Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Death of a Father

[Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin]

Edinburgh, June 1887.


At last I can write a word to you. Your little note in the P. M. G. was charming. I have written four pages in the CONTEMPORARY, which Bunting found room for: they are not very good, but I shall do more for his memory in time.

About the death, I have long hesitated, I was long before I could tell my mind; and now I know it, and can but say that I am glad. If we could have had my father, that would have been a different thing. But to keep that changeling - suffering changeling - any longer, could better none and nothing. Now he rests; it is more significant, it is more like himself. He will begin to return to us in the course of time, as he was and as we loved him.

My favourite words in literature, my favourite scene - 'O let him pass,' Kent and Lear - was played for me here in the first moment of my return. I believe Shakespeare saw it with his own father. I had no words; but it was shocking to see. He died on his feet, you know; was on his feet the last day, knowing nobody - still he would be up. This was his constant wish; also that he might smoke a pipe on his last day. The funeral would have pleased him; it was the largest private funeral in man's memory here.

We have no plans, and it is possible we may go home without going through town. I do not know; I have no views yet whatever; nor can have any at this stage of my cold and my business.

Ever yours,
R. L. S.

-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson Vol. 2.

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