Autograph letter signed to Horatio F. Browne containing an original poem.
Autograph letter signed, incorporating an original poem in alcaics, “Brave lads in olden centuries”. During 1880 Stevenson began suffering from a serious illness of the lungs. “Two winters were spent, on medical advice, at Davos, a dismal health resort in the Swiss Alps, where the only high spot was friendship with John Addington Symonds” (ODNB). It was through Symonds that Stevenson was introduced to Horatio F. Brown, who had been the former’s pupil at Clifton College and remained a close friend – he would serve as Stevenson’s literary executor. Living in Venice, Brown worked as a historian for the British government and also published several books on Venetian history, including Life on the Lagoons (1884) and The Venetian Printing Press (1891). Brown “took warmly to Stevenson”, and the present letter contains an “experiment in English alcaics” that was “suggested by conversations with Mr. Brown and A. J. Symonds on metrical forms, followed by the despatch of some translations from old Venetian boat-songs by the former after his return to Venice” (Colvin, The letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, p. 232–34). Stevenson writes, “My dear Brown, Five years I have conded them” (a rather obscure opening: the transcription “conded” is from the collected letters, and is a variant of “conned”, as in a ship). RLS then continues immediately into the 28-line poem, “Brave lads who in olden musical centuries / Sang, night by night, adorable choruses / Sat late by alehouse doors in April / Chaunting in joy as the moon was missing…”. Stevenson concludes the letter by asking, “Please my dear Brown, forgive my horrid delay, Symmonds overworked and knocked up. I off my sleep; my wife gone to Paris. Weather lovely. Yours ever, Robert Louis Stevenson. [Postscript:] Monte Generoso in May; here, I think, till the end of April; write again, to prove you are forgiving”. Stevenson would continue his friendship with Brown, later that year sending him as a gift a copy of Penn’s Fruits of Solitude. In 1884, after reading Brown’s Life on the Lagoons, Stevenson wrote him another poem, “To H. F. Brown” in celebration of his “spirited and happy book”.
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2-page autograph letter signed, single sheet of lined paper folded once, text to rectos only. Tipped-in to a handsome red morocco binding by Riviere & Son, spine gilt between raised bands, sides ruled in gilt with a French fillet, marbled endpapers, turn-ins richly gilt, all edges gilt. Housed in a red cloth folding case. Manuscript calligraphic title page in red and black. Collector’s bookplate of W. T. H. Howe, president of the educational book publishers, the American Book Company. Residue from removal of later bookplate on pastedown. Letter very slightly toned; excellent condition.