A blog about the famous Victorian poet, designer, and Socialist, William Morris.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Cheeky Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson, penning some grammar corrections.
(Top, a sentence to set Stevenson's teeth grinding.)

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and a fan of Morris's poems, drafted this letter to Morris from his estate on a Samoan island in February of 1892. The “touches of affectation and constraint” weren't normal for Stevenson, so it seems he felt uncomfortable or even nervous about writing it. In the end he couldn't bring himself to send it. This was probably for the best. Morris wasn't overly sensitive to criticism, but he didn't exactly relish it.
“Master,—A plea from a place so distant should have some weight, and from a heart so grateful should have some address. I have been long in your debt, Master, and I did not think it could be so much increased as you have now increased it. I was long in your debt and deep in your debt for many poems that I shall never forget, and for Sigurd before all, and now you have plunged me beyond payment by the Saga Library. And so now, true to human nature, being plunged beyond payment, I come and bark at your heels.
“For surely, Master, that tongue that we write, and that you have illustrated so nobly, is yet alive. She has her rights and laws, and is our mother, our queen, and our instrument. Now in that living tongue where has one sense, whereas another. In the Heathslayings Story, p. 241, line 13, it bears one of its ordinary senses. Elsewhere and usually through the two volumes, which is all that has yet reached me of this entrancing publication, whereas is made to figure for where.
“For the love of God, my dear and honoured Morris, use where, and let us know whereas we are, wherefore our gratitude shall grow, whereby you shall be the more honoured wherever men love clear language, whereas now, although we honour, we are troubled.
“Whereunder, please find inscribed to this very impudent but very anxious document, the name of one of the most distant but not the youngest or the coldest of those who honour you, 
              Robert Louis Stevenson.”

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