Bournemouth: 16 March 1887.
Ink on laid paper. 1 page, 20 lines, with conjugate blank. 1 vols. 8vo (8 x 6-3/8 inches). Old folds Item #319961
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) and his wife Fanny lived in Bournemouth from 1884 through August 1887, at first in rented lodgings and from April 1885 at Skerryvore, named after one of Alan Stevenson’s lighthouses and which Thomas Stevenson bought as a wedding gift for Fanny. An early and regular visitor to Skerryvore was Henry James. The Bournemouth years were prolific ones for Stevenson despite his illness. A Child’s Garden of Verses was published in March 1885, and he wrote Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in September and October 1885, and Kidnapped the following year.
Early in 1887, Stevenson’s health took a turn for the worse. Colvin notes that “for several months his correspondence almost entirely fails”. In a February letter to Henry James, Stevenson wrote, “All new work stands still”.
The letter to his cousin Jane Mackintosh, née Stevenson (1843-1909), seeks a junior household servant (a recurring problem at Skerryvore). Reading in part:
“Dear Janey, which seems a formidable address from one who is practically a stranger — do you know anything of a decently strong and decently good natured girl, not too old to learn, not too gay to live in a very quiet house, and reasonably anxious to please. We have a Swiss girl, who is housekeeper and manages everything for us. […] We wish a girl to teach, because older girls find the place dull — and odd; especially the cooking. Your affectionate cousin Robert Louis Stevenson”.
A good suggestive letter written just before a period of great change. In May Stevenson’s father died; his memoir “Thomas Stevenson, Civil Engineer” was published in June. In August, the Stevensons left Bournemouth and sailed to America, with a case of champagne in their cabin as a parting gift from Henry James. “Louis was now about to abandon the polite society of England for the rough life of the frontier and the ocean” (McLynn).
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