Thursday, December 5, 2013


   The country, I have said, was mixed sand hill and links, LINKS being a Scottish name for sand which has ceased drifting and become more or less solidly covered with turf. The pavilion stood on an even space: a little behind it, the wood began in a hedge of elders huddled together by the wind; in front, a few tumbled sand hills stood between it and the sea. An outcropping of rock had formed a bastion for the sand, so that there was here a promontory in the coast line between two shallow bays; and just beyond the tides, the rock again cropped out and formed an islet of small dimensions but strikingly designed. The quicksands were of great extent at low water, and had an infamous reputation in the country. Close in shore, between the islet and the promontory, it was said they would swallow a man in four minutes and a half; but there may have been little ground for this precision. The district was alive with rabbits, and haunted by gulls which made a continual piping about the pavilion. On summer days the outlook was bright and even gladsome; but at sundown in September, with a high wind, and a heavy surf rolling in close along the links, the place told of nothing but dead mariners and sea disaster. A ship beating to windward on the horizon, and a huge truncheon of wreck half buried in the sands at my feet, 
completed the innuendo of the scene.  

   Note:  Ever since I saw Gerard Manley Hopkins' letter to Robert Bridges from October 28, 1886, posing the future poet laureate the question: "Have you read the Pavilion on the Links in the volume of Arabian Nights (not one of them)?  The absconding banker is admirably characterised, the horror is nature itself, and the whole piece is genius from beginning to end.", I have wanted to experience Robert Louis Stevenson's story.  It took me a bit of searching to locate a non-electronic copy, but's it's finally mine and I'm happily diving in.


Excerpt:  Robert Louis Stevenson,  “The Pavilion On The Links,” first published in Cornhill Magazine 42-43, London (Sept-Oct 1880).


  1. A pleasant surprise, Curtis.

    Particularly taken with this:

    " was said they would swallow a man in four minutes and a half; but there may have been little ground for this precision."

    Now there's a storyteller one might almost be tempted to trust.

    1. That was the key line for me also, along with the description "a hedge of elders huddled together by the wind." The last two mornings driving Jane to school I've been thinking of these while trying to mentally compose descriptions of the landscape and being confounded by the task. The Hopkins observation comes from a letter mainly defending and praising Dr Jekyll to Bridges, who was doubtful, apparently, of its merits. RLS is fascinating. I became interested in him after reading about Julian Maclaren-Ross's long obsession with writing and producing a radio play based on The Suicide Club. Maclaren-Ross could really "go long" on obsessions and in a magnetic way, so I was pulled along and have uncovered some surprising things, including Stevenson's really engrossing descriptions of California in the 1880s. Curtis