Stevenson, Robert Louis 1850-1894
Robert Louis Stevenson 1850-1894
(Full name Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson) Scottish novelist, essayist, poet, travel writer, and memoirist.
The following entry presents an overview of Stevenson's career through 2003. For further information on his life and works, see CLR, Volumes 10 and 11.
A meticulous writer of renowned talent but lifelong poor health, Stevenson's youth-oriented novels—such as Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886), and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)—are at times thoughtful, exciting, frightening, and fascinating but all the while written with intelligence and a sprightly sense of humor. Filled with memorable, complicated villains, including Long John Silver and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson's novels were dedicated to the principal of uninhibited fun and were free from the moralizing tone of many late nineteenth-century's children's novels. Whereas many other stories for children of the era were little more than didactic sermons of proper behavioral instruction, Stevenson unapologetically wrote stories he knew children would understand and enjoy. While this writing ideology served Stevenson well in his lifetime—making him possibly the most-popular living author of his time—his critical reputation has lessened among present-day reviewers. Nonetheless, his books remain a staple among juvenile audiences today, particularly with boys who revel in the high adventures of Stevenson's child protagonists.
Stevenson was born to Thomas and Margaret Stevenson on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland. An only child, Stevenson was a frail boy who was given to the indomitable care of a young nurse named Alison Cunningham, or "Cummie," as Stevenson called her. His father was the son of Robert Stevenson, the progenitor of a family of legendary lighthouse engineers responsible for the design and construction of Skerryvore, Bell Rock, and other famous beacons along the north coast of Scotland. Thomas was himself a lighthouse engineer, a professional legacy that Robert was expected to continue. Margaret was the youngest child of thirteen of the Reverend Louis Balfour, the Presbyterian minister of Colinton, Scotland, near Edinburgh. Despite the combined devotion of his parents and nurse-maid, Stevenson's weak lungs left him unable to participate in normal childhood activities, a missed opportunity of which his later book of poetry A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) would evoke his lifelong yearning for these normal playful diversions. Perhaps as a result of his physical limitations, Stevenson became a well-read child with a precocious early gift of writing. Regardless of his early aptitudes, he was nonetheless encouraged to follow the family heritage and enrolled at Edinburgh University at the age of seventeen to get an engineering degree. A relatively indifferent student, by 1873, Stevenson had reached both a religious and career crisis, and the resulting arguments with his parents over what he should be allowed to do lead to a serious collapse in his health and a trip to the south of France to recover. Wishing to alter his career track, Stevenson began writing essays and studying such authors as Daniel Defoe and Charles Baudelaire. In a compromise with his parents, he was allowed to drop engineering in favor of law, and in 1875, he was accepted as a member of the Scottish bar. Lacking passion for law and still intent on being a writer, Stevenson continued penning essays and began composing several full-length novels. He started developing a quiet reputation as a talented essayist, eventually releasing two well-respected but largely forgotten books, An Inland Voyage (1878) and Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879), travelogues of his journeys around Europe. While visiting a cousin in the south of France in 1876, Stevenson met Fanny Van De Grift Osbourne, an American, with whom he is said to have become immediately infatuated. As a mother of two young children—Lloyd and Belle—and estranged from her unfaithful husband, Fanny represented a strong and daring figure to Stevenson. Though Fanny was eleven years his senior and still married, Stevenson nevertheless took up an affair with her, much to the disapproval of his own family. Osbourne broke off the relationship two years later, however, and took her family back to the United States. In 1879 Fanny telegrammed Stevenson a note of affection that indicated she had become ill. Still enormously enamored with her, he quickly set sail across the Atlantic to be with her in San Francisco. Having little money to travel and unwilling to go to his still-disapproving parents for funds, he traveled to America as a steerage passenger on a freighter and then crossed the breadth of America to San Francisco by train. Near death when he finally reached her, Stevenson was nursed back to health by Fanny, who eventually agreed to marry him. The new couple moved back to England with her son Lloyd and won the reluctant approval of his parents.
In the summer of 1881, a bored Lloyd sketched out a pirate's treasure map one rainy afternoon. Intrigued, Stevenson began assisting Lloyd, telling stories about the places he marked on the map. Finding new inspiration in the drawings, Stevenson started composing a storyline to accompany the map, writing as much as a chapter a day. Pleased with its progress, Stevenson presented the first few chapters of the story, which he had titled "The Sea Cook", to Young Folks, a magazine for boys. After changing the title to Treasure Island, Young Folks began printing the story in serialized installments in October of 1881. The tale was relatively poorly received by the Young Folks readers, though an undeterred Stevenson had Treasure Island published as a book in 1883. On the heels of rave reviews, Treasure Island became something of a literary phenomenon, quickly reaching best-seller status and finally establishing Stevenson as a writer of note. Recognizing that his new financial security and burgeoning literary reputation allowed him the opportunity to travel, Stevenson began a nomadic period during which he hoped to find a place where he might finally regain a more constant state of good health. Moving back and forth between continental Europe and Scotland, Stevenson finally settled in the English resort town of Bournemouth. Perhaps the most productive period of his life, Stevenson proceeded to publish in short order A Child's Garden of Verses, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped. It was also during this period that Stevenson began a lifelong friendship with American novelist Henry James who spent a great deal of time visiting his invalid sister, Alice, who was also recuperating in the Bournemouth area. Upon the death of his father in 1887, Stevenson felt he could finally go abroad permanently. Leisurely sailing to America and across the South Seas with Fanny, Lloyd, and his mother, Stevenson eventually purchased an estate on Samoa called Vailima. Unfortunately, his relationship with Fanny was proving to be increasingly hard and, despite his healthy income and apparent wealth, he constantly worried about money. Sadly, he wrote comparatively little during his life at Vailima; his work from this time is primarily limited to essays about the politics and beauty of Samoa. At the urging of James, in 1894, Stevenson undertook what was perhaps his most adult-themed and boldest writing project, a novel titled The Weir of Hermiston about the troubled relationship between a man and his father. However, later that year, on December 3, 1894, Stevenson died suddenly, the victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. Per his request, native Samoans cleared a path to the summit of nearby Mount Vaea where his coffin was interred.
Perhaps Stevenson's most famous and widely read book, Treasure Island is a spirited tale of action and intrigue, which has become a classic of children's literature. When Jim Hawkins, a typical boyish dreamer, finds a treasure map in his family's inn after the death of a salty pirate, he sets off to find the buried treasure among bawdy seamen, dangerous criminals, and the devilishly seductive Long John Silver. Ultimately Jim comes to realize that the reckless high sea adventures of his dreams have left him disillusioned and seeking a different course in life. Narrated by the now-grown Jim, Treasure Island weaves together the perspectives of the older, wiser Jim with that of his naïve younger self, allowing the reader to see the resulting rueful outlook time has given him. Further, in contrast to our initial impressions of the protagonist, whom the reader comes to regard as a hero, Jim actually most resembles the villainous Long John Silver in personality rather than the upstanding and pious Captain Smollett and Dr. Livesey. Both possess an inner strength and conviction of will the other supporting characters lack. Jim comes to see the charms of Silver, even beneath the dark veneer, and eventually adopts him as a parental figure in the absence of his own deceased father. Stevenson followed Treasure Island with A Child's Garden of Verses, a poetry collection featuring sixty-four poems, which introduced a new aspect to children's literature by presenting the world of childhood—both real and imaginary—from the child's point of view. By describing his young narrator both at play and in solitary pursuits, Stevenson captured the interests, thoughts, and emotions of children in succinct rhymes and infectious rhythms.
For his "boy's book" Kidnapped, Stevenson retreated back into his own cultural legacy to create a novel of historical fiction. A recounting of one boy's small role in the Scottish Jacobite conflict with England in 1751, Kidnapped was a return to the more adventurous style of Treasure Island. Similarly, Kidnapped features a heroic boy left on his own amidst dangerous circumstances that threaten his life. Continuing with Stevenson's interest in duality and conflicted characters, David Balfour is a young Scottish boy who is left orphaned and in the care of his uncle Ebenezer. Ebenezer seeks sole control of the family's holdings and arranges for David to disappear. Taken to a brig ship headed for the Americas, David meets the swashbuckling Alan Breck, a fellow prisoner and survivor of a recent battle with the English. The two men escape together when the boat shipwrecks, and they seek freedom in the North for Alan and justice for David. Similar in style and tone to Treasure Island, Kidnapped represented a much more personal story for Stevenson. Carefully balancing the real events of Jacobite Scotland with the fictional story of David, it combines the adventure of his early stories with Stevenson's love for both his homeland and its tumultuous history. Consisting of much more mature themes than Treasure Island and Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the thematic dualities that haunted Stevenson. Gothic in spirit, Jekyll and Hyde is a dark novel in content and setting. Henry Jekyll is a respected man of science who suffers from shame of certain uncontrollable instincts that he believes lie within him, compelling him to act in a disgraceful manner outside his normal character. Seeking to unify these two aspects of his personality into a better whole, he discovers a chemical process in his laboratory that will grant him inner completion, or so he thinks, by unleashing the baser side of his personality for a time. To his surprise, however, the chemical agents do more than just simply affect a mental alteration; instead they transform him wholly into a seemingly different person—the grotesquely degenerate Edward Hyde. Rather than finding a positive end to his experiments, Jekyll discovers that the Hyde aspect of himself is more terrifying, more hideous than he imagined. Freed from the moral constraints of Jekyll and indeed all society, Hyde goes on a murderous spree and, for a time, escapes justice, as he is able to hide within the body of Jekyll. But as time passes, Jekyll discovers that his doppelganger can be released without the drugs, and his life begins unraveling. Ravaged with guilt and horror, Jekyll is climatically forced to face his inner demons with tragic results.
While Treasure Island, Jekyll and Hyde, Kidnapped, and, to a lesser extent, A Child's Garden of Verse are still actively read by both children and adults today, Stevenson's works have often been dismissed by critics as simplistic and formulaic. Despite his legacy as a "boy's book" pioneer, there have been few current critical reexaminations of his work, and his status as an important author has often questioned by modern scholars. This dismissal of Stevenson's literary importance works in direct opposition to the author's powerful influence and popularity during his own lifetime—his death in 1894 was greeted as front-page news across the globe. Two aspects of Stevenson's life and writings have seen a particular spark of controversy among contemporary analysts. One is the almost complete lack of strong female characters in his works, an issue that Stevenson's ally and friend, Henry James, repeatedly encouraged him to fix. To his credit, Stevenson did address his neglect of female characters in his sequel to Kidnapped, Catriona (1893), by featuring two relatively independent heroines—Catriona Drummond and her mischievous friend Barbara Grant. The other point of controversy concerns his wife and possible writing partner Fanny Osbourne Stevenson. While Fanny claimed after Stevenson's early death to have been a major partner in editing and reviewing his ongoing writing projects, critics have been sharply divided regarding her actual role in Stevenson's life and writing. While the literary value of Stevenson's work has continued to be debated, his stories of high adventure and intrigue have remained unquestionably popular with both young and adult audiences, even in the modern era. Discussing the enduring appeal of Treasure Island, Susan Gannon has noted that, "[w]hile it has some of the thematic complexity that marks an interesting adult novel, the whole spell-binding story is told with careful attention to the needs, the habits of mind, and the special sensitivities of Stevenson's chosen audience: youngsters."
In his own lifetime, Stevenson's literary success was acknowledged by his sales figures rather than critical praise. As a result, he remained relatively underappreciated and the only award he seems to have won during his lifetime was a Silver medal from the Royal Scottish Society of Arts in 1871 for a scientific essay on lighthouses. Since then, Treasure Island has been voted "one of the nation's 100 best-loved novels" by the British public as part of the BBC's The Big Read in 2003.
An Inland Voyage (travel writing) 1878
Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (travel writing) 1879
Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers (essays) 1881
The Silverado Squatters (travel writing) 1883
Treasure Island (novel) 1883
A Child's Garden of Verses (children's poetry) 1885
Prince Otto: A Romance (novel) 1885
Kidnapped (novel) 1886
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (novel) 1886
Memories and Portraits (essays and memoirs) 1887
Underwoods (poetry) 1887 The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses (novel) 1888
The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale (novel) 1889
The Wrong Box [with Lloyd Osbourne] (novel) 1889
The Wrecker [with Lloyd Osbourne] (novel) 1892
Catriona: A Sequel to Kidnapped (novel) 1893
The Works of R. Stevenson. 28 vols. [edited by Sidney Colvin] (novels, essays, memoirs, poetry, and travel writing) 1894-1898
The Amateur Emigrant from the Clyde to Sandy Hook (travel writing) 1895
Weir of Hermiston: An Unfinished Romance (novel) 1896
St. Ives: Being the Adventures of a French Prisoner in England (novel) 1897
The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson to His Family and Friends. 2 vols. [edited by Sidney Colvin] (correspondence) 1899
TREASURE ISLAND (1883)
Andrew Lang (review date 15 December 1883)
SOURCE: Lang, Andrew. Review of Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. In Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage, edited by Paul Maixner, pp. 137-40. London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.
[In the following unsigned review, originally published in the December 15, 1883 edition of Pall Mall Magazine and widely believed to be written by Andrew Lang—creator of the Color Fairy books—the critic offers a positive assessment of Treasure Island, commenting that the adventure tale has "contributed more to the diversion of one critic than all the serious and laborious novelists of the year have done."]
A book for boys which can keep hardened and elderly reviewers in a state of pleasing excitement and attention is evidently no common Christmas book. No one but Mr. Stevenson could have written Treasure Island, for no one else has his vivid imagination combined with his power of drawing character, his charm of style, and his grave, earnest, perfectly boyish delight in a storm, a shipwreck, a sword combat for two or more. Mr. Stevenson probably wrote Treasure Island for his diversion; it has the ease and fluency of work that is done in play. Certainly he has contributed more to the diversion of one critic than all the serious and laborious novelists of the year have done. The question may be asked, will Treasure Island be as popular with boys as it is sure to be with men who retain something of the boy? Our opinion of boys will fall considerably if Treasure Island is not their perennial favourite. Of all things boys enjoy chapters about boys from the pens of really great writers. What can be so thrilling and moving as 'the Little Boy's Dance,' in Vanity Fair, the fight between Cuff and old Figs, the spirited rally between Berry and Biggs, the boyhood of David Copperfield, the infancy of Pip in Great Expectations? To the last narrative, especially to the splendid scenes between Pip and the convict, we would liken the beginning of Treasure Island. When the hero of that volume is a small boy at the lonely seaside inn, during the last century, when the bullying, robbing sea captain comes and bids the lad warn him if a one-legged man makes his appearance, we are carried back to the youth of Pip. And why does the braggart captain, with his endless song—
Drink and the Devil had done for the rest,
why is he as afraid of the one-legged man as the tyrant was of the man with one shoe? That is the secret, which is not solved when first another bully comes for the captain, and then a cruel blind beggar, his staff tapping on the frozen roads, comes, and tortures the boy, and frightens even bold bad Captain Bones into an apoplexy. But before dying the captain has warned the boy, 'If they tip me the black spot, it's my old sea-chest they're after.' Unluckily we have not Captain Johnson's Lives of Eminent Pirates1 at hand. But, apparently, the 'black spot' is the sign which a pirate crew show their captain when they mean to revolt against his authority. The innkeeper's son and his mother, on the captain's death, pay his bill out of his loose cash, and the boy secures an oilskin-covered parcel. Just in time they secure it, for, says the hero, 'I had heard in the silent frosty air a sound that brought my heart into my mouth—the tap, tapping of the blind man's stick upon the frozen road.' The buccaneers search the inn, cannot find the parcel, and are routed by the revenue officers, the awful blind beggar being killed in the affray. Then the boy shows his parcel to the doctor and the squire; they recognize the chart of an isle where treasure is hidden—of course 'in the Spanish main'—and off they set to secure the moidores. The squire being a talkative man, his object gets known, and the buccaneers (the dreaded one-legged man and all) form the greater part of his crew. This one-legged man is a perfect hero of crime, and clearly a great favourite of the author's. A cold-blooded murderer, he has yet such excellent manners, is such a clever 'opportunist,' such an ingenious, plausible, agreeable double-dyed traitor, that one can hardly help siding with him in his plots and treasons, and rejoicing when, after all, he escapes clean away from poetical justice. Out of Thackeray we scarcely know where to find John Silver's parallel, and he might have appeared with credit in the gallery of Barry Lyndon. It were too long to tell all the adventures of the treasure-seekers, and, besides, it would spoil the fun. Of course, the boy-hero performs wonderful exploits; safe in an empty apple-barrel overhears mutineers plotting; defeats their plans on the island, and (a delightful horrible scene, this) boards and captures the ship, where the two drunken guards have fought to the death of one of them and the wounding of the other. The fight in the rigging between the boy and the wounded pirate holds the reader breathless, as does the scene when the boy is captured by the one-legged man, and is in danger of torture. The skeleton which holds the secret of the treasure is, however, too like an idea of Poe's. The reticence in the matter of 'word-painting' is most praiseworthy, and the description of the island—a horrible, commonplace, foggy, yet haunted island—is eminently original. It is clear that fiction is a field in which Mr. Stevenson is even stronger than in essay and in humorous and sentimental journeying. After this romance for boys he must give us a novel for men and women.
1. Captain Charles Johnson, 'A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, etc.' (c.1724).
Susan Gannon (essay date 1985)
SOURCE: Gannon, Susan. "Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island: The Ideal Fable." In Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children's Literature, Volume One, edited by Perry Nodelman, pp. 242-52. West Lafayette, Ind.: Children's Literature Association, 1985.
[In the following essay, Gannon details how Treasure Island can be seen as a perfectly constructed fable written to appeal to children and their disparate interests, while, at the same time, the story twists traditional literary conventions of the period to reflect a more truthful examination of the wonders and tragedies of high adventure.]
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
John D. Moore (essay date June 1991)
SOURCE: Moore, John D. "Emphasis and Suppression in Stevenson's Treasure Island: Fabrication of the Self in Jim Hawkins' Narrative." CLA Journal 34, no. 4 (June 1991): 436-52.
[In the following essay, Moore focuses on the distinct differences between the voice of the adult Jim who narrates Treasure Island and the youthful Jim who serves as the story's primary protagonist.]
When Jim Hawkins, the protagonist of Stevenson's Treasure Island, first sees the island that has long been the stage for his fantasies of adventure, he describes a feeling of nausea and loathing. As the narrator of this tale of undermined expectations and lost innocence, Jim speculates on two possible causes for the feeling; it is either seasickness or the "gray," "melancholy," "wild" appearance of the island itself. Though logically the island's firm ground would offer relief from the effects of seasickness, the island and nausea seem to become associated finally as cause and effect, and thus Jim tells us that "from that first look onward, I hated the very thought of Treasure Island.1 Yet only a few pages further into the narrative, Jim, when first on shore, depicts his feelings in a manner more in accord with Long John Silver's earlier predictions of youthful, animal freedom in this "sweet spot for a lad to get ashore on." "You'll bathe," Silver tell Jim, "and you'll climb trees, and you'll hunt goats, you will; and you'll get aloft on them hills like a goat yourself" (2:90; Ch. 12). Indeed, when Jim comes ashore and slips away from the adults, the narration emphasizes freedom and "the joy of exploration" in a place where Jim has long anticipated arriving. Though Jim's spirits soon darken to shock and disgust when he secretly witnesses Silver's brutal murder of a loyal member of the ship's crew, his initial experience on shore is one of felicity and boyish curiosity.
I begin with this set of passages, one of several such examples, to illustrate how Jim's narrative moves us backwards and forwards, revising, foreshadowing, and often contradicting its material. The narrator's description of a felicitous Jim on shore sends us back to Silver's vision of a boy's island playground and back also to what now becomes Jim's inconsistent declaration of loathing. Jim's proclaimed hatred for the island looks ahead to the brutality that thrives there and to the booming surf and squawking parrot that inhabit the narrator's nightmares at the end of the adventure. We are reading here, as Wolfgang Iser reminds us of narrative in general, in terms of the ending, the horizons of meaning being revised as we look back. Moreover, in such sequences of passages as these relating Jim's perception of the island, we are aware of a crucial tension between Jim as protagonist and Jim as narrator.
Stevenson's novel has often been described as being presented through "a boy's eye," and Jim Hawkins identified as "the boy-narrator" or "the naive narrator."2 Accepting the tale as one told by a boy about himself allows for the usual tensions of such first-person narration—tensions between events and narrative form, between the protagonist inside the action and the narrator remembering the action. Yet this misses the more specific and revealing difference between narrator and protagonist in this first-person tale—the difference between child and adult, boy and man. Though Jim sometimes appears to be naive in missing available connections and ironies in his tale, the language of his narrative is not that of an unseasoned boy. It is the controlled and sometimes even urbane language of one who has matured through his adventures. Moreover, despite Stevenson's claim that the book "was to be a story for boys" (2:xiii), Jim's is a tale told by an adult at the request of adults and, presumably, to adults as the implied readers. This is not, however, to deny its place as a boys' adventure book in the tradition of Kingston and Ballantyne evoked in Stevenson's opening address, "To the Hesitating Purchaser." Boys certainly loom large among Stevenson's implied readers, but the tale of Stevenson's fictional narrator primarily implies, for reasons we will soon explore, an audience of adults.
Like so many books in the genre vaguely designated since Stevenson's day as adolescent literature, Treasure Island is about a journey to adulthood. Stated more ironically, it is a boys' book about the end of boyhood. Jim's adventure is a rite de passage in which the boy with expectant fancies becomes the man with nightmares and a resistance to further adventure. Speaking at the close of his tale about what treasure has been left behind on the island, the transformed Jim Hawkins declares it can stay buried there for all he cares. "Oxen and wain ropes," he asserts, "would not bring me back again to that accursed island" (2:266; Ch. 34). The result of maturation is a marked distance in psychological development between narrator and protagonist. The occasion for Jim's narrative encourages this distance, for he writes at the request of respected adults—Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney—who represent civilized adult order during this journey through a world of piratical chaos.
Given this distance, we should expect the unreliability that in various degrees characterizes all first-person narratives and a psychological dimension that, though Stevenson denied its presence (2:xiii), is discernible in the manner of the narrator as well as in the fabric of the narrative. We know, of course, that all first-person narratives are unreliable, at least to the degree that any told event by the very nature of language and narrative is not identical to the event itself. In the narrative form designated by Anna Barbauld in 1804 as the memoir, "where the subject of the adventures relates his own story,"3 we often can see that the greater the degree of detectable unreliability, the more our attention becomes directed to the narrator as a character in important ways distinct from the role of protagonist in the tale itself.
As narrative form, the memoir ranks high in Stevenson's fiction; Kidnapped, as well as Treasure Island, utilizes this form. The preference for first-person narration is also evident in The Master of Ballantrae, though the chief narrators are not central characters, and such narration plays an important part in sections of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson's theoretical attention to narrative as "literature's most typical mood," is revealed in his essay, "A Humble Remonstrance," a modestly polemical reply to Henry James' "The Art of Fiction" and secondarily to Walter Besant's lecture on the same subject. Stevenson's central statement in his formulation of an "art of narrative" is that in its "mood of narrative," literature "imitates not life but speech, not the facts of human destiny, but the emphasis and the suppressions with which the human actor tells of them" (13:349).
Stevenson's notion of narrative is intriguing in its anticipation of speech act theory. The statement suggests definitions such as Richard Ohmann's—a literary work as "a record of purported speech acts"—or John Searle's—fiction as "the pretended performance of illocutionary acts."4 Written fictional narrative, for Stevenson, is imitative of those speech acts which make up what William Labov calls the "oral narrative of personal experience" or "natural narrative."5 Still more suggestive here in Stevenson's use of the terms, "emphasis" and "suppressions," which seem especially important in characterizing the "mood of narrative." If we can risk substituting the Freudian concept of repression for Stevenson's "suppressions" here, we can distinguish a hint of Lacan's sense of narration, whose idea is, as Robert Con Davis summarizes it, that narration is made possible only by repression, its meaning resulting from "a relationship between manifest and repressed discourses."6 Regretfully, Stevenson does not elaborate on the nature of this emphasis and suppression either as it characterizes natural narrative or the imitation of such narrative. His main intent in "A Humble Remonstrance" is to remove the art of fiction as far as reasonably possible away from the constraints of truth which James imposes. What Stevenson calls "the art of fictitious narrative in prose" is in no way competitive with life (13:345). By making such art an imitation of what we would call narrative speech acts, Stevenson removes it one degree, and by involving narrative speech with acts of emphasis and suppression, he removes narrative fiction one more degree from life ("the facts of human destiny").
It is in this second degree of removal that we find implications most pertinent to the narrative dimensions of Treasure Island. Stevenson's definition of fictional narrative as an art imitative of the emphasis and suppression at work in natural narrative seems most immediately applicable to first-person narratives and especially to the memoir, where the emphasis and suppression may become visible in the amount of detectable unreliability and the detectable tensions between manifest and repressed content. In such circumstances we become attuned to the narrative as fabrication, a manifest discourse performed by a narrator who is also the central character. The more transparent the fabrication, the more visible the repressed content, and the more aware we become of the fabricating act of narrative itself. The tale becomes, on this level, one about tale-telling.
In Treasure Island we can begin to move towards such awareness once we recognize emphasis and suppression, or possibly repression, as the informing principles of Jim's narrative. In addition to the appeal of unfolding adventure, we become aware of narrative fabrication as drama in its own right. The drama of Jim Hawkins, protagonist, and Jim Hawkins, narrator, sharing and imitating as it does some of the narrative compulsion of autobiography, is the drama of an adult shaping his own childhood. Thus Treasure Island displays the mark of much children's literature—an urge to re-create either a personal or generalized lost childhood and often to recreate it in accordance with adulthood, to re-create it through narrative sequence, finally, as something not lost but absorbed in a process ending in a product—adulthood—to which one feels obligated to assign superior value.
On this level, Jim Hawkins' narrative can appear as a drama of recounting and accounting for his boyhood experiences, of adjusting them through narrative to satisfy adult readers (the squire and doctor among them) and himself as the adult he has become. The narrative project attempts both to celebrate boyhood adventure and also to justify its loss. The give-and-take in what amounts to an economics of fabricating the self can be traced in the moments where emphasis and suppression are most visibly at work, leaving gaps through which we may catch glimpses of alternative versions of Jim's behavior, perception, and motivation. Reading with an eye for the unreliable, we can locate points in the narration where Jim the adult offers interpretations of Jim the boy that invite contrary readings and the discovery of suppressed or repressed elements.
Jim's narrative becomes most open to question when he attempts, as in his initial response to the island, to explain his actions and reactions. Such commentary frequently enters the narrative in connection with Jim's relation to the pirates—specifically, Billy Bones, Israel Hands, and Long John Silver. Jim's first experience with pirates involves Billy Bones, whose stay at the Admiral Benbow Inn introduces Jim to the realm of adventure that he will soon enter more fully. Bones in many ways resembles a large, willful child and is treated as such by the admonishing and thoroughly adult Doctor Livesey, who attempts treatment of the pirate's alcoholism. Important here is that the pirate confides in Jim, treating him as an equal and admitting him glimpses of the eternal boyhood world of piracy, its clubbism and, above all, its freedom and mystery. Jim's narrative, however, attempts emphasis of the boy's distaste for and even superiority to the pirate. That the narrative pursues the suppression of an attraction for the pirate becomes evident in Jim's account of the pirate's death, which is also Jim's accounting for his own reaction to that death. In remembering his response, Jim appears at first perplexed:
It is a curious thing to understand, for I had certainly never liked the man, though of late I had begun to pity him, but as soon as I saw that he was dead, I burst into a flood of tears. It was the second death I had known, and the sorrow of the first was still fresh in my heart.
(2:26, Ch. 3)
We suspect that Jim protests too much with this psychologizing rationale. It sends us in search of the alternative explanation, the one that ironically is both being suppressed and made obvious in Jim's means of suppressing it. Beneath the imposed reasoning of the adult we can detect the truth of the boy's behavior. First of all, we begin to suspect a much greater attachment for the pirate than the adult Jim can safely admit or perhaps even comprehend. The pirate, after all, has treated Jim with a certain amount of respect and confidence, treated him as if the two were shipmates, and we can assume that it would be natural for the boy to respond in good faith. Indeed, Jim does keep the pirate's confidences and does what he can to aid him, keeping watch for Bones' enemies and serving him drink against the doctor's orders. What is truly curious in Jim's report, then, are not the tears shed at the pirate's death but the manner in which Jim accounts for those tears. This "second death" is associated with a first, the death of Jim's father. We are being asked to see Jim's tears as shed not for the reprehensible pirate but for the father. They are explained as residual tears evoked not by the particular death of Billy Bones but by the fact of death itself, which then reawakens Jim's feeling for his father's death. Sorrow for a father's death certainly looks more respectable than sorrow for the death of a reprobate, yet it is odd that when Jim's father dies the narrative contains no record of intense emotion. Jim notes a "natural sorrow" at the event but shifts attention to how busy he and his mother were in looking after the inn and arranging the funeral (2:22, Ch. 3). The first tears Jim's narrative records are those shed over the body of the pirate. By attempting to explain away this sorrow by associating it with his father, Jim suggests what he perhaps wishes to suppress—a filial attachment to the pirate, a man who, on the evidence of the narrative facts, has displayed more warmth and attention towards Jim than his father has.
The matter of Jim's locating something paternal in the piratical appears again in the central relationship of the narrative, that between young Jim and the ambivalent figure of Long John Silver. Others have noted and argued that Silver appears as a surrogate father for Jim, vying in the boy's mind with the doctor and squire for that paternal role.7 The novel can be given a fairly consistent reading in these terms. A boy with a father who is distant and soon dead seeks for a substitute first among pirates, who offer both paternal attention as well as camaraderie and adventure that will preserve boyhood freedom and amorality. Father figures of a more respectable and authoritative sort—the doctor, the squire, Captain Smollett—impose themselves as alternatives and models of rational and moral adulthood. Jim must choose, and he finally picks the father figures who will lead him out of boyhood into an adulthood where the only adventure lies in creating the narrative of his lost youth. From this perspective the narrative adventure then tends to minimize the attraction felt by the boy Jim towards Silver and towards a life that rejects respectable maturity.
The opposing possibilities for Jim's development can be read emblematically in the narrator's inventory of Billy Bones' sea chest, another narrative instance in which the adult Jim's puzzlement acts as a gap through which we can view suppressed meaning. Upon looking within the pirate's chest, Jim and his mother first notice "a suit of very good clothes, carefully brushed and folded," and which, Jim's mother informs him, "had never been worn." Jim continues the inventory as follows:
Under that, the miscellany began—a quadrant, a tin canikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of very handsome pistols, a piece of bar silver, an old Spanish watch and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign make, a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six curious West Indian shells. I have often wondered since why he should have carried about these shells with him in his wandering, guilty, and hunted life.
(2:31, Ch. 4)
Jim ends here with what may be naive perplexity, but it is presented from the security of an adult perspective, one that can offer both condemnation and pity while still admitting a lack of comprehension. Jim's puzzlement invites us to decipher the meaning of the chest's contents. The as yet unworn suit of the respectable adult evokes the ironic double sense of the term "gentleman" as used by the pirates. Once the unworn suit is set aside—either rejected as a respectable possibility or seen as a mere mask—we discover emblems of exotic adventure, violence, wealth, and finally, in the "curious" sea shells, a sense of the child's pack-rat delight in small baubles. It is as if we were going through Tom Sawyer's pockets. Furthermore, the chest's contents juxtapose rebellion, adventure, boyhood wonder, and orderly, respectable adulthood. However, the narrator cannot—or chooses not to—understand the emblematic content which here weighs heaviest on the side of boyhood and adventure.
The adult Jim continues his attempts to re-cover the glamour of piracy with the narrative clothes of respectability—no mean task when it involves his attraction to Long John Silver. Jim tells us that Silver, at first a nameless man with one leg, haunts his dreams as "a monstrous kind of creature," whose deformity seems to symbolize both a human incompleteness and a terrifying sexuality suggested by Jim's dream-perception of him as never having possessed "but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body," a terrifying sexuality (2:6; Ch. 1). Yet when Jim eventually meets Silver as the old one-legged sea cook, the man carries no terrifying associations for him. He is not equated with the "seafaring man with one leg" about whom Billy Bones warns Jim. Nor does Jim react with the terror of his nightmares when he discovers the sea cook's piratical identity. While concealed within an apple barrel aboard the ship, Jim overhears Silver's mutinous address to the crew not with fear but with outrage at hearing Silver speak winningly to another young shipmate. "You may imagine," says Jim, "how I felt when I heard this abominable old rogue addressing another in the very same words of flattery as he had used to myself. I think, if I had been able, that I would have killed him through the barrel" (2:81, Ch. 11).
The emphasized language here is that of an adult's righteous indignation at roguery, but the barely suppressed emotion seems that of the possessive and even jealous child who has been slighted and disappointed by one whom he admires. The expectations that are shattered here are not objective and ethical but subjective, amoral, and self-serving. The tone of moral superiority appears as the imposition of the adult narrator.
Throughout the remainder of the narrative, Jim presents himself as increasingly aware of Silver's dissembling nature and the power of his language, especially its flattery. This growing awareness is emphasized at the same time that the facts of the narrative point to Jim's active tendencies towards rebellion, deception, and piratical adventure. We can see some of Silver in Jim—an ability to bargain and to play both sides in one's self-interest, and an ability to adopt the language of the buccaneer. These traits are observable in the course of Jim's reckless adventure in which he kills the pirate, Israel Hands, reclaims Captain Smollett's ship, and bargains his way out of a dangerous encounter with Silver and his mutinous crew.
Jim's encounter with the violent and nihilistic Hands is in some ways an encounter between pirates. Jim's last words to Hands before shooting him in self-defense are Hands' own words: "'One more step, Mr. Hands,' said I, 'and I'll blow your brains out! Dead men don't bite, you know,' I added, with a chuckle" (2:197-98; Ch. 96.) These words, to be sure, are used sarcastically, but used nonetheless. Only momentarily shaken by his killing of Hands and more pleased than apologetic about having in a sense outpirated the pirates, Jim secures the reclaimed vessel and wades ashore "in famous spirits" (2:202; Ch. 27). Though justifying his action by dutifully raising the Union Jack, Jim's retaking of the Hispaniola is an act of rebellion against the authority of Captain Smollett. Jim has abandoned his post at the blockhouse, announcing his departure to no one. Indeed, the doctor, squire, and captain speculate that Jim has shifted his allegiance, an action which, it is worth noting, is characteristic of Silver's self-serving diplomacy.
In terms of the narrative facts, Jim's actions here seem to impel him still further into piratical company. Returning to the island blockhouse thinking to find the doctor, captain, and squire, Jim finds instead Silver and his crew. Here Jim manages again to outpirate pirates. He uses his knowledge of the Hispaniola's whereabouts and his position to save the pirates from the gallows and to bargain for his own safety. Moreover, his maneuver gains the specious respect of Silver, who solicits Jim's aid in saving them both from the rest of the mutineers. Most revealing here is how Jim's language, with its droning emphasis on the first-person pronoun, takes on the characteristics of Silver's rhetoric. Let us first listen to Silver, as Jim hears him from inside the barrel earlier in the novel:
Well, now, if you want to know, I'll tell you when. The last moment I can manage; and that's when. Here's a first-rate seaman, Cap'n Smollett, sails the blessed ship for us. Here's this squire and doctor with a map and such—I don't know where it is, do I? No more do you, says you. Well, then, I mean this squire and doctor shall find the stuff, and help us to get it aboard, by the powers! Then we'll see. If I was sure of you all, sons of double Dutchmen, I'd have Cap'n Smollet navigate us half-way back again before I struck.
(2:84, Ch. 11)
. . . your whole business gone to wreck; and if you want to know who did it—it was I! I was in the apple barrel the night we sighted land, and I heard you, John, and you, Dick Johnson, and Hands, who is now at the bottom of the sea, and told every word you said before the hour was out. And as for the schooner, it was I who cut her cable, and it was I that killed the men you had aboard of her, and it was I who brought her where you'll never see her more, not one of you. The laugh's on my side; I've had the top of this business from the first.
(2:213; Ch. 28)
Jim, as adult narrator, here records a moment of narrative embellishment supposedly engineered by Jim the boy. We note that Jim lies to the pirates about the number of men he has killed aboard the ship, a matter that the adult Jim oddly does not comment upon. Moreover, Jim, as adult narrator, evidently takes some pride in reconstructing this moment of oratorical command and braggadocio, for it is his moment of power over the enemy. Yet the language, when compared to Silver's, appears as the language of a pirate among pirates. The efficacy of Jim's rhetoric seems to increase Silver's attachment to the boy, an attachment expressed later in Silver's observation that he and Jim "might have done a power of good together!" (2:217; Ch. 28).
Jim, however, soon realizes that where treasure is concerned, Silver would obdurately dispose of his young companion. With this realization, Jim's rejection of Silver and all that he represents appears to become complete. Silver's voice lapses into relative silence for the remainder of the narrative until he disappears, at least physically, altogether from the tale. Throughout the final portions of the narrative, Jim portrays his perception of the pirates in a manner that increasingly reflects the sensibilities of the doctor, squire, and captain. The buccaneers, with the exception of the "formidible seafaring man with one leg," appear more and more as fearful, unruly, and inept children. The last Jim shows of them is their futile attempt to fire a musket at the ship which maroons them on the island which Jim now leaves with "inexpressible joy" (2:263-64; Ch. 34).
This "inexpressible joy" is, for the narrator, the climax of what is at once a Bildungsroman and an apologia. It is the joy of arriving safely at adulthood, of having rejected the life of boyhood adventure and amorality. Jim, like J. M. Barrie's Lost Boys returning to London, leaves an island which is both idyllic and, from an adult perspective, dangerous. The narrative, as apologia, attempts justification of what Jim's adult self calls "mad notions" and "foolish, overbold" actions (2:165; Ch. 22). These deviations from rationality and morality are presented as deeds "[t]hat contributed so much to save our lives" (2:102; Ch. 13). The narration and the shape of its plot suppress the boyish, piratical self-indulgence and rebellion of these actions by emphasizing their place within a development where they finally serve the rational ends of adulthood—the safety and victory of the squire, doctor and captain, and the values they uphold. Seen as a Bildungsroman Jim's narrative presents the rebellious deeds of boyhood as leading to the stability and discipline of manhood.
The adult Jim attempts to weave a smooth narrative fabric in which boyhood becomes incorporated into manhood with seamless continuity. It is worth noting here that the language of the loom in this discussion can function usefully beyond the usual level of dead metaphor. In terms of the common trope of weaving, if we extend the analogy, Jim's narrative can be seen as an attempt to weave a tapestry, that variety of cloth in which the warp is concealed by the weft. What Jim attempts to conceal, the suppressed facts of the tale, is what makes the pattern of concealment possible. The tapestry, however, as we have observed in several instances, is imperfect. The warp can be glimpsed in Jim's narrative. Moreover, other senses of the word "warp" suggestively apply here as well. We may think of warp as turning from a correct or proper course or, in its nautical sense, as moving a vessel by hauling on a cable attached to some fixed object such as a pier or anchor. In nautical terms, particularly appropriate to a sea adventure such as Treasure Island, we can speak of Jim warping his plot, moving the remembered events in the direction he desires with the aid of narrative facts fixed and strengthened through emphasis. The sense of warp as deviation is also applicable, ironically revealing the undercurrent of Jim's experiences, the piratical rebelliousness and boyish impulsiveness that the narrative structure works to suppress. The three senses of warp here reflect the narrative tensions wrought by suppression and emphasis, the cross-purposes operating in Jim's attempt to construct a completed, mature, and civilized sense of himself.
There is, however, a sense of discomfort in this mature, civilized, and now wholly unadventuresome Jim. In the closing lines of his narrative, suppression is again noticeable, not so much in what is left out—for he quite openly notes that he has bad dreams— but rather in the failure to interpret what he includes. Jim does not provide the details of his dreams. We know only that they are nightmares having some connection with two images from his island adventures—the sound of the surf and the cry of Silver's parrot. The surf calls to mind the island itself and the loathing Jim claims he perpetually feels for it. The parrot's cry, "pieces of eight," evokes the image of the treasure. The parrot itself evokes its owner, Long John Silver. And the parrot's name, Captain Flint, produces the image of the pirate to whose dreaded authority Silver succeeded in a manner suggestive of sons usurping fathers. Jim, at least as far as his relationship with Silver is concerned, has rejected the filial role he might have played in continuing this pattern of succession. Indeed, Jim claims that Silver "has at last gone clean out of my life" (2:266, Ch. 34). This, however, seems true only in a limited sense, for Jim immediately begins to contemplate Silver's fate and to suggest that Silver's image enters his dreams. Silver remains free in the world—free to pursue a life which Jim has rejected and free also from the constraints imposed by the thoughts of an afterlife, thoughts which now seem to rule Jim's adult conscience. Jim hopes that Silver has found comfort in this world, "for his chances of comfort in another world are very small" (2:266; Ch. 34). There is a condescending air to this statement, reminiscent of Dr. Livesey's address to Billy Bones at the beginning of the novel. Jim has severed himself from Silver as adult from child and as one who, possessing a conscience, has in a sense become his own father.
The security and comfort afforded by Jim's adulthood and expressed in his patronizing concern for Silver's comfort is undercut much in the same way that Jim's earlier adult postures are. The narrative facts with which Jim concludes suggest meanings which, like the contents of Billy Bones' sea-chest, Jim leaves undeciphered. His nightmares imply that for Jim, unlike Silver, comfort must lie in the next world, for sleep in this one remains troubled by past experiences that disturb the personal equilibrium whose achievement Jim's narrative attempts to record.
Perhaps the most suggestive element in Jim's peroration involves the treasure itself, disturbingly evoked by the parrot's cry in Jim's worst dreams. A portion of the treasure still lies buried on the island, where Jim refuses ever to return. In terms of the obvious facts of the narrative, Jim's quest is a partial failure. Likewise it is a failure in terms of both an archetypal heroic quest for the hoard and a Bildungsroman that seeks to record the achievement of self-realization. Though this is not the place to launch a Jungian reading of Jim's narrative, Jung's sense of the symbolism of the buried treasure, "the treasure hard to attain," is useful here. On the level of displaced myth we may read the treasure as that libidinal "source of life and power" hidden in the darkness of the unconscious.8 As the object of the quest, treasure is associated with the rebirth of the hero and the goal of the process of individuation. In such a context its attainment is emblematic of individual wholeness, the completion of the self. The danger in such quests, however, is the possible distintegration rather than the sought-for integration of the personality. Failing to attain the treasure is to remain unconscious of the self.9
To understand the central image of the treasure in this way is to perceive the abortive nature of Jim's quest. The adult self that Jim presents as the successful product of his excursion is a fragmented self. Part of Jim, like the treasure and the marooned pirates, remains on the island, a suppressed or repressed portion of the self, which surfaces only in Jim's worst dreams and in the more transparent areas of his narrative. We see that there is a price for the sort of maturity that Jim has gained; something must be left behind, buried. The price for Jim's choice of adulthood and civilized order is exacted in repression. In a sense, all that Jim retrieves from his adventure is his narrative, a record of self-fragmentation in which the art of suppression and emphasis aids in the interment of Jim's childhood self. Like the treasure map from which Stevenson's novel grew, Jim's narrative becomes a map for locating the buried self.
1. Robert Louis Stevenson, The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Thistle ed., 22 Vols. (New York: Scribner's, 1894-1911), II, 98; Ch. 13. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.
2. See, for example, Leslie Fielder, Introd., The Master of Ballantrae, by Robert Louis Stevenson (New York: Rinehart, 1954), p. x; Mary Louis McKenzie, "The Toy Theatre, Romance, and Treasure Island: The Artistry of Robert Louis Stevenson," English Studies in Canada, 8 (December 1982), 416; and David D. Mann and William H. Hardesty, "Historical Reality and Fictional Daydream in Treasure Island," The Journal of Narrative Technique, 7 (1977), 98.
3. Anna Baubauld, "A Biographical Account of Samuel Richardson," in The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Anna Barbauld (1804; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1966), I, xxiv.
4. Richard Ohmann, "Literature as Act," in Approaches to Poetics, ed. Seymour Chatman (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1973), p. 101; John R. Searle, Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), p. 68.
5. William Labov, Language in the Inner City (University Park: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1972).
6. Robert Con Davis, "Lacan, Poe, and Narrative Repression," in Lacan and Narration: The Psychoanalytic Difference in Narrative Theory, ed. Robert Con Davis (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1983), p. 990.
7. James Cox, "Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer," Folio, 18 (1953), 17, n. 2.
8. C. G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation, Vol. 5 of The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Bollingen Series (New York: Pantheon, 1956), pp. 363, 330.
9. Ibid., p. 374; see, also, Jung's Psychology and Alchemy, ibid., XII, 322-23.
A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES (1885)
Ann C. Colley (essay date fall 1997)
SOURCE: Colley, Ann C. "'Writing towards Home': The Landscape of A Child's Garden of Verses." Victorian Poetry 35, no. 3 (fall 1997): 303-18.
[In the following essay, Colley speculates that A Child's Garden of Verses functions as Stevenson's attempt to reminisce and regain aspects of both his own childhood perceptions as well as his youthful thirst for playful violence—traits that were lost when he became an adult.]
Thomas Carlyle, "Characteristics" ">
Most of us, looking back on young years, may remember seasons of a light, aerial translucency and elasticity and perfect freedom; the body had not yet become the prison-house of the soul, but was its vehicle and implement, like a creature of thought, and altogether pliant to its bidding.
Thomas Carlyle, "Characteristics" 
At a time when the twentieth century approaches closure and the past presses against the borders of the present, and at a time when the troubling question of the relation between the past and the present lays siege to a culture's conscience, it is, perhaps, appropriate to consider the role of nostalgia as an organizing force in the imagination and memory. With this context in mind, I have chosen to examine the nature of Robert Louis Stevenson's nostalgia for his childhood and the expression of this longing in the poems that compose A Child's Garden of Verses (1885). Like many of his contemporaries, Stevenson thought of himself as being alienated and exiled from his homeland and his childhood by virtue of distance and age. Like them he suffered from a desire for reunion, for some point of correspondence between the present and the past, the immediate surroundings and home. Often feeling dispossessed and trapped in the dualities and the tension between the real and the remembered, he wrote towards home in an attempt to reach a place where there is a possibility of continuity and where there is a sanctuary from the changes that come with the passing of time. His verses offered him a form of hope, of promise, that he could, for the moment, place himself in the track of his former self and re-enter what was irrevocably absent and seemingly unavailable. He could reclaim what was once himself.
Although Stevenson lived through his nostalgic moments as if alone (recall the solitary voice that at times permeates the lines in A Child's Garden of Verses ), he was tacitly connected to those who reached for the metaphor of their history to bring what is absent into the present in order to integrate their lives more fully. He took comfort in the past, for he was part of a culture that found in the past a means of resolving (rather than creating) tension or difference. The past gave Stevenson a way of discovering synthesis—an engagement with it did not necessarily expose the antitheses and ironies imbedded in our postmodern sensibility. Even though Stevenson was more than capable of mocking his countrymen, his was not a perspective that tends to distrust what belongs to a former time. Neither did he participate in that part of our contemporary culture that, as Arjun Appadurai suggests, promotes nostalgia without a memory1 —a world in which people look back to events and places they have never lost and simply take what they need from the past out of a "synchronic warehouse of cultural scenarios" that function as a "temporal central casting" (p. 273) according to the desire of a political moment. On the contrary, Stevenson existed in a context without this disjunctive overlapping. He was part of a sensibility in which there is a distinction and a distance between the past and the present. He belonged to a world that has a memory; consequently, he moved about in places that carry the burden and the authority of what was once in them. For him and his contemporaries, there was, very much, an object to their sadness. They did not subscribe to what Susan Stewart claims is a condition of longing: that "nostalgia is a sadness without an object."2
For Stevenson, of course, a primary object of his nostalgia was the landscape of his childhood. Although many critics and biographers have remarked upon the fact of Stevenson's yearning for his childhood and have documented his engagement with the games, the play, the maps, and the interiors of his early years, none has dwelt upon the idiosyncratic nature of their "typography," especially that which he describes in A Child's Garden of Verses. 3 In this article, I concentrate upon the "elasticity" of these childhood spaces and upon their malleable and synthetic landscape. The poems in A Child's Garden of Verses are about Stevenson's nostalgia for this flexibility and for its companion, the vicarious violence of play.4 In these verses the dualities of home and distant skies, land and sea, trees and ships, are not alienating; they do not exile the child, for the child belongs to a larger perspective that collapses the distant and the contiguous. With ease, he journeys back and forth between modes of consciousness and terrain without the experience of difference and duality that can complicate the adult experience and exacerbate the sense of difference. Stevenson's verses offered him a sanctuary that was more durable and satisfying than that afforded by his intermittent nationalism, for they were the means of writing towards home and reclaiming, momentarily, what was no longer fully available to him. These verses helped him walk back into the space of his early years and recover what Carlyle termed the "elasticity" of childhood.
Stevenson's Longing for Childhood
Like one who closely watches passing trains traveling in opposite directions, Stevenson constantly altered his focus and turned his head from one compartment of his life to another. As an adult he kept shifting between childhood and maturity and could not, therefore, regard himself as a "constant."5 He was never simply his chronological age. Referring to himself in a letter to his cousin Robert Alan Stevenson, he explained, "You are twenty, and forty, and five, and the next moment you are freezing at an imaginary eighty; you are never the plain forty-four that you should be by dates."6 Because of this perspective, Stevenson had difficulty in portraying an adult without making some reference to a childish feature or characteristic in the person. Sensitive to the child that lives within the adult, he referred to himself as a grown man who feels "weary and timid in this big, jostling city" and wants to run to his nurse ([The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, 1854-1894, ] 3:33), and, at another time, described his aging and infirm grandfather as a person who sits "with perfect simplicity, like a child's, munching a 'barley-sugar kiss.'"7 The child adhered to the adult as the shadow sticks to the young boy in the poems "My Shadow" and "Shadow March." 8 Whether it was before or after him, or for the moment invisible, this second self was always in some way attached to the person. Consequently, in Stevenson's fiction protagonists move effortlessly back and forth between childhood and adulthood. At one moment the young narrator of Treasure Island speaks of himself as "only a boy,"9 but at another adopts the persona of an adult and imperiously commands, "I've come aboard to take possession of this ship, Mr. Hands; and you'll please regard me as your captain until further notice" (p. 156). Similarly, David Balfour and Alan Breck alternate between "the rude, silly speech of a boy of ten"10 and the measured phrases of maturity. Their vacillating responses to each other and to themselves reflect the giddiness of their shifting identities.
Stevenson's sensitivity to these fluctuations resulted not only from his recognizing the child within himself and others but also from his yearning for that segment of his life. Reading through Stevenson's prose and poetry one soon realizes that his nostalgia for Scotland was not nearly as pressing as his longing for his early years there. Even though Stevenson spoke of his childhood as "a very mixed experience, full of fever, nightmare, insomnia, painful days and interminable nights" (Letters, 5:97), he also remembered the happier moments that combined with the difficult to make his childhood a more intense time than the present. As an adult he wanted to relive that intensity. Stevenson's attachment to children is an expression of this desire. When he watched them or when he was with them, he could see what he wanted to retrieve from his past and what he hoped still to find within himself. His letters that include passages about children echo this longing. For instance, from Menton in 1874, Stevenson wrote to his mother about a Russian child of two and a half who was staying with her mother at his hotel: "She speaks six languages. She and her sister (aet. 8) and May Johnstone (aet. 8) are the delight of my life. Last night I saw them all dancing—O it was jolly; kids are what is the matter with me" (Letters, 1:429). Like so many other young people, that child was "ever interesting" (Letters, 1:441). Periodically Stevenson also wrote letters to children of his friends. In a letter to Thomas Archer, aged three, for example, Stevenson describes a few moments from his own boyhood and displays an unusually acute memory of what it was like to be Thomas' age. His words reveal his yearning for the games of his youth: "I was the best player of hide-and-seek going; not a good runner, I was up to every shift and dodge, I could jink very well, I could crawl without any noise through leaves, I could hide under a carrot plant, it used to be my favourite boast that I always walked into the den" (Letters, 6:218).
Significantly, it is in this love of play that one finds the primary expression of Stevenson's attraction to children and childhood. Most of all he wanted to be back among his boyhood play. Longing to relive these moments he later devised elaborate war games with toy soldiers, designed maps, printed newspaper reports about the troops' daily movements, and with his willing stepson produced dramas, set up printing presses, and traveled into countries unknown to anyone but themselves. Accompanied by Lloyd Osbourne, Stevenson was able to continue the imaginative play he and his cousin Robert had enjoyed when they had been younger and had eagerly created the lands of Nosington and Encyclopaedia. In his essay "Crabbed Age and Youth," Stevenson, barely disguising his identity, speaks of his wish to reclaim the games of his childhood and admits his reluctance to give up his playthings:
A child who had been remarkably fond of toys (and in particular of lead soldiers) found himself growing to the level of acknowledged boyhood without any abatement of this childish taste. He was thirteen; already he had been taunted for dallying overlong about the playbox; he had to blush if he was found among his lead soldiers; the shades of the prison-house were closing about him with a vengeance. There is nothing more difficult than to put the thoughts of children into the language of their elders; but this is the effect of his meditations at this juncture: "Plainly," he said, "I must give up my playthings in the meanwhile, since I am not in a position to secure myself against idle jeers. At the same time, I am sure that playthings are the very pick of life; all people give them up out of the same pusillanimous respect for those who are a little older; and if they do not return to them as soon as they can, it is only because they grow stupid and forget. I shall be wiser; I shall conform for a little to the ways of their foolish world; but so soon as I have made enough money, I shall retire and shut myself up among my playthings until the day I die."
(Virginibus Puerisque, pp. 63-64)
Stevenson took his own advice, for, of course, his essays, fiction, and poems are expressions of this impulse to shut himself up with his toys. With their more elaborate versions of hide-and-seek, their dressed dramas, and their arenas of adventurous conflict, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Master of Ballantrae, and St. Ives, for instance, kept the adult Stevenson "halfway between the swing and the gate" (Letters, 4:189), and such poems as "Pirate Story" and "A Good Play" from A Child's Garden of Verses allowed him to hear "a kind of childish treble note" (Letters, 5:85). It is as if he wrote the books and the verses he wished he could have picked up and read—the kind that would have let him re-engage his childhood play. In a (?June) 1884 letter to William Ernest Henley, Stevenson exclaimed, "I want to hear swords clash. I want a book to begin in a good way; a book, I guess, like Treasure Island, alas! which I have never read, and cannot though I live to ninety. I would God that some one else had written it! By all that I can learn, it is the very book for my complaint" (Letters, 4:307).
The Landscape ofA Child's Garden of Verses
Stevenson's unwillingness to abandon the pleasures of play issues partly from his sense that a child's spatial orientation differs significantly from an adult's. The boundaries marking the experience of childhood bore no resemblance to those defining adulthood—to become an adult, therefore, was to exchange one kind of map for another and to step outside the child's realm. It was to lose a perspective that might release him from the disturbing dualities that split the attention of his adult life.
This division of worlds is, perhaps, nowhere more visible than in A Child's Garden of Verses. Here Stevenson becomes the cartographer poet who delineates a topography that essentially excludes adults. "Grown ups" stand outside the contours of the child's space, beyond what the poems, with their geographical imagery, survey and map. Adults are outsiders who enter momentarily to put the child to bed. As voices from another "estate," they intrude and call the child home to tea. They are mothers who listen to the patter of feet from another room. None, not even the kindly aunt ("Auntie's Skirts" ), is fully part of the child's subjective and self-contained space. Like the nurse who appears to be "very big," they do not even share the same scale ("My Kingdom" ). The "we" in the poems, therefore, refers almost exclusively to children, for they are the primary community. Just as the children Stevenson observed on board the Devonia11 found each other "like dogs" and moved about "all in a band, as thick as thieves at a fair" while their elders were "still ceremoniously manoeuvering on the outskirts of acquaintance" (The Amateur Emigrant, p. 15), the young people in A Child's Garden of Verses spontaneously form and dissolve their own society that marginalizes the adult world. Like the child in "Foreign Lands," the young boys and girls search for "a higher tree" so they can see "To where the grown-up river slips / Into the sea among the ships." To become an adult is to lose this point of view.
Although Stevenson acknowledged that a phantom of the child stalked the adult and could, at times, seem more real than the adult figure himself, he recognized, of course, that childhood was not fully recoverable. No matter how much he consciously tried to re-enter its domain and how often he tried to take hold of it, his boyhood was always to be somewhat elusive. He remarked that in his adulthood he had "grown up and gone away" from what he once was. Enough remained, though, in memory and impulse, that Stevenson could isolate and long for what was lacking. He did not, of course, regret the passing of the child's terror of chastisement and the suffering that accompanied his frequent illnesses. He did, however, regret the absence of the child's spontaneity and the expansiveness of his imagination—Stevenson envied the child who does not have to travel to activate his mind, who requires merely the stage of his immediate surroundings and the props of the simplest, everyday objects to reach places that he knows only by name. Keenly aware of this loss in his adulthood, he instructed his name-child, at the end of A Child's Garden of Verses, to lay down his spelling lesson and "go and play" ("To My Name-Child" ).
Even more significantly, though, Stevenson deplored the absence of a certain elasticity of perception that is such an integral part of childhood. The child inhabits a malleable space. Like Princes Street (Edinburgh) that can either interminably extend itself and lead the spectator's eye "right into the heart of the red sundown" or "shrink" so that the street "seems to lie underneath" one's feet (Letters, 1:330), the child is able to expand and contract his attention, yet never lose touch with himself. He keeps his name and his identity. His shadow moves, grows, and diminishes with him. With ease, the child journeys back and forth between modes of consciousness and terrain without the experience of difference that can complicate the adult experience. In a sense, perhaps, the child is able to realize or make facile the fantasy of empire and eradicate the anxieties attending its displacements.
The poems in A Child's Garden of Verses are about Stevenson's nostalgia for this flexibility. They follow the child as he journeys between what is near and far, as he moves from night to day, and as he swings within and beyond the borders of the garden wall, sails in and out of the harbors of home, and grows large or becomes small. In all these situations the child remains intact and secure. The dualities of home and distant skies, land and sea, trees and ships, neither divide him nor cause one part of his consciousness to regard the other as alien—as exiled. In his terrain, beds and books, darkness and light, meadows and seas, pillows and battlefields mingle to form the single subjective topography of his inner landscape. He is part of a larger perspective that collapses the distant and the contiguous and, simultaneously, expands the immediate into the distant—where the rain at the same moment falls "on the umbrellas here" and "on the ships at sea" ("Rain" ) and where the child senses, although he cannot see them, the presence of other children who, like him, go to bed, play, take their tea, and sing—in Japan, Spain, or India ("Foreign Lands," "Singing," and "The Sun Travels" ). There is no layering, no schematic drawing of geological strata. The layers only separate when the adult intrudes with a voice that wrenches what is single apart; then, the child becomes self-conscious and in "The Land of Story-Books" speaks of an otherness:
So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks
At my dear land of Story-books.
This looking backwards is a way of perceiving imposed by those who feel the differences of time and place. It is a mode of seeing that belongs to the adult who has difficulty blending the absent and the present and holding what is near and far comfortably within his sight. Unlike the child in the swing, the adult cannot readily see outside and inside the boundaries of his life in one motion. The adult does not have the invisible sweeping eye; he must elicit a mediating object, like the map, to extend his perspective. Recognizing this necessity, Stevenson once recommended to Edmund Gosse (March 17, 1884) that in his new office overlooking the Thames he should keep on his table "a great map spread out." Stevenson suggested that "a chart is still better—it takes one further—the havens with their little anchors, the rocks, banks and soundings, are adorably marine" (Letters, 4: 260). The child in the poems requires no such mediating object to collect into one space what is near and far, what can be seen and what is invisible. It is only later, as an adult, that Stevenson needs maps and charts to help him reclaim this suppleness of mind so he can compose his fiction.
Because they unite the dualities that leave the adult staring at the space separating the then and the now, the far and the near, the children in Stevenson's verses do not necessarily experience nostalgia—as in "Where Go the Boats?" they look forwards, not backwards. The child's orientation is not, therefore, like that of Dr. Jekyll or the Master of Ballantrae, for his self is not a divided house; it need not turn back to regard itself and stare at its own "imperfect and divided countenance."12 The child blends the nights and days and the open and the secrets that come between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and cause Hyde, at one point, to look back through the space of his anguish and review his life from his infancy. The child is spared this pain, for he lives in an ever-revolving present—even when he says goodbye, the images he desires sparkle with a presence that keeps them alive. They are, in spite of the valediction, still there ("Farewell to the Farm" ). Memory does not continually press against him. In this frame of mind, then, Stevenson's young child considers what it will be like to grow older and does not fear that he will have to recall what he once was ("Looking Forward" ). On the contrary, he looks forward to being able to realize and to extend his desires—he will learn to take a ship out to sea ("My Ship and I" ), and he will become the lamplighter ("The Lamplighter" ). From his perspective his older self will actualize or confirm his being; it will neither oppose nor diminish it, for his circumference of sight will expand and allow him to see "farther" ("Foreign Lands" ). Continuity rather than interruption or retrospection measures the child's globe.
Stevenson's verses emerge from a longing for this circumstance. But as Stevenson realized, he and his nostalgia for the past cannot restructure what had been. One reason they fail is that the adult, unlike the more flexible child, cannot play properly—he has difficulty accepting substitutes and, thus, can never fully entertain the notion of recovery, for he feels cut off from the authentic or legitimate experience. He is, therefore, more than usually sensitive to difference. The child in Stevenson's verses, on the other hand, is constantly using one object for another—a bed for a boat—and that suffices; it becomes the real thing. For him, in the world of play, the shadow does as well as the substance ("Block City" ):
What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.
Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I'll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbour as well where my vessels may ride.
When the adult is an exile from this dominion, that possibility disappears. As Stevenson complained, "the mature mind . . . desires the thing itself" (Virginibus Puerisque, p. 160). The experience of nostalgia, perhaps, also contributes to the failure. Because it gathers bits and pieces from the past and assembles fragments arising from the involuntary memory, nostalgia merely offers vanishing glimpses of what was. This incompleteness denies the possibility of substitution by inscribing the sense of loss or absence and, thereby, awakens a longing for the fuller, more lasting picture. With the exception of its abstracting powers, nostalgia usually confirms the presence of a divided self. In a sense, it signifies the ultimate duality. Stevenson's child, though, for whom the shadow is sufficient, does not have to struggle with memory's imperfections and demands. Moreover, because nostalgia waits in the future, unbeckoned, the child can look out of a moving train's window ("From a Railway Carriage" ) and without anxiety see the sights fly by. The poem's last line, "Each a glimpse and gone for ever!" can gaily rattle along with the train's repetitive rhythm.
One reason that these passing glimpses are not threatening and do not disquiet the child is that in the elastic space of Stevenson's verses there is, for the child, always the possibility of return, of recovery. No matter how far he roams, he can always go back. Moving through a malleable map that stretches and shrinks, he never really loses sight of where he is. Like Princes Street, home is always, somehow, available; everything is "handy to home" ("Keepsake Mill" ). The number of poems in A Child's Garden of Verses that convey this sense of security is noteworthy. The poems depict a child who wanders far and wide, yet returns to the safety of his room, who swings high but always comes back down, and who marches round the village and goes "home again." Like the cow, the child "wanders" yet "cannot stray" ("The Cow" ). He moves in a landscape of recovery. In this terrain, the continuous movement of the "old mill wheel" is the "keepsake" that promises that "we all shall come home" ("Keepsake Mill" ). Through this land runs the river, the surface of which once disturbed by the wind, the "Dipping marten," or the "plumping trout," always returns to its former unruffled self:
Patience, children, just a minute—
See the spreading circles die;
The stream and all in it
Will clear by-and-by.
("Looking-Glass River" )
The verses' cycles of sleeping and rising, darkness and light are part of this reassuring rhythm of recovery. They revolve the child in a world of reawakenings. One wonders, perhaps, if Stevenson's desire to travel was not partially a quest for a place where he might re-enter the orbit of the jet-black night and clear day—where he might, as he did on a train between Edinburgh and Chester, travel and feel reborn. Stevenson describes one such experience in an August 8 (actually September) 1874 letter to Frances Sitwell:
How a railway journey shakes and discomposes one mind and body! I grow blacker and blacker in humour as the day goes on, and when at last I am let out, and the continual oscillation ceases, and I have the fresh air about me, it is as though I were born again, and the sick fancies flee away from my mind like snows in spring.
Obviously, for the ailing Stevenson to go out was not always to be able to come back. The myth of resurrection could not endure. The Master of Ballantrae might return from the dead twice, but not three times.13
"Writing towards Home": The Sanctuary of Play and Vicarious Violence
Significantly, Stevenson's nostalgia for childhood includes more than a yearning for the expansive and supple imagination that placed him, as an Edinburgh child, in rooms "full of orange and nutmeg trees" and in "cold town gardens . . . alive with parrots and with lions."14 It is also, it should be recognized, a longing for the vicarious violence of play. Readers often notice that Stevenson's work is replete with violence, but the connection with childhood is not made clear. On the sharp brim of the gentle lines in A Child's Garden of Verses sits the disorderly figure of conflict that is somehow sustaining and exhilarating: amid the soft folds of the comforting counterpane hide regiments of soldiers ("The Land of Counterpane" ) and across the sweet pleasantness of the meadow charge frenzied cattle, galloping destructive winds, pillaging pirates and grenadiers ("Pirate Story," "Marching Song" ). When cities burn and squadrons charge ("Armies in the Fires" ) there is a vitality, an edge, that seems always to have attracted Stevenson. Indeed, throughout his life the sounds of a ravaging west wind or the "horror of creeping things" (Letters, 7:93) stimulated him. In an 1873 letter, for instance, which Stevenson wrote to Frances Sitwell, one hears him responding buoyantly to the wild wind's rousing force:
It is a magnificent glimmering, moonlight night, with a wild, great west wind abroad, flapping above one like an immense banner and every now and again swooping furiously against my windows. The wind is too strong perhaps, and the trees are certainly too leafless for much of that wide rustle that we both remember; there is only a sharp angry sibilant hiss, like breath drawn with the strength of the elements, through shut teeth, that one hears between the gusts only.
This is the wild wind that sounds again in "Windy Nights" and "The Wind" from A Child's Garden of Verses when the child listens to the trees "crying aloud," feels the strong wind's call pushing against him, and hears its "loud" song.
In a similar manner murder also animated his imagination. For instance, the soft, yet violent, figure of an "undoubted assassin" doting on his sleeping children intrigued him.15 In an 1889 letter to Sidney Colvin about the murderer, Stevenson savors the disturbing oppositions between "savagery" and propriety, the presence of the innocents and the memory of the man's violent deed:
The whites are a strange lot, many of them good kind pleasant fellows, others quite the lowest I have ever seen even in the slums of cities. I wish I had time to narrate to you the doings and character of three white murderers (more or less proven) I have met; one, the only undoubted assassin of the lot, quite gained my affection in his big home out of a wreck, with his New Hebrides wife in her savage turban of hair and yet a perfect lady, and his three adorable little girls in Rob Roy Macgregor dresses, dancing to the hand organ, performing circus on the floor with startling effects of nudity, and curling up together on a mat to sleep, three sizes, three attitudes, three Rob Roy dresses, and six little clenched fists: the murderer meanwhile brooding and gloating over his chicks, till your whole heart went out to him, and yet his crime on the face of it was dark: disembowelling in his own house, an old man of seventy and him drunk.
When one thinks of the coupling of blazing cities, armies, and wicked shadows with the images of dimpling rivers, meadow flowers, and golden sand that quietly play within A Child's Garden of Verses, this later taste for violence seems not incongruous with childhood as he depicts it. It is not out of character, then, for Stevenson to write to "the little girls in the cellar"—children at a London (Kilburn) school—and dwell on the "very wild and dangerous" places in the Samoan landscape (Letters, 7:225). He is also quick to point out to Charles Baxter a fence "all messed with blood where a horse had come to grief" (Letters, 7:229), to dwell upon perilous storms at sea, and to accentuate the dangers and the mysteries of the threatening unknown with which the forest paths are fraught.
Just as he had in childhood, Stevenson undoubtedly found a certain pleasure, if not comfort, in the idea of violence because the fantasy of its aggressiveness compensated for the chronic periods of inactivity when he was ill and for those moments when he was actually strapped motionless to the bed to prevent hemorrhaging.16 As Jerome Buckley points out, Stevenson's interest in action was an expression of his despising his own weakness.17 Stevenson feared being passive. To be violent was to engage his surroundings—to do battle with them. Thoughts of such activity offered him a kind of sanctuary from his poor health. He liked the idea of clashing swords; therefore, during times of inactivity he would ask, "Shall we never shed blood?" (Letters, 4:259). And he was pleased to think back to the times he had weeded the land around his Samoan estate and partaken in a "silent battle" in which he inflicted a "slow death" upon "the contending forest" surrounding it (Letters, 7:27). As he had during his early years, he treasured the notion of being at sea and contending with the elements—these are the moment he relives through "Pirate Story" and "My Bed Is a Boat." That possibility was preferable to watching himself slowly grow weaker. It is interesting to note that when Stevenson reflected upon his sickness, he turned to his friends and confided that he wanted to die "violently." In a letter to Sidney Colvin, he wrote: "If only I could secure a violent death, what a fine success! I wish to die in my boots; no more land of counterpane for me. To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse—ay, to be hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution" (Letters, 7:287).
As an adult Stevenson obviously never fully realized this fantasy nor grew to be, as he had once dreamed, "the leader of a great horde of irregular cavalry, devastating whole valleys" (Letters, 4:259).18 He had to turn to his fiction to commit such acts. The blood that runs above and below deck in Treasure Island and Kidnapped, the fighting, dueling, beatings, and murders that accentuate his stories and even his travel pieces reflect this impulse. His words sharpen under the influence of the cutlass and the terror of a "wildly beating heart" (Treasure Island, p. 164). Their fury generates the rapidity of Stevenson's style and infuses a vitality that permeates his characters. David Balfour, for instance, is invigorated when he joins with Alan Breck in the protracted killing of the mutineers. After the fighting, surrounded by broken glass and "a horrid mess of blood" (Kidnapped, p. 68), he feels triumphant in spite of his distress and his beginning "to sob and cry like any child" (Kidnapped, p. 66), for he has participated in a rite of passage that has taken him from a passive to a more vigorous relationship to his surroundings. Similarly in The Master of Ballantrae, the mild-mannered narrator, Mr. Mackellar, is exhilarated and transformed when he discovers that he has the ability and the desire to do harm. Although he does not actually murder the Master, he comes close enough to gain self-respect and to sense his own empowerment.19
Fiction was one means by which Stevenson vicariously engaged the exhilaration of the idea of violence; another was, of course, through the games of his boyhood. More than anything else, perhaps, Stevenson was nostalgic for the childhood battles he describes in A Child's Garden of Verses and in his letters. In October 1893, for instance, he wrote to his cousin Henrietta Milne (née Traquair) and longingly remembered their play: "You were sailing under the title of Princess Royal; I, after a furious contest, under that of Prince Alfred; and Willie, still a little sulky, as the Prince of Wales. We were all in a buck basket about halfway between the swing and the gate; and I can still see the Pirate Squadron heave in sight upon the weather brow." Stevenson concluded, "You were a capital fellow to play" (Letters, 4:189-190). It is, of course, this recollection that echoes in poems such as "Pirate Story," "Armies in the Fire," "Young Night-Thought," "The Land of Story-Books," "Marching Song," and "A Good Play" and that, for the moment, carries Stevenson back to a time when he could fully be part of the imagined skirmishes and campaigns. These games were part of his childhood garden's landscape.
Stevenson was especially nostalgic for the child's easy involvement in the fury and passionate bursts of activity—in the vicarious, yet absorbing, violence of play. Unlike the adult, the child enters the game's arena and acts out his part. His whole self is in the scene, and for a few moments he becomes the pirate or the soldier and realizes the figure's gestures. The adult, though, separated by memory, "intellect," and conscience, only partially steps in. He is not committed to its battles. Caught between the silence of a spectator and the voice of a participant, he finds no easy utterance. Stevenson focuses upon this important distinction in his essay "Child's Play" :
The child, mind you, acts his parts. He does not merely repeat them to himself; he leaps, he runs, and sets the blood agog over all his body. And so his play breathes him; and he no sooner assumes a passion than he gives it vent. Alas! when we betake ourselves to our intellectual forms of play, sitting quietly by the fire or lying prone in bed, we rouse many hot feelings for which we can find no outlet.
(Virginibus Puerisque, p. 160)
The adult, essentially, cannot act out the violence, for he performs within the obstructed gap between the character and himself; furthermore, he falls into the space between the then and the now—he cannot locate himself exclusively within the present of the game's circumference. Because he cannot help but "stir up uncomfortable and sorrowful memories, and remind" himself "sharply of old wounds" (p. 160), it is impossible for him to exclude another time. The adult, therefore, carries the burden of reference that throttles the action and translates games into history. Consequently, when he attempts to take his part in play, he finds himself self-consciously repeating the lines rather than actively participating in the scene. He cannot break out of his twofold nature.
This dilemma offers a commentary upon the experience of nostalgia. The adult who cannot fully enter the world of play is similar to the adult who longs for the past. To be yearning for something that is absent is also to be caught in the bondage of self-consciousness and to be trapped in the double vision of Janus. Such a posture makes a history out of the present. It remembers, yet barely touches what it desires; it can never fully revitalize what it hopes to recover—one leaves the ground one longs for as soon as one touches it. Paradoxically, nostalgia is prevented from ever properly resurrecting the past because it relies on a memory that depends upon comparison and a sense of otherness. It cannot fully recover what lies there, for like the adult who attempts to play, it cannot adequately move the limbs and quicken the voices of the absent. Nostalgia, it seems, is always attended by a reference to an "other" that censors by qualifying the player's gestures and discourages by accepting no substitutes.
Even Stevenson, who continued to play war games with his stepson and who gave utterance to the child's voice in his verses, is not spared this circumstance. He understood, though, that if he wanted to recover what he desired, he had to break away from these oscillating rhythms of dualism. One way was to participate in the act or the play of writing. Writing was a vicarious means of warring against a static life. It was what was left to a person who could no longer gather his "allies" and attend to the games of childhood that codify or organize violence without inflicting harm. Writing allowed him to become the child in A Child's Garden of Verses and keep on beginning again. It permitted him to bypass duality by giving him a way of participating in the narrative's continuous present, for its sentences and characters, like the child, acted out the gestures and uttered the passions of play. As Stevenson once observed, "Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child" (Memories and Portraits, p. 268). His characters, therefore, never have to repeat or remember something they have once said; they belong to an elastic map; therefore, they, even in their exile, are members of a community—the community of an everlasting now that transcends the split consciousness of memory.
Stevenson's experience suggests that nostalgia defeats itself except when it goes around itself to the text and keeps the writer and the reader, for the moment, revolving in a time and a space that is always fully available and, especially in Stevenson's case, needs no otherness, not even a third-person narrator, to explicate or qualify it. The writer becomes Jim Hawkins (Treasure Island ); he enters his body and his mind, and that way finds his passage. Writing is the only way home. As Hyde notices, writing keeps what was in the present. Even though he cannot return to the form of Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde can still write in Jekyll's own hand—that part of his "original character" that remains to him (p. 97). This original hand leads Stevenson back into the landscape of his boyhood, into his A Child's Garden of Verses.
1. Arjun Appadurai, "Disjunctive and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy," in The Phantom Public Sphere, ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1993), p. 272.
2. Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1984), p. 23.
3. For recent examples of accounts of Stevenson's engagement with the games, the play, the maps, and the interiors connected with his childhood, see: Ian Bell, Dreams of Exile: Robert Louis Stevenson: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt, 1992); Jenni Calder, Robert Louis Stevenson: A Life Study (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980); and Frank McLynn, Robert Louis Stevenson: A Biography (New York: Random House, 1994). Other accounts may be found in David Daiches, Robert Louis Stevenson and His World (London: Thames and Hudson, 1973) and James Pope-Hennessy, Robert Louis Stevenson (London: Jonathan Cape, 1974).
4. In a sense, Stevenson's nostalgia for this synthetic and malleable space in the "garden" of his childhood links him to many other Victorian writers who, according to LuAnn Walther, thought of their childhood spaces as Gardens of Eden (Walther, "The Invention of Childhood in Victorian Autobiography,"in Approaches to Victorian Autobiography, ed. George P. Landow [Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 1979]). When turning to Stevenson's understanding of that space, one could think of the synthetic nature of his childhood landscape as being the state of innocence before the Fall into the dualities of experience and adulthood.
5. Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers (London: Chatto & Windus, 1910), p. 59.
6. Bradford Booth and Ernest Meyhew, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, 1854-1894, Vols. 1-8 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1994, 1995), 8:366. Hereafter cited as Letters.
7. Robert Louis Stevenson, Memories and Portraits (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1897), p. 112.
8. Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's Garden of Verses (New York: Airmont Publishing Company, 1969).
9. Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (London: Heinemann, 1924), p. 139.
10. Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), p. 172.
11. When Stevenson travelled to America in August 1879, he sailed on the Devonia, a ship carrying emigrants from Scotland, Ireland, England, Scandinavia, Germany, and Russia who "had been unable to prevail against circumstances" at home (Robert Louis Stevenson, The Amateur Emigrant, intro. Jonathan Raban [London: The Hogarth Press, 1984]).
12. Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1981), pp. 83-84.
13. In The Master of Ballantrae, the Master returns to his estate twice after being thought dead; the third time, however, he does not survive. In New York the Master arranged with his Indian servant, Secundra, to bury him alive and then when all is well to bring him out of his grave, but the plan does not work. With the assistance of Secundra's frantic attempts to resuscitate his body, the Master revives but only briefly. The narrator describes the episode: "Of the flight of time, I have no idea; it may have been three hours, and it may have been five, that the Indian laboured to reanimate his master's body. One thing only I know, that it was still night, and the moon was not yet set, although it had sunk low, and now barred the plateau with long shadows, when Secundra uttered a small cry of satisfaction; and, leaning swiftly forth, I thought I could myself perceive a change upon the icy countenance of the unburied. The next moment I beheld his eyelids flutter; the next they rose entirely, and the week-old corpse looked me for a moment in the face" (p. 187).
14. Sidney Colvin, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), 4:95.
15. Stevenson met this white "assassin" when he was on tour of the Gilbert Islands on board the Equator.
16. One of these fantasies occurred when Stevenson gleefully represented himself as a "murderer" and impersonated "William Figg" (one of the ironic personae Stevenson used in his correspondence with friends) who in "earlier and more thoughtless years" had "been unjustly condemned for forgery, arson, stilicide, public buttery, and rape followed by murder on the person of twelve infant and flaxen-headed children of different sexes" (DeLancey Ferguson and Marshall Waingrow, eds., Stevenson's Letters to Charles Baxter [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1956], p. 113).
17. When Jerome Buckley remarks upon Stevenson's (as well as William Ernest Henley's) coveting a strength beyond his attainments, he attributes it to his being an invalid and refers to Alfred Adler's The Neurotic Constitution (1917) in which the psychologist discusses the antithetical nature of the invalid who despises his own weakness (Jerome Hamilton Buckley, William Ernest Henley: A Study in the "Counter-Decadence" of the Nineties [Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1945], pp. 58-59).
18. On March 16, 1884, Stevenson wrote to Cosmo Monkhouse: "To confess plainly, I had intended to spend my life (or any leisure I might have from Piracy upon the high seas) as the leader of a great horde of irregular cavalry, devastating whole valleys. I can still, looking back, see myself in many favourite attitudes; signalling for a boat from my pirate ship with a pocket-handkerchief, I at the jetty end, and one or two of my bold blades keeping the crowd at bay; or else turning in the saddle to look back at my whole command (some five thousand strong) following me at the hand-gallop up the road out of the burning valley: this last by moonlight" (Letters, 4:259).
19. Stevenson was too much a realist and too sensitive to contradiction to overlook the fact that violence is not always so enlivening. He understood that it was possible to suffer the consequences of one's actions, to bear "the care of conscience" (Jenni Calder, Robert Louis Stevenson: A Life Study [New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980], p. 48) and to be left isolated and diminished like Mr. Hyde and Mr. Henry. Mr. Henry's wounding of his brother in the duel, for instance, reverses rather than advances his fortunes. One moment of actively facing the enemy throws him back upon himself and entrenches him more deeply within the victim's state of compulsive passivity and guilt.
Nancy Livingston and Catherine Kurkjian (review date September 2003)
SOURCE: Livingston, Nancy, and Catherine Kurkjian. Review of A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Reading Teacher 57, no. 1 (September 2003): 97.
After the prim poetry of the Victorian age that sounded more like sermons, readers were given respite from this moralistic tone by Stevenson's collection of verse for and about children [A Child's Garden of Verses ]. The "poet laureate of childhood" wrote about a youngster's participation in daily events, the concern over bedtime, and imaginative voyages with pirates. What child hasn't identified with the complaint about having to go to bed when the sky is still blue? Or recited with joy the poem about going up in a swing, up and over the world? Stevenson wrote about child's play—both real and pretend. As evidence of the book's perpetual charm, new editions have been published almost every decade, with a variety of illustrators. Stevenson's poetry enchants each new generation of children.
Anonymous (review date 19 July 1886)
SOURCE: Review of Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson. In Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage, edited by Paul Maixner, pp. 233-35. London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.
[In the following anonymous review, originally published in the July 19, 1886 edition of the St. James' Gazette, the reviewer reflects on the lack of romance in Kidnapped and commends Stevenson's attempt at accurately depicting Jacobite history.]
Mr. Stevenson is the Defoe of our generation. Since the days when Robinson Crusoe first delighted English readers, no book of adventure has appeared that can pretend to rivalry with the story of Treasure Island. Beside the exquisite prose of Mr. Stevenson, his delightful quaintness of humour and his fertile inventiveness, the romances of Fenimore Cooper seem very poor performances. The simplicity which is the highest art, a mastery of language, and a subtle and sympathetic power of compelling attention, are all at the command of Mr. Stevenson. He is rarely dull, he is often slily humorous, and he is prone to weave into his narrative a fine and brilliant thread of suggestive reflection which is alike characteristic and alluring. The wave of his magician's wand is truly magical; but, while he draws his readers from a too prosaic world to one of aerial fancy, he lets them know in a sort of gravely jesting undertone that it is semblance and not reality. His writings inspire a pleasure which is all the more genuine and refreshing for their innocence; yet their fun, their effectiveness, their brilliancy would be much less striking were they not in part the result of a grave experience and understanding of human life, such as makes every man who is a man desire once more to become as a little child.
It is high praise, therefore, of this new volume to say that it is no unworthy companion of Treasure Island. Its incidents are not so uniformly thrilling; there is no touch of art in it quite equal to the account of the blind sailor's visit to the country inn in the former story; yet Kidnapped is excellent from end to end. Two characteristics of Mr. Stevenson's last volume are in themselves worthy of notice. The first, that, as in Treasure Island, he has succeeded in telling a story in which women and feminine influence play positively no part. There is no love-making in Kidnapped, and, with one exception, no woman takes any share in the action. There are some pretty and touching passages illustrative of the unspoken love of man for man which has been a finer side of human intercourse since the days of David and Jonathan. But of the conventional heroine and the yet more conventional love scene, which are wont to appear even in so-called books for boys, Mr. Stevenson will have none. Not but that he indulges in delicate incidental references to the fair sex: as witness his ruffian sea-captain Hoseason, who never sails by his aged mother's cottage on the sea-shore of Fife without the compliment of a salute of guns. The second observation is that Mr. Stevenson has boldly and even wisely ventured into the field of Jacobite romance which has already been occupied by the genius of Sir Walter Scott. Different as is the character of his book, we feel that indirectly Mr. Stevenson owes a little of his general idea to the author of Rob Roy and Waverley. But although there is a perceptible parallel between the adventures of David Balfour and those that have immortalized the names of Osbaldistone and Bailie Jarvie, the parallel is too slight to be insisted on. The story of the Jacobite times is an inexhaustible mine for the writer of fiction, and the originality and literary skill of Mr. Stevenson is doubly welcome for this addition to the number of Highland stories. Rob Roy is inimitable; but it says much for Mr. Stevenson's powers that Kidnapped seems none the less charming for the very reason that it recalls the masterpieces of the greatest story-teller of our century.
. . . Mixed feelings of disappointed curiosity in the present and pleasant hope for the future will contend in the reader's breast when he finds that the matter is not brought to a thorough conclusion, but that several important particulars are left incomplete; with more than a hint that on some other day the further adventures of David Balfour will be related. Of the two personages who play the largest part in these pages, it is hard to say which creates the keener interest: David Balfour, the ostensible hero; or Alan Breck, most pugnacious and attractive of Jacobites, whose views of his duty towards his neighbours and hereditary foes the Campbells are expressed with a humour befitting our English apologists of Irish agrarian outrage. . . . Alan, indeed, is incorrigible on all matters of blood-feuds and fighting, but he is a delightful creature. We shall say nothing of wicked Uncle Ebenezer, or the perils and shipwreck of the brig Covenant, or of Mr. Stevenson's wonderfully vivid pictures of physical fatigue and suffering as endured by the Jacobite fugitives who 'took to the heather.' Those who have read Mr. Stevenson know the grace and magic of his pen, and they will need no solicitation to spend a few hours in the delight of Kidnapped.
THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1886)
Andrew Lang (review date 9 January 1886)
SOURCE: Lang, Andrew. Review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. In Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage, edited by Paul Maixner, pp. 199-202. London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.
[In the following unsigned review, originally published in the January 9, 1886 edition of The Saturday Review and widely believed to be written by Andrew Lang, the critic commends Stevenson for his skillful use of the "double personality" and subtle allegorical undertones in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.]
Mr. Stevenson's Prince Otto was, no doubt, somewhat disappointing to many of his readers. They will be hard to please if they are disappointed in his Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. To adopt a recent definition of some of Mr. Stevenson's tales, this little shilling work is like 'Poe with the addition of a moral sense.' Or perhaps to say that would be to ignore the fact that Poe was extremely fond of one kind of moral, of allegories in which embodied Conscience plays its part with terrible efficacy. The tale of William Wilson, and perhaps that of the Tell-Tale Hearts, are examples of Poe in this humour. Now Mr. Stevenson's narrative is not, of course, absolutely original in idea. Probably we shall never see a story that in germ is absolutely original. The very rare possible germinal conceptions of romance appear to have been picked up and appropriated by the very earliest masters of fiction. But the possible combinations and possible methods of treatment are infinite, and all depends on how the ideas are treated and combined.
Mr. Stevenson's idea, his secret (but a very open secret) is that of the double personality in every man. The mere conception is familiar enough. Poe used it in William Wilson and Gautier in Le Chevalier Double. Yet Mr. Stevenson's originality of treatment remains none the less striking and astonishing. The double personality does not in his romance take the form of a personified conscience, the doppel ganger of the sinner, a 'double' like his own double which Goethe is fabled to have seen. No; the 'separable self' in this 'strange case' is all unlike that in William Wilson, and, with its unlikeness to its master, with its hideous caprices, and appalling vitality, and terrible power of growth and increase, is, to our thinking, a notion as novel as it is terrific. We would welcome a spectre, a ghoul, or even a vampire gladly, rather than meet Mr. Edward Hyde. Without telling the whole story, and to some extent spoiling the effect, we cannot explain the exact nature of the relations between Jekyll and Hyde, nor reveal the mode (itself, we think, original, though it depends on resources of pseudoscience) in which they were developed. Let it suffice to say that Jekyll's emotions when, as he sits wearily in the park, he finds that his hand is not his own hand, but another's; and that other moment when Utterson, the lawyer, is brought to Jekyll's door, and learns that his locked room is haunted by somewhat which moans and weeps; and, again, the process beheld by Dr. Lanyon, are all of them as terrible as anything ever dreamed of by Poe. They lack, too, that quality of merely earthly horror or of physical corruption and decay which Poe was apt to introduce so frequently and with such unpleasant and unholy enjoyment.
It is a proof of Mr. Stevenson's skill that he has chosen the scene for his wild Tragedy of a Body and a Soul, as it might have been called, in the most ordinary and respectable quarters of London. His heroes (surely this is original) are all successful middle-aged professional men. No woman appears in the tale (as in Treasure Island ), and we incline to think that Mr. Stevenson always does himself most justice in novels without a heroine. It may be regarded by some critics as a drawback to the tale that it inevitably disengages a powerful lesson in conduct. It is not a moral allegory, of course; but you cannot help reading the moral into it, and recognizing that, just as every one of us, according to Mr. Stevenson, travels through life with a donkey (as he himself did in the Cévennes), so every Jekyll among us is haunted by his own Hyde. But it would be most unfair to insist on this, as there is nothing a novel-reader hates more than to be done good to unawares. Nor has Mr. Stevenson, obviously, any didactic purpose. The moral of the tale is its natural soul, and no more separable from it than, in ordinary life, Hyde is separable from Jekyll.
While one is thrilled and possessed by the horror of the central fancy, one may fail, at first reading, to recognize the delicate and restrained skill of the treatment of accessories, details, and character. Mr. Utterson, for example, Jekyll's friend, is an admirable portrait, and might occupy a place unchallenged among pictures by the best masters of sober fiction.
At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk; but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life. He was austere with himself, but tolerant to others, sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds.
It is fair to add that, while the style of the new romance is usually as plain as any style so full of compressed thought and incident can be, there is at least one passage in the threshold of the book where Mr. Stevenson yields to his old Tempter, 'preciousness.' Nay, we cannot restrain the fancy that, if the good and less good of Mr. Stevenson's literary personality could be divided like Dr. Jekyll's moral and physical personality, his literary Mr. Hyde would greatly resemble—the reader may fill in the blank at his own will. The idea is capable of development. Perhaps Canon McColl is Mr. Gladstone's Edward Hyde, a solution of historical problems which may be applauded by future generations. This is wandering from the topic in hand. It is pleasant to acknowledge that the half-page of 'preciousness' stands almost alone in this excellent and horrific and captivating romance, where Mr. Stevenson gives us of his very best and increases that debt of gratitude which we all owe him for so many and such rare pleasures.
There should be a limited edition of the Strange Case on Large Paper. It looks lost in a shilling edition—the only 'bob'svorth,' as the cabman said when he took up Mr. Pickwick, which has real permanent literary merit.
James Ashcroft Noble (review date 23 January 1886)
SOURCE: Noble, James Ashcroft. Review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. In Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage, edited by Paul Maixner, pp. 203-05. London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.
[In the following review, originally published in the January 23, 1886 edition of Academy, Noble applauds Stevenson's ability to create a non-moralizing parable of both interest and psychological impact in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.]
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not an orthodox three-volume novel; it is not even a one-volume novel of the ordinary type; it is simply a paper-covered shilling story, belonging, so far as external appearance goes, to a class of literature familiarity with which has bred in the minds of most readers a certain measure of contempt. Appearances, it has been once or twice remarked, are deceitful; and in this case they are very deceitful indeed, for, in spite of the paper cover and the popular price, Mr. Stevenson's story distances so unmistakably its three-volume and one-volume competitors, that its only fitting place is the place of honour. It is, indeed, many years since English fiction has been enriched by any work at once so weirdly imaginative in conception and so faultlessly ingenious in construction as this little tale, which can be read with ease in a couple of hours. Dr. Henry Jekyll is a medical man of high reputation, not only as regards his professional skill, but his general moral and social character; and this reputation is, in the main, well-deserved, for he has honourable instincts and high aspirations with which the greater part of his life of conduct is in harmony. He has also, however, 'a certain impatient gaiety of disposition,' which at times impels him to indulge in pleasures of a kind which, while they would bring to many men no sense of shame, and therefore no prompting to concealment, do bring to him such sense and such prompting, in virtue of their felt inconsistency with the visible tenor of his existence. The divorce between the two lives becomes so complete that he is haunted and tortured by the consciousness of a double identity which deprives each separate life of its full measure of satisfaction. It is at this point that he makes a wonderful discovery, which seems to cut triumphantly the knot of his perplexity. The discovery is of certain chemical agents, the application of which can give the needed wholeness and homogeneity of individuality by destroying for a time all consciousness of one set of conflicting impulses, so that when the experimenter pleases his lower instincts can absorb his whole being, and, knowing nothing of restraint from anything above them, manifest themselves in new and quite diabolical activities. But this is not all. The fateful drug acts with its strange transforming power upon the body as well as the mind; for when the first dose has been taken the unhappy victim finds that 'soul is form and doth the body make,' and that his new nature, of evil all compact, has found for itself a corresponding environment, the shrunken shape and loathsome expression of which bear no resemblance to the shape and expression of Dr. Jekyll. It is this monster who appears in the world as Mr. Hyde, a monster whose play is outrage and murder; but who, though known, can never be captured, because when he is apparently tracted to the doctor's house, no one is found there but the benevolent and highly honoured doctor himself. The re-transformation has, of course, been affected by another dose of the drug; but as time goes by Dr. Jekyll notices a curious and fateful change in its operation. At first the dethronement of the higher nature has been difficult; sometimes a double portion of the chemical agent has been found necessary to bring about the result; but the lower nature gains a vitality of its own, and at times the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde takes place without any preceding act of volition. How the story ends I must not say. Too much of it has already been told; but without something of such telling it would have been impossible to write an intelligible review. And, indeed, the story has a much larger and deeper interest than that belonging to a mere skilful narrative. It is a marvellous exploration into the recesses of human nature; and though it is more than possible that Mr. Stevenson wrote with no ethical intent, its impressiveness as a parable is equal to its fascination as a work of art. I do not ignore the many differences between the genius of the author of The Scarlet Letter and that of the author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when I say that the latter story is worthy of Hawthorne.
Peter K. Garrett (essay date 1988)
SOURCE: Garrett, Peter K. "Cries and Voices: Reading Jekyll and Hyde." In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after One Hundred Years, edited by William R. Veeder, pp. 59-72. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
[In the following essay, Garrett examines how Hyde's dark nature impacts the other major characters in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, paying particular attention to Hyde's relationship with Jekyll and the resulting evolution of the narrative voice over the course of the novel.]
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Text Not Available
Cooper, Lettice. Robert Louis Stevenson. Denver, Colo.: Alan Swallow, 1948, 110 p.
Bio-bibliographical critical resource on Stevenson and his major works.
Green, Roger Lancelyn. "Robert Louis Stevenson." In Tellers of Tales, pp. 147-62. London, England: Edmund Ward, 1946.
Biographical profile on Stevenson and his literary career.
James, Henry. "Robert Louis Stevenson." In Robert Louis Stevenson: A Critical Celebration, edited by Jenni Calder, pp. 82-93. Totawa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1980.
Posthumous retrospective tribute to Stevenson, paying particular attention to the letters Stevenson wrote while in Samoa.
Beer, Patricia. "Kidnapped." Children's Literature in Education 14, no. 1 (spring 1983): 54-62.
Critical analysis of Kidnapped which debates the volume's representation of women, its navigation of difficult moral issues, and whether Stevenson's work can claim to use "historical imagination."
Lawler, Donald. "Reframing Jekyll and Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson and the Strange Case of Gothic Fiction." In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after One Hundred Years, edited by William R. Veeder, pp. 247-61. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Offers a critical assessment of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a work of gothic science fiction.
LeVay, John. "Stevenson's Treasure Island." Explicator 47, no. 3 (spring 1989): 25-9.
Views Treasure Island's Long John Silver as a symbolic devil-like character whose presence awakens certain dark aspects of Jim Hawkins' own personality.
Riach, Alan. "Treasure Island and Time." Children's Literature in Education 27, no. 3 (September 1996): 181-93.
Reflects on how the narrative structure of Treasure Island navigates the differences in perspectives between adults and children.
Rosen, Michael. "Robert Louis Stevenson and Children's Play: The Contexts of A Child's Garden of Verses." Children's Literature in Education 26, no. 1 (March 1995): 53-72.
Argues that Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses is an idealization of childhood that was intended as a form of argument for the uninhibited enjoyment of adolescence during a period when such sentiments was generally frowned upon.
Wood, Naomi J. "Gold Standards and Silver Subversions: Treasure Island and the Romance of Money." Children's Literature 26 (1998): 61-85.
Thorough critical review of how money—and more particularly, capitalism—color perceptions throughout Treasure Island.
Additional coverage of Stevenson's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 24; Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction: Biography and Resources, Vol. 3; Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vols. 1, 2, 4, 13; British Writers, Vol. 5; British Writers: The Classics, Vol. 1; British Writers Retrospective Supplement, Vol. 1; Children's Literature Review, Vols. 10, 11; Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, 1890-1914 ; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 18, 57, 141, 156, 174; Dictionary of Literary Biography Documentary Series, Vol. 13; DISCovering Authors ; DISCovering Authors: British Edition ; DISCovering Authors: Canadian Edition ; DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors, Novelists ; DISCovering Authors 3.0 ; Junior DISCovering Authors ; Literature and Its Times, Vols. 1, 3; Literature Resource Center ; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism, Vols. 5, 14, 63; Novels for Students, Vols. 11, 20; Reference Guide to English Literature, Ed. 2; Reference Guide to Short Fiction, Ed. 2; St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers ; St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers ; Short Story Criticism, Vols. 11, 51; Something about the Author, Vol. 100; Supernatural Fiction Writers ; Twayne's English Authors ; World Literature and Its Times, Ed. 4; World Literature Criticism ; Writers for Children ; Writers for Young Adults ; and Yesterday's Authors of Books for Children, Vol. 2.