1890-1891 - Robert Louis and Fanny Stevenson
The House at Vailima
September 1980; Fanny:
lt is a little cottage, intended to serve in the future for a lodge, containing three rooms on the first floor and two on the ground floor. We live upstairs, one room of about fourteen by sixteen feet being for dining and sitting room; another, much smaller, we have taken for a bedroom. The third, some ten by six, we use as a pantry and provision room generally. Below, the large room is occupied by Ben, his wife, and little girl some two years of age, and the three kanakas who work under Ben.
December 1890, Robert Louis:
My wife and I live here alone; well, not quite alone: we have a German factotum, invaluable, kind, industrious and almost quite incapable. We have a Samoan (what shall I say?) steward - a boy of about seventeen: doing up to now capitally: clever, willing, and pleasant. We have shifting gangs of Samoans and out-islanders who work for us when they choose, and are paid - the only thing regular about them - with regularity. We have an admirable island horse called Jack - we have two dapple gray carthorses - we have a cat - we have hens, but no eggs to mention - we have a boar, three sows and piglings. I could give you no idea of out concerns and botherations: a farmer's lot - although an interesting - is not a happy one. And as we are likewise prospective housebuilders, with a road to make up 600 feet of a steady pull, much of it through tropic forest, and all the material to land up here and then to preserve - our miserable anxieties and contrarieties may be conceived. There are days when I despair: Fanny is more brave, but then she does her duty, conscience does not darken the scene for her. Now I cannot do mine; I have my own work to do: it cannot be neglected; if it is not to be neglected, all else must and I have the mortification to see things steadily go wrong.
Of the place I will say nothing because we expect you to see it for yourself, when the - or a - house is built. I do not believe it could possibly disappoint any one. It is rather needful to be here at full moon; in our primitive life, the moon recovers her true importance: no longer a subject for sonnets, but a necessary night light. Life between moons is incommodious; and to see the moon on my great trees is a liberal education.
March 20, 1891, Robert Louis:
I will give you today. I sleep over in one of the lower rooms of the new house, where my wife has recently joined me. We have two beds, an empty case for a table, a chair, a tin basin, a bucket and a jug; next door in the dining-room, the carpenters camp on the floor, which is covered with their mosquito nets. Before the sun rises, at 5.45 or 5.50, Paul brings me tea, bread and a couple of eggs; and by about six I am at work. I work in bed - my bed is of mats, no mattress, sheets or filth - mats, a pillow and a blanket - and put in some three hours. lt was 9.50 this morning when I set off to the streamside to my weeding; where I toiled, manuring the ground with the best enricher, human sweat, till the conch shell was blown from our verandah at 10.30. At eleven we dine; about half-past twelve I tried (by exception) to work again, could make nothing on't, and by one was on my way to the weeding, where I wrought till three. Half-past five is our next meal, and I read Flaubert's Letters till the hour came around; dined, and then Fanny having a cold, and I being tired, came over to my den in the unfinished house, where I now write to you, to the tune of the carpenters' voices, and by the light - I crave your pardon - by the twilight of three vile candles filtered through the medium of my mosquito bar. Bad ink being of the party, I write quite blindfold; and can only hope you may be granted to read that which I am unable to see while writing.
Stevenson, R. L.; Booth, Bradford A. (ed.)
The Letters of R. L. Stevenson, Vol. 8
New Haven/London 1995