This London based traveler has been journeying far and wide, checking out landmarks both famous and forgotten. When he finds a good one, he hits the gift shop and finds something he can use to replace part of the iconic scene in his image — a toy Eiffel Tower, a blow-up London Bus, a shell from the Camino de Santiago — he’s covered a lot of iconic spots, but there are still many to go.
Letters of Note is one of my favourite websites. Documenting correspondence from the past, it regularly gives an much more interesting insight into the lives of the rich and famous than the usual guilty browsing of the Daily Mail’s Sidebar of Shame. And every now and again it produces an absolute gem – just like this letter from Robert Louis Stevenson.
On discovering that the 12-year-old daughter of Henry Clay Ide — the then U. S. Commissioner to Samoa, where Stevenson lived — was dismayed that her birthday fell on Christmas Day, Stevenson sent the following letter and accompanying “legal” document to the family. The correspondence outlines Stevenson’s wish to transfer his own birthday to young Annie, in a sweet gesture of humanity and humour.
19 June 1891
Dear Mr Ide,
Herewith please find the DOCUMENT which I trust will prove sufficient in law. It seems to me very attractive in its eclecticism; Scots, English and Roman law phrases are all indifferently introduced and a quotation from the works of Haynes Bayly can hardly fail to attract the indulgence of the Bench.
Yours very truly,
Robert Louis Stevenson
I, Robert Louis Stevenson, Advocate of the Scots Bar, author of The Master of Ballantrae and Moral Emblems, stuck civil engineer, sole owner and patentee of the Palace and Plantation known as Vailima in the island of Upolu, Samoa, a British Subject, being in sound mind and pretty well I thank you in body:
In consideration that Miss A. H. Ide, daughter of H. C. Ide, in the town of St Johnsbury, in the County of Caledonia, in the State of Vermont, United States of America, was born, out of all reason, upon Christmas Day, and is therefore, out of all justice, denied the consolation and profit of a Proper Birthday;
And considering that I, the said Robert Louis Stevenson, have attained an age when O, we never mention it, and that I have now no further use for a birthday of any description;
And in consideration that I have met H. C. Ide, the father of the said A. H. Ide, and found him about as white a Land Commissioner as I require;
Have transferred, and do hereby transfer to the said A. H. Ide, All and Whole of my rights and privileges in the 13th day of November, formerly my birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the birthday of the said A. H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats and receipt of gifts, compliments and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors;
And I direct the said A. H. Ide to add to her said name of A. H. Ide the name Louisa – at least in private; and I charge her to use my said birthday with moderation and humanity, et tamquam bona filia familiae, the said birthday not being so young as it once was and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since I can remember;
And in case the said A. H. Ide shall neglect or contravene either of the above conditions, I hereby revoke the donation and transfer my rights in the said birthday to the President of the United States of America for the time being.
In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand and seal this 19th day of June in the year of grace eighteen hundred and ninety-one.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Witness: Lloyd Osbourne
Witness: Harold Watts