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J M Barrie to Robert Louis Stevenson - 1893

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Letter from J M Barrie while in Kirriemuir to Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa



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Kirriemuir, N.B.
23 July 1893

My dear Tusi Tala,
Greeting. I was expecting from the post only business letters when in he walks instead with your pictures. I have not had such a joyous disappointment since my boyhood when I once lost a penny at a market (I used to hold the horses just like Shakespear) and going forth to search the world for it found eightpence! That was a day. So I tell you is this. You are all three on the mantelpiece already between Meredith's house and his chalet – so that we are a regular picnic somewhere about the long apple tree at Boxhill and divided into two parties by the clock. I have put two and two together pretty smartly, among the photographs and your inventory of your household and beg to announce with a good deal of elation that Tamaitai is in my opinion the kind I can get round and Tuila the kind that gets round me. It is Tamaitai's eyes that give her away. I read in them an extraordinary tolerance for boys and I am a boy tho' I keep it dark. When the blinds are down I jump over chairs and play wild pranks, and my word of honour I feel I could carry on in this way before Tamaitai and she understand that there was no ill in me so long as she was there to manage me. I guess Tamaitai was brought into this world to take care of daft literary characters with just this one weakness, that in moments of impulse she can be got to join them and then don't we just have a gorgeous holiday and which is leader I would like to know? But the next morning Tamaitai does not know what you mean if you refer to yestereen, and if I had an amanuensis in red ink I’d draw you Tamaitai now possessed of domesticity, a terrible figure on a table all of a quiver because she cannot knock nails into four walls at one blow (observe in the distance Tusi Tala and Loia flying toward the shore) and doing six handed things till she sinks exhausted but happy on the couch. (Observe Tusi Tala sauntering back with a cigarette and pointing out to her that she has been overdoing it.) I didn't need to be told that Tamaitai was infinitely little. The more you like them the less they get. My Babbie was biggish in the first chapters but as I warmed to her she got so small that the editor of “Good Words” complained saying that he had accepted her as a ‘braw kimmer’ and soon you would need a candle to look for her. I also enlarged her mouth at his request. My native Samoan name is Softy Softy, which means the good natured author. Nothing would flatter me so much as having my hair cut by Tuila, and I wouldn't cry out even though we seemed to spill something like red ink. The barbers always say “Hair cut?” to me though they cut it yesterday and I have a horrid fear that one of them will get round me some day and make me take the oil. As for reorganising my hair I have always felt for years that there is a great chance there for somebody. You can tell Loia that a most mysterious affair has occurred, nothing short of this that when the packet arrived his photograph was no longer in it. As I cannot think so badly of him as believe it was never there I conclude it was stealthily removed at the post office here where we have a young lady who had probably opened the inventory and been enamoured of the sketch of Loia in red ink. If there is any truth in a report I heard at Cambridge, that Loia is coming to the old country (I wouldn't if I were he) he is hereby elected an Allahakbarrie. The fame of the Allahakbarries has probably reached Samoa, it being nothing less than a cricket club of which I am captain and the name as near as we can get at it means “Heaven help the Barries”. We are all literary hands and among the honorary patrons is Alan Breck Esq. Extract from the club card-

Barrie (Capt) An ideal captain. A treat to see him toss the penny. Once took a wicket. Takes all the credit when one of his side makes a run.

Marriott Watson (Pomaded! Oh Tusi Tala!) A capital man in the train going down. Safe but in the train. Loses confidence when told to go in.

Conan Doyle: Hits blooming hard, blooming high and blooming seldom.

Harold Iredine: Safe score on a ground that suits him. Has not as yet found a ground to suit him.

Bernard Partridge: The demon bowler. Breaks everything except the ball. Smashes his own side. Will bowl at the wicket & nail square leg in the stomach.

F. Anistsy: Stays in London and cheers at two four and six o'clock. &c. &c.

We have already played a team of elderly Surrey rustics and having filled them first with ale won a glorious victory marred by Frederic who was always photographing the ball when he should have been catching it. Doyle defied the best bowling of shore (but not until he was out). Watson made one in a masterly manner and Partridge played a dashing innings for nothing. The way I ordered my team to stop smoking was a sight for Frederic to photograph but he forgot to pull the string or let down the lid or something and we all came out as a sunset in ye olden time.

Partridge is the man who is to illustrate 'New Arabian Nights' (By the by, almost the bitterest memory of my childhood is the getting of the other “Arabian Nights” under the belief that they were Knights. Cdn't stand nights without a k to them in those days and indeed I have had an ill will to the book ever since.) It is a capital choice and he is full of the work. What a merry jest illustrators to a book nearly always are. The subjects the sagacious artist chooses. “He lifted his hat politely.” "She was sitting on a garden chair drawing figures with her parasol in the sand.” “The butcher's boy had come to the door for orders.” “Allow me,” he said. “In her walks she was always accompanied by a mastiff of the St. Bernard species.” “She rose on his entry.” “He sat down on her departure.” Worse than the artists is my experience of American publishers. Years ago I did cartloads of journalism at a guinea a yard, and they have got at it and publish a new book by me every fortnight. Copyright they say, & carefully revised by the author. Rascally firm of Lovell, and John Knox, who must have pirated even his name.

Thomas Hardy
J.M.Barrie
Lady Colin Campbell
Mrs. Clifford Conan Doyle

This is not a tombstone or rather it is. These five provided as many plays for a theatre all at one go, and were advertised as above. This was fatal, the public thinking we were the company and refusing to go in because they had never heard on none of us. Hardy dramatised “The Three Strangers”, and I had a bet that the bill wdn't run a week. It did – exactly.

Latest news as we go to press. Two magazines want a Meredith at once and he is sitting up in the chalet writing away against time and as flattered as anybody wanting him as if he had arrived yesterday. Lang spells Alan Breck’s christian name with two l's and an e. Hurray! I took Hardy to see my play at Toole's which has been running about a year and a half. I warned him that a great deal of it wasn't mine and then had the mortification of seeing him laugh heartily at the gags and at nothing else. Maarten Maartens was also with us and they both left the theatre saying that they thought they cd write successful plays. Maartens strikes me as being one of the best men we have. Someone has been telling Hardy you didn't like Tess – and he sat reflecting a long time and then said triumphantly: “Methodist Parson”. Extract from a letter from Kipling about his infant who was born on Gladstone's birthday. As it’s a girl it doesn't matter but if it had been a boy I would have felt tempted to roll it up & down it in the ditch. At least I'm told this is genuine. I'm sending you an Illustrated “Window in Thrums”. The scenes are from life but the faces imaginary, also the blackbirds. I have found out where Samoa is on the map which is the first step to coming. If I cd only think of some place a great deal further away, that wd bring Samoa nearer. The flower is to Teuila. Observe the colour. Goodbye Tamaitai, you have promised to like me. Goodbye Teuila [in red ink] her mark. Goodbye Loia tho’ another has the photograph. Goodbye Tusi Tala. Goodbye my household.

Ever yours,
J. M. Barrie

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