three of her adult children: (iii) Queen Joanne Marau Ta’aroa Tepau Salmon (who Stevenson called Queen Marau), ex-wife of the French Governor King Pomare V; (iv) Tati Salmon, who Stevenson identifies as the “hereditary high chief of the Tevas” in his notes to the poem; and (v) Moetia, for whom Stevenson wrote “To an Island Princess,” later published in Songs of Travel.

Marau and Tati were fluent in English, French and Tahitian, which meant they could communicate fairly easily with Stevenson—who professed in In the South Seas that he only could “smatter” in Polynesian languages. Following in Stevenson’s footsteps, La Farge met with these same people and wrote down the stories that they told him.

La Farge’s sketchbook transcriptions—published almost verbatim in his posthumous Reminiscences of the South Seas (1912)—provide examples of the kind of source material Stevenson integrated in his Tahitian ballad. Like Stevenson, who claimed he had “not consciously changed a single feature” of “Rahéro,” La Farge repeatedly stated in Reminiscences that he had not edited the words of his sources: “This is the story exactly as Queen Marau told it”; “I leave it as I first wrote it down”; “[The above contains] words that I do not quite understand”; and so on.

Of course, these Teva storytellers would have been self-editing their stories, telling them as them could be received and understood by La Farge—in English, with some indeterminable degree of consideration for the conventions of English-language story-telling. Still, the apparent lack of editorial intervention on the part of La Farge’s text gives us access to what appear to be quotations from a woman who may have been one of Stevenson’s sources. So while Stevenson’s drafts of “Song of Rahéro” may still be missing, La Farge’s sketchbook transcriptions provide a glimpse into the kind of stories that Stevenson may have been told, by these same people, in 1888.

Part of the exhibition is available as an online exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery site, John La Farge’s South Seas Sketchbooks 1890-1891.