Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Dedication and Note

THERE are men and classes of men that stand above the
common herd: the soldier, the sailor and the shepherd not
unfrequently; the artist rarely; rarely still, the clergyman;
the physician almost as a rule. He is the flower (such as it
is) of our civilisation; and when that stage of man is done
with, and only remembered to be marvelled at in history, he
will be thought to have shared as little as any in the defects
of the period, and most notably exhibited the virtues of the
race. Generosity he has, such as is possible to those who
practise an art, never to those who drive a trade; discretion,
tested by a hundred secrets; tact, tried in a thousand
embarrassments; and what are more important, Heraclean
cheerfulness and courage. So it is that he brings air and
cheer into the sickroom, and often enough, though not so often
as he wishes, brings healing.

Gratitude is but a lame sentiment; thanks, when they are
expressed, are often more embarrassing than welcome; and yet I
must set forth mine to a few out of many doctors who have
brought me comfort and help: to Dr. Willey of San Francisco,
whose kindness to a stranger it must be as grateful to him, as
it is touching to me, to remember; to Dr. Karl Ruedi of Davos,
the good genius of the English in his frosty mountains; to Dr.
Herbert of Paris, whom I knew only for a week, and to Dr.
Caissot of Montpellier, whom I knew only for ten days, and who
have yet written their names deeply in my memory; to Dr.
Brandt of Royat; to Dr. Wakefield of Nice; to Dr. Chepmell,
whose visits make it a pleasure to be ill; to Dr. Horace
Dobell, so wise in counsel; to Sir Andrew Clark, so unwearied
in kindness and to that wise youth, my uncle, Dr. Balfour.

I forget as many as I remember; and I ask both to pardon
me, these for silence, those for inadequate speech. But one
name I have kept on purpose to the last, because it is a
household word with me, and because if I had not received
favours from so many hands and in so many quarters of the
world, it should have stood upon this page alone: that of my
friend Thomas Bodley Scott of Bournemouth. Will he accept
this, although shared among so many, for a dedication to
himself? and when next my ill-fortune (which has thus its
pleasant side) brings him hurrying to me when he would fain
sit down to meat or lie down to rest, will he care to remember
that he takes this trouble for one who is not fool enough to
be ungrateful?

R. L. S.

SKERRYVORE,
BOURNEMOUTH.


NOTE


THE human conscience has fled of late the troublesome
domain of conduct for what I should have supposed to be the
less congenial field of art: there she may now be said to
rage, and with special severity in all that touches dialect;
so that in every novel the letters of the alphabet are
tortured, and the reader wearied, to commemorate shades of
mis-pronunciation. Now spelling is an art of great difficulty
in my eyes, and I am inclined to lean upon the printer, even
in common practice, rather than to venture abroad upon new
quests. And the Scots tongue has an orthography of its own,
lacking neither "authority nor author." Yet the temptation is
great to lend a little guidance to the bewildered Englishman.
Some simple phonetic artifice might defend your verses from
barbarous mishandling, and yet not injure any vested interest.
So it seems at first; but there are rocks ahead. Thus, if I
wish the diphthong OU to have its proper value, I may write
OOR instead of OUR; many have done so and lived, and the
pillars of the universe remained unshaken. But if I did so,
and came presently to DOUN, which is the classical Scots
spelling of the English DOWN, I should begin to feel uneasy;
and if I went on a little farther, and came to a classical
Scots word, like STOUR or DOUR or CLOUR, I should know
precisely where I was - that is to say, that I was out of
sight of land on those high seas of spelling reform in which
so many strong swimmers have toiled vainly. To some the
situation is exhilarating; as for me, I give one bubbling cry
and sink. The compromise at which I have arrived is
indefensible, and I have no thought of trying to defend it.
As I have stuck for the most part to the proper spelling, I
append a table of some common vowel sounds which no one need
consult; and just to prove that I belong to my age and have in
me the stuff of a reformer, I have used modification marks
throughout. Thus I can tell myself, not without pride, that I
have added a fresh stumbling-block for English readers, and to
a page of print in my native tongue, have lent a new
uncouthness. SED NON NOBIS.

I note again, that among our new dialecticians, the local
habitat of every dialect is given to the square mile. I could
not emulate this nicety if I desired; for I simply wrote my
Scots as well as I was able, not caring if it hailed from
Lauderdale or Angus, from the Mearns or Galloway; if I had
ever heard a good word, I used it without shame; and when
Scots was lacking, or the rhyme jibbed, I was glad (like my
betters) to fall back on English. For all that, I own to a
friendly feeling for the tongue of Fergusson and of Sir
Walter, both Edinburgh men; and I confess that Burns has
always sounded in my ear like something partly foreign. And
indeed I am from the Lothians myself; it is there I heard the
language spoken about my childhood; and it is in the drawling
Lothian voice that I repeat it to myself. Let the precisians
call my speech that of the Lothians. And if it be not pure,
alas! what matters it? The day draws near when this
illustrious and malleable tongue shall be quite forgotten; and
Burn's Ayrshire, and Dr. Macdonald's Aberdeen-awa', and
Scott's brave, metropolitan utterance will be all equally the
ghosts of speech. Till then I would love to have my hour as a
native Maker, and be read by my own countryfolk in our own
dying language: an ambition surely rather of the heart than of
the head, so restricted as it is in prospect of endurance, so
parochial in bounds of space.

Robert Louis Stevenson