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

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Two stones: antiquarianism in St. Ives

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A post contributed by Neil Macara Brown

In ‘Going into St. Ives’ (JSS 10, 2013), I tried to show how Stevenson makes that novel ring true, even in its smallest details. On his many travels in the story, the eponymous hero visits two obscure places in Scotland featuring old stones: one near Merchiston in Edinburgh; the other, by a drove road somewhere in Ettrick Forest in the Borders. Sites for these stones are suggested here.

 The Douglas stone

The first stone is seen by St. Ives when returning to Edinburgh from Swanston, and his roistering encounter with the drunken Six Feet High Club at the Hunters’ Tryst inn.


‘Hard by Merchiston’ he chances, fortuitously, upon the lawyer, Mr. Robbie. ‘Merchiston’ was a villa suburb by Stevenson’s day, but in 1814 when St. Ives is set, comprised the policies surrounding Merchiston Tower, once home of mathematician, John Napier, and now Edinburgh Napier University, on Colinton Road.

St. Ives had spotted Robbie stooping low in endeavouring to decipher a stone, built ‘sideways’ into a wall and offering ‘traces of heraldic sculpture.’ Because the stone bears a chevron on a chief three mullets (i.e. five-pointed stars), St. Ives suggests it resembles the crest of a Douglas family. Robbie concurs, but states that without knowing the tinctures (colours) involved, and because the whole thing is ‘so battered and broken up’, no-one could venture a definitive opinion. Through this common interest in heraldry St. Ives contrives to ingratiate himself with the weekend antiquarian who, unknowingly, has business with the Frenchman the next day…

The stone in question appears similar to one recorded by John Geddie, in his ‘Sculptured Stones of Edinburgh III: Miscellaneous’ (The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club Vol. 3, 1910): one of a cache of such, mainly ecclesiastical, built into the walls of an outhouse attached to the then Bloomsbury Laundry in Grange Loan (Newbattle Terrace), near its junction with Canaan Lane, about half a mile from Merchiston Tower. He suggests that the ecclesiastical stones, mainly richly decorated canopies of altar-tombs, may have come from the chapel of St. Roque noted in Scott’s Provincial Antiquities, which was sited a short distance to the east in the grounds of the Astley Ainslie Hospital; but as to the origins of the secular stones no explanation is offered.

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from a 1914 map of Edinbugh (NLS)

Geddie continues, however, that among the other sculptured fragments collected in this ‘nook’, beside a canopied recess, is a memorial panel. Bearing a long Latin inscription, this is defaced and made only partly readable on account of a strip of two or three inches on the right-hand side of the stone having been used in sharpening a knife. This, he says, commemorates “Thomas Douglasius [Douglas]” of the Cavers branch of that illustrious family, a man honourable in business, the holder of offices in the city and its suburbs, and the possessor, according to the inscription, of many virtues, who died on the 9th of August “MDC_”. Geddie adds it was erected by Richard Douglas, advocate, Robert Bennet, and Robert Blackwood, the lamenting heirs under his testament.’ His footnote fleshes out that in 1679 the ‘second bailie’ of Edinburgh was a Thomas Douglas, and, according to the Register of Interments in Greyfriars’ Churchyard, one Thomas Douglas, merchant in Edinburgh, was buried 15th August 1686. He was ‘second brother to Douglas of Cavers’, and the son of Sir William Douglas of Cavers and of his second wife, a daughter of Sir James Macgill.

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 15.44.57Most interestingly, Geddie also states that the arms of Thomas Douglas are recorded in the Lyon Office for 1680-87, and are shown in G. Harvey Johnston’s Heraldry of the Douglases (1907), p.94. There, the Douglas of Edinburgh arms are described as: Argent, a man’s heart proper, on a chief azure three mullets of the first, within a bordure of the second charged with [5] crescents of the field. The associated crest comprises: A dexter hand holding a broken spear endways proper. The motto: Do or die. 

The peculiar setting of the canopied recess (or, ogee-shaped niche) can be seen in a photograph taken by F. M. Chrystal in c1900, which can be viewed on the Canmore website.

My contention is that Stevenson was clearly describing this stone in St.Ives, despite his only partial recall of the Douglas arms, which he may never have been able to view fully anyway. Given his great interest in Covenanting matters, he is likely to have admired the long involvement of the Cavers family in that religious tradition, from its inception in 1638. As to how he knew of the actual Douglas stone, he possibly saw it almost thirty years before writing St. Ives, while staying in 1865 with George Norman Williamson, a fellow pupil at Thomson’s School in Frederick Street, at his home in Whitehouse Terrace, a part of Grange Loan lying eastwards of the stone. A photo taken in early summer 1865 shows Stevenson, aged fourteen-and-a-half and in a dark, top-buttoned jacket, standing in the bowered garden of 8 Whitehouse Terrace, a short walk from the Douglas stone.


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8 Whitehouse Terrace, Edinburgh (between Morningside Road and Kilgraston Road)

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Robert Thomson and H.C. Baildon (not clear which is which) and RLS, early summer 1865, 8 Whitehouse Terrace, Edinburgh (photograph posted on flickr.com by “rmanders” (Richard Anderson), from a family photo album which identifies the two men).

The central and southern parts of the former Bloomsbury laundry site were visited by me recently; the northern part only seen, unsatisfactorily, through a gate and over a wall. The laundry, marked on an OS map for 1914, is demolished, its blocked-up doors and windows ghostly reminders in the boundary wall to the street. The grounds hold four residences, one a block of flats. A helpful resident, of thirty years standing, directed me into the adjacent grounds of the Astley Ainslie, where the ecclesiastical stones are now displayed uniformly in a stepped, panelled wall setting, probably executed sometime within the last fifty or sixty years. At the base of this striking ensemble lies a forlorn, secular stone also recorded by Geddie; a lintel with the arms of Marjoribanks impaled beside those of Trotter of Mortonhall – also showing three mullets on a chief – but not, of course, the stone which so excited St. Ives. If the Douglas stone survives, might it lie in the old laundry garden at its north end?

The Cockburn stone

The second stone was seen by St. Ives in an earlier scene, when, during his flight south as an escaped prisoner-of-war with the two crusty drovers, he enjoyed briefly the company of Walter Scott and his daughter. They, being on on horseback, had overtaken the slow-moving droving party on a stretch of heath somewhere in the Ettrick Forest. Engaging St. Ives in conversation, Scott directed his attention to ‘a little fragment of broken wall no greater than a tombstone’, and told him the story of its earlier inhabitants. Scott was, of course, then utterly unknown to St. Ives, and it was only years after, when ‘diverting himself with a Waverley Novel’, that he says that he came upon ‘the identical narrative’ related to him by the ‘Great Unknown’ himself by the wayside. (No Waverley novel, however, makes mention of the place and historical incident described below.)

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 14.46.45This episode rightly for the reader recalls Scott’s own stirring tale ‘The Two Drovers’. However, it is also suggested here that this ‘broken wall’ is in fact the tombstone of the 16th century Border reiver, Piers Cockburn of Henderland, and his wife, Marjory. This is to be seen on Chapel Knowe, among the scant remains of the foundations of the Kirk of Henderland above the Megget Valley. Branching west from St. Mary’s Loch, this vale lies at the end of an old hill road running from the head of the Manor Valley, south-west of Peebles – an alternative droving route to the main one through the Gypsy Glen, south-east of that ‘heaven’ (as Stevenson calls it in ‘Popular Authors’), where he holidayed in 1864 and 1865. (The name ‘Henderland’ will be familiar from Kidnapped as that of the friendly catechist, whom David Balfour meets while wandering across Morvern.).

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Nearby, Piers Cockburn was hanged over the door of his tower by James V, during the royal raid of the Borders in 1529. This was, as noted by Scott in his Border Antiquities (1814), also fatal to fellow freebooters like Johnie Armstrang, and Adam Scott of Tushielaw, Sir Walter’s own ancestor.

The tomb cover-slab was, according to the ‘Canmore’ online site, found within Henderland Kirk during the 18th century and, in 1841, its three broken pieces were repaired and erected on supporting stones, ‘table-wise’, above its original position. The whole resembles a short section of wall, as Stevenson has it in his tale, but it has since been enclosed by a railing. The inscription on the stone suggests that it was cut in the 16th century, on a 14th century memorial carved with a sword and other emblems. Although defaced and in a Gothic script, according to William Chambers’s Guide to Peebles and its Vicinity (1856), it reads simply ‘here lyis perys of Cokburne and hys Wyfe mariory’.

The execution of Cockburn and its aftermath are traditionally associated with the fragment of romantic ballad known as ’The Lament of the Border Widow’. Included by Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, it was, he claimed, collected from ‘recitation in the Forest of Ettrick’; but in cold fact, the ‘Shirra’ (Sheriff) had it from the shepherd, James Hogg. Close to the tower, where the Henderland Burn rushes through the rocky chasm of the Dow Linn, beside a cataract lies ‘The Lady’s Seat’, where Marjory Cockburn is said to have retreated during the execution of her husband – so as to drown out the tumultuous din which accompanied his dying.

I sew’d his sheet, making my mane;
I watch’d the corpse, myself alane;
I watch’d his body night and day;
No living creature came that way.

I took his body on my back,
And whiles I gaed, and whiles I sat;
I digg’d a grave, and laid him in,
And happ’d him with the sod sae green.






Written by rdury

02/08/2017 at 3:41 pm

Scribner’s and Stevenson’s posthumous works

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This post is contributed by Glenda Norquay, presently working an edition of St. Ives for the Edition.

With the kind support of a Friends of the Princeton Library grant, I have been working in the Rare Books Room, Firestone Library, on a larger project that has emerged out of the editing of St Ives. Although my focus is on a network of transatlantic conversations between writers and publishers, Stevenson is of course a key figure.

Baxter takes Stevenson business away from Scribner’s

One of the most difficult exchanges in publishing negotiations around St Ives relates to Charles Baxter’s selling the rights to Stone & Kimball rather than Stevenson’s established publishing house in the States, Charles Scribner’s Sons (see my previous post ‘Baxter takes on American publishers and gives it to them straight’).  Yesterday I found a typed letter from Frank Doubleday, Scribner’s Business Manager, dated 7 December 1895, describing an encounter with Kimball:


Frank Doubleday

I have just been in Stone Kimball’s offices and Kimball tells me he has signed the contract for “St Ives” and “The Weir of Hermiston”. I asked him if he paid so much for it that he will have trouble getting his money back.   He replied that I need not bother about that and that he got them at a very reasonable price. He also stated that the Vailima letters sold so well that he cannot print them rapidly enough, to all of which I listened to with attention. The serial rights of “Hermiston” he has sold to Fisher Unwin and the novel is to appear in English, French and German in his magazine Cosmopolis which I suppose you know.
[Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, C0101 Box 160, F. 11]

Although aware of the tensions around this particular deal, I enjoyed what appears to be a restrained bitterness in Doubleday’s account of a particularly galling situation for them.

Stone & Kimball go bankrupt

In the end of course Stone & Kimball suffered such significant financial losses, partly because of their Stevenson dealings, that their business collapsed. Scribner’s then had the satisfaction of publishing St Ives in its American book form.

A letter from Arthur Scribner , 24 March 1896, suggests some enjoyment of the situation:

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Arthur Scribner

From several sources we learned that Stone & Kimball were hard up, the elder Mr Stone is tired putting up the money, perhaps is a little short himself, and have more inclination that they might be willing to part with Mr Stevenson’s rights.
[Arthur Scribner sets out the terms of a possible deal, commenting:]
‘The price for The Weir & St Ives seems very high at this time now that the Stevenson’s boom has a little subsided, but it does seem to me that the whole amount secured by us would be most valuable in the end.
[Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, C0101 Box 160 F.16]



An old friend at Scribner’s, Edward L. Burlinghame

As the Scribner’s editor who  worked most closely with Stevenson, Edward L. Burlingame had also been deeply disappointed, on a personal as well as business level, with the apparent snubbing of Scribner’s. He remained, however, a staunch enthusiast for R.L.S. as a late letter (9 July 1914 ), reflecting on the dangers of a writing having too ‘English’ a frame of reference indicates: Galsworthy’s work, he thought:


Edward L. Burlinghame

seemed to me to have considerable difficulties, not only in his rather pronounced English environment and association rather than his point of view (you see what I mean by the distinction), but because he doesn’t have quite the appeal to the human being as distinguished from the literary reader which seems so essential to the full success of end–papers and similar month-to-month essays. Stevenson of course even in his most ‘literary’ moments had this in the highest degree.
[Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, C0101 Box 160 F.10]

Written by rdury

12/10/2013 at 7:01 am

Charles Baxter returns home with Manuscripts from Vailima

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The following post is from Gill Hughes, editor of the EdRLS volume of Weir of Hermiston, (with contributions from Glenda Norquay and Richard Dury)


Charles Baxter travelled to take the first two volumes of the Edinburgh Edition to his old friend but arrived too late, on 31 January 1895. He then stayed a couple of months at Vailima going through Stevenson’s literary papers before travelling back via San Francisco. In Chicago he agreed to be interviewed by a local newspaper reporter; as this interview seemed to be of interest for the story of the publication of Weir of Hermiston and St. Ives, my daughter Rachel Sweet very kindly looked up the number in the Chicago Public Library and has sent me the transcription printed below.

One thing that puzzles me is that, from letters I saw at the Beinecke, Fanny and Lloyd seem to have been offended by something Baxter had said to newspapers in Chicago but I can’t see anything in this to offend them (though Andrew Lang certainly would not have been too happy about it, had he seen it).

Has anybody any ideas? Is it simply that Baxter is putting himself prominently as the person to get Stevenson’s work published and an Edinburgh memorial arranged, rather than the widow and step-son perhaps?

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Belle’s sketch of RLS giving Austin a history lesson

Another point of interest is the ‘series of history letters written to his small friend, Austen [Austin] Strong’, which Baxter expects will be published by the Youth’s Companion (though someone in England claims some right to publish them—if that is the meaning of ‘England, selfish as usual, wants it badly’; possibly ‘England’ is less amenable to the auctioning of Stevenson’s works, a practice which Baxter favoured — at the same time perhaps Baxter was trying with this comment to encourage the Youth’s Companion to offer a good price).

At least one of the history lessons exists, probably the first of the series, in the Huntington Library (HM 2393; it starts “The study of history is to learn how the world has moved and changed in former ages—how men have come together and separated and wandered”).

The Youth’s Companion was published by N. Willis of Boston between 1871 and 1929. There must be some chance that Baxter did indeed place the MSS with this periodical. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate a library with a collection that covers a likely period (say, 1895-97). There is an Index to the Youth’s Companion, 1871-1929, 2 vols (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1972), but I haven’t been able to locate that either.

Does any reader of this blog happen to know of a library that has either the magazines or the index?


[From Chicago Evening Post, 25 April 1895]



Charles Baxter Here with Several Valuable Manuscripts.




The Writer’s Literary Executor Talks of Other English Poets—First Editions of Lang.


Charles Baxter, W. S. of Edinburgh and London, has arrived in Chicago from San Francisco.

“I am, or, I am sorry to say, was, the life-long friend and legal and literary agent of Robert Louis Stevenson,” said Mr. Baxter today to a reporter for THE EVENING POST. “On Dec. 7, in fulfillment of an old promise, I left London to pay him a visit at Brindisi. [should be ‘…visit. At Brindisi…’] I received a letter full of joyous anticipation of our meeting. At Port Said three cablegrams told me that he was dead. From what I now know I believe the terrible blank to me has been felt as a terrible blank by the civilized world. The French literary men especially have mourned his loss. I remained two months at his home in Samoa. As his executor, appointed along with Henry James, Jr., the novelist, who felt unable to act, I have been able to arrange his affairs. His family was kindness personified. I am now on my way back to his, and my, old country.

“Yes, I am taking with me several unpublished works, the first of which will be “The Vailima Letters,” being a species of diary sent monthly to his best friend, Sidney Colvin, keeper of the prints in the British Museum. Mr. Colvin introduced Stevenson to the world of letters and has ever since been his warmest admirer, severest critic and truest friend. Great competition has taken place for this book. It will appear in book form only, in England and America.

Two Uncompleted Works.

“Then I have “St. Ives,” which wants two chapters of completion. These explain the plot, but we shall leave the explanation, which is known only to one living person, as an exercise for the ingenuity of future readers. A splendid fragment (about 50,000 words), complete in itself, will be published as the first episode of what was to be his masterpiece, “Weir of Hermiston.” “The Great North Road” is a minor tale, of romantic interest, comprising about 15,000 words. A small volume of “Fables,” long ago contracted for, goes to the Longmans of London. And a charming little series of history letters written to his small friend, Austen Strong, suitable for children, will, I expect, be published by the Youth’s Companion. That is, if we arrange terms. England, selfish as usual, wants it badly.

“Stevenson’s biography will be written by Sidney Colvin, and I know he will approve of my saying that any letters of interest written to persons in the United States will be thankfully received and acknowledged by him and carefully returned. Certified type-written copies will do equally well.”

“Now, Mr. Baxter, as to your own future movements?”

“I go to-night to New York, and thence straight to Washington.”

“What about Samoan politics?”

“I decline to discuss politics.”

Mr. Stevenson’s Successors.

“Is there any successor to Stevenson as a stylist in English letters?”

“In prose—no. In verse, in which he was conscious he took but a secondary place, I will name three—Gosse, Andrew Lang, LL.D., and William Ernest Henley, LL.D., [this doctorate is a mistake of the journalist’s] all intimate friends of Stevenson. Dr. Henley is masculine and vigorous, full of new thought and invention in rhythm. He introduced the lighter French forms of verse into our country about eighteen years ago. He has had many imitators—few successful. He is my intimate friend. I reckon Poet Henley will live fifty years.

“Gosse is refined, cultivated, tuneful and sings a sweet note; but sometimes he recalls the voice of a past or present songster. He will live twenty-five years. Dr. Lang is the most curious problem of all. Industrious to a miracle, he envelops the world of broadsheets in that which looks like thought, but, as far as I can make out, is simply the result of an incredible memory. Not dull, not smart, far from a dolt, equally far from a genius, he, like a once famous rivulet, goes on forever. It was but last night I heard it complained that the English-written journal was being assimilated by Dr. Lang, and this, mind you, all over the world. His ‘first editions’ are innumerable. But now I am tired so I must really go to my friends, so you will excuse me. Before I go, however, let me give you one little sketch from real life.

“About six months ago I was travelling in the evening by a suburban train in the near neighborhood of London. A little vulgar man, with a large head and a sad eye, sat opposite. The carriage was what we call in England third-class. I was reading the first number of the ‘New Review,’ in which I held some very valuable 7 per cent preferred shares credited by my friend, W. E. Henley: I recommend them as an investment to some of your capitalists.

“ ‘You are literary, sir?’ said he, with a gasp. ‘I can read and write, but not spell,’ said I, severely. ‘Like first editions?’ said he. ‘That depends,’ said I, to cut him short. ‘Will you look at some of mine?’ he urged. ‘All right,’ I replied. The train stopped, and, seizing my arm, he rushed me down a dim village street, through a small grocer’s shop, into a back parlor, lined with shelves, each one of which was crowded with books. ‘Well, my man, what’s all this?’ I asked, really somewhat taken aback. ‘Every one of ‘em Andrew Lang’s first editions,’ he whispered, gazing at me with wide-pupiled eyes.

Andrew Lang’s First Editions.

“Then I realised the sorrow and the haunted look of my little grocer, but presence of mind came. ‘How much?’ said I ina low tone. ‘Two and sixpence per volume, taken by the load; dirt cheap,eh?’ says he anxiously. ‘Yes,’ I replied emphatically, ‘a magnificent investment. Take good heart. In five years they will be worth only one shilling and sixpence. Do not despair! Tie them up for 100 years. Your great-great-grand-children will then be lord mayors, marquises or earls and these will be priceless, because unique, the only known examples of Poet Andrew Lang.’

“Thank God, sir; thank God. Tell the wife that! She’ll be kinder, I think! What may I offer you to—’ ‘Nothing, man! In the name of heaven.” and I fled through the little shop, up the terrace, under the great railway bridge, and at last, alone, I sat me down and sighed beside the great moaning river and mused for hours on the futility of human aspiration.”

Mr. Baxter, with a cheery nod, remarking he was getting thirsty once more, left.

“By the way,” he shouted merrily as he passed up the pretty staircase of the Victoria. “I am just cabling Major Pound, in New York, to arrange a meeting of a few Scotsmen and women to hear me read Stevenson’s Scots poems in the vernacular, several addressed to me. Proceeds to put up a memorial in Edinburgh. I think it a good idea. What do you say? Good-by.”

Written by rdury

16/05/2013 at 5:44 am

News from the volume editors: St Ives

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by Glenda Norquay

The parts played by Stevenson’s friends, as editors and business negotiators, particularly after his death, was one area of focus in my recent research trip to Princeton and to the Beinecke Library at Yale working on St Ives.

Baxter takes on American publishers and gives it to them straight
One of the unexpectedly fascinating aspects of this research has been the complicated publishing history of the material, with American and British publishers wrangling over book publication and serial rights, a debate made difficult not just by Stevenson’s death but also by the ‘disappointment’ (to put it mildly) of Charles Scribner at The Ebb-Tide going to Stone & Kimball and their claim to have rights to future works.

Scribner’s had been Stevenson’s publishers since 1885, when Stevenson had been delighted at receiving any money at all from US sales. He was, however, disappointed at sales of The Wrecker in 1893 in the US (where it had sold about a third of the number sold in the UK) and suspected them, with Baxter’s encouragement,  of dishonesty or incompetence. He therefore made Baxter his business manager and asked him to get the best offer for future items.

The Americans are highly suspicious of Charles Baxter and his deal-making. And perhaps with some justification: in a letter of July 1894 he writes to RLS: ‘There is no being sentimental with American publishers […] If you want their respect, you must “do” them, and they will think you real smart’. Cultural differences and prejudice, combined with the need for income to keep Vailima going, seem to have created a difficult situation.

Colvin’s helpful ideas for a historical novel
Colvin is not exactly a business intermediary (Baxter had warned Stevenson in February 1893 that Colvin ‘is not much use at selling’) but becomes the more acceptable face of Stevenson’s representatives to the Americans. Colvin’s role, however, is more than a mediator. His contribution to St Ives includes the suggestion: ‘Couldn’t you let Scott walk across the stage in one or other of your 1812 novels? Also I want Boney, why not, in St Ives.’ (1 Dec 1893) Stevenson doesn’t seem to have been too enthusiastic about the Napoleon suggestion but a cameo of Scott provides one of the book’s most memorable chapters.

Colvin, Quiller-Couch and the conclusion of St Ives
It was also Colvin who negotiated the ‘Conclusion’ to the novel, first approaching Conan Doyle who declined by asserting ‘I’d as soon think of putting a new act on to Hamlet’ (n.d.) then working with Arthur Quiller-Couch.

The extended correspondence over the ending, which Quiller-Couch was working on while chapters were appearing in the Pall Mall Magazine, shows Colvin as recipient of all ‘Q’s anxieties over the impossibility of the ending apparently planned by Stevenson. The correspondence between them is an unusual one, in that Colvin is an editor of the material, responsible for the revisions that went to the publisher, while Quiller-Couch is both author and a reader. So in April 1897 he notes that: ‘I have just read the May installment in the P.M.M. [chapters 19–21] Alain doesn’t work out as I had expected—or perhaps a very bad illustration has something to do with it. At any rate I had expected a grander air with him and more gusto in his villainy.’

Colvin’s editorial role is also an important one, although he is dismayed to find that revision notes incorporated in the English version by Heinemann did not reach Scribner in time for the American edition. It is, nevertheless, his approved version of the novel that dominated for over a hundred years.

Work continues
Of Quiller-Couch’s role in shaping the ending, of the mystery of the American Privateer and of my first encounter with the 800 manuscript pages for St Ives, more to follow.