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

Posts Tagged ‘Winter’s Walk

Winters Walk Notebook/3

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Overheard conversation in Scots

The right-hand page was probably written on Sunday 16 January between Glenluce and Wigtown in Galloway and records an overheard conversation about renouncing drink. The mark [?] in the transcription refers to an uncertain preceding word. Any help on this (or any other aspects of the transcription) would be most gratefully received.

click image for larger image


[p. 36]

[page written upside down; game scores[1]]

R.A.S. RLS. W.G.S. W.S.
2 1   1
1. 1    
1 1.    
1. 1    
1. 1    


[p. 37]

blue peat reek.

Are ye goin to be teatotal again[2]

I hafe[3] no need of it.

Deed, ye’ve just as much need of it as me – Miss Thamson,[4] Miss Thamson!

– Aye.

– Musure[5] Macfadyen just as much need of it as me.

– Deed, Weeliam I think about as much. (muckle?)[6] Ye see, he was like you. He took it[7] an he couldna keep it.

– I kept it nine month, by God and Macfadyen kept it a a[8] week.

– Aye Weeliam, ye kept it a long time.

– Deed; I kept it long enough, and he drunk.

“Keept” throughout[9]

[illegible word] crying in the street had brought forth the remark

I think that man’s going mad


[1] the players are probably RLS’s cousin, Bob Stevenson (RAS), RLS, and their friends Walter Grindlay Simpson (WGS) and his younger brother William (WS), a few months later in Barbizon (April-May 1876), when perhaps RLS was writing up his ‘winter’s walk’.

[2] This conversation transcribed by RLS on his walk is listed by McKay as a separate work: Drinking, Going Tea Total, Etc. (6168).

[3] spelling indicates pronunciation of an Irish or Highland speaker.

[4] could be ‘Thomson’, but since RLS is interested in pronunciation here, the Scots form has been chosen.

[5] for ‘Monsieur’; if the first letter is ‘H’, ‘Husure’, it might indicate a Highland or Irish pronunciation of ‘Oh! sure’; the penultimate letter could be ‘n’.

[6] note from RLS to himself; perhaps trying to remember which word was used.

[7] ‘He took the pledge’ to renounce alcohol.

[8] Scots ‘all a’.

[9] RLS notes the form used in this dialogue.

Written by rdury

23/08/2012 at 1:11 pm

Winters Walk Notebook/2

with 4 comments

Setting out from Ayr

Here are RLS’s notes for Sunday 9 January 1876, the first morning of his Winter’s Walk. The mark [?] in the transcription refers to uncertain preceding word(s). Any help on these would be most gratefully received.

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[p. 6]

[written with notebook turned 90°]

Ward Beecher.[1] large. c de v.[2] fullface & bust

Warren’s Portraits[3]

289 Washington St



William. M. Everts.[4]

Rockwood. 839 Broadway N. Y[5]

large. c. d. v. profile


[p. 7]

Ayr.[6] Intense cold, ten o’ clock,[7] dry snow. dark in streets with little irruptions of sun, last churchgoers. As you got:[8] out spun ice[9] low lemon sun in a gray smoke, cocks crowing birds twittering, cloudless sky. deserted houses. two dogs. The cocks, seem deep and rich and hoarse, some clear, high, glad and distant, as if they had to; dogs barking mingled with it, and then a clock striking the hours; some grele[10] and crazy, some tremulously emphatic, some chorus [?] three near at hand in harmony, and then the faraway clear one in a dying fall

The meadows were all orange[11] and white, a few swells of wood lay across the way. [?] Behind them Brown Carrick,[12] daubed in the outline with two shocks of firs; and way down to Ayr heads[13] & castle. Firs, some fields shining green. The freezing snow brushed away like meal and glittered in the sun like quartz, or as if it was powdered with sprinkled diamond dust.[14] The hill out of the woods. [?]

[cont. on p. 9]

[1] Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887), prominent Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, and abolitionist. An advocate of Women’s suffrage, temperance and Darwin’s theory of evolution, and a foe of slavery and bigotry of all kinds (religious, racial and social), Beecher held that Christianity should adapt itself to the changing culture of the times. An 1875 adultery trial in which he was accused of having an affair with a married woman was one of the most notorious American trials of the 19th century (Wikipedia). This looks like details in order purchase; and being in RLS’s notebook he would be the presumed intending purchaser, but why we do not know.

[2] carte de visite; in 1859 Parisian photographer Disdéri published Emperor Napoleon III’s photos in this format and ‘This made the format an overnight success, and the new invention was so popular it was known as “cardomania” and eventually spread throughout the world… Albums for the collection and display of cards became a common fixture in Victorian parlors’ (Wikipedia).

[3] George Kendall Warren (1824-1884), American daguerreotypist and photographer.

[4] Untraced reference; it could be US politician and orator William M. Evarts (1818-1901), though why anyone (presumably RLS) would want a portrait of him is not clear.

[5] George Gardner Rockwood, photographer (1832-1911).

[6] Start of RLS’s notes made while on his ‘winter’s walk’; McKay: ‘A Winter’s Walk in Carrick and Galloway,’ notes (7174).

[7] 10 a.m. on Sunday 9 January, after arriving from Edinburgh the day before.

[8] misplaced colon or just a mark on the page.

[9] curious hoar frost effect resembling spiders’ webs.

[10] French ‘grêle’: ‘high-pitched (voice)’.

[11] conjectural reading; cf. ‘An effusion of coppery light on the summit of Brown Carrick showed where the sun was trying to look through’ (‘Winter’s Walk’).

[12] : ‘This hill is known as the Brown Hill of Carrick, or, more shortly, Brown Carrick’ (‘Winter’s Walk’).

[13] headlands south of Ayr.

[14] ‘and glittering… diamond dust’ added at bottom of a page and insertion point indicated by an asterisk.

Written by rdury

19/06/2012 at 8:33 pm

Winter’s Walk Notebook transcribed

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Stevenson’s Notebooks

From his college days onwards RLS often made his rough drafts in notebooks, along with sketches, doodles, bits of verse, addresses, game scores etc.

The egregious (in the modern sense) George S. Hellman bought and dismembered a number of these, binding a few pages at a time in crushed morocco with an engraved portrait and adding his own titles—in pencilled handwriting he didn’t even try to make neat, sometimes directly on the MS page.

A good number survive intact, however, many of them in the Beinecke Library, though until the recent finding aids (to GEN MSS 664 and 684) they were not listed in any of the library catalogues, not even by the invaluable McKay printed catalogue to the Stevenson collection: this is based on ‘works’ not physical artefacts, so it separately lists the identifiable drafts contained within them, referring to the notebooks but not including them as items.

The notebooks contain a lot of hidden material, which can only be revealed by a transcription, but this is difficult because they are often rapidly written in pencil with no attention to readability by anyone but the writer. However, I thought it would be a good idea to transcribe one, just to get an idea of what there might be of interest if one could read them fluently and how worthwhile it might be. For this experiment, I chose a notebook with a long section that will be of interest for the appropriate volume of the Essays.

The Winter’s Walk Notebook

The ‘Winter’s Walk Notebook’ (Yale, Beinecke GEN MSS 664 box 39 folder 859) belongs to the period 1875-76 and contains notes made during the walk from Ayr to Wigtown in January 1876 (much of it clearly written while walking, or at least while shivering), and a mixed-bag of other jottings, including some made earlier in Barbizon in 1875 and an intriguing beginning of a sketch outline for a treatise that might have been called ‘criticism as an art and as a science’.

Working together via internet with Mafalda Cipollone in Perugia and Neil Macara Brown in Peebles, we have now finally produced a reading transcription of the whole notebook. I give one of the early pages here together with transcription and notes — for general interest and also to ask for corrections, better readings and ideas for additional notes. If readers of the blog are interested we could continue with other pages, especially those containing words that have been beyond our powers of decypherment.

Here then is ‘spread 3’ (i.e the third double-page opening of the notebook) with our reading transcription:

click image for larger version


[p. 5]

McAdam[1] born at Ayr!


Colmonell said to be derived from Columba, “because the woods abund with wood pigeons.[2]

“I Matthew Muckleraith in Parish of


By bloody Claverhouse I fell”.[3]

—–     —–

Inch, note Kennedy’s island[4] near the Kirk.


Kirkmaiden – picts – heather crop ale. “the auld kilns”[5]

[1] John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), engineer and road builder; inventor of the ‘macadamisation’ process of improved road surfacing.

[2] small village in South Ayrshire, ten miles from Girvan. ‘The name of this parish may derive from the Latin word Columba meaning pigeon, because the woods abound with wood-pigeons’, New Statistical Account of Scotland (1838) series 2 vol 5 – it seems RLS was making notes from this volume, in Ayr or Edinburgh; ‘abund’ is probably a mistake for ‘abound’, though it is also an old Scots spelling.

[3] also McIlwraith and M’Ilwraith, Covenanter martyr, killed 1685, with a memorial stone in Colmonell churchyard in Carrick. RLS had long been fascinated by the Covenanters: he had planned a ‘Covenanting Story-book’ in 1868 and a series of essays on Convenanters in 1873.

[4] Inch, ‘island’ (from Gaelic ‘Inis’); Castle Kennedy, Galloway, is built between two lochs, one of which has an ancient man-made island.

[5] an ancient distillery near Kirkmaiden (on the southern tip of the Mull of Galloway) where the Picts are believed to have used the heather crop (head, flower) to make heather ale. (Andrew Agnew, The Hereditary Sherrifs of Galloway (1893), p. 132.) RLS later returns to the story in ‘Heather Ale: A Galloway Legend’, included in Ballads (1890). Again this looks like notes made from books.

Written by rdury

05/06/2012 at 7:11 am

Today’s manuscript puzzle – from the Winter’s Walk notebook

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Arctic soil or sail? and what does it mean?

In the notebook recording his walk from Ayr to Stranraer and beyond, RLS collects snatches of conversation and notes things seen. At one point near Maybole, he writes the following

We (Mafalda Cipollone, Neil Macara Bown, Robert-Louis Abrahamson and myself) finally arrived at the following transcription:

Lasses in the field <ins>by the sea</ins>, kilted to the

knee and hooded – between Dutch” {inv commas intended to go before ‘Dutch’?}

& Arctic soil” {*unidentified allusion}– delicate agacerie {*French, ‘provocation’}


Concerning the unidentified allusion, in the context of this Sterne-like observation I’d expect something like “kilted between high and low” or “kilted way high”, but I can’t see how to get there from “between Dutch and Arctic soil” or, indeed, “sail” (RLS would write the two words in the same way since he goes down from the ‘o’ in order to lead up to the ‘i’).

Identifying the quotation (indicatated by the inverted commas, the first set strangely misplaced) would help, but it seems to be as yet beyond the Google horizon. Can anyone solve the puzzle?

Written by rdury

15/04/2012 at 9:46 am