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

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Stevenson’s self-epitaphs

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A non-serious note occasioned by re-reading the Letters in preparation for the New Edinburgh Edition essay volumes


Stevenson wrote a number of self-epitaphs. Here are those that have been collected so far:

On my tomb, if ever I have one, I mean to get these words inscribed:
‘He clung to his paddle.’

(An Inland Voyage, 1878)


This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

(‘Requiem’, written 1879-80; published in Underwoods, 1887)


I have been all my days a dead hand at a harridan.
I never saw one yet that could resist me.
When I die of consumption you can put that on my tomb […] Sketch of my tomb follows:

Robert Louis Stevenson
Born 1850, of a family of Engineers
Died ————————-
Nitor Aquis’

Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

You who pass this grave, put aside hatred, love kindness; be all services remembered in your heart and all offences pardoned; and as you go down again among the living, let this be your question: Can I make some one happier today before I go down to sleep? Thus the dead man speaks to you from the dust:
you will hear no more from him.

(Letters 3: 66-7; Feb 1880, to Sidney Colvin)


Here lies
The constipated carcass
Robert Louis Stevenson,
An active, austere and not inelegant
at the termination of a long career,
wealthy, wise, benevolent, and honoured by
the attention of two hemispheres
yet owned it to have been his crowning favour

(with the consent of the intelligent edility of Hyères, he has been interred, below this frugal stone, in the garden which he honoured for so long with his poetic presence).

(Letters 4, 155-56; Sep 1883, to Sidney Colvin)


‘Wasn’t it Morgan in Roderick Random who used to say “O my liver and lungs?” it might be written on my tomb stone […] I know what should be put on my tomb:


(Letters 5, 76; Feb 1885, to his Mother)


I shall have it on my tomb—
‘He ran a butler’

(Letters 5: 418; Jun 1887, to Sidney Colvin)


Jasper Honeycomb
Better known, however, as
John Dunch
Christophern P. Heyrick
an ass
R.I.P. (let her)

Here lie the bones of R.L.S.
His wits are with the Lord, I guess

(Letters 6, 67; ? late Nov 1887, to Edward L. Burlinghame)


When the time comes that he should go, there need be few illusions left about himself. Here lies one who meant well, tried a little, failed much:
—surely that may be his epitaph, of which he need not be ashamed.

(‘A Christmas Sermon’, 1888)

Written by rdury

21/07/2013 at 5:03 pm