I’m having a week of fielding ecstatic phone calls from friends on art-centered road trips. Terry, who says hello, is looking at paintings wherever it is he finds himself today. Meanwhile, Our Friend on the Block, whose writing occasionally graces this site, is out west researching a book project on land art. This week she’s in the Salt Lake City area looking at Spiral Jetty. Later she’ll be, enviably, at Lightning Field. She is, by the way, soliciting suggestions of places to stay and sights to see around Flagstaff, Albuquerque, and Overton, Nevada. Color me green, despite the impeccable weather in Chicago, of which I have a very fine view from my desk.
Archives for September 2, 2004
I’m gobbling up these letters like so much popcorn. Sad to say, I’ll soon run out. I have only one volume (vol. 3) of four from Scribners’ 1928 South Seas Edition of Stevenson, a ratty red pocket-sized book scooped up at a library sale some years ago for a quarter.
TO HENRY JAMES
Honolulu [March, 1889]
MY DEAR JAMES,–Yes–I own up–I am untrue to friendship and (what is less, but still considerable) to civilisation. I am not coming home for another year. There it is, cold and bald, and now you won’t believe in me at all, and serve me right (says you) and the devil take me. But look here, and judge me tenderly. I have had more fun and pleasure of my life these past months than ever before, and more health than any time in ten long years. And even here in Honolulu I have withered in the cold; and this precious deep is filled with islands, which we may still visit; and though the sea is a deathful place, I like to be there, and like squalls (when they are over); and to draw near to a new island, I cannot say how much I like. In short, I take another year of this sort of life, and mean to try to work down among the poisoned arrows, and mean (if it may be) to come back again when the thing is through, and converse with Henry James as heretofore; and in the meanwhile issue directions to H. J. to write to me once more. Let him address here at Honolulu, for my views are vague; and if it is sent here it will follow and find me, if I am to be found; and if I am not to be found, the man James will have done his duty, and we shall be at the bottom of the sea, where no post-office clerk can be expected to discover us, or languishing on a coral island, the philosophic drudges of some barbarian potentate; perchance of an American Missionary. My wife has just sent to Mrs. Sitwell a translation (tant bien que mal) of a letter I have had from my chief friend in this part of the world: go and see her, and get a hearing of it; it will do you good; it is a better method of correspondence than even Henry James’s. I jest, but seriously it is a strange thing for a tough, sick, middle-aged scrivener like R. L. S. to receive a letter so conceived from a man fifty years old, a leading politician, a crack orator, and the great wit of his village: boldly say, “the highly popular M.P. of Tautira.” My nineteenth century strikes here, and lies alongside of something beautiful and ancient. I think the receipt of such a letter might humble, shall I say even [–