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

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('pioching,' as he called it), not of serious production. Though
he was a precocious child, his genius ripened slowly, and it was
just reaching maturity when the 'wolverine,' as he called his
disease, fixed its fangs in his flesh. From that time forward not
only did he live with death at his elbow in an almost literal sense
(he used to carry his left arm in a sling lest a too sudden
movement should bring on a haemorrhage), but he had ever-recurring
intervals of weeks and months during which he was totally unfit for
work; while even at the best of times he had to husband his
strength most jealously. Add to all this that he was a slow and
laborious writer, who would take more pains with a phrase than
Scott with a chapter - then look at the stately shelf of his works,
brimful of impulse, initiative, and the joy of life, and say
whether it be an exaggeration to call his tenacity and fortitude

Samoa, with its fine climate, prolonged his life - we had fain
hoped that in that air he found so favourable he might have lived
for many years, to add to the precious stock of innocent delight he
has given to the world - to do yet more and greater. It was not to
be. They buried him, with full native honours as to a chief, on
the top of Vaea mountain, 1300 feet high - a road for the coffin to
pass being cut through the woods on the slopes of the hill. There
he has a resting-place not all unfit - for he sought the pure and
clearer air on the heights from whence there are widest prospects;
yet not in the spot he would have chosen - for his heart was at
home, and not very long before his death he sang, surely with
pathetic reference now:

"Spring shall come, come again, calling up the moorfowl,
Spring shall bring the sun and rain, bring the bees and flowers,
Red shall the heather bloom over hill and valley,
Soft flow the stream thro' the even-flowing hours;
Fair the day shine, as it shone upon my childhood -
Fair shine the day on the house with open door;
Birds come and cry there, and twitter in the chimney -
But I go for ever and come again no more."


A FEW weeks after his death, the mail from Samoa, brought to
Stevenson's friends, myself among the number, a precious, if
pathetic, memorial of the master. It is in the form of "A Letter
to Mr Stevenson's Friends," by his stepson, Mr Lloyd Osbourne, and
bears the motto from Walt Whitman, "I have been waiting for you
these many years. Give me your hand and welcome." Mr Osbourne
gives a full account of the last hours.

"He wrote hard all that morning of the last day; his half-finished
book, HERMISTON, he judged the best he had ever written, and the
sense of successful effort made him buoyant and happy as nothing
else could. In the afternoon the mail fell to be answered - not
business correspondence, for this was left till later - but replies
to the long, kindly letters of distant friends received but two
days since, and still bright in memory. At sunset he came
downstairs; rallied his wife about the forebodings she could not
shake off; talked of a lecturing tour to America that he was eager
to make, 'as he was now so well'; and played a game of cards with
her to drive away her melancholy. He said he was hungry; begged
her assistance to help him make a salad for the evening meal; and,
to enhance the little feast he brought up a bottle of old Burgundy
from the cellar. He was helping his wife on the verandah, and
gaily talking, when suddenly he put both hands to his head and
cried out, 'What's that?' Then he asked quickly, 'Do I look
strange?' Even as he did so he fell on his knees beside her. He
was helped into the great hall, between his wife and his body-
servant, Sosimo, losing consciousness instantly as he lay back in
the armchair that had once been his grandfather's. Little time was
lost in bringing the doctors - Anderson of the man-of-war, and his
friend, Dr Funk. They looked at him and shook their heads; they
laboured strenuously, and left nothing undone. But he had passed
the bounds of human skill. He had grown so well and strong, that
his wasted lungs were unable to bear the stress of returning

Then 'tis told how the Rev. Mr Clarke came and prayed by him; and
how, soon after, the chiefs were summoned, and came, bringing their
fine mats, which, laid on the body, almost hid the Union jack in
which it had been wrapped. One of the old Mataafa chiefs, who had
been in prison, and who had been one of those who worked on the
making of the "Road of the Loving Heart" (the road of gratitude
which the chiefs had made up to Mr Stevenson's house as a mark of
their appreciation of his efforts on their behalf), came and
crouched beside the body and said:

"I am only a poor Samoan, and ignorant. Others are rich, and can
give Tusitala (6) the parting presents of rich, fine mats; I am
poor, and can give nothing this last day he receives his friends.
Yet I am not afraid to come and look the last time in my friend's
face, never to see him more till we meet with God. Behold!
Tusitala is dead; Mataafa is also dead. These two great friends
have been taken by God. When Mataafa was taken, who was our
support but Tusitala? We were in prison, and he cared for us. We
were sick, and he made us well. We were hungry, and he fed us.
The day was no longer than his kindness. You are great people, and
full of love. Yet who among you is so great as Tusitala? What is
your love to his love? Our clan was Mataafa's clan, for whom I
speak this day; therein was Tusitala also. We mourn them both."

A select company of Samoans would not be deterred, and watched by
the body all night, chanting songs, with bits of Catholic prayers;
and in the morning the work began of clearing a path through the
wood on the hill to the spot on the crown where Mr Stevenson had
expressed a wish to be buried. The following prayer, which Mr
Stevenson had written and read aloud to his family only the night
before, was read by Mr Clarke in the service:

"We beseech thee, Lord, to behold us with favour, folk of many
families and nations, gathered together in the peace of this roof;
weak men and women, subsisting under the covert of Thy patience.
Be patient still; suffer us yet a while longer - with our broken
purposes of good, with our idle endeavours against evil - suffer us
a while longer to endure, and (if it may be) help us to do better.
Bless to us our extraordinary mercies; if the day come when these
must be taken, have us play the man under affliction. Be with our
friends; be with ourselves. Go with each of us to rest: if any
awake, temper to them the dark hours of watching; and when the day
returns to us, our Sun and Comforter, call us up with morning faces
and with morning hearts - eager to labour - eager to be happy, if
happiness shall be our portion; and if the day be marked for
sorrow, strong to endure it.

"We thank Thee and praise Thee, and in the words of Him to whom
this day is sacred, close our oblations."

Mr Bazzet M. Haggard, H.B.M., Land-Commissioner, tells, by way of
reminiscence, the story of "The Road of Good Heart," how it came to
be built, and of the great feast Mr Stevenson gave at the close of
the work, at which, in the course of his speech, he said:

"You are all aware in some degree of what has happened. You know
those chiefs to have been prisoners; you perhaps know that during
the term of their confinement I had it in my power to do them
certain favours. One thing some of you cannot know, that they were
immediately repaid by answering attentions. They were liberated by
the new Administration. . . . As soon as they were free men -
owing no man anything - instead of going home to their own places
and families, they came to me. They offered to do this work (to
make this road) for me as a free gift, without hire, without
supplies, and I was tempted at first to refuse their offer. I knew
the country to be poor; I knew famine threatening; I knew their
families long disorganised for want of supervision. Yet I
accepted, because I thought the lesson of that road might be more
useful to Samoa than a thousand bread-fruit trees, and because to
myself it was an exquisite pleasure to receive that which was so
handsomely offered. It is now done; you have trod it to-day in
coming hither. It has been made for me by chiefs; some of them
old, some sick, all newly delivered from a harassing confinement,
and in spite of weather unusually hot and insalubrious. I have
seen these chiefs labour valiantly with their own hands upon the
work, and I have set up over it, now that it is finished the name
of 'The Road of Gratitude' (the road of loving hearts), and the
names of those that built it. 'In perpetuam memoriam,' we say, and
speak idly. At least, as long as my own life shall be spared it
shall be here perpetuated; partly for my pleasure and in my
gratitude; partly for others continually to publish the lesson of
this road."

And turning to the chiefs, Mr Stevenson said:

"I will tell you, chiefs, that when I saw you working on that road,
my heart grew warm; not with gratitude only, but with hope. It
seemed to me that I read the promise of something good for Samoa;
it seemed to me as I looked at you that you were a company of
warriors in a battle, fighting for the defence of our common
country against all aggression. For there is a time to fight and a
time to dig. You Samoans may fight, you may conquer twenty times,
and thirty times, and all will be in vain. There is but one way to
defend Samoa. Hear it, before it is too late. It is to make roads
and gardens, and care for your trees, and sell their produce
wisely; and, in one word, to occupy and use your country. If you
do not, others will. . . .

"I love Samoa and her people. I love the land. I have chosen it
to be my home while I live, and my grave after I am dead, and I
love the people, and have chosen them to be my people, to live and
die with. And I see that the day is come now of the great battle;
of the great and the last opportunity by which it shall be decided
whether you are to pass away like those other races of which I have
been speaking, or to stand fast and have your children living on
and honouring your memory in the land you received of your

Mr James H. Mulligan, U.S. Consul, told of the feast of
Thanksgiving Day on the 29th November prior to Mr Stevenson's
death, and how at great pains he had procured for it the necessary
turkey, and how Mrs Stevenson had found a fair substitute for the
pudding. In the course of his speech in reply to an unexpected
proposal of "The Host," Mr Stevenson said:

"There on my right sits she who has but lately from our own loved
native land come back to me - she to whom, with no lessening of
affection to those others to whom I cling, I love better than all
the world besides - my mother. From the opposite end of the table,
my wife, who has been all in all to me, when the days were very
dark, looks to-night into my eyes - while we have both grown a bit
older - with undiminished and undiminishing affection.

"Childless, yet on either side of me sits that good woman, my
daughter, and the stalwart man, my son, and both have been and are
more than son and daughter to me, and have brought into my life
mirth and beauty. Nor is this all. There sits the bright boy dear
to my heart, full of the flow and the spirits of boyhood, so that I
can even know that for a time at least we have still the voice of a
child in the house."

Mr A. W. Mackay gives an account of the funeral and a description
of the burial-place, ending:

"Tofa Tusitala! Sleep peacefully! on thy mountain-top, alone in
Nature's sanctity, where the wooddove's note, the moaning of the
waves as they break unceasingly on the distant reef, and the
sighing of the winds in the distant tavai trees chant their

The Rev. Mr Clarke tells of the constant and active interest Mr
Stevenson took in the missionaries and their work, often aiding
them by his advice and fine insight into the character of the
natives; and a translation follows of a dirge by one of the chiefs,
so fine that we must give it:


"Listen, O this world, as I tell of the disaster
That befell in the late afternoon;
That broke like a wave of the sea
Suddenly and swiftly, blinding our eyes.
Alas for Loia who speaks tears in his voice!

REFRAIN - Groan and weep, O my heart, in its sorrow.
Alas for Tusitala, who rests in the forest!
Aimlessly we wait, and sorrowing. Will he again return?
Lament, O Vailima, waiting and ever waiting!
Let us search and inquire of the captain of ships,
'Be not angry, but has not Tusitala come?'


"Teuila, sorrowing one, come thou hither!
Prepare me a letter, and I will carry it.
Let her Majesty Victoria be told
That Tusitala, the loving one, has been taken hence.

REFRAIN - Groan and weep, O my heart, etc., etc.


"Alas! my heart weeps with anxious grief
As I think of the days before us:
Of the white men gathering for the Christmas assembly!
Alas for Aolele! left in her loneliness,
And the men of Vailima, who weep together
Their leader - their leader being taken.

REFRAIN - Groan and weep, O my heart, etc., etc.


"Alas! O my heart! it weeps unceasingly
When I think of his illness
Coming upon him with fatal swiftness.
Would that it waited a glance or a word from him,
Or some token, some token from us of our love.

REFRAIN - Groan and weep, O my heart, etc., etc.


"Grieve, O my heart! I cannot bear to look on
All the chiefs who are there now assembling:
Alas, Tusitala! Thou art not here!
I look hither and thither in vain for thee.

REFRAIN - Groan and weep, O my heart, etc., etc."

And the little booklet closes with Mr Stevenson's own lines:


Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie;
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
'Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea;
And the hunter home from the hill.'"

Every touch tells here was a man, with heart and head, with soul
and mind intent on the loftiest things; simple, great,

"Like one of the simple great ones gone
For ever and ever by.

His character towered after all far above his books; great and
beautiful though they were. Ready for friendship; from all
meanness free. So, too, the Samoans felt. This, surely, was what
Goethe meant when he wrote:

"The clear head and stout heart,
However far they roam,
Yet in every truth have part,
Are everywhere at home."

His manliness, his width of sympathy, his practicality, his range
of interests were in nothing more seen than in his contributions to
the history of Samoa, as specially exhibited in A FOOTNOTE TO
HISTORY and his letters to the TIMES. He was, on this side, in no
sense a dreamer, but a man of acute observation and quick eye for
passing events and the characters that were in them with sympathy
equal to his discernments. His portraits of certain Germans and
others in these writings, and his power of tracing effects to
remote and underlying causes, show sufficiently what he might have
done in the field of history, had not higher voices called him.
His adaptation to the life in Samoa, and his assumption of the
semi-patriarchal character in his own sphere there, were only
tokens of the presence of the same traits as have just been dwelt


tells a story of the natives' love for Stevenson. "The other day
the cook was away," she writes, "and Louis, who was busy writing,
took his meals in his room. Knowing there was no one to cook his
lunch, he told Sosimo to bring him some bread and cheese. To his
surprise he was served with an excellent meal - an omelette, a good
salad, and perfect coffee. 'Who cooked this?' asked Louis in
Samoan. 'I did,' said Sosimo. 'Well,' said Louis, 'great is your
wisdom.' Sosimo bowed and corrected him - 'Great is my love!'"

illustrates the same devotion. On the top of Mount Vaea, she
writes, is the massive sarcophagus, "not an ideal structure by any
means, not even beautiful, and yet in its massive ruggedness it
somehow suited the man and the place."

"The wind sighed softly in the branches of the 'Tavau' trees, from
out the green recesses of the 'Toi' came the plaintive coo of the
wood-pigeon. In and out of the branches of the magnificent 'Fau'
tree, which overhangs the grave, a king-fisher, sea-blue,
iridescent, flitted to and fro, whilst a scarlet hibiscus, in full
flower, showed up royally against the gray lichened cement. All
around was light and life and colour, and I said to myself, 'He is
made one with nature'; he is now, body and soul and spirit,
commingled with the loveliness around. He who longed in life to
scale the height, he who attained his wish only in death, has
become in himself a parable of fulfilment. No need now for that
heart-sick cry:-

"'Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?'

No need now for the despairing finality of:

"'I have trod the upward and the downward slope,
I have endured and done in the days of yore,
I have longed for all, and bid farewell to hope,
And I have lived, and loved, and closed the door.'

"Death has set his seal of peace on the unequal conflict of mind
and matter; the All-Mother has gathered him to herself.

"In years to come, when his grave is perchance forgotten, a rugged
ruin, home of the lizard and the bat, Tusitala - the story-teller -
'the man with a heart of gold' (as I so often heard him designated
in the Islands), will live, when it may be his tales have ceased to
interest, in the tender remembrance of those whose lives he
beautified, and whose hearts he warmed into gratitude."

The chiefs have prohibited the use of firearms or other weapons on
Mount Vaea, "in order that the birds may live there undisturbed and
unafraid, and build their nests in the trees around Tusitala's

Miss Stubbs has many records of the impression produced on those he
came in contact with in Samoa - white men and women as well as
natives. She met a certain Austrian Count, who adored Stevenson's
memory. Over his camp bed was a framed photograph of R. L.

"So," he said, "I keep him there, for he was my saviour, and I wish
'good-night' and 'good-morning,' every day, both to himself and to
his old home." The Count then told us that when he was stopping at
Vailima he used to have his bath daily on the verandah below his
room. One lovely morning he got up very early, got into the bath,
and splashed and sang, feeling very well and very happy, and at
last beginning to sing very loudly, he forgot Mr Stevenson
altogether. All at once there was Stevenson himself, his hair all
ruffled up, his eyes full of anger. "Man," he said, "you and your
infernal row have cost me more than two hundred pounds in ideas,"
and with that he was gone, but he did not address the Count again
the whole of that day. Next morning he had forgotten the Count's
offence and was just as friendly as ever, but - the noise was never

Another of the Count's stories greatly amused the visitors:

"An English lord came all the way to Samoa in his yacht to see Mr
Stevenson, and found him in his cool Kimino sitting with the
ladies, and drinking tea on his verandah; the whole party had their
feet bare. The English lord thought that he must have called at
the wrong time, and offered to go away, but Mr Stevenson called out
to him, and brought him back, and made him stay to dinner. They
all went away to dress, and the guest was left sitting alone in the
verandah. Soon they came back, Mr Osbourne and Mr Stevenson
wearing the form of dress most usual in that hot climate a white
mess jacket, and white trousers, but their feet were still bare.
The guest put up his eyeglass and stared for a bit, then he looked
down upon his own beautifully shod feet, and sighed. They all
talked and laughed until the ladies came in, the ladies in silk
dresses, befrilled with lace, but still with bare feet, and the
guest took a covert look through his eyeglass and gasped, but when
he noticed that there were gold bangles on Mrs Strong's ankles and
rings upon her toes, he could bear no more and dropped his eyeglass
on the ground of the verandah breaking it all to bits."

Miss Stubbs met on the other side of the island a photographer who
told her this:

"I had but recently come to Samoa," he said, "and was standing one
day in my shop when Mr Stevenson came in and spoke. 'Man,' he
said, 'I tak ye to be a Scotsman like mysel'.'

"I would I could have claimed a kinship," deplored the
photographer, "but, alas! I am English to the backbone, with never
a drop of Scotch blood in my veins, and I told him this, regretting
the absence of the blood tie."

"'I could have sworn your back was the back of a Scotsman,' was his
comment, 'but,' and he held out his hand, 'you look sick, and there
is a fellowship in sickness not to be denied.' I said I was not
strong, and had come to the Island on account of my health. 'Well,
then,' replied Mr Stevenson, 'it shall be my business to help you
to get well; come to Vailima whenever you like, and if I am out,
ask for refreshment, and wait until I come in, you will always find
a welcome there.'"

At this point my informant turned away, and there was a break in
his voice as he exclaimed, "Ah, the years go on, and I don't miss
him less, but more; next to my mother he was the best friend I ever
had: a man with a heart of gold; his house was a second home to

Stevenson's experience shows how easy it is with a certain type of
man, to restore the old feudal conditions of service and
relationship. Stevenson did this in essentials in Samoa. He tells
us how he managed to get good service out of the Samoans (who are
accredited with great unwillingness to work); and this he DID by
firm, but generous, kindly, almost brotherly treatment, reviving,
as it were, a kind of clan life - giving a livery of certain
colours - symbol of all this. A little fellow of eight, he tells,
had been taken into the household, made a pet of by Mrs Strong, his
stepdaughter, and had had a dress given to him, like that of the
men; and, when one day he had strolled down by himself as far as
the hotel, and the master of it, seeing him, called out in Samoan,
"Hi, youngster, who are you?" The eight-year-old replied, "Why,
don't you see for yourself? I am one of the Vailima men!"

The story of the ROAD OF THE LOVING HEART was but another fine
attestation of it.


TO have created a school of idolaters, who will out and out swear
by everything, and as though by necessity, at the same time, a
school of studious detractors, who will suspiciously question
everything, or throw out suggestions of disparagement, is at all
events, a proof of greatness, the countersign of undoubted genius,
and an assurance of lasting fame. R. L. Stevenson has certainly
secured this. Time will tell what of virtue there is with either
party. For me, who knew Stevenson, and loved him, as finding in
the sweet-tempered, brave, and in some things, most generous man,
what gave at once tone and elevation to the artist, I would fain
indicate here my impressions of him and his genius - impressions
that remain almost wholly uninfluenced by the vast mass of matter
about him that the press now turns out. Books, not to speak of
articles, pour forth about him - about his style, his art, his
humour and his characters - aye, and even about his religion.

Miss Simpson follows Mr Bellyse Baildon with the EDINBURGH DAYS,
Miss Moyes Black comes on with her picture in the FAMOUS SCOTS, and
Professor Raleigh succeeds her; Mr Graham Balfour follows with his
LIFE; Mr Kelman's volume about his Religion comes next, and that is
reinforced by more familiar letters and TABLE TALK, by Lloyd
Osbourne and Mrs Strong, his step-children; Mr J. Hammerton then
comes on handily with STEVENSONIANA - fruit lovingly gathered from
many and far fields, and garnered with not a little tact and taste,
and catholicity; Miss Laura Stubbs then presents us with her
Sidney Colvin is now busily at work on his LIFE OF STEVENSON, which
must do not a little to enlighten and to settle many questions.

Curiosity and interest grow as time passes; and the places
connected with Stevenson, hitherto obscure many of them, are now
touched with light if not with romance, and are known, by name at
all events, to every reader of books. Yes; every place he lived
in, or touched at, is worthy of full description if only on account
of its associations with him. If there is not a land of Stevenson,
as there is a land of Scott, or of Burns, it is due to the fact
that he was far-travelled, and in his works painted many scenes:
but there are at home - Edinburgh, and Halkerside and Allermuir,
Caerketton, Swanston, and Colinton, and Maw Moss and Rullion Green
and Tummel, "the WALE of Scotland," as he named it to me, and the
Castletown of Braemar - Braemar in his view coming a good second to
Tummel, for starting-points to any curious worshipper who would go
the round in Scotland and miss nothing. Mr Geddie's work on THE
HOME COUNTRY OF STEVENSON may be found very helpful here.

1. It is impossible to separate Stevenson from his work, because of
the imperious personal element in it; and so I shall not now strive
to gain the appearance of cleverness by affecting any distinction
here. The first thing I would say is, that he was when I knew him
- what pretty much to the end he remained - a youth. His outlook
on life was boyishly genial and free, despite all his sufferings
from ill-health - it was the pride of action, the joy of endurance,
the revelry of high spirits, and the sense of victory that most
fascinated him; and his theory of life was to take pleasure and
give pleasure, without calculation or stint - a kind of boyish
grace and bounty never to be overcome or disturbed by outer
accident or change. If he was sometimes haunted with the thought
of changes through changed conditions or circumstances, as my very
old friend, Mr Charles Lowe, has told even of the College days that
he was always supposing things to undergo some sea-change into
something else, if not "into something rich and strange," this was
but to add to his sense of enjoyment, and the power of conferring
delight, and the luxuries of variety, as boys do when they let
fancy loose. And this always had, with him, an individual
reference or return. He was thus constantly, and latterly, half-
consciously, trying to interpret himself somehow through all the
things which engaged him, and which he so transmogrified - things
that especially attracted him and took his fancy. Thus, if it must
be confessed, that even in his highest moments, there lingers a
touch - if no more than a touch - of self-consciousness which will
not allow him to forget manner in matter, it is also true that he
is cunningly conveying traits in himself; and the sense of this is
often at the root of his sweet, gentle, naive humour. There is,
therefore, some truth in the criticisms which assert that even
"long John Silver," that fine pirate, with his one leg, was, after
all, a shadow of Stevenson himself - the genial buccaneer who did
his tremendous murdering with a smile on his face was but Stevenson
thrown into new circumstances, or, as one has said, Stevenson-cum-
Henley, so thrown as was also Archer in WEIR OF HERMISTON, and more
than this, that his most successful women-folk - like Miss Grant
and Catriona - are studies of himself, and that in all his heroes,
and even heroines, was an unmistakable touch of R. L. Stevenson.
Even Mr Baildon rather maladroitly admits that in Miss Grant, the
Lord Advocate's daughter, THERE IS A GOOD DEAL OF THE AUTHOR
HIMSELF DISGUISED IN PETTICOATS. I have thought of Stevenson in
many suits, beside that which included the velvet jacket, but -

Youth is autocratic, and can show a grand indifferency: it goes
for what it likes, and ignores all else - it fondly magnifies its
favourites, and, after all, to a great extent, it is but analysing,
dealing with and presenting itself to us, if we only watch well.
This is the secret of all prevailing romance: it is the secret of
all stories of adventure and chivalry of the simpler and more
primitive order; and in one aspect it is true that R. L. Stevenson
loved and clung to the primitive and elemental, if it may not be
said, as one distinguished writer has said, that he even loved
savagery in itself. But hardly could it be seriously held, as Mr
I. Zangwill held:

"That women did not cut any figure in his books springs from this
same interest in the elemental. Women are not born, but made.
They are a social product of infinite complexity and delicacy. For
a like reason Stevenson was no interpreter of the modern.... A
child to the end, always playing at 'make-believe,' dying young, as
those whom the gods love, and, as he would have died had he
achieved his centenary, he was the natural exponent in literature
of the child."

But there were subtly qualifying elements beyond what Mr Zangwill
here recognises and reinforces. That is just about as correct and
true as this other deliverance:

"His Scotch romances have been as over-praised by the zealous
Scotsmen who cry 'genius' at the sight of a kilt, and who lose
their heads at a waft from the heather, as his other books have
been under-praised. The best of all, THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE,
ends in a bog; and where the author aspires to exceptional subtlety
of character-drawing he befogs us or himself altogether. We are so
long weighing the brothers Ballantrae in the balance, watching it
incline now this way, now that, scrupulously removing a particle of
our sympathy from the one brother to the other, to restore it again
in the next chapter, that we end with a conception of them as
confusing as Mr Gilbert's conception of Hamlet, who was idiotically
sane with lucid intervals of lunacy."

If Stevenson was, as Mr Zangwill holds, "the child to the end," and
the child only, then if we may not say what Carlyle said of De
Quincey: "ECCOVI, that child has been in hell," we may say,
"ECCOVI, that child has been in unchildlike haunts, and can't
forget the memory of them." In a sense every romancer is a child -
such was Ludwig Tieck, such was Scott, such was James Hogg, the
Ettrick Shepherd. But each is something more - he has been touched
with the wand of a fairy, and knows, at least, some of Elfin Land
as well as of childhood's home.

The sense of Stevenson's youthfulness seems to have struck every
one who had intimacy with him. Mr Baildon writes (p. 21 of his

"I would now give much to possess but one of Stevenson's gifts -
namely, that extraordinary vividness of recollection by which he
could so astonishingly recall, not only the doings, but the very
thoughts and emotions of his youth. For, often as we must have
communed together, with all the shameless candour of boys, hardly
any remark has stuck to me except the opinion already alluded to,
which struck me - his elder by some fifteen months - as very
amusing, that at sixteen 'we should be men.' HE OF ALL MORTALS,

Mr Gosse tells us:

"He had retained a great deal of the temperament of a child, and it
was his philosophy to encourage it. In his dreary passages of bed,
when his illness was more than commonly heavy on him, he used to
contrive little amusements for himself. He played on the flute, or
he modelled little groups and figures in clay."

2. One of the qualifying elements unnoted by Mr Zangwill is simply
this, that R. L. Stevenson never lost the strange tint imparted to
his youth by the religious influences to which he was subject, and
which left their impress and colour on him and all that he did.
Henley, in his striking sonnet, hit it when he wrote:

"A deal of Ariel, just a streak of Puck,
Much Antony, of Hamlet most of all,

SOMETHING! he was a great deal of Shorter Catechist! Scotch
Calvinism, its metaphysic, and all the strange whims, perversities,
and questionings of "Fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute,"
which it inevitably awakens, was much with him - the sense of
reprobation and the gloom born of it, as well as the abounding joy
in the sense of the elect - the Covenanters and their wild
resolutions, the moss-troopers and their dare-devilries - Pentland
Risings and fights of Rullion Green; he not only never forgot them,
but they mixed themselves as in his very breath of life, and made
him a great questioner. How would I have borne myself in this or
in that? Supposing I had been there, how would it have been - the
same, or different from what it was with those that were there?
His work is throughout at bottom a series of problems that almost
all trace to this root, directly or indirectly. "There, but for
the grace of God, goes John Bradford," said the famous Puritan on
seeing a felon led to execution; so with Stevenson. Hence his
fondness for tramps, for scamps (he even bestowed special attention
and pains on Villon, the poet-scamp); he was rather impatient with
poor Thoreau, because he was a purist solitary, and had too little
of vice, and, as Stevenson held, narrow in sympathy, and too self-
satisfied, and bent only on self-improvement. He held a brief for
the honest villain, and leaned to him brotherly. Even the
anecdotes he most prizes have a fine look this way - a hunger for
completion in achievement, even in the violation of fine humane
feeling or morality, and all the time a sense of submission to
God's will. "Doctor," said the dying gravedigger in OLD MORTALITY,
"I hae laid three hunner an' fower score in that kirkyaird, an' had
it been His wull," indicating Heaven, "I wad hae likeit weel to hae
made oot the fower hunner." That took Stevenson. Listen to what
Mr Edmond Gosse tells of his talk, when he found him in a private
hotel in Finsbury Circus, London, ready to be put on board a
steamer for America, on 21st August, 1887:

"It was church time, and there was some talk of my witnessing his
will, which I could not do because there could be found no other
reputable witness, the whole crew of the hotel being at church.
'This,' he said, 'is the way in which our valuable city hotels -
packed no doubt with gems and jewellery - are deserted on a Sunday
morning. Some bold piratical fellow, defying the spirit of
Sabbatarianism, might make a handsome revenue by sacking the
derelict hotels between the hours of ten and twelve. One hotel a
week would enable such a man to retire in course of a year. A mask
might perhaps be worn for the mere fancy of the thing, and to
terrify kitchen-maids, but no real disguise would be needful.'"

I would rather agree with Mr Chesterton than with Mr Zangwill here:

"Stevenson's enormous capacity for joy flowed directly out of his
profoundly religious temperament. He conceived himself as an
unimportant guest at one eternal and uproarious banquet, and
instead of grumbling at the soup, he accepted it with careless
gratitude. . . . His gaiety was neither the gaiety of the pagan,
nor the gaiety of the BON VIVANT. It was the greater gaiety of the
mystic. He could enjoy trifles because there was to him no such
thing as a trifle. He was a child who respected his dolls because
they were the images of the image of God, portraits at only two

Here, then, we have the child crossed by the dreamer and the
mystic, bred of Calvinism and speculation on human fate and chance,
and on the mystery of temperament and inheritance, and all that
flows from these - reprobation, with its dire shadows, assured
Election with its joys, etc., etc.

3. If such a combination is in favour of the story-teller up to a
certain point, it is not favourable to the highest flights, and it
is alien to dramatic presentation pure and simple. This implies
detachment from moods and characters, high as well as low, that
complete justice in presentation may be done to all alike, and the
one balance that obtains in life grasped and repeated with
emphasis. But towards his leading characters Stevenson is
unconsciously biassed, because they are more or less shadowy
projections of himself, or images through which he would reveal one
or other side or aspect of his own personality. Attwater is a
confessed failure, because it, more than any other, testifies this:
he is but a mouth-piece for one side or tendency in Stevenson. If
the same thing is not more decisively felt in some other cases, it
is because Stevenson there showed the better art o' hidin', and not
because he was any more truly detached or dramatic. "Of Hamlet
most of all," wrote Henley in his sonnet. The Hamlet in Stevenson
- the self-questioning, egotistic, moralising Hamlet - was, and to
the end remained, a something alien to bold, dramatic, creative
freedom. He is great as an artist, as a man bent on giving to all
that he did the best and most distinguished form possible, but not
great as a free creator of dramatic power. "Mother," he said as a
mere child, "I've drawed a man. Now, will I draw his soul?" He
was to the end all too fond to essay a picture of the soul,
separate and peculiar. All the Jekyll and Hyde and even Ballantrae
conceptions came out of that - and what is more, he always mixed
his own soul with the other soul, and could not help doing so.

4. When; therefore, I find Mr Pinero, in lecturing at Edinburgh,
deciding in favour of Stevenson as possessed of rare dramatic
power, and wondering why he did not more effectively employ it, I
can't agree with him; and this because of the presence of a certain
atmosphere in the novels, alien to free play of the individualities
presented. Like Hawthorne's, like the works of our great
symbolists, they are restricted by a sense of some obtaining
conception, some weird metaphysical WEIRD or preconception. This
is the ground "Ian MacLaren" has for saying that "his kinship is
not with Boccaccio and Rabelais, but with Dante and Spenser" - the
ground for many remarks by critics to the effect that they still
crave from him "less symbol and more individuality" - the ground
for the Rev. W. J. Dawson's remark that "he has a powerful and
persistent sense of the spiritual forces which move behind the
painted shows of life; that he writes not only as a realist but as
a prophet, his meanest stage being set with eternity as a

Such expressions are fullest justification for what we have here
said: it adds, and can only add, to our admiration of Stevenson,
as a thinker, seer, or mystic, but the asserting sense of such
power can only end in lessening the height to which he could attain
as a dramatic artist; and there is much indeed against Mr Pinero's
own view that, in the dramas, he finds that "fine speeches" are
ruinous to them as acting plays. In the strict sense overfine
speeches are yet almost everywhere. David Balfour could never have
writ some speeches attributed to him - they are just R. L.
Stevenson with a very superficial difference that, when once
detected, renders them curious and quaint and interesting, but not


IN reality, Stevenson is always directly or indirectly preaching a
sermon - enforcing a moral - as though he could not help it. "He
would rise from the dead to preach a sermon." He wrote some first-
rate fables, and might indeed have figured to effect as a moralist-
fabulist, as truly he was from beginning to end. There was a bit
of Bunyan in him as well as of Aesop and Rousseau and Thoreau - the
mixture that found coherency in his most peculiarly patient and
forbearing temper is what gives at once the quaintness, the
freedom, and yet the odd didactic something that is never wanting.
I remember a fable about the Devil that might well be brought in to
illustrate this here - careful readers who neglect nothing that
Stevenson wrote will remember it also and perhaps bear me out here.

But for the sake of the young folks who may yet have some leeway to
make up, I shall indulge myself a little by quoting it: and, since
I am on that tack, follow it by another which presents Stevenson in
his favourite guise of quizzing his own characters, if not for his
own advantage certainly for ours, if we would in the least
understand the fine moralist-casuistical qualities of his mind and


Once upon a time the devil stayed at an inn, where no one knew him,
for they were people whose education had been neglected. He was
bent on mischief, and for a time kept everybody by the ears. But
at last the innkeeper set a watch upon the devil and took him in
the act.

The innkeeper got a rope's end.

"Now I am going to thrash you," said the inn-keeper.

"You have no right to be angry with me," said the devil. "I am
only the devil, and it is my nature to do wrong."

"Is that so?" asked the innkeeper.

"Fact, I assure you," said the devil.

"You really cannot help doing ill?" asked the innkeeper.

"Not in the smallest," said the devil, "it would be useless cruelty
to thrash a thing like me."

"It would indeed," said the innkeeper.

And he made a noose and hanged the devil.

"There!" said the innkeeper.

The deeper Stevenson goes, the more happily is he inspired. We
could scarcely cite anything more Stevensonian, alike in its humour
and its philosophy, than the dialogue between Captain Smollett and
Long John Silver, entitled THE PERSONS OF THE TALE. After chapter
xxxii. of TREASURE ISLAND, these two puppets "strolled out to have
a pipe before business should begin again, and met in an open space
not far from the story." After a few preliminaries:

"You're a damned rogue, my man," said the Captain.

"Come, come, Cap'n, be just," returned the other. "There's no call
to be angry with me in earnest. I'm on'y a character in a sea
story. I don't really exist."

"Well, I don't really exist either," says the Captain, "which seems
to meet that."

"I wouldn't set no limits to what a virtuous character might
consider argument," responded Silver. "But I'm the villain of the
tale, I am; and speaking as one seafaring man to another, what I
want to know is, what's the odds?"

"Were you never taught your catechism?" said the Captain. "Don't
you know there's such a thing as an Author?"

"Such a thing as a Author?" returned John, derisively. "And who
better'n me? And the p'int is, if the Author made you, he made
Long John, and he made Hands, and Pew, and George Merry - not that
George is up to much, for he's little more'n a name; and he made
Flint, what there is of him; and he made this here mutiny, you keep
such a work about; and he had Tom Redruth shot; and - well, if
that's a Author, give me Pew!"

"Don't you believe in a future state?" said Smollett. "Do you
think there's nothing but the present sorty-paper?"

" I don't rightly know for that," said Silver, "and I don't see
what it's got to do with it, anyway. What I know is this: if
there is sich a thing as a Author, I'm his favourite chara'ter. He
does me fathoms better'n he does you - fathoms, he does. And he
likes doing me. He keeps me on deck mostly all the time, crutch
and all; and he leaves you measling in the hold, where nobody can't
see you, nor wants to, and you may lay to that! If there is a
Author, by thunder, but he's on my side, and you may lay to it!"

"I see he's giving you a long rope," said the Captain. . . .

Stevenson's stories - one and all - are too closely the
illustrations by characters of which his essays furnish the texts.
You shall not read the one wholly apart from the other without
losing something - without losing much of the quaint, often
childish, and always insinuating personality of the writer. It is
this if fully perceived which would justify one writer, Mr
Zangwill, if I don't forget, in saying, as he did say, that
Stevenson would hold his place by his essays and not by his novels.
Hence there is a unity in all, but a unity found in a root which is
ultimately inimical to what is strictly free dramatic creation -
creation, broad, natural and unmoral in the highest sense just as
nature is, as it is to us, for example, when we speak of
Shakespeare, or even Scott, or of Cervantes or Fielding. If Mr
Henley in his irruptive if not spiteful PALL MALL MAGAZINE article
had made this clear from the high critical ground, then some of his
derogatory remarks would not have been quite so personal and
offensive as they are.

Stevenson's bohemianism was always restrained and coloured by this.
He is a casuistic moralist, if not a Shorter Catechist, as Mr
Henley put it in his clever sonnet. He is constantly asking
himself about moral laws and how they work themselves out in
character, especially as these suggest and involve the casuistries
of human nature. He is often a little like Nathaniel Hawthorne,
but he hardly follows them far enough and rests on his own
preconceptions and predilections, only he does not, like him, get
into or remain long in the cobwebby corners - his love of the open
air and exercise derived from generations of active lighthouse
engineers, out at all times on sea or land, or from Scottish
ministers who were fond of composing their sermons and reflecting
on the backwardness of human nature as they walked in their gardens
or along the hillsides even among mists and storms, did something
to save him here, reinforcing natural cheerfulness and the warm
desire to give pleasure. His excessive elaboration of style, which
grew upon him more and more, giving throughout often a sense of
extreme artificiality and of the self-consciousness usually bred of
it, is but another incidental proof of this. And let no reader
think that I wish here to decry R. L. Stevenson. I only desire
faithfully to try to understand him, and to indicate the class or
group to which his genius and temperament really belong. He is
from first to last the idealistic dreamy or mystical romancer, and
not the true idealist or dealer direct with life or character for
its own sake. The very beauty and sweetness of his spirit in one
way militated against his dramatic success - he really did not
believe in villains, and always made them better than they should
have been, and that, too, on the very side where wickedness - their
natural wickedness - is most available - on the stage. The dreamer
of dreams and the Shorter Catechist, strangely united together,
were here directly at odds with the creative power, and crossed and
misdirected it, and the casuist came in and manoeuvred the
limelight - all too like the old devil of the mediaeval drama, who
was made only to be laughed at and taken lightly, a buffoon and a
laughing-stock indeed. And while he could unveil villainy, as is
the case pre-eminently in Huish in the EBB-TIDE, he shrank from
inflicting the punishments for which untutored human nature looks,
and thus he lost one great aid to crude dramatic effect. As to his
poems, they are intimately personal in his happiest moments: he
deals with separate moods and sentiments, and scarcely ever touches
those of a type alien to his own. The defect of his child poems is
distinctly that he is everywhere strictly recalling and reproducing
his own quaint and wholly exceptional childhood; and children,
ordinary, normal, healthy children, will not take to these poems
(though grown-ups largely do so), as they would to, say, the
LILLIPUT LEVEE of my old friend, W. B. Rands. Rands showed a great
deal of true dramatic play there within his own very narrow limits,
as, at all events, adults must conceive them.

Even in his greatest works, in THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE and WEIR OF
HERMISTON, the special power in Stevenson really lies in subduing
his characters at the most critical point for action, to make them
prove or sustain his thesis; and in this way the rare effect that
he might have secured DRAMATICALLY is largely lost and make-believe
substituted, as in the Treasure Search in the end of THE MASTER OF
BALLANTRAE. The powerful dramatic effect he might have had in his
DENOUEMENT is thus completely sacrificed. The essence of the drama
for the stage is that the work is for this and this alone -
dialogue and everything being only worked rightly when it bears on,
aids, and finally secures this in happy completeness.

In a word, you always, in view of true dramatic effect, see
Stevenson himself too clearly behind his characters. The "fine
speeches" Mr Pinero referred to trace to the intrusion behind the
glass of a part-quicksilvered portion, which cunningly shows, when
the glass is moved about, Stevenson himself behind the character,
as we have said already. For long he shied dealing with women, as
though by a true instinct. Unfortunately for him his image was as
clear behind CATRIONA, with the discerning, as anywhere else; and
this, alas! too far undid her as an independent, individual
character, though traits like those in her author were attractive.
The constant effort to relieve the sense of this affords him the
most admirable openings for the display of his exquisite style, of
which he seldom or never fails to make the very most in this
regard; but the necessity laid upon him to aim at securing a sense
of relief by this is precisely the same as led him to write the
overfine speeches in the plays, as Mr Pinero found and pointed out
at Edinburgh: both defeat the true end, but in the written book
mere art of style and a naivete and a certain sweetness of temper
conceal the lack of nature and creative spontaneity; while on the
stage the descriptions, saving reflections and fine asides, are
ruthlessly cut away under sheer stage necessities, or, if left, but
hinder the action; and art of this kind does not there suffice to
conceal the lack of nature.

More clearly to bring out my meaning here and draw aid from
comparative illustration, let me take my old friend of many years,
Charles Gibbon. Gibbon was poor, very poor, in intellectual
subtlety compared with Stevenson; he had none of his sweet, quaint,
original fancy; he was no casuist; he was utterly void of power in
the subdued humorous twinkle or genial by-play in which Stevenson
excelled. But he has more of dramatic power, pure and simple, than
Stevenson had - his novels - the best of them - would far more
easily yield themselves to the ordinary purposes of the ordinary
playwright. Along with conscientiousness, perception, penetration,
with the dramatist must go a certain indescribable common-sense
commonplaceness - if I may name it so - protection against vagary
and that over-refined egotism and self-confession which is inimical
to the drama and in which the Stevensonian type all too largely
abounds for successful dramatic production. Mr Henley perhaps put
it too strongly when he said that what was supremely of interest to
R. L. Stevenson was Stevenson himself; but he indicates the
tendency, and that tendency is inimical to strong, broad, effective
and varied dramatic presentation. Water cannot rise above its own
level; nor can minds of this type go freely out of themselves in a
grandly healthy, unconscious, and unaffected way, and this is the
secret of the dramatic spirit, if it be not, as Shelley said, the
secret of morals, which Stevenson, when he passed away, was but on
the way to attain. As we shall see, he had risen so far above it,
subdued it, triumphed over it, that we really cannot guess what he
might have attained had but more years been given him. For the
last attainment of the loftiest and truest genius is precisely this
- to gain such insight of the real that all else becomes
subsidiary. True simplicity and the abiding relief and enduring
power of true art with all classes lies here and not elsewhere.
Cleverness, refinement, fancy, and invention, even sublety of
intellect, are practically nowhere in this sphere without this.


IN opposition to Mr Pinero, therefore, I assert that Stevenson's
defect in spontaneous dramatic presentation is seen clearly in his
novels as well as in his plays proper.

In writing to my good friend, Mr Thomas M'Kie, Advocate, Edinburgh,
telling him of my work on R. L. Stevenson and the results, I thus
gathered up in little the broad reflections on this point, and I
may perhaps be excused quoting the following passages, as they
reinforce by a new reference or illustration or two what has just
been said:

"Considering his great keenness and force on some sides, I find R.
L. Stevenson markedly deficient in grip on other sides - common
sides, after all, of human nature. This was so far largely due to
a dreamy, mystical, so far perverted and, so to say, often even
inverted casuistical, fatalistic morality, which would not allow
him scope in what Carlyle would have called a healthy hatred of
fools and scoundrels; with both of which classes - vagabonds in
strictness - he had rather too much of a sneaking sympathy. Mr
Pinero was wrong - totally and incomprehensibly wrong - when he
told the good folks of Edinburgh at the Philosophical Institution,
and afterwards at the London Birkbeck Institution, that it was lack
of concentration and care that made R. L. Stevenson a failure as a
dramatist. No: it was here and not elsewhere that the failure
lay. R. L. Stevenson was himself an unconscious paradox - and
sometimes he realised it - his great weakness from this point of
view being that he wished to show strong and original by making the
villain the hero of the piece as well. Now, THAT, if it may, by
clever manipulation and dexterity, be made to do in a novel, most
certainly it will not do on the stage - more especially if it is
done consciously and, as it were, of MALICE PREPENSE; because, for
one thing, there is in the theatre a very varied yet united
audience which has to give a simultaneous and immediate verdict -
an audience not inclined to some kinds of overwrought subtleties
and casuistries, however clever the technique. If THE MASTER OF
BALLANTRAE (which has some highly dramatic scenes and situations,
if it is not in itself substantially a drama) were to be put on the
stage, the playwright, if wisely determined for success, would
really have - not in details, but in essential conception - to kick
R. L. Stevenson in his most personal aim out of it, and take and
present a more definite moral view of the two villain-heroes
(brothers, too); improve and elevate the one a bit if he lowered
the other, and not wobble in sympathy and try to make the audience
wobble in sympathy also, as R. L. Stevenson certainly does. As for
BEAU AUSTIN, it most emphatically, in view of this, should be re-
writ - re-writ especially towards the ending - and the scandalous
Beau tarred and feathered, metaphorically speaking, instead of
walking off at the end in a sneaking, mincing sort of way, with no
more than a little momentary twinge of discomfort at the wreck and
ruin he has wrought, for having acted as a selfish, snivelling
poltroon and coward, though in fine clothes and with fine ways and
fine manners, which only, from our point of view, make matters
worse. It is, with variations I admit, much the same all through:
R. L. Stevenson felt it and confessed it about the EBB-TIDE, and
Huish, the cockney hero and villain; but the sense of healthy
disgust, even at the vile Huish, is not emphasised in the book as
it would have demanded to be for the stage - the audience would not
have stood it, and the more mixed and varied, the less would it
have stood it - not at all; and his relief of style and fine or
finished speeches would not THERE in the least have told. This is
demanded of the drama - that at once it satisfies a certain crude
something subsisting under all outward glosses and veneers that
might be in some a lively sense of right and wrong - the uprisal of
a conscience, in fact, or in others a vague instinct of proper
reward or punishment, which will even cover and sanction certain
kinds of revenge or retaliation. The one feeling will emerge most
among the cultured, and the other among the ruder and more
ignorant; but both meet immediately on beholding action and the
limits of action on the demand for some clear leading to what may
be called Providential equity - each man undoubtedly rewarded or
punished, roughly, according to his deserts, if not outwardly then
certainly in the inner torments that so often lead to confessions.
There it is - a radical fact of human nature - as radical as any
reading of trait or determination of character presented - seen in
the Greek drama as well as in Shakespeare and the great Elizabethan
dramatists, and in the drama-transpontine and others of to-day. R.
L. Stevenson was all too casuistical (though not in the exclusively
bad sense) for this; and so he was not dramatic, though WEIR OF
HERMISTON promised something like an advance to it, and ST IVES
did, in my idea, yet more."

The one essential of a DRAMATIC piece is that, by the interaction
of character and incident (one or other may be preponderating,
according to the type and intention of the writer) all naturally
leads up to a crisis in which the moral motives, appealed to or
awakened by the presentation of the play, are justified. Where
this is wanting the true leading and the definite justification are
wanting. Goethe failed in this in his FAUST, resourceful and far-
seeing though he was - he failed because a certain sympathy is
awakened for Mephistopheles in being, so to say, chivied out of his
bargain, when he had complied with the terms of the contract by
Faust; and Gounod in his opera does exactly for "immediate dramatic
effect," what we hold it would be necessary to do for R. L.
Stevenson. Goethe, with his casuistries which led him to allegory
and all manner of overdone symbolisms and perversions in the Second
Part, is set aside and a true crisis and close is found by Gounod
through simply sending Marguerite above and Faust below, as,
indeed, Faust had agreed by solemn compact with Mephistopheles that
it should be. And to come to another illustration from our own
times, Mr Bernard Shaw's very clever and all too ingenious and
over-subtle MAN AND SUPERMAN would, in my idea, and for much the
same reason, be an utterly ineffective and weak piece on the stage,
however carefully handled and however clever the setting - the
reason lying in the egotistic upsetting of the "personal equation"
and the theory of life that lies behind all - tinting it with
strange and even OUTRE colours. Much the same has to be said of
most of what are problem-plays - several of Ibsen's among the rest.

Those who remember the Fairy opera of HANSEL AND GRETEL on the
stage in London, will not have forgotten in the witching memory of
all the charms of scenery and setting, how the scene where the
witch of the wood, who was planning out the baking of the little
hero and heroine in her oven, having "fatted" them up well, to make
sweet her eating of them, was by the coolness and cleverness of the
heroine locked in her own oven and baked there, literally brought
down the house. She received exactly what she had planned to give
those children, whom their own cruel parents had unwittingly, by
losing the children in the wood, put into her hands. Quaint,
naive, half-grotesque it was in conception, yet the truth of all
drama was there actively exhibited, and all casuistic pleading of
excuses of some sort, even of justification for the witch (that it
was her nature; heredity in her aworking, etc., etc.) would have
not only been out of place, but hotly resented by that audience.
Now, Stevenson, if he could have made up his mind to have the witch
locked in her own oven, would most assuredly have tried some device
to get her out by some fairy witch-device or magic slide at the far
end of it, and have proceeded to paint for us the changed character
that she was after she had been so outwitted by a child, and her
witchdom proved after all of little effect. He would have put
probably some of the most effective moralities into her mouth if
indeed he would not after all have made the witch a triumph on his
early principle of bad-heartedness being strength. If this is the
sort of falsification which the play demands, and is of all tastes
the most ungrateful, then, it is clear, that for full effect of the
drama it is essential to it; but what is primary in it is the
direct answering to certain immediate and instinctive demands in
common human nature, the doing of which is far more effective than
no end of deep philosophy to show how much better human nature
would be if it were not just quite thus constituted.
"Concentration," says Mr Pinero, "is first, second, and last in
it," and he goes on thus, as reported in the SCOTSMAN, to show
Stevenson's defect and mistake and, as is not, of course,
unnatural, to magnify the greatness and grandeur of the style of
work in which he has himself been so successful.

"If Stevenson had ever mastered that art - and I do not question
that if he had properly conceived it he had it in him to master it
- he might have found the stage a gold mine, but he would have
found, too, that it is a gold mine which cannot be worked in a
smiling, sportive, half-contemptuous spirit, but only in the sweat
of the brain, and with every mental nerve and sinew strained to its
uttermost. He would have known that no ingots are to be got out of
this mine, save after sleepless nights, days of gloom and
discouragement, and other days, again, of feverish toil, the result
of which proves in the end to be misapplied and has to be thrown to
the winds. . . . When you take up a play-book (if ever you do take
one up) it strikes you as being a very trifling thing - a mere
insubstantial pamphlet beside the imposing bulk of the latest six-
shilling novel. Little do you guess that every page of the play
has cost more care, severer mental tension, if not more actual
manual labour, than any chapter of a novel, though it be fifty
pages long. It is the height of the author's art, according to the
old maxim, that the ordinary spectator should never be clearly
conscious of the skill and travail that have gone to the making of
the finished product. But the artist who would achieve a like feat
must realise its difficulties, or what are his chances of success?"

But what I should, in little, be inclined to say, in answer to the
"concentration" idea is that, unless you have first some firm hold
on the broad bed-rock facts of human nature specially appealed to
or called forth by the drama, you may concentrate as much as you
please, but you will not write a successful acting drama, not to
speak of a great one. Mr Pinero's magnifications of the immense
effort demanded from him must in the end come to mean that he
himself does not instinctively and with natural ease and
spontaneity secure this, but secures it only after great conscious
effort; and hence, perhaps, it is that he as well as so many other
modern playwrights fall so far behind alike in the amount turned
out, and also in its quality as compared with the products of many
playwrights in the past.

The problem drama, in every phase and turn of it, endeavours to
dispense with these fundamental demands implied in the common and
instinctive sense or consciousness of the mass of men and women,
and to substitute for that interest something which will
artificially supersede it, or, at any rate, take its place. The
interest is transferred from the crises necessarily worked up to in
the one case, with all of situation and dialogue directed to it,
and without which it would not be strictly explicable, to something
abnormal, odd, artificial or inverted, or exceptional in the
characters themselves. Having thus, instead of natural process and
sequence, if we may put it so, the problem dramatist has a double
task - he must gain what unity he can, and reach such crises as he
may by artificial aids and inventions which the more he uses the
more makes natural simplicity unattainable; and next he must reduce
and hide as far as he can the abnormality he has, after all, in the
long run, created and presented. He cannot maintain it to the
full, else his work would become a mere medical or psychological
treatise under the poorest of disguises; and the very necessity for
the action and reaction of characters upon each other is a further
element against him. In a word no one character can stand alone,
and cannot escape influencing others, and also the action. Thus it
is that he cannot isolate as a doctor does his patient for
scientific examination. The healthy and normal must come in to
modify on all sides what is presented of unhealthy and abnormal,
and by its very presence expose the other, while at the same time
it, by its very presence, ministers improvement, exactly as the
sunlight disperses mist and all unhealthy vapours, germs, and

The problem dramatist, in place of broad effect and truth to
nature, must find it in stress of invention and resource of that
kind. Thus care and concentration must be all in all with him - he
must never let himself go, or get so interested and taken with his
characters that THEY, in a sense, control or direct him. He is all
too conscious a "maker" and must pay for his originality by what in
the end is really painful and overweighted work. This, I take it,
is the reason why so many of the modern dramatists find their work
so hard, and are, comparatively, so slow in the production of it,
while they would fain, by many devices, secure the general
impression or appeal made to all classes alike by the natural or
what we may call spontaneous drama, they are yet, by the necessity
of subject matter and methods of dealing with it, limited to the
real interest of a special class - to whom is finally given up what
was meant for mankind - and the troublesome and trying task laid on
them, to try as best they may to reconcile two really conflicting
tendencies which cannot even by art be reconciled but really point
different ways and tend to different ends. As the impressionist
and the pre-Raphaelite, in the sister-art of painting cannot be
combined and reconciled in one painter - so it is here; by
conception and methods they go different ways, and if they SEEK the
same end, it is by opposing processes - the original conception
alike of nature and of art dictating the process.

As for Stevenson, it was no lack of care or concentration in
anything that he touched; these two were never lacking, but because
his subtlety, mystical bias and dreaminess, and theorising on human
nature made this to him impossible. He might have concentrated as
much as he pleased, concentrated as much as even Mr Pinero desires,
but he would not have made a successful drama, because he was
Robert Louis Stevenson, and not Mr Pinero, and too long, as he
himself confessed, had a tendency to think bad-heartedness was
strength; while the only true and enduring joy attainable in this
world - whether by deduction from life itself, or from IMPRESSIONS
of art or of the drama, is simply the steady, unassailable, and
triumphant consciousness that it is not so, but the reverse, that
goodness and self-sacrifice and self-surrender are the only
strength in the universe. Just as Byron had it with patriotism:-

"Freedom's battle once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son,
Tho' baffled oft is ever won."

To go consciously either in fiction or in the drama for bad-
heartedness as strength, is to court failure - the broad, healthy,
human heart, thank Heaven, is so made as to resent the doctrine;
and if a fiction or a play based on this idea for the moment
succeeds, it can only be because of strength in other elements, or
because of partial blindness and partially paralysed moral sense in
the case of those who accept it and joy in it. If Mr Pinero
directly disputes this, then he and I have no common standing-
ground, and I need not follow the matter any further. Of course,
the dramatist may, under mistaken sympathy and in the midst of
complex and bewildering concatenations, give wrong readings to his
audience, but he must not be always doing even that, or doing it on
principle or system, else his work, however careful and
concentrated, will before long share the fate of the Stevenson-
Henley dramas confessedly wrought when the authors all too
definitely held bad-heartedness was strength.


WE have not hitherto concerned ourselves, in any express sense,
with the ethical elements involved in the tendency now dwelt on,
though they are, of necessity, of a very vital character. We have
shown only as yet the effect of this mood of mind on dramatic
intention and effort. The position is simply that there is,
broadly speaking, the endeavour to eliminate an element which is
essential to successful dramatic presentation. That element is the
eternal distinction, speaking broadly, between good and evil -
between right and wrong - between the secret consciousness of
having done right, and the consciousness of mere strength and force
in certain other ways.

Nothing else will make up for vagueness and cloudiness here - no
technical skill, no apt dialogue nor concentration, any more than
"fine speeches," as Mr Pinero calls them. Now the dramatic demand
and the ethical demand here meet and take each other's hands, and
will not be separated. This is why Mr Stevenson and Mr Henley -
young men of great talent, failed - utterly failed - they thought
they could make a hero out of a shady and dare-devil yet really
cowardly villain generally - and failed.

The spirit of this is of the clever youth type - all too ready to
forego the moral for the sake of the fun any day of the week, and
the unthinking selfishness and self-enjoyment of youth - whose
tender mercies are often cruel, are transcendent in it. As
Stevenson himself said, they were young men then and fancied bad-
heartedness was strength. Perhaps it was a sense of this that made
R. L. Stevenson speak as he did of the EBB-TIDE with Huish the
cockney in it, after he was powerless to recall it; which made him
say, as we have seen, that the closing chapters of THE MASTER OF
came to see then the great error; but, alas! it was too late to
remedy it - he could but go forward to essay new tales, not
backward to put right errors in what was done.

Did Mr William Archer have anything of this in his mind and the
far-reaching effects on this side, when he wrote the following:

"Let me add that the omission with which, in 1885, I mildly
reproached him - the omission to tell what he knew to be an
essential part of the truth about life - was abundantly made good
in his later writings. It is true that even in his final
philosophy he still seems to me to underrate, or rather to shirk,
the significance of that most compendious parable which he thus
relates in a letter to Mr Henry James:- 'Do you know the story of
the man who found a button in his hash, and called the waiter?
"What do you call that?" says he. "Well," said the waiter, "what
d'you expect? Expect to find a gold watch and chain?" Heavenly
apologue, is it not?' Heavenly, by all means; but I think
Stevenson relished the humour of it so much that he 'smiling passed
the moral by.' In his enjoyment of the waiter's effrontery, he
forgot to sympathise with the man (even though it was himself) who
had broken his teeth upon the harmful, unnecessary button. He
forgot that all the apologetics in the world are based upon just
this audacious paralogism."

Many writers have done the same - and not a few critics have hinted
at this: I do not think any writer has got at the radical truth of
it more directly, decisively, and clearly than "J. F. M.," in a
monthly magazine, about the time of Stevenson's death; and the
whole is so good and clear that I must quote it - the writer was
not thinking of the drama specially; only of prose fiction, and
this but makes the passage the more effective and apt to my point.

"In the outburst of regret which followed the death of Robert Louis
Stevenson, one leading journal dwelt on his too early removal in
middle life 'with only half his message delivered.' Such a phrase
may have been used in the mere cant of modern journalism. Still it
set one questioning what was Stevenson's message, or at least that
part of it which we had time given us to hear.

"Wonderful as was the popularity of the dead author, we are
inclined to doubt whether the right appreciation of him was half as
wide. To a certain section of the public he seemed a successful
writer of boys' books, which yet held captive older people. Now,
undoubtedly there was an element (not the highest) in his work
which fascinated boys. It gratified their yearning for adventure.
To too large a number of his readers, we suspect, this remains
Stevenson's chief charm; though even of those there were many able
to recognise and be thankful for the literary power and grace which
could serve up their sanguinary diet so daintily.

"Most of Stevenson's titles, too, like TREASURE ISLAND, KIDNAPPED,
and THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, tended to foster delusion in this
direction. The books were largely bought for gifts by maiden
aunts, and bestowed as school prizes, when it might not have been
so had their titles given more indication of their real scope and

"All this, it seems to us, has somewhat obscured Stevenson's true
power, which is surely that of an arch-delineator of 'human nature'
and of the devious ways of men. As we read him we feel that we
have our finger on the pulse of the cruel politics of the world.
He has the Shakespearean gift which makes us recognise that his
pirates and his statesmen, with their violence and their murders
and their perversions of justice, are swayed by the same interests
and are pulling the same strings and playing on the same passions
which are at work in quieter methods around ourselves. The vast
crimes and the reckless bloodshed are nothing more nor less than
stage effects used to accentuate for the common eye what the seer
can detect without them.

"And reading him from this standpoint, Stevenson's 'message' (so
far as it was delivered) appears to be that of utter gloom - the
creed that good is always overcome by evil. We do not mean in the
sense that good always suffers through evil and is frequently
crucified by evil. That is only the sowing of the martyr's blood,
which is, we know, the seed of the Church. We should not have
marvelled in the least that a genius like Stevenson should rebel
against mere external 'happy endings,' which, being in flat
contradiction to the ordinary ways of Providence, are little short
of thoughtless blasphemy against Providence. But the terrible
thing about the Stevenson philosophy of life is that it seems to
make evil overcome good in the sense of absorbing it, or perverting
it, or at best lowering it. When good and evil come in conflict in
one person, Dr Jekyll vanishes into Mr Hyde. The awful Master of
Ballantrae drags down his brother, though he seems to fight for his
soul at every step. The sequel to KIDNAPPED shows David Balfour
ready at last to be hail-fellow-well-met with the supple
Prestongrange and the other intriguers, even though they had
forcibly made him a partner to their shedding of innocent blood.

"Is it possible that this was what Stevenson's experience of real
life had brought him? Fortunate himself in so many respects, he
was yet one of those who turn aside from the smooth and sunny paths
of life, to enter into brotherly sympathy and fellowship with the
disinherited. Is this, then, what he found on those darker levels?
Did he discover that triumphant hypocrisy treads down souls as well
as lives?

"We cannot doubt that it often does so; and it is well that we
should see this sometimes, to make us strong to contend with evil
before it works out this, its worst mischief, and to rouse us from
the easy optimist laziness which sits idle while others are being
wronged, and bids them believe 'that all will come right in the
end,' when it is our direct duty to do our utmost to make it 'come
right' to-day.

"But to show us nothing but the gloomy side, nothing but the
weakness of good, nothing but the strength of evil, does not
inspire us to contend for the right, does not inform us of the
powers and weapons with which we might so contend. To gaze at
unqualified and inevitable moral defeat will but leave us to the
still worse laziness of pessimism, uttering its discouraging and
blasphemous cry, 'It does not matter; nothing will ever come

"Shakespeare has shown us - and never so nobly as in his last great
creation of THE TEMPEST - that a man has one stronghold which none
but himself can deliver over to the enemy - that citadel of his own
conduct and character, from which he can smile supreme upon the
foe, who may have conquered all down the line, but must finally
make pause there.

"We must remember that THE TEMPEST was Shakespeare's last work.
The genuine consciousness of the possible triumph of the moral
nature against every assault is probably reserved for the later
years of life, when, somewhat withdrawn from the passions of its
struggle, we become those lookers-on who see most of the game.
Strange fate is it that so much of our genius vanishes into the
great silence before those later years are reached!"

Stevenson was too late in awakening fully to the tragic error to
which short-sighted youth is apt to wander that "bad-heartedness is
strength." And so, from this point of view, to our sorrow, he too
much verified Goethe's saw that "simplicity (not artifice) and
repose are the acme of art, and therefore no youth can be a
master." In fact, he might very well from another side, have taken
one of Goethe's fine sayings as a motto for himself:

"Greatest saints were ever most kindly-hearted to sinners;
Here I'm a saint with the best; sinners I never could hate." (7)

Stevenson's own verdict on DEACON BRODIE given to a NEW YORK HERALD
reporter on the author's arrival in New York in September 1887, on
the LUDGATE HILL, is thus very near the precise truth: "The piece
has been all overhauled, and though I have no idea whether it will
please an audience, I don't think either Mr Henley or I are ashamed

If Mr Henley in any way confirmed R. L. Stevenson in this
perversion, as I much fear he did, no true admirer of Stevenson has
much to thank him for, whatever claims he may have fancied he had
to Stevenson's eternal gratitude. He did Stevenson about the very
worst turn he could have done, and aided and abetted in robbing us
and the world of yet greater works than we have had from his hands.
He was but condemning himself when he wrote some of the detractory
things he did in the PALL MALL MAGAZINE about the EDINBURGH
EDITION, etc. Men are mirrors in which they see each other:
Henley, after all, painted himself much more effectively in that
now notorious PALL MALL MAGAZINE article than he did R. L.
Stevenson. Such is the penalty men too often pay for wreaking
paltry revenges - writing under morbid memories and narrow and
petty grievances - they not only fail in truth and impartiality,
but inscribe a kind of grotesque parody of themselves in their
effort to make their subject ridiculous, as he did, for example,
about the name Lewis=Louis, and various other things.

R. L. Stevenson's fate was to be a casuistic and mystic moralist at
bottom, and could not help it; while, owing to some kink or twist,
due, perhaps, mainly to his earlier sufferings, and the teachings
he then received, he could not help giving it always a turn to what
he himself called "tail-foremost" or inverted morality; and it was
not till near the close that he fully awakened to the fact that
here he was false to the truest canons at once of morality and life
and art, and that if he pursued this course his doom was, and would
be, to make his endings "disgrace, or perhaps, degrade his
beginnings," and that no true and effective dramatic unity and
effect and climax was to be gained. Pity that he did so much on
this perverted view of life and world and art: and well it is that
he came to perceive it, even though almost too late:- certainly too
late for that full presentment of that awful yet gladdening
presence of a God's power and equity in this seeming tangled web of
a world, the idea which inspired Robert Browning as well as
Wordsworth, when he wrote, and gathered it up into a few lines in

"The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillsides dew-pearled;

The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in His heaven,
All's right with the world.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

"All service ranks the same with God,
If now, as formerly he trod
Paradise, His presence fills
Our earth, each only as God wills
Can work - God's puppets best and worst,
Are we; there is no last or first."

It shows what he might have accomplished, had longer life been but
allowed him.


THE problem of Stevenson's gloom cannot be solved by any
commonplace cut-and-dried process. It will remain a problem only
unless (1) his original dreamy tendency crossed, if not warped, by
the fatalistic Calvinism which was drummed into him by father,
mother, and nurse in his tender years, is taken fully into account;
then (2) the peculiar action on such a nature of the unsatisfying
and, on the whole, distracting effect of the bohemian and hail-
fellow-well-met sort of ideal to which he yielded, and which has to
be charged with much; and (3) the conflict in him of a keenly
social animus with a very strong egotistical effusiveness, fed by
fancy, and nourished by the enforced solitariness inevitable in the
case of one who, from early years up, suffered from painful, and
even crushing, disease.

His text and his sermon - which may be shortly summed in the
following sentence - be kind, for in kindness to others lies the
only true pleasure to be gained in life; be cheerful, even to the
point of egotistic self-satisfaction, for through cheerfulness only
is the flow of this incessant kindliness of thought and service
possible. He was not in harmony with the actual effect of much of
his creative work, though he illustrated this in his life, as few
men have done. He regarded it as the highest duty of life to give
pleasure to others; his art in his own idea thus became in an
unostentatious way consecrated, and while he would not have claimed
to be a seer, any more than he would have claimed to be a saint, as
he would have held in contempt a mere sybarite, most certainly a
vein of unblamable hedonism pervaded his whole philosophy of life.
Suffering constantly, he still was always kindly. He encouraged,
as Mr Gosse has said, this philosophy by every resource open to
him. In practical life, all who knew him declared that he was
brightness, naive fancy, and sunshine personified, and yet he could
not help always, somehow, infusing into his fiction a pronounced,
and sometimes almost fatal, element of gloom. Even in his own case
they were not pleasure-giving and failed thus in essence. Some
wise critic has said that no man can ever write well creatively of
that in which in his early youth he had no knowledge. Always
behind Stevenson's latest exercises lies the shadow of this as an
unshifting background, which by art may be relieved, but never
refined away wholly. He cannot escape from it if he would. Here,
too, as George MacDonald has neatly and nicely said: We are the
victims of our own past, and often a hand is put forth upon us from
behind and draws us into life backward. Here was Stevenson, with
his half-hedonistic theories of life, the duty of giving pleasure,
of making eyes brighter, and casting sunshine around one wherever
one went, yet the creator of gloom for us, when all the world was
before him where to choose. This fateful shadow pursued him to the
end, often giving us, as it were, the very justificative ground for
his own father's despondency and gloom, which the son rather too
decisively reproved, while he might have sympathised with it in a
stranger, and in that most characteristic letter to his mother,
which we have quoted, said that it made his father often seem, to
him, to be ungrateful - "HAS THE MAN NO GRATITUDE?" Two selves
thus persistently and constantly struggled in Stevenson. He was
from this point of view, indeed, his own Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the
buoyant, self-enjoying, because pleasure-conferring, man, and at
the same time the helpless yet fascinating "dark interpreter" of
the gloomy and gloom-inspiring side of life, viewed from the point
of view of dominating character and inherited influence. When he
reached out his hand with desire of pleasure-conferring, lo and
behold, as he wrote, a hand from his forefathers was stretched out,
and he was pulled backward; so that, as he has confessed, his
endings were apt to shame, perhaps to degrade, the beginnings.
Here is something pointing to the hidden and secret springs that
feed the deeper will and bend it to their service. Individuality
itself is but a mirror, which by its inequalities transforms things
to odd shapes. Hawthorne confessed to something of this sort. He,
like Stevenson, suffered much in youth, if not from disease then
through accident, which kept him long from youthful company. At a
time when he should have been running free with other boys, he had
to be lonely, reading what books he could lay his hands on, mostly
mournful and puritanic, by the borders of lone Sebago Lake. He
that hath once in youth been touched by this Marah-rod of
bitterness will not easily escape from it, when he essays in later
years to paint life and the world as he sees them; nay, the hand,
when he deems himself freest, will be laid upon him from behind, if
not to pull him, as MacDonald has said, into life backward, then to
make him a mournful witness of having once been touched by the
Marah-rod, whose bitterness again declares itself and wells out its
bitterness when set even in the rising and the stirring of the

Such is our view of the "gloom" of Stevenson - a gloom which well
might have justified something of his father's despondency. He
struggles in vain to escape from it - it narrows, it fatefully
hampers and limits the free field of his art, lays upon it a
strange atmosphere, fascinating, but not favourable to true
dramatic breadth and force, and spontaneous natural simplicity,
invariably lending a certain touch of weakness, inconsistency, and
inconclusiveness to his endings; so that he himself could too often
speak of them afterwards as apt to "shame, perhaps to degrade, the
beginnings." This is what true dramatic art should never do. In
the ending all that may raise legitimate question in the process -
all that is confusing, perplexing in the separate parts - is met,
solved, reconciled, at least in a way satisfactory to the general,
or ordinary mind; and thus such unity is by it so gained and
sealed, that in no case can the true artist, whatever faults may
lie in portions of the process-work, say of his endings that "they
shame, perhaps degrade, the beginning." Wherever this is the case
there will be "gloom," and there will also be a sad, tormenting
sense of something wanting. "The evening brings a 'hame';" so
should it be here - should it especially be in a dramatic work. If
not, "We start; for soul is wanting there;" or, if not soul, then
the last halo of the soul's serene triumph. From this side, too,
there is another cause for the undramatic character, in the
stricter sense of Stevenson's work generally: it is, after all,
distressful, unsatisfying, egotistic, for fancy is led at the beck
of some pre-established disharmony which throws back an abiding and
irremovable gloom on all that went before; and the free spontaneous
grace of natural creation which ensures natural simplicity is, as
said already, not quite attained.

It was well pointed out in HAMMERTON, by an unanonymous author
there quoted (pp. 22, 23), that while in the story, Hyde, the worse
one, wins, in Stevenson himself - in his real life - Jekyll won,
and not Mr Hyde. This writer, too, might have added that the
Master of Ballantrae also wins as well as Beau Austin and Deacon
Brodie. R. L. Stevenson's dramatic art and a good deal of his
fiction, then, was untrue to his life, and on one side was a lie -
it was not in consonance with his own practice or his belief as
expressed in life.

In some other matters the test laid down here is not difficult of
application. Stevenson, at the time he wrote THE FOREIGNER AT
HOME, had seen a good deal; he had been abroad; he had already had
experiences; he had had differences with his father about Calvinism
and some other things; and yet just see how he applies the standard
of his earlier knowledge and observation to England - and by doing
so, cannot help exaggerating the outstanding differences, always
with an almost provincial accent of unwavering conviction due to
his early associations and knowledge. He cannot help paying an
excessive tribute to the Calvinism he had formally rejected, in so
far as, according to him, it goes to form character - even national
character, at all events, in its production of types; and he never
in any really effective way glances at what Mr Matthew Arnold
called "Scottish manners, Scottish drink" as elements in any way
radically qualifying. It is not, of course, that I, as a Scotsman,
well acquainted with rural life in some parts of England, as with
rural life in many parts of Scotland in my youth, do not heartily
agree with him - the point is that, when he comes to this sort of
comparison and contrast, he writes exactly as his father would or
might have done, with a full consciousness, after all, of the
tribute he was paying to the practical outcome on character of the
Calvinism in which he so thoroughly believed. It is, in its way, a
very peculiar thing - and had I space, and did I believe it would
prove interesting to readers in general, I might write an essay on
it, with instances - in which case the Address to the Scottish
Clergy would come in for more notice, citation and application than
it has yet received. But meanwhile just take this little snippet -
very characteristic and very suggestive in its own way - and tell
me whether it does not justify and bear out fully what I have now
said as illustrating a certain side and a strange uncertain
limitation in Stevenson:

"But it is not alone in scenery and architecture that we count
England foreign. The constitution of society, the very pillars of
the empire, surprise and even pain us. The dull neglected peasant,
sunk in matter, insolent, gross and servile, makes a startling
contrast to our own long-legged, long-headed, thoughtful, Bible-
loving ploughman. A week or two in such a place as Suffolk leaves
the Scotsman gasping. It seems impossible that within the
boundaries of his own island a class should have been thus
forgotten. Even the educated and intelligent who hold our own
opinions and speak in our own words, yet seem to hold them with a
difference or from another reason, and to speak on all things with
less interest and conviction. The first shock of English society
is like a cold plunge." (8)

As there was a great deal of the "John Bull element" (9) in the
little dreamer De Quincey, so there was a great deal, after all, of
the rather conceited Calvinistic Scot in R. L. Stevenson, and it is
to be traced as clearly in certain of his fictions as anywhere,
though he himself would not perhaps have seen it and acknowledged
it, as I am here forced now to see it, and to acknowledge it for


Once again I quote Goethe:

"Natural simplicity and repose are the acme of art, and hence it
follows no youth can be a master." It has to be confessed that
seldom, if ever, does Stevenson naturally and by sheer enthusiasm
for subject and characters attain this natural simplicity, if he
often attained the counterfeit presentment - artistic and graceful
euphony, and new, subtle, and often unexpected concatenations of
phrase. Style is much; but it is not everything. We often love
Scott the more that he shows loosenesses and lapses here, for, in
spite of them, he gains natural simplicity, while not seldom
Stevenson, with all his art and fine sense of verbal music, rather
misses it. THE SEDULOUS APE sometimes disenchants as well as
charms; for occasionally a word, a touch, a turn, sends us off too
directly in search of the model; and this operates against the
interest as introducing a new and alien series of associations,
where, for full effect, it should not be so. And this distraction
will be the more insistent, the more knowledge the reader has and
the more he remembers; and since Stevenson's first appeal, both by
his spirit and his methods, is to the cultured and well read,
rather than to the great mass, his "sedulous apehood" only the more
directly wars against him as regards deep, continuous, and lasting
impression; where he should be most simple, natural and
spontaneous; he also is most artificial and involved. If the
story-writer is not so much in earnest, not so possessed by his
matter that this is allowed to him, how is it to be hoped that we
shall be possessed in the reading of it? More than once in
CATRIONA we must own we had this experience, directly warring
against full possession by the story, and certain passages about
Simon Lovat were especially marked by this; if even the first
introduction to Catriona herself was not so. As for Miss Barbara
Grant, of whom so much has been made by many admirers, she is
decidedly clever, indeed too clever by half, and yet her doom is to
be a mere DEUS EX MACHINA, and never do more than just pay a little
tribute to Stevenson's own power of PERSIFLAGE, or, if you like, to
pay a penalty, poor lass, for the too perfect doing of hat, and
really, really, I could not help saying this much, though, I do
believe that she deserved just a wee bit better fate than that.

But we have proofs of great growth, and nowhere are they greater
than at the very close. Stevenson died young: in some phases he
was but a youth to the last. To a true critic then, the problem
is, having already attained so much - a grand style, grasp of a
limited group of characters, with fancy, sincerity, and
imagination, - what would Stevenson have attained in another ten
years had such been but allotted him? It has over and over again
been said that, for long he SHIED presenting women altogether.
This is not quite true: THRAWN JANET was an earlier effort; and if
there the problem is persistent, the woman is real. Here also he
was on the right road - the advance road. The sex-question was
coming forward as inevitably a part of life, and could not be left
out in any broad and true picture. This element was effectively
revived in WEIR OF HERMISTON, and "Weir" has been well said to be
sadder, if it does not go deeper than DENIS DUVAL or EDWIN DROOD.
We know what Dickens and Thackeray could do there; we can but guess
now what Stevenson would have done. "Weir" is but a fragment; but,
to a wisely critical and unprejudiced mind, it suffices to show not
only what the complete work would have been, but what would have
inevitably followed it. It shows the turning-point, and the way
that was to be followed at the cross-roads - the way into a bigger,
realer, grander world, where realism, freed from the dream, and
fancy, and prejudice of youth, would glory in achieving the more
enduring romance of manhood, maturity and humanity.

Yes; there was growth - undoubted growth. The questioning and
severely moral element mainly due to the Shorter Catechism - the
tendency to casuistry, and to problems, and wistful introspection -
which had so coloured Stevenson's art up to the date of THE MASTER
OF BALLANTRAE, and made him a great essayist, was passing in the
satisfaction of assured insight into life itself. The art would
gradually have been transformed also. The problem, pure and
simple, would have been subdued in face of the great facts of life;
if not lost, swallowed up in the grandeur, pathos, and awe of the
tragedy clearly realised and presented.


STEVENSON'S earlier determination was so distinctly to the
symbolic, the parabolic, allegoric, dreamy and mystical - to
treatment of the world as an array of weird or half-fanciful
existences, witnessing only to certain dim spiritual facts or
abstract moralities, occasionally inverted moralities - "tail
foremost moralities" as later he himself named them - that a strong
Celtic strain in him had been detected and dwelt on by acute
critics long before any attention had been given to his genealogy
on both sides of the house. The strong Celtic strain is now amply
attested by many researches. Such phantasies as THE HOUSE OF ELD,
published along with some fables at the end of an edition of DR
JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, by Longman's, I think, in 1896, tell to the
initiated as forcibly as anything could tell of the presence of
this element, as though moonshine, disguising and transfiguring,
was laid over all real things and the secret of the world and life
was in its glamour: the shimmering and soft shading rendering all
outlines indeterminate, though a great idea is felt to be present
in the mind of the author, for which he works. The man who would
say there is no feeling for symbol - no phantasy or Celtic glamour
in these weird, puzzling, and yet on all sides suggestive tales
would thereby be declared inept, inefficient - blind to certain
qualities that lie near to grandeur in fanciful literature, or the
literature of phantasy, more properly.

This power in weird and playful phantasy is accompanied with the
gift of impersonating or embodying mere abstract qualities or
tendencies in characters. The little early sketch written in June
1875, titled GOOD CONTENT, well illustrates this:

"Pleasure goes by piping: Hope unfurls his purple flag; and meek
Content follows them on a snow-white ass. Here, the broad sunlight
falls on open ways and goodly countries; here, stage by stage,
pleasant old towns and hamlets border the road, now with high sign-
poles, now with high minster spires; the lanes go burrowing under
blossomed banks, green meadows, and deep woods encompass them
about; from wood to wood flock the glad birds; the vane turns in
the variable wind; and as I journey with Hope and Pleasure, and
quite a company of jolly personifications, who but the lady I love
is by my side, and walks with her slim hand upon my arm?

"Suddenly, at a corner, something beckons; a phantom finger-post, a
will o' the wisp, a foolish challenge writ in big letters on a
brand. And twisting his red moustaches, braggadocio Virtue takes
the perilous way where dim rain falls ever, and sad winds sigh.
And after him, on his white ass, follows simpering Content.

"Ever since I walk behind these two in the rain. Virtue is all a-
cold; limp are his curling feather and fierce moustache. Sore
besmirched, on his jackass, follows Content."

The record, entitled SUNDAY THOUGHTS, which is dated some five days
earlier is naive and most characteristic, touched with the
phantastic moralities and suggestions already indicated in every
sentence; and rises to the fine climax in this respect at the

"A plague o' these Sundays! How the church bells ring up the
sleeping past! I cannot go in to sermon: memories ache too hard;
and so I hide out under the blue heavens, beside the small kirk
whelmed in leaves. Tittering country girls see me as I go past
from where they sit in the pews, and through the open door comes
the loud psalm and the fervent solitary voice of the preacher. To
and fro I wander among the graves, and now look over one side of
the platform and see the sunlit meadow where the grown lambs go
bleating and the ewes lie in the shadow under their heaped fleeces;
and now over the other, where the rhododendrons flower fair among
the chestnut boles, and far overhead the chestnut lifts its thick
leaves and spiry blossom into the dark-blue air. Oh, the height
and depth and thickness of the chestnut foliage! Oh, to have wings
like a dove, and dwell in the tree's green heart!

. . . . . . . .

"A plague o' these Sundays! How the Church bells ring up the
sleeping past! Here has a maddening memory broken into my brain.
To the door, to the door, with the naked lunatic thought! Once it
is forth we may talk of what we dare not entertain; once the
intriguing thought has been put to the door I can watch it out of
the loophole where, with its fellows, it raves and threatens in
dumb show. Years ago when that thought was young, it was dearer to
me than all others, and I would speak with it always when I had an
hour alone. These rags that so dismally trick forth its madness
were once the splendid livery my favour wrought for it on my bed at
night. Can you see the device on the badge? I dare not read it
there myself, yet have a guess - 'BAD WARE NICHT' - is not that the
humour of it?

. . . . . . . . .

"A plague o' these Sundays! How the Church bells ring up the
sleeping past! If I were a dove and dwelt in the monstrous
chestnuts, where the bees murmur all day about the flowers; if I
were a sheep and lay on the field there under my comely fleece; if
I were one of the quiet dead in the kirkyard - some homespun farmer
dead for a long age, some dull hind who followed the plough and
handled the sickle for threescore years and ten in the distant
past; if I were anything but what I am out here, under the sultry
noon, between the deep chestnuts, among the graves, where the
fervent voice of the preacher comes to me, thin and solitary,
through the open windows; IF I WERE WHAT I WAS YESTERDAY, AND WHAT,

Close associated with this always is the moralising faculty, which
is assertive. Take here the cunning sentences on SELFISHNESS AND
EGOTISM, very Hawthornian yet quite original:

"An unconscious, easy, selfish person shocks less, and is more
easily loved, than one who is laboriously and egotistically
unselfish. There is at least no fuss about the first; but the
other parades his sacrifices, and so sells his favours too dear.
Selfishness is calm, a force of nature; you might say the trees
were selfish. But egotism is a piece of vanity; it must always
take you into its confidence; it is uneasy, troublesome, seeking;
it can do good, but not handsomely; it is uglier, because less
dignified, than selfishness itself."

If Mr Henley had but had this clear in his mind he might well have
quoted it in one connection against Stevenson himself in the PALL
MALL MAGAZINE article. He could hardly have quoted anything more
apparently apt to the purpose.

In the sphere of minor morals there is no more important topic.
Unselfishness is too often only the most exasperating form of
selfishness. Here is another very characteristic bit:

"You will always do wrong: you must try to get used to that, my
son. It is a small matter to make a work about, when all the world
is in the same case. I meant when I was a young man to write a

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