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Robert Louis Stevenson, A Record, An Estimate, A Memorial by A. H. Japp

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Robert Louis Stevenson, A Record, An Estimate, A Memorial by A.H. Japp

Scanned and proofed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



A FEW words may here be allowed me to explain one or two points.
First, about the facsimile of last page of Preface to FAMILIAR
STUDIES OF MEN AND BOOKS. Stevenson was in Davos when the greater
portion of that work went through the press. He felt so much the
disadvantage of being there in the circumstances (both himself and
his wife ill) that he begged me to read the proofs of the Preface
for him. This illness has record in the letter from him (pp. 28-
29). The printers, of course, had directions to send the copy and
proofs of the Preface to me. Hence I am able now to give this

With regard to the letter at p. 19, of which facsimile is also
given, what Stevenson there meant is not the "three last" of that
batch, but the three last sent to me before - though that was an
error on his part - he only then sent two chapters, making the
"eleven chapters now" - sent to me by post.

Another point on which I might have dwelt and illustrated by many
instances is this, that though Stevenson was fond of hob-nobbing
with all sorts and conditions of men, this desire of wide contact
and intercourse has little show in his novels - the ordinary fibre
of commonplace human beings not receiving much celebration from him
there; another case in which his private bent and sympathies
received little illustration in his novels. But the fact lies
implicit in much I have written.

I have to thank many authors for permission to quote extracts I
have used.






MY little effort to make Thoreau better known in England had one
result that I am pleased to think of. It brought me into personal
association with R. L. Stevenson, who had written and published in
THE CORNHILL MAGAZINE an essay on Thoreau, in whom he had for some
time taken an interest. He found in Thoreau not only a rare
character for originality, courage, and indefatigable independence,
but also a master of style, to whom, on this account, as much as
any, he was inclined to play the part of the "sedulous ape," as he
had acknowledged doing to many others - a later exercise, perhaps
in some ways as fruitful as any that had gone before. A recent
poet, having had some seeds of plants sent to him from Northern
Scotland to the South, celebrated his setting of them beside those
native to the Surrey slope on which he dwelt, with the lines -

"And when the Northern seeds are growing,
Another beauty then bestowing,
We shall be fine, and North to South
Be giving kisses, mouth to mouth."

So the Thoreau influence on Stevenson was as if a tart American
wild-apple had been grafted on an English pippin, and produced a
wholly new kind with the flavours of both; and here wild America
and England kissed each other mouth to mouth.

The direct result was the essay in THE CORNHILL, but the indirect
results were many and less easily assessed, as Stevenson himself,
as we shall see, was ever ready to admit. The essay on Thoreau was
written in America, which further, perhaps, bears out my point.

One of the authorities, quoted by Mr Hammerton, in STEVENSONIANA
says of the circumstances in which he found our author, when he was
busily engaged on that bit of work:

"I have visited him in a lonely lodging in California, it was
previous to his happy marriage, and found him submerged in billows
of bed-clothes; about him floated the scattered volumes of a
complete set of Thoreau; he was preparing an essay on that worthy,
and he looked at the moment like a half-drowned man, yet he was not
cast down. His work, an endless task, was better than a straw to
him. It was to become his life-preserver and to prolong his years.
I feel convinced that without it he must have surrendered long
since. I found Stevenson a man of the frailest physique, though
most unaccountably tenacious of life; a man whose pen was
indefatigable, whose brain was never at rest, who, as far as I am
able to judge, looked upon everybody and everything from a
supremely intellectual point of view." (1)

We remember the common belief in Yorkshire and other parts that a
man could not die so long as he could stand up - a belief on which
poor Branwell Bronte was fain to act and to illustrate, but R. L.
Stevenson illustrated it, as this writer shows, in a better,
calmer, and healthier way, despite his lack of health.

On some little points of fact, however, Stevenson was wrong; and I
wrote to the Editor of THE SPECTATOR a letter, titled, I think,
"Thoreau's Pity and Humour," which he inserted. This brought me a
private letter from Stevenson, who expressed the wish to see me,
and have some talk with me on that and other matters. To this
letter I at once replied, directing to 17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh,
saying that, as I was soon to be in that City, it might be possible
for me to see him there. In reply to this letter Mr Stevenson

SUNDAY, AUGUST (? TH), 1881.

"MY DEAR SIR, - I should long ago have written to thank you for
your kind and frank letter; but, in my state of health, papers are
apt to get mislaid, and your letter has been vainly hunted for
until this (Sunday) morning.

"I must first say a word as to not quoting your book by name. It
was the consciousness that we disagreed which led me, I daresay,
wrongly, to suppress ALL references throughout the paper. But you
may be certain a proper reference will now be introduced.

"I regret I shall not be able to see you in Edinburgh: one visit
to Edinburgh has already cost me too dear in that invaluable
particular, health; but if it should be at all possible for you to
pass by Braemar, I believe you would find an attentive listener,
and I can offer you a bed, a drive, and necessary food.

"If, however, you should not be able to come thus far, I can
promise two things. First, I shall religiously revise what I have
written, and bring out more clearly the point of view from which I
regarded Thoreau. Second, I shall in the preface record your

"The point of view (and I must ask you not to forget that any such
short paper is essentially only a SECTION THROUGH a man) was this:
I desired to look at the man through his books. Thus, for
instance, when I mentioned his return to the pencil-making, I did
it only in passing (perhaps I was wrong), because it seemed to me
not an illustration of his principles, but a brave departure from
them. Thousands of such there were I do not doubt; still they
might be hardly to my purpose; though, as you say so, I suppose
some of them would be.

"Our difference as to 'pity,' I suspect, was a logomachy of my
making. No pitiful acts, on his part, would surprise me: I know
he would be more pitiful in practice than most of the whiners; but
the spirit of that practice would still seem to me to be unjustly
described by the word pity.

"When I try to be measured, I find myself usually suspected of a
sneaking unkindness for my subject, but you may be sure, sir, I
would give up most other things to be as good a man as Thoreau.
Even my knowledge of him leads me thus far.

"Should you find yourself able to push on so far - it may even lie
on your way - believe me your visit will be very welcome. The
weather is cruel, but the place is, as I daresay you know, the very
WALE of Scotland - bar Tummelside. - Yours very sincerely,


Some delay took place in my leaving London for Scotland, and hence
what seemed a hitch. I wrote mentioning the reason of my delay,
and expressing the fear that I might have to forego the prospect of
seeing him in Braemar, as his circumstances might have altered in
the meantime. In answer came this note, like so many, if not most
of his, indeed, without date:-


"MY DEAR SIR, - I am here as yet a fixture, and beg you to come our
way. Would Tuesday or Wednesday suit you by any chance? We shall
then, I believe, be empty: a thing favourable to talks. You get
here in time for dinner. I stay till near the end of September,
unless, as may very well be, the weather drive me forth. - Yours
very sincerely, ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON."

I accordingly went to Braemar, where he and his wife and her son
were staying with his father and mother.

These were red-letter days in my calendar alike on account of
pleasant intercourse with his honoured father and himself. Here is
my pen-and-ink portrait of R. L. Stevenson, thrown down at the

Mr Stevenson's is, indeed, a very picturesque and striking figure.
Not so tall probably as he seems at first sight from his extreme
thinness, but the pose and air could not be otherwise described
than as distinguished. Head of fine type, carried well on the
shoulders and in walking with the impression of being a little
thrown back; long brown hair, falling from under a broadish-brimmed
Spanish form of soft felt hat, Rembrandtesque; loose kind of
Inverness cape when walking, and invariable velvet jacket inside
the house. You would say at first sight, wherever you saw him,
that he was a man of intellect, artistic and individual, wholly out
of the common. His face is sensitive, full of expression, though
it could not be called strictly beautiful. It is longish,
especially seen in profile, and features a little irregular; the
brow at once high and broad. A hint of vagary, and just a hint in
the expression, is qualified by the eyes, which are set rather far
apart from each other as seems, and with a most wistful, and at the
same time possibly a merry impish expression arising over that, yet
frank and clear, piercing, but at the same time steady, and fall on
you with a gentle radiance and animation as he speaks. Romance, if
with an indescribable SOUPCON of whimsicality, is marked upon him;
sometimes he has the look as of the Ancient Mariner, and could fix
you with his glittering e'e, and he would, as he points his
sentences with a movement of his thin white forefinger, when this
is not monopolised with the almost incessant cigarette. There is a
faint suggestion of a hair-brained sentimental trace on his
countenance, but controlled, after all, by good Scotch sense and
shrewdness. In conversation he is very animated, and likes to ask
questions. A favourite and characteristic attitude with him was to
put his foot on a chair or stool and rest his elbow on his knee,
with his chin on his hand; or to sit, or rather to half sit, half
lean, on the corner of a table or desk, one of his legs swinging
freely, and when anything that tickled him was said he would laugh
in the heartiest manner, even at the risk of bringing on his cough,
which at that time was troublesome. Often when he got animated he
rose and walked about as he spoke, as if movement aided thought and
expression. Though he loved Edinburgh, which was full of
associations for him, he had no good word for its east winds, which
to him were as death. Yet he passed one winter as a "Silverado
squatter," the story of which he has inimitably told in the volume
titled THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS; and he afterwards spent several
winters at Davos Platz, where, as he said to me, he not only
breathed good air, but learned to know with closest intimacy John
Addington Symonds, who "though his books were good, was far finer
and more interesting than any of his books." He needed a good deal
of nursery attentions, but his invalidism was never obtrusively
brought before one in any sympathy-seeking way by himself; on the
contrary, a very manly, self-sustaining spirit was evident; and the
amount of work which he managed to turn out even when at his worst
was truly surprising.

His wife, an American lady, is highly cultured, and is herself an
author. In her speech there is just the slightest suggestion of
the American accent, which only made it the more pleasing to my
ear. She is heart and soul devoted to her husband, proud of his
achievements, and her delight is the consciousness of substantially
aiding him in his enterprises.

They then had with them a boy of eleven or twelve, Samuel Lloyd
Osbourne, to be much referred to later (a son of Mrs Stevenson by a
former marriage), whose delight was to draw the oddest, but perhaps
half intentional or unintentional caricatures, funny, in some
cases, beyond expression. His room was designated the picture-
gallery, and on entering I could scarce refrain from bursting into
laughter, even at the general effect, and, noticing this, and that
I was putting some restraint on myself out of respect for the
host's feelings, Stevenson said to me with a sly wink and a gentle
dig in the ribs, "It's laugh and be thankful here." On Lloyd's
account simple engraving materials, types, and a small printing-
press had been procured; and it was Stevenson's delight to make
funny poems, stories, and morals for the engravings executed, and
all would be duly printed together. Stevenson's thorough enjoyment
of the picture-gallery, and his goodness to Lloyd, becoming himself
a very boy for the nonce, were delightful to witness and in degree
to share. Wherever they were - at Braemar, in Edinburgh, at Davos
Platz, or even at Silverado - the engraving and printing went on.
The mention of the picture-gallery suggests that it was out of his
interest in the colour-drawing and the picture-gallery that his
first published story, TREASURE ISLAND, grew, as we shall see.

I have some copies of the rude printing-press productions,
inexpressibly quaint, grotesque, a kind of literary horse-play, yet
with a certain squint-eyed, sprawling genius in it, and innocent
childish Rabelaisian mirth of a sort. At all events I cannot look
at the slight memorials of that time, which I still possess,
without laughing afresh till my eyes are dewy. Stevenson, as I
understood, began TREASURE ISLAND more to entertain Lloyd Osbourne
than anything else; the chapters being regularly read to the family
circle as they were written, and with scarcely a purpose beyond.
The lad became Stevenson's trusted companion and collaborator -
clearly with a touch of genius.

I have before me as I write some of these funny momentoes of that
time, carefully kept, often looked at. One of them is, "THE BLACK
and Amusement for the Young, by Samuel L. Osbourne, printed by the
author; Davos Platz," with the most remarkable cuts. It would not
do some of the sensationalists anything but good to read it even at
this day, since many points in their art are absurdly caricatured.
L. Stevenson, author of the BLUE SCALPER, etc., etc. Printers, S.
L. Osbourne and Company, Davos Platz." Here are the lines to a
rare piece of grotesque, titled A PEAK IN DARIEN -

'Broad-gazing on untrodden lands,
See where adventurous Cortez stands,
While in the heavens above his head,
The eagle seeks its daily bread.
How aptly fact to fact replies,
Heroes and eagles, hills and skies.
Ye, who contemn the fatted slave,
Look on this emblem and be brave."

Another, THE ELEPHANT, has these lines -

"See in the print how, moved by whim,
Trumpeting Jumbo, great and grim,
Adjusts his trunk, like a cravat,
To noose that individual's hat;
The Sacred Ibis in the distance,
Joys to observe his bold resistance."

R. L. Stevenson wrote from Davos Platz, in sending me THE BLACK

"Sam sends as a present a work of his own. I hope you feel
AWAY. I have to buy my own works, I can tell you."

Later he said, in sending a second:

"I own I have delayed this letter till I could forward the
enclosed. Remembering the night at Braemar, when we visited the
picture-gallery, I hope it may amuse you: you see we do some
publishing hereaway."

Delightfully suggestive and highly enjoyable, too, were the
meetings in the little drawing-room after dinner, when the
contrasted traits of father and son came into full play - when R.
L. Stevenson would sometimes draw out a new view by bold, half-
paradoxical assertion, or compel advance on the point from a new
quarter by a searching question couched in the simplest language,
or reveal his own latest conviction finally, by a few sentences as
nicely rounded off as though they had been written, while he rose
and gently moved about, as his habit was, in the course of those
more extended remarks. Then a chapter or two of THE SEA-COOK would
be read, with due pronouncement on the main points by one or other
of the family audience.

The reading of the book is one thing. It was quite another thing
to hear Stevenson as he stood reading it aloud, with his hand
stretched out holding the manuscript, and his body gently swaying
as a kind of rhythmical commentary on the story. His fine voice,
clear and keen it some of its tones, had a wonderful power of
inflection and variation, and when he came to stand in the place of
Silver you could almost have imagined you saw the great one-legged
John Silver, joyous-eyed, on the rolling sea. Yes, to read it in
print was good, but better yet to hear Stevenson read it.


WHEN I left Braemar, I carried with me a considerable portion of
the MS. of TREASURE ISLAND, with an outline of the rest of the
story. It originally bore the odd title of THE SEA-COOK, and, as I
have told before, I showed it to Mr Henderson, the proprietor of
the YOUNG FOLKS' PAPER, who came to an arrangement with Mr
Stevenson, and the story duly appeared in its pages, as well as the
two which succeeded it.

Stevenson himself in his article in THE IDLER for August 1894
(reprinted in MY FIRST BOOK volume and in a late volume of the
EDINBURGH EDITION) has recalled some of the circumstances connected
with this visit of mine to Braemar, as it bore on the destination

"And now, who should come dropping in, EX MACHINA, but Dr Japp,
like the disguised prince, who is to bring down the curtain upon
peace and happiness in the last act; for he carried in his pocket,
not a horn or a talisman, but a publisher, in fact, ready to
unearth new writers for my old friend Mr Henderson's YOUNG FOLKS.
Even the ruthlessness of a united family recoiled before the
extreme measure of inflicting on our guest the mutilated members of
THE SEA-COOK; at the same time, we would by no means stop our
readings, and accordingly the tale was begun again at the
beginning, and solemnly redelivered for the benefit of Dr Japp.
From that moment on, I have thought highly of his critical faculty;
for when he left us, he carried away the manuscript in his

"TREASURE ISLAND - it was Mr Henderson who deleted the first title,
THE SEA-COOK - appeared duly in YOUNG FOLKS, where it figured in
the ignoble midst without woodcuts, and attracted not the least
attention. I did not care. I liked the tale myself, for much the
same reason as my father liked the beginning: it was my kind of
picturesque. I was not a little proud of John Silver also; and to
this day rather admire that smooth and formidable adventurer. What
was infinitely more exhilarating, I had passed a landmark. I had
finished a tale and written The End upon my manuscript, as I had
not done since THE PENTLAND RISING, when I was a boy of sixteen,
not yet at college. In truth, it was so by a lucky set of
accidents: had not Dr Japp come on his visit, had not the tale
flowed from me with singular ease, it must have been laid aside,
like its predecessors, and found a circuitous and unlamented way to
the fire. Purists may suggest it would have been better so. I am
not of that mind. The tale seems to have given much pleasure, and
it brought (or was the means of bringing) fire, food, and wine to a
deserving family in which I took an interest. I need scarcely say
I mean my own."

He himself gives a goodly list of the predecessors which had found
a circuitous and unlamented way to the fire

"As soon as I was able to write, I became a good friend to the
paper-makers. Reams upon reams must have gone to the making of
WEST. RATHILLET was attempted before fifteen, THE VENDETTA at
twenty-nine, and the succession of defeats lasted unbroken till I
was thirty-one."

Another thing I carried from Braemar with me which I greatly prize
TESTIMONY, by Mr Stevenson's father, with his autograph signature
and many of his own marginal notes. He had thought deeply on many
subjects - theological, scientific, and social - and had recorded,
I am afraid, but the smaller half of his thoughts and speculations.
Several days in the mornings, before R. L. Stevenson was able to
face the somewhat "snell" air of the hills, I had long walks with
the old gentleman, when we also had long talks on many subjects -
the liberalising of the Scottish Church, educational reform, etc.;
and, on one occasion, a statement of his reason, because of the
subscription, for never having become an elder. That he had in
some small measure enjoyed my society, as I certainly had much
enjoyed his, was borne out by a letter which I received from the
son in reply to one I had written, saying that surely his father
had never meant to present me at the last moment on my leaving by
coach with that volume, with his name on it, and with pencilled
notes here and there, but had merely given it me to read and
return. In the circumstances I may perhaps be excused quoting from
a letter dated Castleton of Braemar, September 1881, in
illustration of what I have said -

"MY DEAR DR JAPP, - My father has gone, but I think I may take it
upon me to ask you to keep the book. Of all things you could do to
endear yourself to me you have done the best, for, from your
letter, you have taken a fancy to my father.

"I do not know how to thank you for your kind trouble in the matter
of THE SEA-COOK, but I am not unmindful. My health is still
poorly, and I have added intercostal rheumatism - a new attraction,
which sewed me up nearly double for two days, and still gives me 'a
list to starboard' - let us be ever nautical. . . . I do not think
with the start I have, there will be any difficulty in letting Mr
Henderson go ahead whenever he likes. I will write my story up to
its legitimate conclusion, and then we shall be in a position to
judge whether a sequel would be desirable, and I myself would then
know better about its practicability from the story-telling point
of view. - Yours very sincerely, ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON."

A little later came the following:-


"MY DEAR DR JAPP, - Herewith go nine chapters. I have been a
little seedy; and the two last that I have written seem to me on a
false venue; hence the smallness of the batch. I have now, I hope,
in the three last sent, turned the corner, with no great amount of

"The map, with all its names, notes, soundings, and things, should
make, I believe, an admirable advertisement for the story. Eh?

"I hope you got a telegram and letter I forwarded after you to
Dinnat. - Believe me, yours very sincerely, ROBERT LOUIS

In the afternoon, if fine and dry, we went walking, and Stevenson
would sometimes tell us stories of his short experience at the
Scottish Bar, and of his first and only brief. I remember him
contrasting that with his experiences as an engineer with Bob Bain,
who, as manager, was then superintending the building of a
breakwater. Of that time, too, he told the choicest stories, and
especially of how, against all orders, he bribed Bob with five
shillings to let him go down in the diver's dress. He gave us a
splendid description - finer, I think, than even that in his
MEMORIES - of his sensations on the sea-bottom, which seems to have
interested him as deeply, and suggested as many strange fancies, as
anything which he ever came across on the surface. But the
possibility of enterprises of this sort ended - Stevenson lost his
interest in engineering.

Stevenson's father had, indeed, been much exercised in his day by
theological questions and difficulties, and though he remained a
staunch adherent of the Established Church of Scotland he knew well
and practically what is meant by the term "accommodation," as it is
used by theologians in reference to creeds and formulas; for he had
over and over again, because of the strict character of the
subscription required from elders of the Scottish Church declined,
as I have said, to accept the office. In a very express sense you
could see that he bore the marks of his past in many ways - a
quick, sensitive, in some ways even a fantastic-minded man, yet
with a strange solidity and common-sense amid it all, just as
though ferns with the veritable fairies' seed were to grow out of a
common stone wall. He looked like a man who had not been without
sleepless nights - without troubles, sorrows, and perplexities, and
even yet, had not wholly risen above some of them, or the results
of them. His voice was "low and sweet" - with just a possibility
in it of rising to a shrillish key. A sincere and faithful man,
who had walked very demurely through life, though with a touch of
sudden, bright, quiet humour and fancy, every now and then crossing
the grey of his characteristic pensiveness or melancholy, and
drawing effect from it. He was most frank and genial with me, and
I greatly honour his memory. (2)

Thomas Stevenson, with a strange, sad smile, told me how much of a
disappointment, in the first stage, at all events, Louis (he always
called his son Louis at home), had caused him, by failing to follow
up his profession at the Scottish Bar. How much he had looked
forward, after the engineering was abandoned, to his devoting
himself to the work of the Parliament House (as the Hall of the
Chief Court is called in Scotland, from the building having been
while yet there was a Scottish Parliament the place where it sat),
though truly one cannot help feeling how much Stevenson's very air
and figure would have been out of keeping among the bewigged,
pushing, sharp-set, hard-featured, and even red-faced and red-nosed
(some of them, at any rate) company, who daily walked the
Parliament House, and talked and gossiped there, often of other
things than law and equity. "Well, yes, perhaps it was all for the
best," he said, with a sigh, on my having interjected the remark
that R. L. Stevenson was wielding far more influence than he ever
could have done as a Scottish counsel, even though he had risen
rapidly in his profession, and become Lord-Advocate or even a

There was, indeed, a very pathetic kind of harking back on the
might-have-beens when I talked with him on this subject. He had
reconciled himself in a way to the inevitable, and, like a sensible
man, was now inclined to make the most and the best of it. The
marriage, which, on the report of it, had been but a new
disappointment to him, had, as if by magic, been transformed into a
blessing in his mind and his wife's by personal contact with Fanny
Van der Griff Stevenson, which no one who ever met her could wonder
at; but, nevertheless, his dream of seeing his only son walking in
the pathways of the Stevensons, and adorning a profession in
Edinburgh, and so winning new and welcome laurels for the family
and the name, was still present with him constantly, and by
contrast, he was depressed with contemplation of the real state of
the case, when, as I have said, I pointed out to him, as more than
once I did, what an influence his son was wielding now, not only
over those near to him, but throughout the world, compared with
what could have come to him as a lighthouse engineer, however
successful, or it may be as a briefless advocate or barrister,
walking, hardly in glory and in joy, the Hall of the Edinburgh
Parliament House. And when I pictured the yet greater influence
that was sure to come to him, he only shook his head with that
smile which tells of hopes long-cherished and lost at last, and of
resignation gained, as though at stern duty's call and an honest
desire for the good of those near and dear to him. It moved me
more than I can say, and always in the midst of it he adroitly, and
somewhat abruptly, changed the subject. Such penalties do parents
often pay for the honour of giving geniuses to the world. Here,
again, it may be true, "the individual withers but the world is
more and more."

The impression of a kind of tragic fatality was but added to when
Stevenson would speak of his father in such terms of love and
admiration as quite moved one, of his desire to please him, of his
highest respect and gratitude to him, and pride in having such a
father. It was most characteristic that when, in his travels in
America, he met a gentleman who expressed plainly his keen
disappointment on learning that he had but been introduced to the
son and not to the father - to the as yet but budding author - and
not to the builder of the great lighthouse beacons that constantly
saved mariners from shipwreck round many stormy coasts, he should
record the incident, as his readers will remember, with such a
strange mixture of a pride and filial gratitude, and half humorous
humiliation. Such is the penalty a son of genius often pays in
heart-throbs for the inability to do aught else but follow his
destiny - follow his star, even though as Dante says:-

"Se tu segui tua stella
Non puoi fallire a glorioso porto." (3)

What added a keen thrill as of quivering flesh exposed, was that
Thomas Stevenson on one side was exactly the man to appreciate such
attainments and work in another, and I often wondered how far the
sense of Edinburgh propriety and worldly estimates did weigh with
him here.

Mr Stevenson mentioned to me a peculiar fact which has since been
noted by his son, that, notwithstanding the kind of work he had so
successfully engaged in, he was no mathematician, and had to submit
his calculations to another to be worked out in definite
mathematical formulae. Thomas Stevenson gave one the impression of
a remarkably sweet, great personality, grave, anxious, almost
morbidly forecasting, yet full of childlike hope and ready
affection, but, perhaps, so earnestly taken up with some points as
to exaggerate their importance and be too self-conscious and easily
offended in respect to them. But there was no affectation in him.
He was simple-minded, sincere to the core; most kindly, homely,
hospitable, much intent on brotherly offices. He had the Scottish
PERFERVIDUM too - he could tolerate nothing mean or creeping; and
his eye would lighten and glance in a striking manner when such was
spoken of. I have since heard that his charities were very
extensive, and dispensed in the most hidden and secret ways. He
acted here on the Scripture direction, "Let not thy left hand know
what thy right hand doeth." He was much exercised when I saw him
about some defects, as he held, in the methods of Scotch education
(for he was a true lover of youth, and cared more for character
being formed than for heads being merely crammed). Sagacious, with
fine forecast, with a high ideal, and yet up to a certain point a
most tolerant temper, he was a fine specimen of the Scottish
gentleman. His son tells that, as he was engaged in work
calculated to benefit the world and to save life, he would not for
long take out a patent for his inventions, and thus lost immense
sums. I can well believe that: it seems quite in keeping with my
impressions of the man. There was nothing stolid or selfishly
absorbed in him. He bore the marks of deep, true, honest feeling,
true benevolence, and open-handed generosity, and despite the son's
great pen-craft, and inventive power, would have forgiven my saying
that sometimes I have had a doubt whether the father was not, after
all, the greater man of the two, though certainly not, like the
hero of IN MEMORIAM, moulded "in colossal calm."

In theological matters, in which Thomas Stevenson had been much and
deeply exercised, he held very strong views, leading decisively to
ultra-Calvinism; but, as I myself could well sympathise with such
views, if I did not hold them, knowing well the strange ways in
which they had gone to form grand, if sometimes sternly forbidding
characters, there were no cross-purposes as there might have been
with some on that subject. And always I felt I had an original
character and a most interesting one to study.

This is another very characteristic letter to me from Davos Platz:


"MY DEAR DR JAPP, - You must think me a forgetful rogue, as indeed
I am; for I have but now told my publisher to send you a copy of
the FAMILIAR STUDIES. However, I own I have delayed this letter
till I could send you the enclosed. Remembering the night at
Braemar, when we visited the picture-gallery, I hoped they might
amuse you.

"You see we do some publishing hereaway.

"With kind regards, believe me, always yours faithfully,

"I shall hope to see you in town in May."

The enclosed was the second series of MORAL EMBLEMS, by R. L.
Stevenson, printed by Samuel Osbourne. My answer to this letter
brought the following:

APRIL 1st, 1882.

"MY DEAR DR JAPP, - A good day to date this letter, which is, in
fact, a confession of incapacity. During my wife's wretched
illness - or I should say the worst of it, for she is not yet
rightly well - I somewhat lost my head, and entirely lost a great
quire of corrected proofs. This is one of the results: I hope
there are none more serious. I was never so sick of any volume as
I was of that; I was continually receiving fresh proofs with fresh
infinitesimal difficulties. I was ill; I did really fear, for my
wife was worse than ill. Well, 'tis out now; and though I have
already observed several carelessnesses myself, and now here is
another of your finding - of which indeed, I ought to be ashamed -
it will only justify the sweeping humility of the preface.

"Symonds was actually dining with us when your letter came, and I
communicated your remarks, which pleased him. He is a far better
and more interesting thing than his books.

"The elephant was my wife's, so she is proportionately elate you
should have picked it out for praise from a collection, let us add,
so replete with the highest qualities of art.

"My wicked carcass, as John Knox calls it, holds together
wonderfully. In addition to many other things, and a volume of
travel, I find I have written since December ninety Cornhill pp. of
Magazine work - essays and stories - 40,000 words; and I am none
the worse - I am better. I begin to hope I may, if not outlive
this wolverine upon my shoulders, at least carry him bravely like
Symonds or Alexander Pope. I begin to take a pride in that hope.

"I shall be much interested to see your criticisms: you might
perhaps send them on to me. I believe you know that I am not
dangerous - one folly I have not - I am not touchy under criticism.

"Sam and my wife both beg to be remembered, and Sam also sends as a
present a work of his own. - Yours very sincerely,

As indicating the estimate of many of the good Edinburgh people of
Stevenson and the Stevensons that still held sway up to so late a
date as 1893, I will here extract two characteristic passages from
the letters of the friend and correspondent of these days just
referred to, and to whom I had sent a copy of the ATALANTA
Magazine, with an article of mine on Stevenson.

"If you can excuse the garrulity of age, I can tell you one or two
things about Louis Stevenson, his father and even his grandfather,
which you may work up some other day, as you have so deftly
embedded in the ATALANTA article that small remark on his acting.
Your paper is pleasant and modest: most of R. L. Stevenson's
admirers are inclined to lay it on far too thick. That he is a
genius we all admit; but his genius, if fine, is limited. For
example, he cannot paint (or at least he never has painted) a
woman. No more could Fettes Douglas, skilful artist though he was
in his own special line, and I shall tell you a remark of Russel's
thereon some day. (4) There are women in his books, but there is
none of the beauty and subtlety of womanhood in them.

"R. L. Stevenson I knew well as a lad and often met him and talked
with him. He acted in private theatricals got up by the late
Professor Fleeming Jenkin. But he had then, as always, a pretty
guid conceit o' himsel' - which his clique have done nothing to
check. His father and his grandfather (I have danced with his
mother before her marriage) I knew better; but 'the family
theologian,' as some of R. L. Stevenson's friends dabbed his
father, was a very touchy theologian, and denounced any one who in
the least differed from his extreme Calvinistic views. I came
under his lash most unwittingly in this way myself. But for this
twist, he was a good fellow - kind and hospitable - and a really
able man in his profession. His father-in-law, R. L. Stevenson's
maternal grandfather, was the Rev. Dr Balfour, minister of Colinton
- one of the finest-looking old men I ever saw - tall, upright, and
ruddy at eighty. But he was marvellously feeble as a preacher, and
often said things that were deliciously, unconsciously,
unintentionally laughable, if not witty. We were near Colinton for
some years; and Mr Russell (of the SCOTSMAN), who once attended the
Parish Church with us, was greatly tickled by Balfour discoursing
on the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, remarking that Mrs P-'s
conduct was 'highly improper'!"

The estimate of R. L. Stevenson was not and could not be final in
this case, for WEIR OF HERMISTON and CATRIONA were yet unwritten,
not to speak of others, but the passages reflect a certain side of
Edinburgh opinion, illustrating the old Scripture doctrine that a
prophet has honour everywhere but in his own country. And the
passages themselves bear evidence that I violate no confidence
then, for they were given to me to be worked into any after-effort
I might make on Stevenson. My friend was a good and an acute
critic who had done some acceptable literary work in his day.


R. L. STEVENSON was born on 13th November 1850, the very year of
the death of his grandfather, Robert Stevenson, whom he has so
finely celebrated. As a mere child he gave token of his character.
As soon as he could read, he was keen for books, and, before very
long, had read all the story-books he could lay hands on; and, when
the stock ran out, he would go and look in at all the shop windows
within reach, and try to piece out the stories from the bits
exposed in open pages and the woodcuts.

He had a nurse of very remarkable character - evidently a paragon -
who deeply influenced him and did much to form his young mind -
Alison Cunningham, who, in his juvenile lingo, became "Cumy," and
who not only was never forgotten, but to the end was treated as his
"second mother." In his dedication of his CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
to her, he says:

"My second mother, my first wife,
The angel of my infant life."

Her copy of KIDNAPPED was inscribed to her by the hand of
Stevenson, thus:


Skerryvore was the name of Stevenson's Bournemouth home, so named
after one of the Stevenson lighthouses. His first volume, AN
INLAND VOYAGE has this pretty dedication, inscribed in a neat,
small hand:

"MY DEAR CUMY, - If you had not taken so much trouble with me all
the years of my childhood, this little book would never have been
written. Many a long night you sat up with me when I was ill. I
wish I could hope, by way of return, to amuse a single evening for
you with my little book. But whatever you think of it, I know you
will think kindly of

"Cumy" was perhaps the most influential teacher Stevenson had.
What she and his mother taught took effect and abode with him,
which was hardly the case with any other of his teachers.

"In contrast to Goethe," says Mr Baildon, "Stevenson was but little
affected by his relations to women, and, when this point is fully
gone into, it will probably be found that his mother and nurse in
childhood, and his wife and step-daughter in later life, are about
the only women who seriously influenced either his character or his
art." (p. 32).

When Mr Kelman is celebrating Stevenson for the consistency and
continuity of his undogmatic religion, he is almost throughout
celebrating "Cumy" and her influence, though unconsciously. Here,
again, we have an apt and yet more striking illustration, after
that of the good Lord Shaftesbury and many others, of the deep and
lasting effect a good and earnest woman, of whom the world may
never hear, may have had upon a youngster of whom all the world
shall hear. When Mr Kelman says that "the religious element in
Stevenson was not a thing of late growth, but an integral part and
vital interest of his life," he but points us back to the earlier
religious influences to which he had been effectually subject.
"His faith was not for himself alone, and the phases of
Christianity which it has asserted are peculiarly suited to the
spiritual needs of many in the present time."

We should not lay so much weight as Mr Kelman does on the mere
number of times "the Divine name" is found in Stevenson's writings,
but there is something in such confessions as the following to his
father, when he was, amid hardship and illness, in Paris in 1878:

"Still I believe in myself and my fellow-men and the God who made
us all.... I am lonely and sick and out of heart. Well, I still
hope; I still believe; I still see the good in the inch, and cling
to it. It is not much, perhaps, but it is always something."

Yes, "Cumy" was a very effective teacher, whose influence and
teaching long remained. His other teachers, however famous and
highly gifted, did not attain to such success with him. And
because of this non-success they blamed him, as is usual. He was
fond of playing truant - declared, indeed, that he was about as
methodic a truant as ever could have existed. He much loved to go
on long wanderings by himself on the Pentland Hills and read about
the Covenanters, and while yet a youth of sixteen he wrote THE
PENTLAND RISING - a pamphlet in size and a piece of fine work -
which was duly published, is now scarce, and fetches a high price.
He had made himself thoroughly familiar with all the odd old
corners of Edinburgh - John Knox's haunts and so on, all which he
has turned to account in essays, descriptions and in stories -
especially in CATRIONA. When a mere youth at school, as he tells
us himself, he had little or no desire to carry off prizes and do
just as other boys did; he was always wishing to observe, and to
see, and try things for himself - was, in fact, in the eyes of
schoolmasters and tutors something of an IDLER, with splendid gifts
which he would not rightly apply. He was applying them rightly,
though not in their way. It is not only in his APOLOGY FOR IDLERS
that this confession is made, but elsewhere, as in his essay on A
COLLEGE MAGAZINE, where he says, "I was always busy on my own
private end, which was to learn to write. I kept always two books
in my pocket, one to read and one to write in!"

When he went to College it was still the same - he tells us in the
funniest way how he managed to wheedle a certificate for Greek out
of Professor Blackie, though the Professor owned "his face was not
familiar to him"! He fared very differently when, afterwards his
father, eager that he should follow his profession, got him to
enter the civil engineering class under Professor Fleeming Jenkin.
He still stuck to his old courses - wandering about, and, in
sheltered corners, writing in the open air, and was not present in
class more than a dozen times. When the session was ended he went
up to try for a certificate from Fleeming Jenkin. "No, no, Mr
Stevenson," said the Professor; "I might give it in a doubtful
case, but yours is not doubtful: you have not kept my classes."
And the most characteristic thing - honourable to both men - is to
come; for this was the beginning of a friendship which grew and
strengthened and is finally celebrated in the younger man's sketch
of the elder. He learned from Professor Fleeming Jenkin, perhaps
unconsciously, more of the HUMANIORES, than consciously he did of
engineering. A friend of mine, who knew well both the Stevenson
family and the Balfours, to which R. L. Stevenson's mother
belonged, recalls, as we have seen, his acting in the private
theatricals that were got up by the Professor, and adds, "He was
then a very handsome fellow, and looked splendidly as Sir Charles
Pomander, and essayed, not wholly without success, Sir Peter
Teazle," which one can well believe, no less than that he acted
such parts splendidly as well as looked them.

LONGMAN'S MAGAZINE, immediately after his death, published the
following poem, which took a very pathetic touch from the
circumstances of its appearance - the more that, while it
imaginatively and finely commemorated these days of truant
wanderings, it showed the ruling passion for home and the old
haunts, strongly and vividly, even not unnigh to death:

"The tropics vanish, and meseems that I,
From Halkerside, from topmost Allermuir,
Or steep Caerketton, dreaming gaze again.
Far set in fields and woods, the town I see
Spring gallant from the shallows of her smoke,
Cragg'd, spired, and turreted, her virgin fort
Beflagg'd. About, on seaward drooping hills,
New folds of city glitter. Last, the Forth
Wheels ample waters set with sacred isles,
And populous Fife smokes with a score of towns,
There, on the sunny frontage of a hill,
Hard by the house of kings, repose the dead,
My dead, the ready and the strong of word.
Their works, the salt-encrusted, still survive;
The sea bombards their founded towers; the night
Thrills pierced with their strong lamps. The artificers,
One after one, here in this grated cell,
Where the rain erases and the rust consumes,
Fell upon lasting silence. Continents
And continental oceans intervene;
A sea uncharted, on a lampless isle,
Environs and confines their wandering child
In vain. The voice of generations dead
Summons me, sitting distant, to arise,
My numerous footsteps nimbly to retrace,
And all mutation over, stretch me down
In that denoted city of the dead."


AT first sight it would seem hard to trace any illustration of the
doctrine of heredity in the case of this master of romance. George
Eliot's dictum that we are, each one of us, but an omnibus carrying
down the traits of our ancestors, does not appear at all to hold
here. This fanciful realist, this naive-wistful humorist, this
dreamy mystical casuist, crossed by the innocent bohemian, this
serious and genial essayist, in whom the deep thought was hidden by
the gracious play of wit and phantasy, came, on the father's side,
of a stock of what the world regarded as a quiet, ingenious,
demure, practical, home-keeping people. In his rich colour,
originality, and graceful air, it is almost as though the bloom of
japonica came on a rich old orchard apple-tree, all out of season
too. Those who go hard on heredity would say, perhaps, that he was
the result of some strange back-stroke. But, on closer
examination, we need not go so far. His grandfather, Robert
Stevenson, the great lighthouse-builder, the man who reared the
iron-bound pillar on the destructive Bell Rock, and set life-saving
lights there, was very intent on his professional work, yet he had
his ideal, and romantic, and adventurous side. In the delightful
sketch which his famous grandson gave of him, does he not tell of
the joy Robert Stevenson had on the annual voyage in the LIGHTHOUSE
YACHT - how it was looked forward to, yearned for, and how, when he
had Walter Scott on board, his fund of story and reminiscence all
through the tour never failed - how Scott drew upon it in THE
PIRATE and the notes to THE PIRATE, and with what pride Robert
Stevenson preserved the lines Scott wrote in the lighthouse album
at the Bell Rock on that occasion:


"Far in the bosom of the deep
O'er these wild shelves my watch I keep,
A ruddy gem of changeful light
Bound on the dusky brow of night.
The seaman bids my lustre hail,
And scorns to strike his timorous sail."

And how in 1850 the old man, drawing nigh unto death, was with the
utmost difficulty dissuaded from going the voyage once more, and
was found furtively in his room packing his portmanteau in spite of
the protests of all his family, and would have gone but for the
utter weakness of death.

His father was also a splendid engineer; was full of invention and
devoted to his profession, but he, too, was not without his
romances, and even vagaries. He loved a story, was a fine teller
of stories, used to sit at night and spin the most wondrous yarns,
a man of much reserve, yet also of much power in discourse, with an
aptness and felicity in the use of phrases - so much so, as his son
tells, that on his deathbed, when his power of speech was passing
from him, and he couldn't articulate the right word, he was silent
rather than use the wrong one. I shall never forget how in these
early morning walks at Braemar, finding me sympathetic, he unbent
with the air of a man who had unexpectedly found something he had
sought, and was fairly confidential.

On the mother's side our author came of ministers. His maternal
grandfather, the Rev. Dr Balfour of Colinton, was a man of handsome
presence, tall, venerable-looking, and not without a mingled
authority and humour of his own - no very great preacher, I have
heard, but would sometimes bring a smile to the faces of his
hearers by very naive and original ways of putting things. R. L.
Stevenson quaintly tells a story of how his grandfather when he had
physic to take, and was indulged in a sweet afterwards, yet would
not allow the child to have a sweet because he had not had the
physic. A veritable Calvinist in daily action - from him, no
doubt, our subject drew much of his interest in certain directions
- John Knox, Scottish history, the '15 and the '45, and no doubt
much that justifies the line "something of shorter-catechist," as
applied by Henley to Stevenson among very contrasted traits indeed.

But strange truly are the interblendings of race, and the way in
which traits of ancestors reappear, modifying and transforming each
other. The gardener knows what can be done by grafts and buddings;
but more wonderful far than anything there, are the mysterious
blendings and outbursts of what is old and forgotten, along with
what is wholly new and strange, and all going to produce often what
we call sometimes eccentricity, and sometimes originality and

Mr J. F. George, in SCOTTISH NOTES AND QUERIES, wrote as follows on
Stevenson's inheritances and indebtedness to certain of his

"About 1650, James Balfour, one of the Principal Clerks of the
Court of Session, married Bridget, daughter of Chalmers of
Balbaithan, Keithhall, and that estate was for some time in the
name of Balfour. His son, James Balfour of Balbaithan, Merchant
and Magistrate of Edinburgh, paid poll-tax in 1696, but by 1699 the
land had been sold. This was probably due to the fact that Balfour
was one of the Governors of the Darien Company. His grandson,
James Balfour of Pilrig (1705 - 1795), sometime Professor of Moral
Philosophy in Edinburgh University, whose portrait is sketched in
CATRIONA, also made a Garioch [Aberdeenshire district] marriage,
his wife being Cecilia, fifth daughter of Sir John Elphinstone,
second baronet of Logie (Elphinstone) and Sheriff of Aberdeen, by
Mary, daughter of Sir Gilbert Elliot, first baronet of Minto.

"Referring to the Minto descent, Stevenson claims to have 'shaken a
spear in the Debatable Land and shouted the slogan of the Elliots.'
He evidently knew little or nothing of his relations on the
Elphinstone side. The Logie Elphinstones were a cadet branch of
Glack, an estate acquired by Nicholas Elphinstone in 1499. William
Elphinstone, a younger son of James of Glack, and Elizabeth Wood of
Bonnyton, married Margaret Forbes, and was father of Sir James
Elphinstone, Bart., of Logie, so created in 1701. . . .

"Stevenson would have been delighted to acknowledge his
relationship, remote though it was, to 'the Wolf of Badenoch,' who
burned Elgin Cathedral without the Earl of Kildare's excuse that he
thought the Bishop was in it; and to the Wolf's son, the Victor of
Harlaw [and] to his nephew 'John O'Coull,' Constable of France. . .
. Also among Tusitala's kin may be noted, in addition to the later
Gordons of Gight, the Tiger Earl of Crawford, familiarly known as
'Earl Beardie,' the 'Wicked Master' of the same line, who was
fatally stabbed by a Dundee cobbler 'for taking a stoup of drink
from him'; Lady Jean Lindsay, who ran away with 'a common jockey
with the horn,' and latterly became a beggar; David Lindsay, the
last Laird of Edzell [a lichtsome Lindsay fallen on evil days], who
ended his days as hostler at a Kirkwall inn, and 'Mussel Mou'ed
Charlie,' the Jacobite ballad-singer.

"Stevenson always believed that he had a strong spiritual affinity
to Robert Fergusson. It is more than probable that there was a
distant maternal affinity as well. Margaret Forbes, the mother of
Sir James Elphinstone, the purchaser of Logie, has not been
identified, but it is probable she was of the branch of the
Tolquhon Forbeses who previously owned Logie. Fergusson's mother,
Elizabeth Forbes, was the daughter of a Kildrummy tacksman, who by
constant tradition is stated to have been of the house of Tolquhon.
It would certainly be interesting if this suggested connection
could be proved." (5)

"From his Highland ancestors," says the QUARTERLY REVIEW, "Louis
drew the strain of Celtic melancholy with all its perils and
possibilities, and its kinship, to the mood of day-dreaming, which
has flung over so many of his pages now the vivid light wherein
figures imagined grew as real as flesh and blood, and yet, again,
the ghostly, strange, lonesome, and stinging mist under whose spell
we see the world bewitched, and every object quickens with a throb
of infectious terror."

Here, as in many other cases, we see how the traits of ancestry
reappear and transform other strains, strangely the more remote
often being the strongest and most persistent and wonderful.

"It is through his father, strange as it may seem," says Mr
Baildon, "that Stevenson gets the Celtic elements so marked in his
person, character, and genius; for his father's pedigree runs back
to the Highland clan Macgregor, the kin of Rob Roy. Stevenson thus
drew in Celtic strains from both sides - from the Balfours and the
Stevensons alike - and in his strange, dreamy, beautiful, and often
far-removed fancies we have the finest and most effective witness
of it."

Mr William Archer, in his own characteristic way, has brought the
inheritances from the two sides of the house into more direct
contact and contrast in an article he wrote in THE DAILY CHRONICLE
on the appearance of the LETTERS TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

"These letters show," he says, "that Stevenson's was not one of
those sunflower temperaments which turn by instinct, not effort,
towards the light, and are, as Mr Francis Thompson puts it,
'heartless and happy, lackeying their god.' The strains of his
heredity were very curiously, but very clearly, mingled. It may
surprise some readers to find him speaking of 'the family evil,
despondency,' but he spoke with knowledge. He inherited from his
father not only a stern Scottish intentness on the moral aspect of
life ('I would rise from the dead to preach'), but a marked
disposition to melancholy and hypochondria. From his mother, on
the other hand, he derived, along with his physical frailty, a
resolute and cheery stoicism. These two elements in his nature
fought many a hard fight, and the besieging forces from without -
ill-health, poverty, and at one time family dissensions - were by
no means without allies in the inner citadel of his soul. His
spirit was courageous in the truest sense of the word: by effort
and conviction, not by temperamental insensibility to fear. It is
clear that there was a period in his life (and that before the
worst of his bodily ills came upon him) when he was often within
measurable distance of Carlylean gloom. He was twenty-four when he
wrote thus, from Swanston, to Mrs Sitwell:

"'It is warmer a bit; but my body is most decrepit, and I can just
manage to be cheery and tread down hypochondria under foot by work.
I lead such a funny life, utterly without interest or pleasure
outside of my work: nothing, indeed, but work all day long, except
a short walk alone on the cold hills, and meals, and a couple of
pipes with my father in the evening. It is surprising how it suits
me, and how happy I keep.'

"This is the serenity which arises, not from the absence of
fuliginous elements in the character, but from a potent smoke-
consuming faculty, and an inflexible will to use it. Nine years
later he thus admonishes his backsliding parent:

"'MY DEAR MOTHER, - I give my father up. I give him a parable:
that the Waverley novels are better reading for every day than the
tragic LIFE. And he takes it back-side foremost, and shakes his
head, and is gloomier than ever. Tell him that I give him up. I
don't want no such a parent. This is not the man for my money. I
do not call that by the name of religion which fills a man with
bile. I write him a whole letter, bidding him beware of extremes,
and telling him that his gloom is gallows-worthy; and I get back an
answer -. Perish the thought of it.

"'Here am I on the threshold of another year, when, according to
all human foresight, I should long ago have been resolved into my
elements: here am I, who you were persuaded was born to disgrace
you - and, I will do you the justice to add, on no such
insufficient grounds - no very burning discredit when all is done;
here am I married, and the marriage recognised to be a blessing of
the first order. A1 at Lloyd's. There is he, at his not first
youth, able to take more exercise than I at thirty-three, and
gaining a stone's weight, a thing of which I am incapable. There
are you; has the man no gratitude? . . .

"'Even the Shorter Catechism, not the merriest epitome of religion,
and a work exactly as pious although not quite so true as the
multiplication table - even that dry-as-dust epitome begins with a
heroic note. What is man's chief end? Let him study that; and ask
himself if to refuse to enjoy God's kindest gifts is in the spirit

"As may be judged from this half-playful, half-serious
remonstrance, Stevenson's relation to his parents was eminently
human and beautiful. The family dissensions above alluded to
belonged only to a short but painful period, when the father could
not reconcile himself to the discovery that the son had ceased to
accept the formulas of Scottish Calvinism. In the eyes of the
older man such heterodoxy was for the moment indistinguishable from
atheism; but he soon arrived at a better understanding of his son's
position. Nothing appears more unmistakably in these letters than
the ingrained theism of Stevenson's way of thought. The poet, the
romancer within him, revolted from the conception of formless
force. A personal deity was a necessary character in the drama, as
he conceived it. And his morality, though (or inasmuch as) it
dwelt more on positive kindness than on negative lawlessness, was,
as he often insisted, very much akin to the morality of the New

Anyway it is clear that much in the interminglings of blood we CAN
trace, may go to account for not a little in Stevenson. His
peculiar interest in the enormities of old-time feuds, the
excesses, the jealousies, the queer psychological puzzles, the
desire to work on the outlying and morbid, and even the unallowed
and unhallowed, for purposes of romance - the delight in dealing
with revelations of primitive feeling and the out-bursts of the
mere natural man always strangely checked and diverted by the
uprise of other tendencies to the dreamy, impalpable, vague, weird
and horrible. There was the undoubted Celtic element in him
underlying what seemed foreign to it, the disregard of
conventionality in one phase, and the falling under it in another -
the reaction and the retreat from what had attracted and interested
him, and then the return upon it, as with added zest because of the
retreat. The confessed Hedonist, enjoying life and boasting of it
just a little, and yet the Puritan in him, as it were, all the time
eyeing himself as from some loophole of retreat, and then
commenting on his own behaviour as a Hedonist and Bohemian. This
clearly was not what most struck Beerbohm Tree, during the time he
was in close contact with Stevenson, while arranging the production
of BEAU AUSTIN at the Haymarket Theatre, for he sees, or confesses
to seeing, only one side, and that the most assertive, and in a
sense, unreal one:

"Stevenson," says Mr Tree, "always seemed to me an epicure in life.
He was always intent on extracting the last drop of honey from
every flower that came in his way. He was absorbed in the business
of the moment, however trivial. As a companion, he was
delightfully witty; as a personality, as much a creature of romance
as his own creations."

This is simple, and it looks sincere; but it does not touch 'tother
side, or hint at, not to say, solve the problem of Stevenson's
personality. Had he been the mere Hedonist he could never have
done the work he did. Mr Beerbohm Tree certainly did not there see
far or all round.

Miss Simpson says:

"Mr Henley recalls him to Edinburgh folk as he was and as the true
Stevenson would have wished to be known - a queer, inexplicable
creature, his Celtic blood showing like a vein of unknown metal in
the stolid, steady rock of his sure-founded Stevensonian pedigree.
His cousin and model, 'Bob' Stevenson, the art critic, showed that
this foreign element came from the men who lit our guiding lights
for seamen, not from the gentle-blooded Balfours.

"Mr Henley is right in saying that the gifted boy had not much
humour. When the joke was against himself he was very thin-skinned
and had a want of balance. This made him feel his honest father's
sensible remarks like the sting of a whip."

Miss Simpson then proceeds to say:

"The R. L. Stevenson of old Edinburgh days was a conceited,
egotistical youth, but a true and honest one: a youth full of fire
and sentiment, protesting he was misunderstood, though he was not.
Posing as 'Velvet Coat' among the slums, he did no good to himself.
He had not the Dickens aptitude for depicting the ways of life of
his adopted friends. When with refined judgment he wanted a figure
for a novel, he went back to the Bar he scorned in his callow days
and then drew in WEIR OF HERMISTON."


HIS interest in engineering soon went - his mind full of stories
and fancies and human nature. As he had told his mother: he did
not care about finding what was "the strain on a bridge," he wanted
to know something of human beings.

No doubt, much to the disappointment and grief of his father, who
wished him as an only son to carry on the traditions of the family,
though he had written two engineering essays of utmost promise, the
engineering was given up, and he consented to study law. He had
already contributed to College Magazines, and had had even a short
spell of editing one; of one of these he has given a racy account.
Very soon after his call to the Bar articles and essays from his
pen began to appear in MACMILLAN'S, and later, more regularly in
the CORNHILL. Careful readers soon began to note here the presence
of a new force. He had gone on the INLAND VOYAGE and an account of
it was in hand; and had done that tour in the Cevennes which he has
described under the title TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY IN THE CEVENNES,
with Modestine, sometimes doubting which was the donkey, but on
that tour a chill caught either developed a germ of lung disease
already present, or produced it; and the results unfortunately

He never practised at the Bar, though he tells facetiously of his
one brief. He had chosen his own vocation, which was literature,
and the years which followed were, despite the delicacy which
showed itself, very busy years. He produced volume on volume. He
had written many stories which had never seen the light, but, as he
says, passed through the ordeal of the fire by more or less
circuitous ways.

By this time some trouble and cause for anxiety had arisen about
the lungs, and trials of various places had been made. ORDERED
SOUTH suggests the Mediterranean, sunny Italy, the Riviera. Then a
sea-trip to America was recommended and undertaken. Unfortunately,
he got worse there, his original cause of trouble was complicated
with others, and the medical treatment given was stupid, and
exaggerated some of the symptoms instead of removing them, All
along - up, at all events, to the time of his settlement in Samoa -
Stevenson was more or less of an invalid.

Indeed, were I ever to write an essay on the art of wisely "laying-
to," as the sailors say, I would point it by a reference to R. L.
Stevenson. For there is a wise way of "laying-to" that does not
imply inaction, but discreet, well-directed effort, against
contrary winds and rough seas, that is, amid obstacles and
drawbacks, and even ill-health, where passive and active may
balance and give effect to each other. Stevenson was by native
instinct and temperament a rover - a lover of adventure, of strange
by-ways, errant tracts (as seen in his INLAND VOYAGE and TRAVELS
WITH A DONKEY THROUGH THE CEVENNES - seen yet more, perhaps, in a
certain account of a voyage to America as a steerage passenger),
lofty mountain-tops, with stronger air, and strange and novel
surroundings. He would fain, like Ulysses, be at home in foreign
lands, making acquaintance with outlying races, with

"Cities of men,
And manners, climates, councils, governments:
Myself not least, but honoured of them all,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy."

If he could not move about as he would, he would invent, make fancy
serve him instead of experience. We thus owe something to the
staying and restraining forces in him, and a wise "laying-to" - for
his works, which are, in large part, finely-healthy, objective, and
in almost everything unlike the work of an invalid, yet, in some
degree, were but the devices to beguile the burdens of an invalid's
days. Instead of remaining in our climate, it might be, to lie
listless and helpless half the day, with no companion but his own
thoughts and fancies (not always so pleasant either, if, like
Frankenstein's monster, or, better still like the imp in the bottle
in the ARABIAN NIGHTS, you cannot, once for all liberate them, and
set them adrift on their own charges to visit other people), he
made a home in the sweeter air and more steady climate of the South
Pacific, where, under the Southern Cross, he could safely and
beneficially be as active as he would be involuntarily idle at
home, or work only under pressure of hampering conditions. That
was surely an illustration of the true "laying-to" with an
unaffectedly brave, bright resolution in it.


CARLYLE was wont to say that, next to a faithful portrait, familiar
letters were the best medium to reveal a man. The letters must
have been written with no idea of being used for this end, however
- free, artless, the unstudied self-revealings of mind and heart.
Now, these letters of R. L. Stevenson, written to his friends in
England, have a vast value in this way - they reveal the man -
reveal him in his strength and his weakness - his ready gift in
pleasing and adapting himself to those with whom he corresponded,
and his great power at once of adapting himself to his
circumstances and of humorously rising superior to them. When he
was ill and almost penniless in San Francisco, he could give Mr
Colvin this account of his daily routine:

"Any time between eight and half-past nine in the morning a slender
gentleman in an ulster, with a volume buttoned into the breast of
it, maybe observed leaving No. 608 Bush and descending Powell with
an active step. The gentleman is R. L. Stevenson; the volume
relates to Benjamin Franklin, on whom he meditates one of his
charming essays. He descends Powell, crosses Market, and descends
in Sixth on a branch of the original Pine Street Coffee-House, no
less. . . . He seats himself at a table covered with waxcloth, and
a pampered menial of High-Dutch extraction, and, indeed, as yet
only partially extracted, lays before him a cup of coffee, a roll,
and a pat of butter, all, to quote the deity, very good. A while
ago, and R. L. Stevenson used to find the supply of butter
insufficient; but he has now learned the art to exactitude, and
butter and roll expire at the same moment. For this rejection he
pays ten cents, or fivepence sterling.

"Half an hour later, the inhabitants of Bush Street observed the
same slender gentleman armed, like George Washington, with his
little hatchet, splitting kindling, and breaking coal for his fire.
He does this quasi-publicly upon the window-sill; but this is not
to be attributed to any love of notoriety, though he is indeed vain
of his prowess with the hatchet (which he persists in calling an
axe), and daily surprised at the perpetuation of his fingers. The
reason is this: That the sill is a strong supporting beam, and
that blows of the same emphasis in other parts of his room might
knock the entire shanty into hell. Thenceforth, for from three
hours, he is engaged darkly with an ink-bottle. Yet he is not
blacking his boots, for the only pair that he possesses are
innocent of lustre, and wear the natural hue of the material turned
up with caked and venerable slush. The youngest child of his
landlady remarks several times a day, as this strange occupant
enters or quits the house, 'Dere's de author.' Can it be that this
bright-haired innocent has found the true clue to the mystery? The
being in question is, at least, poor enough to belong to that
honourable craft."

Here are a few letters belonging to the winter of 1887-88, nearly
all written from Saranac Lake, in the Adirondacks, celebrated by
Emerson, and now a most popular holiday resort in the United
States, and were originally published in SCRIBNER'S MAGAZINE. . .
"It should be said that, after his long spell of weakness at
Bournemouth, Stevenson had gone West in search of health among the
bleak hill summits - 'on the Canadian border of New York State,
very unsettled and primitive and cold.' He had made the voyage in
an ocean tramp, the LUDGATE HILL, the sort of craft which any
person not a born child of the sea would shun in horror.
Stevenson, however, had 'the finest time conceivable on board the
"strange floating menagerie."'" Thus he describes it in a letter
to Mr Henry James:

"Stallions and monkeys and matches made our cargo; and the vast
continent of these incongruities rolled the while like a haystack;
and the stallions stood hypnotised by the motion, looking through
the port at our dinner-table, and winked when the crockery was
broken; and the little monkeys stared at each other in their cages,
and were thrown overboard like little bluish babies; and the big
monkey, Jacko, scoured about the ship and rested willingly in my
arms, to the ruin of my clothing; and the man of the stallions made
a bower of the black tarpaulin, and sat therein at the feet of a
raddled divinity, like a picture on a box of chocolates; and the
other passengers, when they were not sick, looked on and laughed.
Take all this picture, and make it roll till the bell shall sound
unexpected notes and the fittings shall break loose in our
stateroom, and you have the voyage of the LUDGATE HILL. She
arrived in the port of New York without beer, porter, soda-water,
curacoa, fresh meat, or fresh water; and yet we lived, and we
regret her."

He discovered this that there is no joy in the Universe comparable
to life on a villainous ocean tramp, rolling through a horrible sea
in company with a cargo of cattle.

"I have got one good thing of my sea voyage; it is proved the sea
agrees heartily with me, and my mother likes it; so if I get any
better, or no worse, my mother will likely hire a yacht for a month
or so in the summer. Good Lord! what fun! Wealth is only useful
for two things: a yacht and a string quartette. For these two I
will sell my soul. Except for these I hold that 700 pounds a year
is as much as anybody can possibly want; and I have had more, so I
know, for the extra coins were of no use, excepting for illness,
which damns everything. I was so happy on board that ship, I could
not have believed it possible; we had the beastliest weather, and
many discomforts; but the mere fact of its being a tramp ship gave
us many comforts. We could cut about with the men and officers,
stay in the wheel-house, discuss all manner of things, and really
be a little at sea. And truly there is nothing else. I had
literally forgotten what happiness was, and the full mind - full of
external and physical things, not full of cares and labours, and
rot about a fellow's behaviour. My heart literally sang; I truly
care for nothing so much as for that.

"To go ashore for your letters and hang about the pier among the
holiday yachtsmen - that's fame, that's glory - and nobody can take
it away."

At Saranac Lake the Stevensons lived in a "wind-beleaguered hill-
top hat-box of a house," which suited the invalid, but, on the
other hand, invalided his wife. Soon after getting there he

"No thought have I now apart from it, and I have got along up to
page ninety-two of the draught with great interest. It is to me a
most seizing tale: there are some fantastic elements, the most is
a dead genuine human problem - human tragedy, I should say rather.
It will be about as long, I imagine, as KIDNAPPED. . . . I have
done most of the big work, the quarrel, duel between the brothers,
and the announcement of the death to Clementina and my Lord -
Clementina, Henry, and Mackellar (nicknamed Squaretoes) are really
very fine fellows; the Master is all I know of the devil; I have
known hints of him, in the world, but always cowards: he is as
bold as a lion, but with the same deadly, causeless duplicity I
have watched with so much surprise in my two cowards. 'Tis true, I
saw a hint of the same nature in another man who was not a coward;
but he had other things to attend to; the Master has nothing else
but his devilry."

His wife grows seriously ill, and Stevenson has to turn to
household work.

"Lloyd and I get breakfast; I have now, 10.15, just got the dishes
washed and the kitchen all clean, and sit down to give you as much
news as I have spirit for, after such an engagement. Glass is a
thing that really breaks my spirit; and I do not like to fail, and
with glass I cannot reach the work of my high calling - the

In the midst of such domestic tasks and entanglements he writes THE
MASTER, and very characteristically gets dissatisfied with the last
parts, "which shame, perhaps degrade, the beginning."

Of Mr Kipling this is his judgment - in the year 1890:

"Kipling is by far the most promising young man who has appeared
since - ahem - I appeared. He amazes me by his precocity and
various endowments. But he alarms me by his copiousness and haste.
He should shield his fire with both hands, 'and draw up all his
strength and sweetness in one ball.' ('Draw all his strength and
all his sweetness up into one ball'? I cannot remember Marvell's
words.) So the critics have been saying to me; but I was never
capable of - and surely never guilty of - such a debauch of
production. At this rate his works will soon fill the habitable
globe, and surely he was armed for better conflicts than these
succinct sketches and flying leaves of verse? I look on, I admire,
I rejoice for myself; but in a kind of ambition we all have for our
tongue and literature I am wounded. If I had this man's fertility
and courage, it seems to me I could heave a pyramid.

"Well, we begin to be the old fogies now, and it was high time
SOMETHING rose to take our places. Certainly Kipling has the
gifts; the fairy godmothers were all tipsy at his christening.
What will he do with them?"

Of the rest of Stevenson's career we cannot speak at length, nor is
it needful. How in steady succession came his triumphs: came,
too, his trials from ill-health - how he spent winters at Davos
Platz, Bournemouth, and tried other places in America; and how, at
last, good fortune led him to the South Pacific. After many
voyagings and wanderings among the islands, he settled near Apia,
in Samoa, early in 1890, cleared some four hundred acres, and built
a house; where, while he wrote what delighted the English-speaking
race, he took on himself the defence of the natives against foreign
interlopers, writing under the title A FOOTNOTE TO HISTORY, the
most powerful EXPOSE of the mischief they had done and were doing
there. He was the beloved of the natives, as he made himself the
friend of all with whom he came in contact. There, as at home, he
worked - worked with the same determination and in the enjoyment of
better health. The obtaining idea with him, up to the end, as it
had been from early life, was a brave, resolute, cheerful endeavour
to make the best of it.

"I chose Samoa instead of Honolulu," he told Mr W. H. Trigg, who
reports the talk in CASSELLS' MAGAZINE, "for the simple and
eminently satisfactory reason that it is less civilised. Can you
not conceive that it is awful fun?" His house was called
"Vailima," which means Five Waters in the Samoan, and indicates the
number of streams that flow by the spot.


THE Vailima Letters, written to Mr Sidney Colvin and other friends,
are in their way delightful if not inimitable: and this, in spite
of the idea having occurred to him, that some use might hereafter
be made of these letters for publication purposes. There is,
indeed, as little trace of any change in the style through this as
well could be - the utterly familiar, easy, almost child-like flow
remains, unmarred by self-consciousness or tendency "to put it on."

In June, 1892, Stevenson says:

"It came over me the other day suddenly that this diary of mine to
you would make good pickings after I am dead, and a man could make
some kind of a book out of it, without much trouble. So for God's
sake don't lose them, and they will prove a piece of provision for
'my floor old family,' as Simele calls it."

But their great charm remains: they are as free and gracious and
serious and playful and informal as before. Stevenson's traits of
character are all here: his largeness of heart, his delicacy, his
sympathy, his fun, his pathos, his boylike frolicsomeness, his fine
courage, his love of the sea (for he was by nature a sailor), his
passion for action and adventure despite his ill-health, his great
patience with others and fine adaptability to their temper (he says
that he never gets out of temper with those he has to do with), his
unbounded, big-hearted hopefulness, and fine perseverance in face
of difficulties. What could be better than the way in which he
tells that in January, 1892, when he had a bout of influenza and
was dictating ST IVES to his stepdaughter, Mrs Strong, he was
"reduced to dictating to her in the deaf-and-dumb alphabet"? - and
goes on:

"The amanuensis has her head quite turned, and believes herself to
be the author of this novel [AND IS TO SOME EXTENT. - A.M.] and as
the creature (!) has not been wholly useless in the matter [I TOLD
YOU SO! - A.M.] I propose to foster her vanity by a little
commemoration gift! . . . I shall tell you on some other occasion,
and when the A.M. is out of hearing, how VERY much I propose to
invest in this testimonial; but I may as well inform you at once
that I intend it to be cheap, sir - damned cheap! My idea of
running amanuenses is by praise, not pudding, flattery, and not

Truly, a rare and rich nature which could thus draw sunshine out of
its trials! - which, by aid of the true philosopher's stone of
cheerfulness and courage, could transmute the heavy dust and clay
to gold.

His interests are so wide that he is sometimes pulled in different
and conflicting directions, as in the contest between his desire to
aid Mataafa and the other chiefs, and his literary work - between
letters to the TIMES about Samoan politics, and, say, DAVID
BALFOUR. Here is a characteristic bit in that strain:

"I have a good dose of the devil in my pipestem atomy; I have had
my little holiday outing in my kick at THE YOUNG CHEVALIER, and I
guess I can settle to DAVID BALFOUR, to-morrow or Friday like a
little man. I wonder if any one had ever more energy upon so
little strength? I know there is a frost; . . . but I mean to
break that frost inside two years, and pull off a big success, and
Vanity whispers in my ear that I have the strength. If I haven't,
whistle owre the lave o't! I can do without glory, and perhaps the
time is not far off when I can do without corn. It is a time
coming soon enough, anyway; and I have endured some two and forty
years without public shame, and had a good time as I did it. 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."

He would not consent to act the invalid unless the spring ran down
altogether; was keen for exercise and for mixing among men - his
native servants if no others were near by. Here is a bit of
confession and casuistry quite A LA Stevenson:

"To come down covered with mud and drenched with sweat and rain
after some hours in the bush, change, rub down, and take a chair in
the verandah, is to taste a quiet conscience. And the strange
thing that I mark is this: If I go out and make sixpence, bossing
my labourers and plying the cutlass or the spade, idiot conscience
applauds me; if I sit in the house and make twenty pounds, idiot
conscience wails over my neglect and the day wasted."

His relish for companionship is indeed strong. At one place he

"God knows I don't care who I chum with perhaps I like sailors
best, but to go round and sue and sneak to keep a crowd together -

If Stevenson's natural bent was to be an explorer, a mountain-
climber, or a sailor - to sail wide seas, or to range on mountain-
tops to gain free and extensive views - yet he inclines well to
farmer work, and indeed, has to confess it has a rare attraction
for him.

"I went crazy over outdoor work," he says at one place, "and had at
last to confine myself to the house, or literature must have gone
by the board. NOTHING is so interesting as weeding, clearing, and
path-making: the oversight of labourers becomes a disease. It is
quite an effort not to drop into the farmer; and it does make you
feel so well."

The odd ways of these Samoans, their pride of position, their
vices, their virtues, their vanities, their small thefts, their
tricks, their delightful INSOUCIANCE sometimes, all amused him. He
found in them a fine field of study and observation - a source of
fun and fund of humanity - as this bit about the theft of some
piglings will sufficiently prove:

"Last night three piglings were stolen from one of our pig-pens.
The great Lafaele appeared to my wife uneasy, so she engaged him in
conversation on the subject, and played upon him the following
engaging trick: You advance your two forefingers towards the
sitter's eyes; he closes them, whereupon you substitute (on his
eyelids) the fore and middle fingers of the left hand, and with
your right (which he supposes engaged) you tap him on the head and
back. When you let him open his eyes, he sees you withdrawing the
two forefingers. 'What that?' asked Lafaele. 'My devil,' says
Fanny. 'I wake um, my devil. All right now. He go catch the man
that catch my pig.' About an hour afterwards Lafaele came for
further particulars. 'Oh, all right,' my wife says. 'By-and-by
that man be sleep, devil go sleep same place. By-and-by that man
plenty sick. I no care. What for he take my pig?' Lafaele cares
plenty; I don't think he is the man, though he may be; but he knows
him, and most likely will eat some of that pig to-night. He will
not eat with relish.'"

Yet in spite of this R. L. Stevenson declares that:

"They are a perfectly honest people: nothing of value has ever
been taken from our house, where doors and windows are always wide
open; and upon one occasion when white ants attacked the silver
chest, the whole of my family treasure lay spread upon the floor of
the hall for two days unguarded."

Here is a bit on a work of peace, a reflection on a day's weeding
at Vailima - in its way almost as touching as any:

"I wonder if any one had ever the same attitude to Nature as I
hold, and have held for so long? This business fascinates me like
a tune or a passion; yet all the while I thrill with a strong
distaste. The horror of the thing, objective and subjective, is
always present to my mind; the horror of creeping things, a
superstitious horror of the void and the powers about me, the
horror of my own devastation and continual murders. The life of
the plants comes through my finger-tips, their struggles go to my
heart like supplications. I feel myself blood-boltered; then I
look back on my cleared grass, and count myself an ally in a fair
quarrel, and make stout my heart."

Here, again, is the way in which he celebrates an act of friendly
kindness on the part of Mr Gosse:

"MY DEAR GOSSE, - Your letter was to me such a bright spot that I
answer it right away to the prejudice of other correspondents or -
dants (don't know how to spell it) who have prior claims. . . . It
is the history of our kindnesses that alone makes this world
tolerable. If it were not for that, for the effect of kind words,
kind looks, kind letters, multiplying, spreading, making one happy
through another and bringing forth benefits, some thirty, some
fifty, some a thousandfold, I should be tempted to think our life a
practical jest in the worst possible spirit. So your four pages
have confirmed my philosophy as well as consoled my heart in these
ill hours."


MR HAMMERTON, in his STEVENSONIANA (pp. 323-4), has given the
humorous inscriptions on the volumes of his works which Stevenson
presented to Dr Trudeau, who attended him when he was in Saranac in
1887-88 - very characteristic in every way, and showing fully
Stevenson's fine appreciation of any attention or service. On the
DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE volume he wrote:

"Trudeau was all the winter at my side:
I never saw the nose of Mr Hyde."

And on KIDNAPPED is this:

"Here is the one sound page of all my writing,
The one I'm proud of and that I delight in."

Stevenson was exquisite in this class of efforts, and were they all
collected they would form indeed, a fine supplement and
illustration of the leading lesson of his essays - the true art of
pleasing others, and of truly pleasing one's self at the same time.
To my thinking the finest of all in this line is the legal (?) deed
by which he conveyed his birthday to little Miss Annie Ide, the
daughter of Mr H. C. Ide, a well-known American, who was for
several years a resident of Upolo, in Samoa, first as Land
Commissioner, and later as Chief Justice under the joint
appointment of England, Germany, and the United States. While
living at Apia, Mr Ide and his family were very intimate with the
family of R. L. Stevenson. Little Annie was a special pet and
protege of Stevenson and his wife. After the return of the Ides to
their American home, Stevenson "deeded" to Annie his birthday in
the following unique document:

I, ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, advocate of the Scots Bar, author of THE
MASTER OF BALLANTRAE and MORAL EMBLEMS, civil engineer, sole owner
and patentee of the palace and plantation known as Vailima, in the
island of Upolo, Samoa, a British subject, being in sound mind, and
pretty well, I thank you, in mind and body;

In consideration that Miss Annie H. Ide, daughter of H. C. Ide, in
the town of Saint Johnsbury, in the County of Caledonia, in the
State of Vermont, United States of America, was born, out of all
reason, upon Christmas Day, and is, therefore, out of all justice,
denied the consolation and profit of a proper birthday;

And considering that I, the said Robert Louis Stevenson, have
attained the age when we never mention it, and that I have now no
further use for a birthday of any description;

And in consideration that I have met H. C. Ide, the father of the
said Annie H. Ide, and found him as white a land commissioner as I
require, I have transferred, and do hereby transfer, to the said
Annie H. Ide, all and whole of my rights and privileges in the 13th
day of November, formerly my birthday, now, hereby and henceforth,
the birthday of the said Annie H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise, and
enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine
raiment, eating of rich meats, and receipt of gifts, compliments,
and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors;

And I direct the said Annie H. Ide to add to the said name of Annie
H. Ide the name of Louisa - at least in private - and I charge her
to use my said birthday with moderation and humanity, ET TAMQUAM
BONA FILIA FAMILIAS, the said birthday not being so young as it
once was and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since
I can remember;

And in case the said Annie H. Ide shall neglect or contravene
either of the above conditions, I hereby revoke the donation and
transfer my rights in the said birthday to the President of the
United States of America for the time being.

In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand and seal this 19th day
of June, in the year of grace eighteen hundred and ninety-one.


He died in Samoa in December 1894 - not from phthisis or anything
directly connected with it, but from the bursting of a blood-vessel
and suffusion of blood on the brain. He had up to the moment
almost of his sudden and unexpected death been busy on WEIR OF
HERMISTON and ST IVES, which he left unfinished - the latter having
been brought to a conclusion by Mr Quiller-Couch.


IN Stevenson we lost one of the most powerful writers of our day,
as well as the most varied in theme and style. When I use the word
"powerful," I do not mean merely the producing of the most striking
or sensational results, nor the facility of weaving a fascinating
or blood-curdling plot; I mean the writer who seemed always to have
most in reserve - a secret fund of power and fascination which
always pointed beyond the printed page, and set before the
attentive and careful reader a strange but fascinating PERSONALITY.
Other authors have done that in measure. There was Hawthorne,
behind whose writings there is always the wistful, cold, far-
withdrawn spectator of human nature - eerie, inquisitive, and, I
had almost said, inquisitorial - a little bloodless, eerie, weird,
and cobwebby. There was Dr Wendell Holmes, with his problems of
heredity, of race-mixture and weird inoculation, as in ELSIE VENNER
and THE GUARDIAN ANGEL, and there were Poe and Charles Whitehead.
Stevenson, in a few of his writings - in one of the MERRY MEN
chapters and in DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, and, to some extent, in THE
MASTER OF BALLANTRAE - showed that he could enter on the obscure
and, in a sense, weird and metaphysical elements in human life;
though always there was, too, a touch at least of gloomy
suggestion, from which, as it seemed, he could not there wholly
escape. But always, too, there was a touch that suggests the

Even in the stories that would be classed as those of incident and
adventure merely, TREASURE ISLAND, KIDNAPPED, and the rest, there
is a sense as of some unaffected but fine symbolism that somehow
touches something of possibility in yourself as you read. The
simplest narrative from his hand proclaimed itself a deep study in
human nature - its motives tendencies, and possibilities. In these
stories there is promise at once of the most realistic imagination,
the most fantastic romance, keen insights into some sides of human
nature, and weird fancies, as well as the most delicate and dainty
pictures of character. And this is precisely what we have - always
with a vein of the finest autobiography - a kind of select and
indirect self-revelation - often with a touch of quaintness, a
subdued humour, and sweet-blooded vagary, if we may be allowed the
word, which make you feel towards the writer as towards a friend.
He was too much an artist to overdo this, and his strength lies
there, that generally he suggests and turns away at the right
point, with a smile, as you ask for MORE. Look how he sets, half
slyly, these words into the mouth of David Balfour on his first
meeting with Catriona in one of the steep wynds or closes off the
High Street of Edinburgh:

"There is no greater wonder than the way the face of a young woman
fits in a man's mind, and stays there, and he never could tell you
why: it just seems it was the thing he wanted."

Take this alongside of his remark made to his mother while still a
youth - "that he did not care to understand the strain on a bridge"
(when he tried to study engineering); what he wanted was something
with human nature in it. His style, in his essays, etc., where he
writes in his own person, is most polished, full of phrases finely
drawn; when he speaks through others, as in KIDNAPPED and DAVID
BALFOUR, it is still fine and effective, and generally it is fairly
true to the character, with cunning glimpses, nevertheless, of his
own temper and feeling too. He makes us feel his confidants and
friends, as has been said. One could almost construct a biography
from his essays and his novels - the one would give us the facts of
his life suffused with fancy and ideal colour, humour and fine
observation not wanting; the other would give us the history of his
mental and moral being and development, and of the traits and
determinations which he drew from along a lengthened line of
progenitors. How characteristic it is of him - a man who for so
many years suffered as an invalid - that he should lay it down that
the two great virtues, including all others, were cheerfulness and
delight in labour.

One writer has very well said on this feature in Stevenson:

"Other authors have struggled bravely against physical weakness,
but their work has not usually been of a creative order, dependent
for its success on high animal spirits. They have written
histories, essays, contemplative or didactic poems, works which may
more or less be regarded as 'dull narcotics numbing pain.' But
who, in so fragile a frame as Robert Louis Stevenson's, has
retained such indomitable elasticity, such fertility of invention,
such unflagging energy, not merely to collect and arrange, but to
project and body forth? Has any true 'maker' been such an
incessant sufferer? From his childhood, as he himself said apropos
of the CHILD'S GARDEN, he could 'speak with less authority of
gardens than of that other "land of counterpane."' There were,
indeed, a few years of adolescence during which his health was
tolerable, but they were years of apprenticeship to life and art

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