Thursday, June 29, 2006

Singin' like a mavis

More from Robert Louis Stevenson (writing from Stobo Manse, Peeblesshire, Scotland in July 1882 to W.E. Henley):

Old Mr Pegfurth Bannatyne is here staying at a country inn. His whole baggage is a pair of socks and a book in a fishing-basket; and he borrows even a rod from the landlord. He walked here over the hills from Sanquhar, "singin'", he says, "like a mavis." I naturally asked him about Hazlitt. "He wouldnae take his drink," he said, "a queer, queer fellow." But did not seem further communicative. He says he has become "releegious," but stills swears like a trooper. I asked him if he had no headquarters. "No likely," said he. He says he is writing his memoirs, which will be interesting. He once met Borrow; they boxed; "and Geordie," says the old man chuckling, "gave me the damnedest hiding." Of Wordsworth he remarked, "He wasnae sound in the faith, sir, and a milk-blooded, blue-spectacled bitch forbye. But his po'mes are grand - there's no denying that." I asked him what his book was. "I havenae mind," said he - that was his only book! On turning it out, I found it was one of my own, and on showing it to him, he remembered it at once. "O aye," he said, "I mind now. It's pretty bad; ye'll have to do better than that, chieldy," and chuckled, chuckled.