xxxxxRobert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist, essayist, travel writer and poet, gained instant fame with his Treasure Island, an exciting tale of piracy and buried gold, published in 1883. He wrote over 40 adventure stories, including Kidnapped, Black Arrow, The Master of Ballantrae, and his horror story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Suffering from a chest infection from an early age, Stevenson travelled constantly in search of a healthier climate, first in England and then on the Continent and the United States, before setting up home on one of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific in 1889. During his journeys abroad he wrote a wealth of entertaining travel books, including An Inland Voyage, Travels with a Donkey, Across the Plains and In the South Seas. Many of his best short stories were published in The New Arabian Nights, and he produced some delightful poetry in his collections entitled A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods. Today he is mostly remembered for his fast-
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 1850 -
(Va, Vb, Vc)
Stevenson: detail, by the English portrait painter William Blake Richmond (1842-
xxxxxRobert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist, essayist, travel writer and poet, is known the world over for his Treasure Island, an exciting tale of piracy and buried gold, published in 1883. Among his other works were his adventure stories Kidnapped, Black Arrow and The Master of Ballantrae, and his psychological thriller The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As a poet he is remembered for his Child’s Garden of Verses, a nostalgic recollection of the emotions and sensations of his childhood, published in 1885, and his later collections of verse under the titles Underwoods and Ballads,
xxxxxStevenson was born in Edinburgh, the son of a prosperous civil engineer. His schooling was often interrupted by illness -
xxxxxOn account of his frail health he was obliged to spend much of his time in search of a warmer climate. As a result his early works were travel books by necessity, but made into attractive narratives of merit by Stevenson’s engaging and picturesque style. These journeys on the continent inspired, amongst others, An Inland Voyage of 1878 -
xxxxxIt was during one of these visits to France that he met his wife-
xxxxxHis marriage to Fanny marked the beginning of the most productive period of his career. Over the next ten years especially, during which they made frequent trips to the continent and one to the United States, he produced a stream of short stories, essays, romances and poems. These included his volume of short stories entitled The New Arabian Nights, his essays Virginibus Puerisque and Familiar Studies of Men and Books; two of his best short stories, The Merry Men and Thrawn Janet; two volumes of verse, A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods, and a number of his major works: his famous adventure tale Treasure Island (begun in serial form with the title The Sea Cook), the historical novels Black Arrow, Kidnapped, and The Master of Ballantrae, and the horror story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a work which greatly widened the scope of his public appeal. And many of his works, like the last mentioned, had subtle moral overtones, upholding good against evil and right against wrong.
xxxxxOne of Stevenson’s closest friends, William Henley (1849-
xxxxxOne of Stevenson’s closest friends was the poet, critic and editor William Henley (1849-
xxxxxHenley was born in Gloucester and attended Crypt Grammar School in the town. It was while in the infirmary -
xxxxxAs a poet his finest work is to be found in his two collections, London Voluntaries of 1893 and In Hospital of 1903. His verse was somewhat unconventional, being free and impressionistic in style, but today he is chiefly remembered for his poem Invictus (Invincible) published in 1875. A powerful, defiant poem, the last eight lines read:
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Find, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
xxxxxThe friendship between Stevenson and Henley came to an abrupt end in 1888 when Henley accused Fanny (Stevenson’s wife) of plagiarism. Following the break-
xxxxxIncidentally, Henley’s little daughter Margaret particularly liked James Barrie and regarded him as her friend. When he came to call, she would greet him with “Fwendy fwendy”. Later Barrie used the name Wendy in his play and novel Peter and Wendy, and it became very popular.
Anthony Hope and
xxxxxBut whilst the 1880s were happy and productive years -
xxxxxDuring his short stay at Vailima Stevenson became loved and respected by the local community. They called him Tusitala -
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me die.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me,
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
xxxxxStevenson was a skilful story teller and character maker with a vigorous, graphic style. This, together with his choice of fast moving adventures, romances and tales of fantasy, made him a popular writer not only with children but also with the public at large. Treasure Island, for example, had all the ingredients of a good, exciting yarn with its pirates, buried gold and unforgettable characters like Pew and the one-
xxxxxBut Stevenson’s talent went far beyond that of a fiction writer of schoolboy adventure and horror stories. He succeeded in a variety of genres. He was a master of the short story, showed original skill as a journalist in his essays and works of criticism, and excelled as a travel writer. His writings on the South Seas, for example, capture -
xxxxxAmong those who admired his work and were influenced by it were the writers Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, G.K. Chesterton and John Buchan, author of Prester John and the well-
xxxxxIncidentally, Stevenson confided that much of his inspiration came from “the little people” he met in his dreams. He also admitted that his horror tale The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was inspired by a nightmare. He wrote the story in three days, but then, having doubts about it, threw the manuscript in the fire. He then had second thoughts, re-
xxxxx……xWhile living at Vailima in Samoa he became friendly with the American Land Commissioner Henry Clay Ide. His little daughter complained that because her birthday fell on Christmas Day she only received one set of presents. By a deed of gift in his will, Stevenson left her his own birthday -
xxxxx……xStevenson wrote three novels in collaboration with his step-
Xxxxx……xStevenson’s grandfather, Robert Stevenson, was an engineer. From 1807 to 1812 he assisted the Scottish engineer John Rennie in the building of the Bell Rock Lighthouse on the east coast of Scotland.
xxxxxRider Haggard (1856-
xxxxxAnother English writer at this time who gained a name for his colourful tales of adventure -
xxxxxHaggard was born at Bradenham Hall, Norfolk. He attended Ipswich grammar school, and at the age of 19 went out to South Africa to serve in the colonial service in Natal and the Transvaal. On returning to England in 1879, he settled on the family estate in Norfolk and became a barrister. However, he never practised law, but divided his time between writing a string of adventure novels -
xxxxxKing Solomon’s Mines, centred around an intrepid group of treasure hunters and their hazardous adventures in the lost land of Kukuanas, was an overnight success. He quickly followed this up with three other exciting, action-
xxxxxIn addition to writing popular fiction, Haggard was also deeply interested in agricultural reform and rural matters in general. His most important works in this regard were A Farmer’s Year and Rural England, based on extensive travelling throughout the country. A one time he was also commissioned to report on land settlement in the United States.
xxxxxIncidentally, Haggardxwrote the fantasy novel World’s Desire, published in 1890, with the Scots writer Andrew Lang. A collector of folk and fairy tales, Lang is remembered to day for his series of twelve Fairy Books, published from 1889 to 1910. ……
xxxxx…… Like his life-
xxxxx…… It is said that the idea for the subject matter of his most famous work King Solomon’s Mines came from the discovery of the ruins of the Great Zimbabwe Empire in 1867, an empire which flourished in south-
xxxxxAnother teller of adventure stories at this time and, like Haggard, a barrister by profession, was the Englishman Anthony Hope (1863-
xxxxxDuring his career he wrote over thirty novels, and these included the social comedy The Dolly Dialogues, The God in the Car, based on the career of the empire-
xxxxxHe went on a three-
xxxxxAnd worthy of mention here is the Cornish writer and critic Arthur Quiller-
xxxxxAnd well worthy of mention here is the Cornish writer and critic Arthur Quiller-
xxxxxIncidentally, his popular story entitled The Roll-