"SOON SHALL YOUR EYES SEARCH THE FOUL GARDEN, SEARCH THE DARKENED ROOMS, NOR FIND ONE JEWEL BUT THE BLAZING LOG": AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT POEM FROM A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES, WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON'S HAND AND SIGNED BY HIM, THE COPY OF THE POEM'S TITULAR DEDICATEE
STEVENSON, Robert Louis. Autograph manuscript poem signed. Paris, France, August 18, 1886. Single unlined ecru sheet, measuring 7 by 7-1/2 inches; pp. 1. Matted and framed in an antique frame, entire peice measures 13 by 10-1/2 inches. $12,500.
Autograph manuscript of the published version of the poem, "To Mrs Will H. Low," first published a year later in A Child's Garden of Verses and Underwoods, signed and dated by Robert Louis Stevenson. The copy of Mrs. Low, accompanied by the autograph explanatory note extracted from the back of the original 19th-century frame.
The autograph poem reads, in full: "To Mrs Will H. Low / Even in the bluest noonday of July, / There could not run the smallest breath of wind / But all the quarter sounded like a wood; / And in the chequered silence and above / The hum of city cabs that sought the Bois, / Suburban ashes shivered into song. / A patter and a chatter and a chirp / And a long dying hiss—it was as though / Started old brocaded dames through all the house / Had trailed a strident skirt, or the whole sky / Even in a wink had over-brimmed in rain. / Hark, in these shady parlours, how it talks / Of the near autumn, how the smitten ash / Trembles and augurs floods! O not too long / In these inconstant Latitudes delay, / O not too late from the unbeloved north / Trim your escape! / For soon shall this low roof / Resound indeed with rain, soon shall your eyes / Search the foul garden, search the darkened rooms, / Nor find one jewel but the blazing log. 12 Rue Vernier Aug. 18th 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson." This poem was originally published in 1887 as #12 of A Child's Garden of Verses and Underwoods (Prideaux 23). The dedication "To Mrs Will H. Low" stands in for a title. While by all appearances a fair copy of the published version, this poem was actually handwritten by Stevenson two years prior to publication. This poem was the copy of the poem's dedicatee, Mrs. Will H. Low, and is accompanied by part of the original cardboard backing from the 19th-century frame in which it was originally housed (now housed in portfolio). That backing bears an autograph address label for Mrs. Low, as well as an autograph notation in an unknown hand reading: "Autograph poem addressed to Mrs Will H. Low, (written in Paris while our guest and afterward printed in "Underwoods") and photograph of R.L.S. [not present] taken at Bournemouth in 1885 by Sir Percy Shelley Bar[one]t. The wife of artist Will Hicok Low, Mrs. Will H Lowe was also known as Berthe Julianne Low. Both Lows were friends of the Stevensons and part of his larger circle, as indicated by the frame notation. Berthe Low, a Frenchwoman by birth who established a lengthy American residence through her marriage, was the author of French Home Cooking. An expert on adapting French recipes for an American kitchen, she helped to popularize everyday French cuisine among the middle class decades before Julia Child or Jacques Pepin.
A few tiny chips to top edge just touching "Low" in heading, mild discoloration from prior framing including faint traces of patterned offsetting. Extremely good condition.