sabato 4 giugno 2011

Rare Robert Louis Stevenson letter could fetch £8,000


By George Mair

A "LOST" letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to the English-born governor of Fiji, who had threatened to deport the Scot from his Samoan home, is set to fetch thousands of pounds at auction next week.

The Treasure Island novelist wrote the recently rediscovered letter on 27 December, 1893, a year before his death at the age of 44.

An internationally known literary figure, he had settled in the South Seas in search of a climate more suited to his delicate health than that of his native Edinburgh.

He became embroiled in local politics, and championed the cause of the people of the Western Pacific against European exploitation and administrative incompetence.

In 1892, Stevenson fired off a series of satirical letters to the Times newspaper, causing diplomatic problems for Sir John Thurston, the governor of Fiji and high commissioner for the Western Pacific, who even threatened to deport him.

Sir John, one of the founders of modern Fiji, later offered an olive branch and invited the writer to stay with him in Fiji. In reply, Stevenson elegantly buried the hatchet and reciprocated the invitation to stay.

But the two men never met, as Stevenson died from a suspected brain haemorrhage in early December 1894.

The Scot's letter to Sir John is to be sold by an anonymous collector at Bonhams' sale of printed books and manuscripts in London on Tuesday and is expected to fetch up to £8,000.

Bonhams spokesman Andrew Currie said yesterday: "Though the dispute between the two men is well documented, this remarkable letter was previously unknown, and does not appear in any of the collections of Stevenson's letters.

"This letter effectively buries the hatchet between Stevenson and Sir John, whose instincts about the welfare of the Pacific islanders were very similar but who got on the wrong side of each other when Stevenson's well-intentioned interference threatened to derail Sir John's carefully constructed diplomatic position."

Stevenson addressed his letter to "His Excellency, Sir John Bates Thurston, KCMG Fiji" and clearly sought to make amends.

He wrote: "It appears we are both equally satisfied with the new text of the ordnance; and that we may congratulate each other on the end of our momentary opposition".

He also extends an invitation to Sir John to visit him at Vailima, his home on Samoa, adding: "I shall not fail to avail myself of your kind offer, should I visit Fiji; and per contra, I press your cordiality to make use of my house should you return to Samoa.

"I believe you could enjoy as much comfort there as anywhere, and I know we can afford you better air."

The lot includes an 1894 letter to Sir John from Stevenson in which he introduces his cousin Graham Balfour and compliments the governor on his "successful government of Fiji".