The Widener Library has just acquired by gift four relics of Robert Louis Stevenson which are the finest of any in the entire Stevenson collection in the Treasure Room of Widener, and are probably among the most valuable in the country. Three of the acquisitions are the gift of Mrs. Hamilton Rice (Mrs. Widener), of Philadelphia, and the fourth was donated to the University by the wife of the late Frederick Guion Ireland '68, of New York. They number a copy of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with a rhymed inscription; the corrected proof sheets of "Underwoods"; one of ten printed copies of "The Beach of Falesa"; and a letter penned to Mr. Ireland by Robert Louis Stevenson himself.
The inscribed copy of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is a valuable copy of the first authorized American edition of the book. It was published by Charles Scribner's of New York in 1886. The real interest in the book, however, centres about the inscription. Stevenson gave the volume in 1886 to his dear friend and collaborator in his dramatic works, William Ernest Henley. Four plays were written by the two writers, but most of the plays of Stevenson were unsuccessful. The four works were "Admiral Guinea," "Bean Austin," "Macaire," and "Deacon Brodie." The inscription Stevenson wrote on the fly-leaf is as follows:
"W. E. H. from R. L. S.
"Dramatic Jekyll and dramatic Hyde, (But which is which let other men decide).
To the two friends their work at least is fun,
And being never played gives pain to none!"
"Jan. 30, 1886."
The proof sheets of "Underwoods" Stevenson sent to Miss Adelaide Boodle, a woman whom he had always termed throughout his life "game-keeper," for the reason that she lived on his country estate at Bournemouth and acted as its care-taker.
On the first of the sheets of proof, which are unbound and at Widener are kept in a packet, he wrote, "Adelaide Boodle, these sheets with the kindest remembrances from Robert Louis Stevenson." Much is in the proofs that does not appear in the published volume. Ten lines of one poem were later dropped bodily for some personal reason of the author. There are two corrections of typographical errors and a number of mis-spelled words that had to be rectified.
Ten copies were struck off of "The Beach of Falesa," and these were used only for purposes of copyright. The book, which is cheaply bound, was recently sold at auction in London for $800. A few years later, however, Stevenson incorporated the story, with "The Bottle Imp" and "The Isle of Voices," into "Island's Nights Entertainments." The edition of ten was the only ever printed of "The Beach of Falesa" as a separate volume. It was published by Cassell and Company of London in 1892, and has many variations from the narrative as it appeared in the later collection. Many words which seemed to their author too profane to perpetuate were deleted.
Stevenson's Letter to Ireland.
Mrs. Ireland's gift to Widener is a letter Stevenson wrote her husband in reply to a note informing Stevenson of the source of some allusions in "A Gossip on Romance," a magazine article of 1883 written by the English literary man on his dim recollections of some stories his parents read to him when a boy. The third point he makes is more generally interesting and amusing than the first two. The point of the letter is that Mr. Ireland had, as he himself declared, addressed the epistle with "inspired stupidity" to "Mr. R. L. Stephenson." The letter reads as follows: Hyeres, Var, France.
F. G. Ireland, Esq.
1. You are right about Two Years Ago.
2. You will find Lucy and Richard in "The Ordeal of Richard Feverall," by George Meredith, which you will instantly order and read; after that you will order and read "The Egoist," by the same; and then I will leave you to yourself. This recommendation, or rather order, is well worth the postage it has cost you. I have read "Richard" thrice; and "The Egoist" six times, nor am I yet done with them.
3. There are two names, Stephenson and Stevenson. The one is English, the other Scotch. The one may be the name of the devil for what I know; the other is mine. You know, by the Wellers, what immortal hatred may be kindled by a letter. And I own I grind under this which robs me, not only of my ancestors, but of my native country; and I grind the harder since I see an American publisher actually announcing my own books, and in type, under this travesty. I am, Dear Sir, Yours truly, ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. Not Steph---.
The collection has been placed in the Treasure Room at Widener, each manuscript being carefully protected by a heavy green leather case.