On shore, too, in the little nook of shelter, everything was so subdued and still that the least particular struck in me a pleasurable surprise. The desultory crackling of the whin-pods in the afternoon sun usurped the ear. The hot, sweet breath of the bank, that had been saturated all day long with sunshine, and now exhaled it into my face, was like the breath of a fellow-creature. I remember that I was haunted by two lines of French verse; in some dumb way they seemed to fit my surroundings and give expression to the contentment that was in me, and I kept repeating to myself—
“Mon coeur est un luth suspendu,
Sitot qu’on le touche, il resonne.”
I can give no reason why these lines came to me at this time; and for that very cause I repeat them here. For all I know, they may serve to complete the impression in the mind of the reader, as they were certainly a part of it for me.
And this happened to me in the place of all others where I liked least to stay. When I think of it I grow ashamed of my own ingratitude. “Out of the strong came forth sweetness." There, in the bleak and gusty North, I received, perhaps, my strongest impression of peace. I saw the sea to be great and calm; and the earth, in that little corner, was all alive and friendly to me. So, wherever a man is, he will find something to please and pacify him: in the town he will meet pleasant faces of men and women, and see beautiful flowers at a window, or hear a cage-bird singing at the corner of the gloomiest street; and for the country, there is no country without some amenity—let him only look for it in the right spirit, and he will surely find.
This article first appeared in the Portfolio, for November 1874, and was not reprinted until two years after Stevenson’s death, in 1896, when it was included in the Miscellanies (Edinburgh Edition, Miscellanies, Vol. IV, pp. 131-142). The editor of the Portfolio was the well-known art critic, Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894), author of the Intellectual Life (1873). Just one year before, Stevenson had had printed in the Portfolio his first contribution to any periodical, Roads. Although The Enjoyment of Unpleasant Places attracted scarcely any attention on its first appearance, and has since become practically forgotten, there is perhaps no better essay among his earlier works with which to begin a study of his personality, temperament, and style. In its cheerful optimism this article is particularly characteristic of its author. It should be remembered that when this essay was first printed, Stevenson was only twenty-four years old.