Editorial note: A colleague, Peter Kiernan, came across the original letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to William Butler Yeats and thought it would be of interest to Tinteán subscribers. Now our colleague has found a WB Yeats reply to RLS which we thought would also be of interest to our subribers! We reproduce the original post here, followed by the response from WB Yeats.
14 April 1894, Vailima
Dear Sir, Long since when I was a boy I remember the emotions with which I repeated Swinburne’s poems and ballads. Some ten years ago,a similar spell was cast upon me by Meredith’s ‘ Love in the Valley ‘; the stanzas beginning ‘when her mother tends her’ haunted me and made me drunk like wine; and I remember waking with them all the echos (sic) of the hills about Hyères. It may interest you to hear that I have a third time fallen in slavery: this is to your poem called ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree‘. It is so quaint and airy, simple, artful and eloquent to the heart – but I seek words in vain. Enough that ‘always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds on the shore’, and I am, Yours gratefully Robert Louis Stevenson.
RLS was born in Edinburgh November 1850 and died in Samoa December 1894.
Just for interest and to round off a lovely story, here is the reply from Yeats to RLS, dug up by our colleague and held in the Yale Beinecke Library, which holds the major collection of Stevensonian material extant :
Sligo, Ireland 24 October 1894. Yeats thanks Stevenson for his praise of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree ‘ and adds – ‘ My grandfather , a very passionate old retired sailor – quite the reverse of literary – read ‘ Treasure Island ‘ upon his deathbed with infinite satisfaction. It is well nigh the only book I ever heard of him reading. ‘