Wick, [Scotland]: "Wednesday”, [23 September 1868, dated “Sept 68" in another hand].
Eight pages on two bifolia. 4.5" x 7" Storm Damage and Ghosts: Young R.L.S. to His Parents. Old creases. Both bifolia reinforced along the inner fold with tape at an earlier time. Dampstaining and toning. The pages are numbered at the top in pencil in another hand. Moire silk wrapper and green calf slipcase (slipcase worn) Published: Booth & Mehew Letters, vol. I, pp. 158-60. Item #366373
Stevenson, age 18, writes to his father and mother from Wick, reporting to his father on storm damage to the quay at Anstruther and at Wick; and then to his mother about social activities [in part]: “My dear father, I am awfully sorry about Anstruther. It was that confounded Billowness - hearting - so much sand, french chalk coagulated with water! It is the very last stuff to put for hearting at any rate, for it will crush to bits. I suppose it washed out from open end; and the sea exploded the quay wall. I fancy Adamson's face! Poor, poor bankrupt Harbour-commission! I am glad the sea-wall stood; but I quake for it tonight: the wind is up again, and the sea: the men could do nothing to day. J’espère qu’il tiendra! […]
“My dear mother, … Mrs Wemyss (Sir George Dunbar's niece and housekeeper) asked me on Monday to go to Ackergill Tower either on Tuesday or Wednesday. On Wednesday I and Adam Russel got a boat and took Sara R. and the Latta person (in future I shall call them the farma and the Latta) (twig?) out for a row. […] Mrs. Wemyss is so nice and so kind that I was not sorry I had persevered. She has a son there, the handsomest lad I ever saw, a midshipman in the Warrior. Poor fellow! He burst a blood vessel some time ago. He does not know it is in his lungs. It is very sad to see him. His breathing becomes sometimes very short and bad, and he has a hard, painful cough. Poor Mrs W looks so very much put about when he coughs. […] I was there till about four, lunched in a pannelled ‘baronial’ hall quite scenic in its appearance. It is a delightful old house with a green room and a red room, the spectre of a black cook who fell into the well-hole and the ghost of an interesting young lady who flung herself off the top of the tower, because she had been abduced or abducted or whatever it is, and kept in durance vile by its amiable possessor …”
“I am glad papa is better: the sea-side does not agree so well as the hills with him, Your aff son R. L. Stevenson.”
Born into a family of lighthouse engineers, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), studied civil engineering at the University of Edinburgh and spent three summers in an apprenticeship at his father’s lighthouse projects. After after winning a medal for his essay in 1871, Stevenson turned to the study of law and passed the first examination for the Scottish bar in 1872. He cared for nothing but literature, and dedicated himself to his literary apprenticeship with far more zeal than he found for engineering.
A very early letter, in the known sequence of correspondence sent to his mother in September 1868 (Booth & Mehew assign the date of 23 September), with wit and attention to the “baronial” setting of Ackergill and its resident ghosts.
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