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

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great poem; and now I am cobbling little prose articles and in
excellent good spirits. I thank you. . . . Our business in life is
not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits."


"It is the mark of good action that it appears inevitable in the
retrospect. We should have been cut-throats to do otherwise. And
there's an end. We ought to know distinctly that we are damned for
what we do wrong; but when we have done right, we have only been
gentlemen, after all. There is nothing to make a work about."

The moral to THE HOUSE OF ELD is incisive writ out of true
experience - phantasy there becomes solemn, if not, for the nonce,

"Old is the tree and the fruit good,
Very old and thick the wood.
Woodman, is your courage stout?
Beware! the root is wrapped about
Your mother's heart, your father's bones;
And, like the mandrake, comes with groans."

The phantastic moralist is supreme, jauntily serious, facetiously
earnest, most gravely funny in the whole series of MORAL EMBLEMS.

"Reader, your soul upraise to see,
In yon fair cut designed by me,
The pauper by the highwayside
Vainly soliciting from pride.
Mark how the Beau with easy air
Contemns the anxious rustic's prayer
And casting a disdainful eye
Goes gaily gallivanting by.
He from the poor averts his head . . .
He will regret it when he's dead."

Now, the man who would trace out step by step and point by point,
clearly and faithfully, the process by which Stevenson worked
himself so far free of this his besetting tendency to moralised
symbolism or allegory into the freer air of life and real
character, would do more to throw light on Stevenson's genius, and
the obstacles he had had to contend with in becoming a novelist
eager to interpret definite times and character, than has yet been
done or even faithfully attempted. This would show at once
Stevenson's wonderful growth and the saving grace and elasticity of
his temperament and genius. Few men who have by force of native
genius gone into allegory or moralised phantasy ever depart out of
that fateful and enchanted region. They are as it were at once
lost and imprisoned in it and kept there as by a spell - the more
they struggle for freedom the more surely is the bewitching charm
laid upon them - they are but like the fly in amber. It was so
with Ludwig Tieck; it was so with Nathaniel Hawthorne; it was so
with our own George MacDonald, whose professedly real pictures of
life are all informed of this phantasy, which spoils them for what
they profess to be, and yet to the discerning cannot disguise what
they really are - the attempts of a mystic poet and phantasy writer
and allegoristic moralist to walk in the ways of Anthony Trollope
or of Mrs Oliphant, and, like a stranger in a new land always
looking back (at least by a side-glance, an averted or half-averted
face which keeps him from seeing steadily and seeing whole the real
world with which now he is fain to deal), to the country from which
he came.

Stevenson did largely free himself, that is his great achievement -
had he lived, we verily believe, so marked was his progress, he
would have been a great and true realist, a profound interpreter of
human life and its tragic laws and wondrous compensations - he
would have shown how to make the full retreat from fairyland
without penalty of too early an escape from it, as was the case
with Thomas the Rymer of Ercildoune, and with one other told of by
him, and proved that to have been a dreamer need not absolutely
close the door to insight into the real world and to art. This
side of the subject, never even glanced at by Mr Henley or Mr
Zangwill or their CONFRERES, yet demands, and will well reward the
closest and most careful attention and thought that can be given to

The parabolic element, with the whimsical humour and turn for
paradoxical inversion, comes out fully in such a work as DR JEKYLL
AND MR HYDE. There his humour gives body to his fancy, and reality
to the half-whimsical forms in which he embodies the results of
deep and earnest speculations on human nature and motive. But even
when he is professedly concerned with incident and adventure
merely, he manages to communicate to his pages some touch of
universality, as of unconscious parable or allegory, so that the
reader feels now and then as though some thought, or motive, or
aspiration, or weakness of his own were being there cunningly
unveiled or presented; and not seldom you feel he has also unveiled
and presented some of yours, secret and unacknowledged too.

Hence the interest which young and old alike have felt in TREASURE
ISLAND, KIDNAPPED, and THE WRECKER - a something which suffices
decisively to mark off these books from the mass with which
superficially they might be classed.


It should be clearly remembered that Stevenson died at a little
over forty - the age at which severity and simplicity and breadth
in art but begin to be attained. If Scott had died at the age when
Stevenson was taken from us, the world would have lacked the
WAVERLEY NOVELS; if a like fate had overtaken Dickens, we should
not have had A TALE OF TWO CITIES; and under a similar stroke,
Goldsmith could not have written RETALIATION, or tasted the bitter-
sweet first night of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. At the age of forty-
four Mr Thomas Hardy had probably not dreamt of TESS OF THE
D'URBERVILLES. But what a man has already done at forty years is
likely, I am afraid, to be a gauge as well as a promise of what he
will do in the future; and from Stevenson we were entitled to
expect perfect form and continued variety of subject, rather than a
measurable dynamic gain.

This is the point of view which my friend and correspondent of
years ago, Mr Edmund Clarence Stedman, of New York, set out by
emphasising in his address, as President of the meeting under the
auspices of the Uncut Leaves Society in New York, in the beginning
of 1895, on the death of Stevenson, and to honour the memory of the
great romancer, as reported in the NEW YORK TRIBUNE:

"We are brought together by tidings, almost from the Antipodes, of
the death of a beloved writer in his early prime. The work of a
romancer and poet, of a man of insight and feeling, which may be
said to have begun but fifteen years ago, has ended, through
fortune's sternest cynicism, just as it seemed entering upon even
more splendid achievement. A star surely rising, as we thought,
has suddenly gone out. A radiant invention shines no more; the
voice is hushed of a creative mind, expressing its fine imagining
in this, our peerless English tongue. His expression was so
original and fresh from Nature's treasure-house, so prodigal and
various, its too brief flow so consummate through an inborn gift
made perfect by unsparing toil, that mastery of the art by which
Robert Louis Stevenson conveyed those imaginings to us so
picturesque, yet wisely ordered, his own romantic life - and now,
at last, so pathetic a loss which renews

"'The Virgilian cry,
The sense of tears in mortal things,'

that this assemblage has gathered at the first summons, in tribute
to a beautiful genius, and to avow that with the putting out of
that bright intelligence the reading world experiences a more than
wonted grief.

"Judged by the sum of his interrupted work, Stevenson had his
limitations. But the work was adjusted to the scale of a possibly
long career. As it was, the good fairies brought all gifts, save
that of health, to his cradle, and the gift-spoiler wrapped them in
a shroud. Thinking of what his art seemed leading to - for things
that would be the crowning efforts of other men seemed prentice-
work in his case - it was not safe to bound his limitations. And
now it is as if Sir Walter, for example, had died at forty-four,
with the WAVERLEY NOVELS just begun! In originality, in the
conception of action and situation, which, however phantastic, are
seemingly within reason, once we breathe the air of his Fancyland;
in the union of bracing and heroic character and adventure; in all
that belongs to tale-writing pure and simple, his gift was
exhaustless. No other such charmer, in this wise, has appeared in
his generation. We thought the stories, the fairy tales, had all
been told, but 'Once upon a time' meant for him our own time, and
the grave and gay magic of Prince Florizel in dingy London or sunny
France. All this is but one of his provinces, however distinctive.
Besides, how he buttressed his romance with apparent truth! Since
Defoe, none had a better right to say: 'There was one thing I
determined to do when I began this long story, and that was to tell
out everything as it befell.'

"I remember delighting in two fascinating stories of Paris in the
time of Francois Villon, anonymously reprinted by a New York paper
from a London magazine. They had all the quality, all the
distinction, of which I speak. Shortly afterward I met Mr
Stevenson, then in his twenty-ninth year, at a London club, where
we chanced to be the only loungers in an upper room. To my
surprise he opened a conversation - you know there could be nothing
more unexpected than that in London - and thereby I guessed that he
was as much, if not as far, away from home as I was. He asked many
questions concerning 'the States'; in fact, this was but a few
months before he took his steerage passage for our shores. I was
drawn to the young Scotsman at once. He seemed more like a New-
Englander of Holmes's Brahmin caste, who might have come from
Harvard or Yale. But as he grew animated I thought, as others have
thought, and as one would suspect from his name, that he must have
Scandinavian blood in his veins - that he was of the heroic,
restless, strong and tender Viking strain, and certainly from that
day his works and wanderings have not belied the surmise. He told
me that he was the author of that charming book of gipsying in the
Cevennes which just then had gained for him some attentions from
the literary set. But if I had known that he had written those two
stories of sixteenth-century Paris - as I learned afterwards when
they reappeared in the NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS - I would not have bidden
him good-bye as to an 'unfledged comrade,' but would have wished
indeed to 'grapple him to my soul with hooks of steel.'

"Another point is made clear as crystal by his life itself. He had
the instinct, and he had the courage, to make it the servant, and
not the master, of the faculty within him. I say he had the
courage, but so potent was his birth-spell that doubtless he could
not otherwise. Nothing commonplace sufficed him. A regulation
stay-at-home life would have been fatal to his art. The ancient
mandate, 'Follow thy Genius,' was well obeyed. Unshackled freedom
of person and habit was a prerequisite; as an imaginary artist he
felt - nature keeps her poets and story-tellers children to the
last - he felt, if he ever reasoned it out, that he must gang his
own gait, whether it seemed promising, or the reverse, to kith,
kin, or alien. So his wanderings were not only in the most natural
but in the wisest consonance with his creative dreams. Wherever he
went, he found something essential for his use, breathed upon it,
and returned it fourfold in beauty and worth. The longing of the
Norseman for the tropic, of the pine for the palm, took him to the
South Seas. There, too, strange secrets were at once revealed to
him, and every island became an 'Isle of Voices.' Yes, an
additional proof of Stevenson's artistic mission lay in his
careless, careful, liberty of life; in that he was an artist no
less than in his work. He trusted to the impulse which possessed
him - that which so many of us have conscientiously disobeyed and
too late have found ourselves in reputable bondage to

"But those whom you are waiting to hear will speak more fully of
all this - some of them with the interest of their personal
remembrance - with the strength of their affection for the man
beloved by young and old. In the strange and sudden intimacy with
an author's record which death makes sure, we realise how notable
the list of Stevenson's works produced since 1878; more than a
score of books - not fiction alone, but also essays, criticism,
biography, drama, even history, and, as I need not remind you, that
spontaneous poetry which comes only from a true poet. None can
have failed to observe that, having recreated the story of
adventure, he seemed in his later fiction to interfuse a subtler
purpose - the search for character, the analysis of mind and soul.
Just here his summons came. Between the sunrise of one day and the
sunset of the next he exchanged the forest study for the mountain
grave. There, as he had sung his own wish, he lies 'under the wide
and starry sky.' If there was something of his own romance, so
exquisitely capricious, in the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, so,
also, the poetic conditions are satisfied in his death, and in the
choice of his burial-place upon the top of Pala. As for the
splendour of that maturity upon which we counted, now never to be
fulfilled on sea or land, I say - as once before, when the great
New-England romancer passed in the stillness of the night:

"'What though his work unfinished lies? Half bent
The rainbow's arch fades out in upper air,
The shining cataract half-way down the height
Breaks into mist; the haunting strain, that fell
On listeners unaware,
Ends incomplete, but through the starry night
The ear still waits for what it did not tell.'"

Dr Edward Eggleston finely sounded the personal note, and told of
having met Stevenson at a hotel in New York. Stevenson was ill
when the landlord came to Dr Eggleston and asked him if he should
like to meet him. Continuing, he said:

"He was flat on his back when I entered, but I think I never saw
anybody grow well in so short a time. It was a soul rather than a
body that lay there, ablaze with spiritual fire, good will shining
through everywhere. He did not pay me any compliment about my
work, and I didn't pay him any about his. We did not burn any of
the incense before each other which authors so often think it
necessary to do, but we were friends instantly. I am not given to
speedy intimacies, but I could not help my heart going out to him.
It was a wonderfully invested soul, no hedges or fences across his
fields, no concealment. He was a romanticist; I was - well, I
don't know exactly what. But he let me into the springs of his
romanticism then and there.

"'You go in your boat every day?' he asked. 'You sail? Oh! to
write a novel a man must take his life in his hands. He must not
live in the town.' And so he spoke, in his broad way, of course,
according to the enthusiasm of the moment.

"I can't sound any note of pathos here to-night. Some lives are so
brave and sweet and joyous and well-rounded, with such a
completeness about them that death does not leave imperfection. He
never had the air of sitting up with his own reputation. He let
his books toss in the waves of criticism and make their ports if
they deserve to. He had no claptrap, no great cause, none of the
disease of pruriency which came into fashion with Flaubert and Guy
de Maupassant. He simply told his story, with no condescension,
taking the readers into his heart and his confidence."


FROM these sources now traced out by us - his youthfulness of
spirit, his mystical bias, and tendency to dream - symbolisms
leading to disregard of common feelings - flows too often the
indeterminateness of Stevenson's work, at the very points where for
direct interest there should be decision. In THE MASTER OF
BALLANTRAE this leads him to try to bring the balances even as
regards our interest in the two brothers, in so far justifying from
one point of view what Mr Zangwill said in the quotation we have
given, or, as Sir Leslie Stephen had it in his second series of the

"The younger brother in THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, who is black-
mailed by the utterly reprobate master, ought surely to be
interesting instead of being simply sullen and dogged. In the
later adventures, we are invited to forgive him on the ground that
his brain has been affected: but the impression upon me is that he
is sacrificed throughout to the interests of the story [or more
strictly for the working out of the problem as originally conceived
by the author]. The curious exclusion of women is natural in the
purely boyish stories, since to a boy woman is simply an
incumbrance upon reasonable modes of life. When in CATRIONA
Stevenson introduces a love story, it is still unsatisfactory,
because David Balfour is so much the undeveloped animal that his
passion is clumsy, and his charm for the girl unintelligible. I
cannot feel, to say the truth, that in any of these stories I am
really among living human beings with whom, apart from their
adventures, I can feel any very lively affection or antipathy."

In the EBB-TIDE it is, in this respect, yet worse: the three
heroes choke each other off all too literally.

In his excess of impartiality he tones down the points and lines
that would give the attraction of true individuality to his
characters, and instead, would fain have us contented with his
liberal, and even over-sympathetic views of them and allowances for
them. But instead of thus furthering his object, he sacrifices the
whole - and his story becomes, instead of a broad and faithful
human record, really a curiosity of autobiographic perversion, and
of overweening, if not extravagant egotism of the more refined, but
yet over-obtrusive kind.

Mr Baildon thus hits the subjective tendency, out of which mainly
this defect - a serious defect in view of interest - arises.

"That we can none of us be sure to what crime we might not descend,
if only our temptation were sufficiently acute, lies at the root of
his fondness and toleration for wrong-doers (p. 74).

Thus he practically declines to do for us what we are unwilling or
unable to do for ourselves. Interest in two characters in fiction
can never, in this artificial way, and if they are real characters
truly conceived, be made equal, nor can one element of claim be
balanced against another, even at the beck of the greatest artist.
The common sentiment, as we have seen, resents it even as it
resents lack of guidance elsewhere. After all, the novelist is
bound to give guidance: he is an authority in his own world, where
he is an autocrat indeed; and can work out issues as he pleases,
even as the Pope is an authority in the Roman Catholic world: he
abdicates his functions when he declines to lead: we depend on him
from the human point of view to guide us right, according to the
heart, if not according to any conventional notion or opinion.
Stevenson's pause in individual presentation in the desire now to
raise our sympathy for the one, and then for the other in THE
MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, admits us too far into Stevenson's secret or
trick of affected self-withdrawal in order to work his problem and
to signify his theories, to the loss and utter confusion of his
aims from the point of common dramatic and human interest. It is
the same in CATRIONA in much of the treatment of James Mohr or
More; it is still more so in not a little of the treatment of WEIR
OF HERMISTON and his son, though there, happily for him and for us,
there were the direct restrictions of known fact and history, and
clearly an attempt at a truer and broader human conception
unburdened by theory or egotistic conception.

Everywhere the problem due to the desire to be overjust, so to say,
emerges; and exactly in the measure it does so the source of true
dramatic directness and variety is lost. It is just as though
Shakespeare were to invent a chorus to cry out at intervals about
Iago - "a villain, bad lot, you see, still there's a great deal to
be said for him - victim of inheritance, this, that and the other;
and considering everything how could you really expect anything
else now." Thackeray was often weak from this same tendency - he
meant Becky Sharp to be largely excused by the reader on these
grounds, as he tries to excuse several others of his characters;
but his endeavours in this way to gloss over "wickedness" in a way,
do not succeed - the reader does not carry clear in mind as he goes
along, the suggestions Thackeray has ineffectually set out and the
"healthy hatred of scoundrels" Carlyle talked about has its full
play in spite of Thackeray's suggested excuses and palliations, and
all in his own favour, too, as a story-wright.

Stevenson's constant habit of putting himself in the place of
another, and asking himself how would I have borne myself here or
there, thus limited his field of dramatic interest, where the
subject should have been made pre-eminently in aid of this effect.
Even in Long John Silver we see it, as in various others of his
characters, though there, owing to the demand for adventure, and
action contributory to it, the defect is not so emphasised. The
sense as of a projection of certain features of the writer into all
and sundry of his important characters, thus imparts, if not an air
of egotism, then most certainly a somewhat constrained, if not
somewhat artificial, autobiographical air - in the very midst of
action, questions of ethical or casuistical character arise, all
contributing to submerging individual character and its dramatic
interests under a wave of but half-disguised autobiography. Let
Stevenson do his very best - let him adopt all the artificial
disguises he may, as writing narrative in the first person, etc.,
as in KIDNAPPED and CATRIONA, nevertheless, the attentive reader's
mind is constantly called off to the man who is actually writing
the story. It is as though, after all, all the artistic or
artificial disguises were a mere mask, as more than once Thackeray
represented himself, the mask partially moved aside, just enough to
show a chubby, childish kind of transformed Thackeray face below.
This belongs, after all, to the order of self-revelation though
under many disguises: it is creation only in its manner of work,
not in its essential being - the spirit does not so to us go clean
forth of itself, it stops at home, and, as if from a remote and
shadowy cave or recess, projects its own colour on all on which it

This is essentially the character of the MYSTIC; and hence the
justification for this word as applied expressly to Stevenson by Mr
Chesterton and others.

"The inner life like rings of light
Goes forth of us, transfiguring all we see."

The effect of these early days, with the peculiar tint due to the
questionings raised by religious stress and strain, persists with
Stevenson; he grows, but he never escapes from that peculiar
something which tells of childish influences - of boyish
perversions and troubled self-examinations due to Shorter Catechism
- any one who would view Stevenson without thought of this, would
view him only from the outside - see him merely in dress and outer
oddities. Here I see definite and clear heredity. Much as he
differed from his worthy father in many things, he was like him in
this - the old man like the son, bore on him the marks of early
excesses of wistful self-questionings and painful wrestlings with
religious problems, that perpetuated themselves in a quaint kind of
self-revelation often masked by an assumed self-withdrawal or
indifference which to the keen eye only the more revealed the real
case. Stevenson never, any more than his father, ceased to be
interested in the religious questions for which Scotland has always
had a PENCHANT - and so much is this the case that I could wish
Professor Sidney Colvin would even yet attempt to show the bearing
of certain things in that ADDRESS TO THE SCOTTISH CLERGY written
when Stevenson was yet but a young man, on all that he afterwards
said and did. It starts in the EDINBURGH EDITION without any note,
comment, or explanation whatever, but in that respect the EDINBURGH
EDITION is not quite so complete as it might have been made. In
view of the point now before us, it is far more important than many
of the other trifles there given, and wants explanation and its
relation to much in the novels brought out and illustrated. Were
this adequately done, only new ground would be got for holding that
Stevenson, instead of, as has been said, "seeing only the visible
world," was, in truth, a mystical moralist, once and always, whose
thoughts ran all too easily into parable and fable, and who,
indeed, never escaped wholly from that atmosphere, even when
writing of things and characters that seemed of themselves to be
wholly outside that sphere. This was the tendency, indeed, that
militated against the complete detachment in his case from moral
problems and mystical thought, so as to enable him to paint, as it
were, with a free hand exactly as he saw; and most certainly not
that he saw only the visible world. The mystical element is not
directly favourable to creative art. You see in Tolstoy how it
arrests and perplexes - how it lays a disturbing check on real
presentation - hindering the action, and is not favourable to the
loving and faithful representation, which, as Goethe said, all true
and high art should be. To some extent you see exactly the same
thing in Nathaniel Hawthorne as in Tolstoy. Hawthorne's
preoccupations in this way militated against his character-power;
his healthy characters who would never have been influenced as he
describes by morbid ones yet are not only influenced according to
him, but suffer sadly. Phoebe Pyncheon in THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN
GABLES, gives sunshine to poor Hepzibah Clifford, but is herself
never merry again, though joyousness was her natural element. So,
doubtless, it would have been with Pansie in DOCTOR DOLLIVER, as
indeed it was with Zenobia and with the hero in the MARBLE FAUN.
"We all go wrong," said Hawthorne, "by a too strenuous resolution
to go right." Lady Byron was to him an intolerably irreproachable
person, just as Stevenson felt a little of the same towards
Thoreau; notwithstanding that he was the "sunnily-ascetic," the
asceticism and its corollary, as he puts it: the passion for
individual self-improvement was alien in a way to Stevenson. This
is the position of the casuistic mystic moralist and not of the man
who sees only the visible world.

Mr Baildon says:

"Stevenson has many of the things that are wanting or defective in
Scott. He has his philosophy of life; he is beyond remedy a
moralist, even when his morality is of the kind which he happily
calls 'tail foremost,' or as we may say, inverted morality.
Stevenson is, in fact, much more of a thinker than Scott, and he is
also much more of the conscious artist, questionable advantage as
that sometimes is. He has also a much cleverer, acuter mind than
Scott, also a questionable advantage, as genius has no greater
enemy than cleverness, and there is really no greater descent than
to fall from the style of genius to that of cleverness. But
Stevenson was too critical and alive to misuse his cleverness, and
it is generally employed with great effect as in the diabolical
ingenuities of a John Silver, or a Master of Ballantrae. In one
sense Stevenson does not even belong to the school of Scott, but
rather to that of Poe, Hawthorne, and the Brontes, in that he aims
more at concentration and intensity, than at the easy, quiet
breadth of Scott."

If, indeed, it should not here have been added that Stevenson's
theory of life and conduct was not seldom too insistent for free
creativeness, for dramatic freedom, breadth and reality.

Now here I humbly think Mr Baldion errs about the cleverness when
he criticises Stevenson for the FAUX PAS artistically of resorting
to the piratic filibustering and the treasure-seeking at the close
of THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, he only tells and tells plainly how
cleverness took the place of genius there; as indeed it did in not
a few cases - certainly in some points in the Dutch escapade in
CATRIONA and in not a few in DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE. The fault of
that last story is simply that we seem to hear Stevenson chuckling
to himself, "Ah, now, won't they all say at last how clever I am."
That too mars the MERRY MEN, whoever wrote them or part wrote them,
and PRINCE OTTO would have been irretrievably spoiled by this self-
conscious sense of cleverness had it not been for style and
artifice. In this incessant "see how clever I am," we have another
proof of the abounding youthfulness of R. L. Stevenson. If, as Mr
Baildon says (p. 30), he had true child's horror of being put in
fine clothes in which one must sit still and be good, PRINCE OTTO
remains attractive in spite of some things and because of his fine
clothes. Neither Poe nor Hawthorne could have fallen to the
piracy, and treasure-hunting of THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE.

"Far behind Scott in the power of instinctive, irreflective,
spontaneous creation of character, Stevenson tells his story with
more art and with a firmer grip on his reader." And that is
exactly what I, wishing to do all I dutifully can for Stevenson,
cannot see. His genius is in nearly all cases pulled up or spoiled
by his all too conscious cleverness, and at last we say, "Oh
Heavens! if he could and would but let himself go or forget himself
what he might achieve." But he doesn't - never does, and therefore
remains but a second-rate creator though more and more the stylist
and the artist. This is more especially the case at the very
points where writers like Scott would have risen and roused all the
readers' interest. When Stevenson reaches such points, he is
always as though saying "See now how cleverly I'll clear that old
and stereotyped style of thing and do something NEW." But there
are things in life and human nature, which though they are old are
yet ever new, and the true greatness of a writer can never come
from evading or looking askance at them or trying to make them out
something else than what they really are. No artistic aim or
ambition can suffice to stand instead of them or to refine them
away. That way lies only cold artifice and frigid lacework, and
sometimes Stevenson did go a little too much on this line.


THE unity in Stevenson's stories is generally a unity of subjective
impression and reminiscence due, in the first place, to his quick,
almost abnormal boyish reverence for mere animal courage, audacity,
and doggedness, and, in the second place, to his theory of life,
his philosophy, his moral view. He produces an artificial
atmosphere. Everything then has to be worked up to this - kept
really in accordance with it, and he shows great art in the doing
of this. Hence, though, a quaint sense of sameness, of artificial
atmosphere - at once really a lack of spontaneity and of freedom.
He is freest when he pretends to nothing but adventure - when he
aims professedly at nothing save to let his characters develop
themselves by action. In this respect the most successful of his
stories is yet TREASURE ISLAND, and the least successful perhaps
CATRIONA, when just as the ambitious aim compels him to pause in
incident, the first-person form creates a cold stiffness and
artificiality alien to the full impression he would produce upon
the reader. The two stories he left unfinished promised far
greater things in this respect than he ever accomplished. For it
is an indisputable fact, and indeed very remarkable, that the
ordinary types of men and women have little or no attraction for
Stevenson, nor their commonplace passions either. Yet precisely
what his art wanted was due infusion of this very interest.
Nothing else will supply the place. The ordinary passion of love
to the end he SHIES, and must invent no end of expedients to supply
the want. The devotion of the ordinary type, as Thomas Hardy has
over and over exhibited it, is precisely what Stevenson wants, to
impart to his novels the full sense of reality. The secret of
morals, says Shelley, is a going out of self. Stevenson was only
on the way to secure this grand and all-sufficing motive. His
characters, in a way, are all already like himself, romantic, but
the highest is when the ordinary and commonplace is so apprehended
that it becomes romantic, and may even, through the artist's deeper
perception and unconscious grasp and vision, take the hand of
tragedy, and lose nothing. The very atmosphere Stevenson so loved
to create was in itself alien to this; and, so far as he went, his
most successful revelations were but records of his own
limitations. It is something that he was to the end so much the
youth, with fine impulses, if sometimes with sympathies
misdirected, and that, too, in such a way as to render his work
cold and artificial, else he might have turned out more of the
Swift than of the Sterne or Fielding. Prince Otto and Seraphina
are from this cause mainly complete failures, alike from the point
of view of nature and of art, and the Countess von Rosen is not a
complete failure, and would perhaps have been a bit of a success,
if only she had made Prince Otto come nearer to losing his virtue.
The most perfect in style, perhaps, of all Stevenson's efforts it
is yet most out of nature and truth, - a farce, felt to be
disguised only when read in a certain mood; and this all the more
for its perfections, just as Stevenson would have said it of a
human being too icily perfect whom he had met.

On this subject, Mr Baildon has some words so decisive, true, and
final, that I cannot refrain from here quoting them:

"From sheer incapacity to retain it, Prince Otto loses the regard,
affection, and esteem of his wife. He goes eavesdropping among the
peasantry, and has to sit silent while his wife's honour is
coarsely impugned. After that I hold it is impossible for
Stevenson to rehabilitate his hero, and, with all his brilliant
effects, he fails. . . . I cannot help feeling a regret that such
fine work is thrown away on what I must honestly hold to be an
unworthy subject. The music of the spheres is rather too sublime
an accompaniment for this genteel comedy Princess. A touch of
Offenbach would seem more appropriate. Then even in comedy the
hero must not be the butt." And it must reluctantly be confessed
that in Prince Otto you see in excess that to which there is a
tendency in almost all the rest - it is to make up for lack of hold
on human nature itself, by resources of style and mere external
technical art.


NOW, it is in its own way surely a very remarkable thing that
Stevenson, who, like a youth, was all for HEITERKEIT, cheerfulness,
taking and giving of pleasure, for relief, change, variety, new
impressions, new sensations, should, at the time he did, have
conceived and written a story like THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE - all
in a grave, grey, sombre tone, not aiming even generally at what at
least indirectly all art is conceived to aim at - the giving of
pleasure: he himself decisively said that it "lacked all
pleasurableness, and hence was imperfect in essence." A very
strange utterance in face of the oft-repeated doctrine of the
essays that the one aim of art, as of true life, is to communicate
pleasure, to cheer and to elevate and improve, and in face of two
of his doctrines that life itself is a monitor to cheerfulness and
mirth. This is true: and it is only explainable on the ground
that it is youth alone which can exult in its power of accumulating
shadows and dwelling on the dark side - it is youth that revels in
the possible as a set-off to its brightness and irresponsibility:
it is youth that can delight in its own excess of shade, and can
even dispense with sunshine - hugging to its heart the memory of
its own often self-created distresses and conjuring up and, with
self-satisfaction, brooding over the pain and imagined horrors of a
lifetime. Maturity and age kindly bring their own relief -
rendering this kind of ministry to itself no longer desirable, even
were it possible. THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE indeed marks the
crisis. It shows, and effectively shows, the other side of the
adventure passion - the desire of escape from its own sombre
introspections, which yet, in all its "go" and glow and glitter,
tells by its very excess of their tendency to pass into this other
and apparently opposite. But here, too, there is nothing single or
separate. The device of piracy, etc., at close of BALLANTRAE, is
one of the poorest expedients for relief in all fiction.

Will in WILL O' THE MILL presents another. When at the last moment
he decides that it is not worth while to get married, the author's
then rather incontinent philosophy - which, by-the-bye, he did not
himself act on - spoils his story as it did so much else. Such an
ending to such a romance is worse even than any blundering such as
the commonplace inventor could be guilty of, for he would be in a
low sense natural if he were but commonplace. We need not
therefore be surprised to find Mr Gwynn thus writing:

"The love scenes in WEIR OF HERMISTON are almost unsurpassable; but
the central interest of the story lies elsewhere - in the relations
between father and son. Whatever the cause, the fact is clear that
in the last years of his life Stevenson recognised in himself an
ability to treat subjects which he had hitherto avoided, and was
thus no longer under the necessity of detaching fragments from
life. Before this, he had largely confined himself to the
adventures of roving men where women had made no entrance; or, if
he treated of a settled family group, the result was what we see in

In a word, between this work and WEIR OF HERMISTON we have the
passage from mere youth to manhood, with its wider, calmer views,
and its patience, inclusiveness, and mild, genial acceptance of
types that before did not come, and could not by any effort of will
be brought, within range or made to adhere consistently with what
was already accepted and workable. He was less the egotist now and
more the realist. He was not so prone to the high lights in which
all seems overwrought, exaggerated; concerned really with effects
of a more subdued order, if still the theme was a wee out of
ordinary nature. Enough is left to prove that Stevenson's life-
long devotion to his art anyway was on the point of being rewarded
by such a success as he had always dreamt of: that in the man's
nature there was power to conceive scenes of a tragic beauty and
intensity unsurpassed in our prose literature, and to create
characters not unworthy of his greatest predecessors. The blind
stroke of fate had nothing to say to the lesson of his life, and
though we deplore that he never completed his masterpieces, we may
at least be thankful that time enough was given him to prove to his
fellow-craftsmen, that such labour for the sake of art is not
without art's peculiar reward - the triumph of successful


FROM many different points of view discerning critics have
celebrated the autobiographic vein - the self-revealing turn, the
self-portraiture, the quaint, genial, yet really child-like
egotistic and even dreamy element that lies like an amalgam, behind
all Stevenson's work. Some have even said, that because of this,
he will finally live by his essays and not by his stories. That is
extreme, and is not critically based or justified, because, however
true it may be up to a certain point, it is not true of Stevenson's
quite latest fictions where we see a decided breaking through of
the old limits, and an advance upon a new and a fresher and broader
sphere of interest and character altogether. But these ideas set
down truly enough at a certain date, or prior to a certain date,
are wrong and falsely directed in view of Stevenson's latest work
and what it promised. For instance, what a discerning and able
writer in the EDINBURGH REVIEW of July 1895 said truly then was in
great part utterly inapplicable to the whole of the work of the
last years, for in it there was grasp, wide and deep, of new
possibilities - promise of clear insight, discrimination, and
contrast of character, as well as firm hold of new and great human
interest under which the egotistic or autobiographic vein was
submerged or weakened. The EDINBURGH REVIEWER wrote:

"There was irresistible fascination in what it would be unfair to
characterise as egotism, for it came natural to him to talk frankly
and easily of himself. . . . He could never have dreamed, like
Pepys, of locking up his confidence in a diary. From first to
last, in inconsecutive essays, in the records of sentimental
touring, in fiction and in verse, he has embodied the outer and the
inner autobiography. He discourses - he prattles - he almost
babbles about himself. He seems to have taken minute and habitual
introspection for the chief study in his analysis of human nature,
as a subject which was immediately in his reach, and would most
surely serve his purpose. We suspect much of the success of his
novels was due to the fact that as he seized for a substructure on
the scenery and situations which had impressed him forcibly, so in
the characters of the most different types, there was always more
or less of self-portraiture. The subtle touch, eminently and
unmistakably realistic, gave life to what might otherwise have
seemed a lay-figure. . . . He hesitated again and again as to his
destination; and under mistakes, advice of friends, doubted his
chances, as a story-writer, even after TREASURE ISLAND had enjoyed
its special success. . . . We venture to think that, with his love
of intellectual self-indulgence, had he found novel-writing really
enjoyable, he would never have doubted at all. But there comes in
the difference between him and Scott, whom he condemns for the
slovenliness of hasty workmanship. Scott, in his best days, sat
down to his desk and let the swift pen take its course in
inspiration that seemed to come without an effort. Even when
racked with pains, and groaning in agony, the intellectual
machinery was still driven at a high pressure by something that
resembled an irrepressible instinct. Stevenson can have had little
or nothing of that inspiriting afflatus. He did his painstaking
work conscientiously, thoughtfully; he erased, he revised, and he
was hard to satisfy. In short, it was his weird - and he could not
resist it - to set style and form before fire and spirit."


MORE unfortunate still, as disturbing and prejudicing a sane and
true and disinterested view of Stevenson's claims, was that article
of his erewhile "friend," Mr W. E. Henley, published on the
appearance of the MEMOIR by Mr Graham Balfour, in the PALL MALL
MAGAZINE. It was well that Mr Henley there acknowledged frankly
that he wrote under a keen sense of "grievance" - a most dangerous
mood for the most soberly critical and self-restrained of men to
write in, and that most certainly Mr W. E. Henley was not - and
that he owned to having lost contact with, and recognition of the
R. L. Stevenson who went to America in 1887, as he says, and never
came back again. To do bare justice to Stevenson it is clear that
knowledge of that later Stevenson was essential - essential whether
it was calculated to deepen sympathy or the reverse. It goes
without saying that the Louis he knew and hobnobbed with, and
nursed near by the Old Bristo Port in Edinburgh could not be the
same exactly as the Louis of Samoa and later years - to suppose so,
or to expect so, would simply be to deny all room for growth and
expansion. It is clear that the W. E. Henley of those days was not
the same as the W. E. Henley who indited that article, and if
growth and further insight are to be allowed to Mr Henley and be
pleaded as his justification CUM spite born of sense of grievance
for such an onslaught, then clearly some allowance in the same
direction must be made for Stevenson. One can hardly think that in
his case old affection and friendship had been so completely
submerged, under feelings of grievance and paltry pique, almost
always bred of grievances dwelt on and nursed, which it is
especially bad for men of genius to acknowledge, and to make a
basis, as it were, for clearer knowledge, insight, and judgment.
In other cases the pleading would simply amount to an immediate and
complete arrest of judgment. Mr Henley throughout writes as though
whilst he had changed, and changed in points most essential, his
erewhile friend remained exactly where he was as to literary
position and product - the Louis who went away in 1887 and never
returned, had, as Mr W. E. Henley, most unfortunately for himself,
would imply, retained the mastery, and the Louis who never came
back had made no progress, had not added an inch, not to say a
cubit, to his statue, while Mr Henley remained IN STATU QUO, and
was so only to be judged. It is an instance of the imperfect
sympathy which Charles Lamb finely celebrated - only here it is
acknowledged, and the "imperfect sympathy" pled as a ground for
claiming the full insight which only sympathy can secure. If Mr
Henley was fair to the Louis he knew and loved, it is clear that he
was and could only be unjust to the Louis who went away in 1887 and
never came back.

"At bottom Stevenson was an excellent fellow. But he was of his
essence what the French call PERSONNEL. He was, that is,
incessantly and passionately interested in Stevenson. He could not
be in the same room with a mirror but he must invite its
confidences every time he passed it; to him there was nothing
obvious in time and eternity, and the smallest of his discoveries,
his most trivial apprehensions, were all by way of being
revelations, and as revelations must be thrust upon the world; he
was never so much in earnest, never so well pleased (this were he
happy or wretched), never so irresistible as when he wrote about

Notice here, how undiscerning the mentor becomes. The words put in
"italics," unqualified as they are, would fit and admirably cover
the character of the greatest criminal. They would do as they
stand, for Wainwright, for Dr Dodd, for Deeming, for Neil Cream,
for Canham Read, or for Dougal of Moat Farm fame. And then the
touch that, in the Shorter Catechism, Stevenson would have found a
cover or justification for it somehow! This comes of writing under
a keen sense of grievance; and how could this be truly said of one
who was "at bottom an excellent fellow." W. Henley's ethics are
about as clear-obscure as is his reading of character. Listen to
him once again - more directly on the literary point.

"To tell the truth, his books are none of mine; I mean that if I
wanted reading, I do not go for it to the EDINBURGH EDITION. I am
not interested in remarks about morals; in and out of letters. I
HAVE LIVED A FULL AND VARIED LIFE, and my opinions are my own. SO,
while if good writing and some other things be in my appetite, are
there not always Hazlitt and Lamb - to say nothing of that globe of
miraculous continents; which is known to us as Shakespeare? There
is his style, you will say, and it is a fact that it is rare, and
IN THE LAST times better, because much simpler than in the first.
But, after all, his style is so perfectly achieved that the
achievement gets obvious: and when achievement gets obvious, is it
not by way of becoming uninteresting? And is there not something
to be said for the person who wrote that Stevenson always reminded
him of a young man dressed the best he ever saw for the Burlington
Arcade? (10) Stevenson's work in letters does not now take me
much, and I decline to enter on the question of his immortality;
since that, despite what any can say, will get itself settled soon
or late, for all time. No - when I care to think of Stevenson it
is not of R. L. Stevenson - R. L. Stevenson, the renowned, the
accomplished - executing his difficult solo, but of the Lewis that
I knew and loved, and wrought for, and worked with for so long.
The successful man of letters does not greatly interest me. I read
his careful prayers and pass on, with the certainty that, well as
they read, they were not written for print. I learn of his
nameless prodigalities, and recall some instances of conduct in
another vein. I remember, rather, the unmarried and irresponsible
Lewis; the friend, the comrade, the CHARMEUR. Truly, that last
word, French as it is, is the only one that is worthy of him. I
shall ever remember him as that. The impression of his writings
disappears; the impression of himself and his talk is ever a
possession. . . . Forasmuch as he was primarily a talker, his
printed works, like these of others after his kind, are but a sop
for posterity. A last dying speech and confession (as it were) to
show that not for nothing were they held rare fellows in their

Just a month or two before Mr Henley's self-revealing article
appeared in the PALL MALL MAGAZINE, Mr Chesterton, in the DAILY
NEWS, with almost prophetic forecast, had said:

"Mr Henley might write an excellent study of Stevenson, but it
would only be of the Henleyish part of Stevenson, and it would show
a distinct divergence from the finished portrait of Stevenson,
which would be given by Professor Colvin."

And it were indeed hard to reconcile some things here with what Mr
Henley set down of individual works many times in the SCOTS AND
NATIONAL OBSERVER, and elsewhere, and in literary judgments as in
some other things there should, at least, be general consistency,
else the search for an honest man in the late years would be yet
harder than it was when Diogenes looked out from his tub!

Mr James Douglas, in the STAR, in his half-playful and suggestive
way, chose to put it as though he regarded the article in the PALL
MALL MAGAZINE as a hoax, perpetrated by some clever, unscrupulous
writer, intent on provoking both Mr Henley and his friends, and
Stevenson's friends and admirers. This called forth a letter from
one signing himself "A Lover of R. L. Stevenson," which is so good
that we must give it here.


SIR - I fear that, despite the charitable scepticism of Mr Douglas,
there is no doubt that Mr Henley is the perpetrator of the
saddening Depreciation of Stevenson which has been published over
his name.

What openings there are for reprisals let Mr Henley's conscience
tell him; but permit me to remind him of two or three things which
R. L. Stevenson has written concerning W. E. Henley.

First this scene in the infirmary at Edinburgh:

"(Leslie) Stephen and I sat on a couple of chairs, and the poor
fellow (Henley) sat up in his bed with his hair and beard all
tangled, and talked as cheerfully as if he had been in a king's
palace, or the great King's palace of the blue air. He has taught
himself two languages since he has been lying there. I SHALL TRY

Secondly, this passage from Stevenson's dedication of VIRGINIBUS
PUERISQUE to "My dear William Ernest Henley":

"These papers are like milestones on the wayside of my life; and as
I look back in memory, there is hardly a stage of that distance but
I see you present with advice, reproof, or praise. Meanwhile, many
things have changed, you and I among the rest; but I hope that our
sympathy, founded on the love of our art, and nourished by mutual
assistance, shall survive these little revolutions, undiminished,
and, with God's help, unite us to the end."

Thirdly, two scraps from letters from Stevenson to Henley, to show
that the latter was not always a depreciator of R. L. Stevenson's

"1. I'm glad to think I owe you the review that pleased me best of
all the reviews I ever had.... To live reading such reviews and die
eating ortolans - sich is my aspiration.

"2. Dear lad, - If there was any more praise in what you wrote, I
think - (the editor who had pruned down Mr Henley's review of
Stevenson's PRINCE OTTO) has done us both a service; some of it
stops my throat. . . . Whether (considering our intimate relations)
you would not do better to refrain from reviewing me, I will leave
to yourself."

And, lastly, this extract from the very last of Stevenson's letters
to Henley, published in the two volumes of LETTERS:

"It is impossible to let your new volume pass in silence. I have
not received the same thrill of poetry since G. M.'s JOY OF EARTH
volume, and LOVE IN A VALLEY; and I do not know that even that was
so intimate and deep. . . . I thank you for the joy you have given
me, and remain your old friend and present huge admirer, R. L. S."

It is difficult to decide on which side in this literary friendship
lies the true modesty and magnanimity? I had rather be the author
of the last message of R. L. Stevenson to W. E. Henley, than of the
last words of W. E. Henley concerning R. L. Stevenson.


MR CHRISTIE MURRAY, writing as "Merlin" in our handbook in the
REFEREE at the time, thus disposed of some of the points just dealt
with by us:

"Here is libel on a large scale, and I have purposely refrained
from approaching it until I could show my readers something of the
spirit in which the whole attack is conceived. 'If he wanted a
thing he went after it with an entire contempt for consequences.
For these, indeed, the Shorter Catechist was ever prepared to
answer; so that whether he did well or ill, he was safe to come out
unabashed and cheerful.' Now if Mr Henley does not mean that for
the very express picture of a rascal without a conscience he has
been most strangely infelicitous in his choice of terms, and he is
one of those who make so strong a profession of duty towards mere
vocables that we are obliged to take him AU PIED DE LA LETTRE. A
man who goes after whatever he wants with an entire contempt of
consequences is a scoundrel, and the man who emerges from such an
enterprise unabashed and cheerful, whatever his conduct may have
been, and justifies himself on the principles of the Shorter
Catechism, is a hypocrite to boot. This is not the report we have
of Robert Louis Stevenson from most of those who knew him. It is a
most grave and dreadful accusation, and it is not minimised by Mr
Henley's acknowledgment that Stevenson was a good fellow. We all
know the air of false candour which lends a disputant so much
advantage in debate. In Victor Hugo's tremendous indictment of
Napoleon le Petit we remember the telling allowance for fine
horsemanship. It spreads an air of impartiality over the most
mordant of Hugo's pages. It is meant to do that. An insignificant
praise is meant to show how a whole Niagara of blame is poured on
the victim of invective in all sincerity, and even with a touch of

"Mr Henley, despite his absurdities of ''Tis' and 'it were,' is a
fairly competent literary craftsman, and he is quite gifted enough
to make a plain man's plain meaning an evident thing if he chose to
do it. But if for the friend for whom 'first and last he did
share' he can only show us the figure of one 'who was at bottom an
excellent fellow,' and who had 'an entire contempt' for the
consequences of his own acts, he presents a picture which can only
purposely be obscured. . . .

"All I know of Robert Louis Stevenson I have learned from his
books, and from one unexpected impromptu letter which he wrote to
me years ago in friendly recognition of my own work. I add the
testimonies of friends who may have been of less actual service to
him than Mr Henley, but who surely loved him better and more
lastingly. These do not represent him as the victim of an
overweening personal vanity, nor as a person reckless of the
consequences of his own acts, nor as a Pecksniff who consoled
himself for moral failure out of the Shorter Catechism. The books
and the friends amongst them show me an erratic yet lovable
personality, a man of devotion and courage, a loyal, charming, and
rather irresponsible person whose very slight faults were counter-
balanced many times over by very solid virtues....

"To put the thing flatly, it is not a heroism to cling to mere
existence. The basest of us can do that. But it is a heroism to
maintain an equable and unbroken cheerfulness in the face of death.
For my own part, I never bowed at the literary shrine Mr Henley and
his friends were at so great pains to rear. I am not disposed to
think more loftily than I ever thought of their idol. But the Man
- the Man was made of enduring valour and childlike charm, and
these will keep him alive when his detractors are dead and buried."

As to the Christian name, it is notorious that he was christened
Robert Lewis - the Lewis being after his maternal grandfather - Dr
Lewis Balfour. Some attempt has been made to show that the Louis
was adopted because so many cousins and relatives had also been so
christened; but the most likely explanation I have ever heard was
that his father changed the name to Louis, that there might be no
chance through it of any notion of association with a very
prominent noisy person of the name of Lewis, in Edinburgh, towards
whom Thomas Stevenson felt dislike, if not positive animosity.
Anyhow, it is clear from the entries in the register of pupils at
the Edinburgh Academy, in the two years when Stevenson was there,
that in early youth he was called Robert only; for in the school
list for 1862 the name appears as Robert Stevenson, without the
Lewis, while in the 1883 list it is given as Lewis Robert
Stevenson. Clearly if in earlier years Stevenson was, in his
family and elsewhere, called ROBERT, there could have then arisen
no risk of confusion with any of his relatives who bore the name of
Lewis; and all this goes to support the view which I have given
above. Anyhow he ceased to be called Robert at home, and ceased in
1863 to be Robert on the Edinburgh Academy list, and became Lewis
Robert. Whether my view is right or not, he was thenceforward
called Louis in his family, and the name uniformly spelt Louis.
What blame on Stevenson's part could be attached to this family
determination it is hard to see - people are absolutely free to
spell their names as they please, and the matter would not be worth
a moment's attention, or the waste of one drop of ink, had not Mr
Henley chosen to be very nasty about the name, and in the PALL MALL
MAGAZINE article persisted in printing it Lewis as though that were
worthy of him and of it. That was not quite the unkindest cut of
all, but it was as unkind as it was trumpery. Mr Christie Murray
neatly set off the trumpery spite of this in the following passage:

"Stevenson, it appears, according to his friend's judgment, was
'incessantly and passionately interested in Stevenson,' but most of
us are incessantly and passionately interested in ourselves. 'He
could not be in the same room with a mirror but he must invite its
confidences every time he passed it.' I remember that George Sala,
who was certainly under no illusion as to his own personal aspect,
made public confession of an identical foible. Mr Henley may not
have an equal affection for the looking-glass, but he is a very
poor and unimaginative reader who does not see him gloating over
the god-like proportions of the shadow he sends sprawling over his
own page. I make free to say that a more self-conscious person
than Mr Henley does not live. 'The best and most interesting part
of Stevenson's life will never get written - even by me,' says Mr

"There is one curious little mark of animus, or one equally curious
affectation - I do not profess to know which, and it is most
probably a compound of the two - in Mr Henley's guardedly spiteful
essay which asks for notice. The dead novelist signed his second
name on his title-pages and his private correspondence 'Louis.' Mr
Henley spells it 'Lewis.' Is this intended to say that Stevenson
took an ornamenting liberty with his own baptismal appellation? If
so, why not say the thing and have done with it? Or is it one of
Mr Henley's wilful ridiculosities? It seems to stand for some sort
of meaning, and to me, at least, it offers a jarring hint of small
spitefulness which might go for nothing if it were not so well
borne out by the general tone of Mr Henley's article. It is a
small matter enough, God knows, but it is precisely because it is
so very small that it irritates."


IN truth, it must indeed be here repeated that Stevenson for the
reason he himself gave about DEACON BRODIE utterly fails in that
healthy hatred of "fools and scoundrels" on which Carlyle somewhat
incontinently dilated. Nor does he, as we have seen, draw the line
between hero and villain of the piece, as he ought to have done;
and, even for his own artistic purposes, has it too much all on one
side, to express it simply. Art demands relief from any one phase
of human nature, more especially of that phase, and even from what
is morbid or exceptional. Admitting that such natures, say as
Huish, the cockney, in the EBB-TIDE on the one side, and Prince
Otto on the other are possible, it is yet absolutely demanded that
they should not stand ALONE, but have their due complement and
balance present in the piece also to deter and finally to tell on
them in the action. If "a knave or villain," as George Eliot aptly
said, is but a fool with a circumbendibus, this not only wants to
be shown, but to have that definite human counterpart and
corrective; and this not in any indirect and perfunctory way, but
in a direct and effective sense. It is here that Stevenson fails -
fails absolutely in most of his work, save the very latest - fails,
as has been shown, in THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, as it were almost
of perverse and set purpose, in lack of what one might call ethical
decision which causes him to waver or seem to waver and wobble in
his judgment of his characters or in his sympathy with them or for
them. Thus he fails to give his readers the proper cue which was
his duty both as man and artist to have given. The highest art and
the lowest are indeed here at one in demanding moral poise, if we
may call it so, that however crudely in the low, and however
artistically and refinedly in the high, vice should not only not be
set forth as absolutely triumphing, nor virtue as being absolutely,
outwardly, and inwardly defeated. It is here the same in the
melodrama of the transpontine theatre as in the tragedies of the
Greek dramatists and Shakespeare. "The evening brings a' 'hame'"
and the end ought to show something to satisfy the innate craving
(for it is innate, thank Heaven! and low and high alike in moments
of ELEVATED IMPRESSION, acknowledge it and bow to it) else there
can scarce be true DENOUEMENT and the sense of any moral rectitude
or law remain as felt or acknowledged in human nature or in the
Universe itself.

Stevenson's toleration and constant sermonising in the essays - his
desire to make us yield allowances all round is so far, it may be,
there in place; but it will not work out in story or play, and
declares the need for correction and limitation the moment that he
essays artistic presentation - from the point of view of art he
lacks at once artistic clearness and decision, and from the point
of view of morality seems utterly loose and confusing. His
artistic quality here rests wholly in his style - mere style, and
he is, alas! a castaway as regards discernment and reading of human
nature in its deepest demands and laws. Herein lies the false
strain that has spoiled much of his earlier work, which renders
really superficial and confusing and undramatic his professedly
dramatic work - which never will and never can commend the hearty
suffrages of a mixed and various theatrical audience in violating
the very first rule of the theatre, and of dramatic creation.

From another point of view this is my answer to Mr Pinero in regard
to the failure of Stevenson to command theatrical success. He
confuses and so far misdirects the sympathies in issues which
strictly are at once moral and dramatic.

I am absolutely at one with Mr Baildon, though I reach my results
from somewhat different grounds from what he does, when he says
this about BEAU AUSTIN, and the reason of its failure - complete
failure - on the stage:

"I confess I should have liked immensely to have seen [? to see]
this piece on the boards; for only then could one be quite sure
whether it could be made convincing to an audience and carry their
sympathies in the way the author intended. Yet the fact that BEAU
AUSTIN, in spite of being 'put on' by so eminent an actor-manager
as Mr Beerbohm Tree, was no great success on the stage, is a fair
proof that the piece lacked some of the essentials, good or bad, of
dramatic success. Now a drama, like a picture or a musical
composition, must have a certain unity of key and tone. You can,
indeed, mingle comedy with tragedy as an interlude or relief from
the strain and stress of the serious interest of the piece. But
you cannot reverse the process and mingle tragedy with comedy.
Once touch the fine spun-silk of the pretty fire-balloon of comedy
with the tragic dagger, and it falls to earth a shrivelled nothing.
And the reason that no melodrama can be great art is just that it
is a compromise between tragedy and comedy, a mixture of tragedy
with comedy and not comedy with tragedy. So in drama, the middle
course, proverbially the safest, is in reality the most dangerous.
Now I maintain that in BEAU AUSTIN we have an element of tragedy.
The betrayal of a beautiful, pure and noble-minded woman is surely
at once the basest act a man can be capable of, and a more tragic
event than death itself to the woman. Richardson, in CLARISSA
HARLOWE, is well aware of this, and is perfectly right in making
his DENOUEMENT tragic. Stevenson, on the other hand, patches up
the matter into a rather tame comedy. It is even much tamer than
it would have been in the case of Lovelace and Clarissa Harlowe;
for Lovelace is a strong character, a man who could have been put
through some crucial atonement, and come out purged and ennobled.
But Beau Austin we feel is but a frip. He endures a few minutes of
sharp humiliation, it is true, but to the spectator this cannot but
seem a very insufficient expiation, not only of the wrong he had
done one woman, but of the indefinite number of wrongs he had done
others. He is at once the villain and the hero of the piece, and
in the narrow limits of a brief comedy this transformation cannot
be convincingly effected. Wrongly or rightly, a theatrical
audience, like the spectators of a trial, demand a definite verdict
and sentence, and no play can satisfy which does not reasonably
meet this demand. And this arises not from any merely Christian
prudery or Puritanism, for it is as true for Greek tragedy and
other high forms of dramatic art."

The transformation of villain into hero, if possible at all, could
only be convincingly effected in a piece of wide scope, where there
was room for working out the effect of some great shock, upheaval
of the nature, change due to deep and unprecedented experiences -
religious conversion, witnessing of sudden death, providential
rescue from great peril of death, or circumstance of that kind; but
to be effective and convincing it needs to be marked and FULLY
JUSTIFIED in some such way; and no cleverness in the writer will
absolve him from deference to this great law in serious work for
presentation on the stage; if mere farces or little comedies may
seem sometimes to contravene it, yet this - even this - is only in

True, it is not the dramatists part OF HIMSELF to condemn, or to
approve, or praise: he has to present, and to present various
characters faithfully in their relation to each other, and their
effect upon each other. But the moral element cannot be expunged
or set lightly aside because it is closely involved in the very
working out and presentation of these relations, and the effect
upon each other. Character is vital. And character, if it tells
in life, in influence and affection, must be made to tell directly
also in the drama. There is no escape from this - none; the
dramatist is lopsided if he tries to ignore it; he is a monster if
he is wholly blind to it - like the poet in IN MEMORIAM, "Without a
conscience or an aim." Mr Henley, in his notorious, all too
confessional, and yet rather affected article on Stevenson in the
PALL MALL MAGAZINE, has a remark which I confess astonished me - a
remark I could never forget as coming from him. He said that he
"had lived a very full and varied life, and had no interest in
remarks about morals." "Remarks about morals" are, nevertheless,
in essence, the pith of all the books to which he referred, as
those to which he turned in preference to the EDINBURGH EDITION of
R. L. Stevenson's works. The moral element is implicit in the
drama, and it is implicit there because it is implicit in life
itself, or so the great common-sense conceives it and demands it.
What we might call the asides proper of the drama, are "remarks
about morals," nothing else - the chorus in the Greek tragedy
gathered up "remarks about morals" as near as might be to the
"remarks about morals" in the streets of that day, only shaped to a
certain artistic consistency. Shakespeare is rich in "remarks
about morals," often coming near, indeed, to personal utterance,
and this not only when Polonius addresses his son before his going
forth on his travels. Mr Henley here only too plainly confessed,
indeed, to lack of that conviction and insight which, had he but
possessed them, might have done a little to relieve BEAU AUSTIN and
the other plays in which he collaborated with R. L. Stevenson, from
their besetting and fatal weakness. The two youths, alas! thought
they could be grandly original by despising, or worse, contemning
"remarks about morals" in the loftier as in the lower sense. To
"live a full and varied life," if the experience derived from it is
to have expression in the drama, is only to have the richer
resource in "remarks about morals." If this is perverted under any
self-conscious notion of doing something spick-and-span new in the
way of character and plot, alien to all the old conceptions, then
we know our writers set themselves boldly at loggerheads with
certain old-fashioned and yet older new-fashioned laws, which
forbid the violation of certain common demands of the ordinary
nature and common-sense; and for the lack of this, as said already,
no cleverness, no resource, no style or graft, will any way make
up. So long as this is tried, with whatever concentration of mind
and purpose, failure is yet inevitable, and the more inevitable the
more concentration and less of humorous by-play, because genius
itself, if it despises the general moral sentiment and instinct for
moral proportion - an ethnic reward and punishment, so to say - is
all astray, working outside the line; and this, if Mr Pinero will
kindly excuse me, is the secret of the failure of these plays, and
not want of concentration, etc., in the sense he meant, or as he
has put it.

Stevenson rather affected what he called "tail-foremost morality,"
a kind of inversion in the field of morals, as De Quincey mixed it
up with tail-foremost humour in MURDER AS A FINE ART, etc., etc.,
but for all such perversions as these the stage is a grand test and
corrector, and such perversions, and not "remarks about morals,"
are most strictly prohibited there. Perverted subtleties of the
sort Stevenson in earlier times especially much affected are not
only amiss but ruinous on the stage; and what genius itself would
maybe sanction, common-sense must reject and rigidly cut away.
Final success and triumph come largely by THIS kind of condensation
and concentration, and the stern and severe lopping off of the
indulgence of the EGOTISTICAL genius, which is human discipline,
and the best exponent of the doctrine of unity also. This is the
straight and the narrow way along which genius, if it walk but
faithfully, sows as it goes in the dramatic pathway all the flowers
of human passion, hope, love, terror, and triumph.

I find it advisable, if not needful, here to reinforce my own
impressions, at some points, by another quotation from Mr Baildon,
if he will allow me, in which Stevenson's dependence in certain
respects on the dream-faculty is emphasised, and to it is traced a
certain tendency to a moral callousness or indifference which is
one of the things in which the waking Stevenson transparently
suffered now and then invasions from the dream-Stevenson - the
result, a kind of spot, as we may call it, on the eye of the moral
sense; it is a small spot; but we know how a very small object held
close before the eye will wholly shut out the most lovely natural
prospects, interposing distressful phantasmagoria, due to the
strained and, for the time, morbid condition of the organ itself.
So, it must be confessed, it is to a great extent here.

But listen to Mr Baildon:

"In A CHAPTER ON DREAMS, Stevenson confesses his indebtedness to
this still mysterious agency. From a child he had been a great and
vivid dreamer, his dreams often taking such frightful shape that he
used to awake 'clinging in terror to the bedpost.' Later in life
his dreams continued to be frequent and vivid, but less terrifying
in character and more continuous and systematic. 'The Brownies,'
as he picturesquely names that 'sub-conscious imagination,' as the
scientist would call it, that works with such surprising freedom
and ingenuity in our dreams, became, as it were, COLLABORATEURS in
his work of authorship. He declares that they invented plots and
even elaborated whole novels, and that, not in a single night or
single dream, but continuously, and from one night to another, like
a story in serial parts. Long before this essay was written or
published, I had been struck by this phantasmal dream-like quality
in some of Stevenson's works, which I was puzzled to account for,
until I read this extraordinary explanation, for explanation it
undoubtedly affords. Anything imagined in a dream would have a
tendency, when retold, to retain something of its dream-like
character, and I have on doubt one could trace in many instances
and distinguish the dreaming and the waking Stevenson, though in
others they may be blended beyond recognition. The trouble with
the Brownies or the dream-Stevenson WAS HIS OR THEIR WANT OF MORAL
SENSE, so that they sometimes presented the waking author with
plots which he could not make use of. Of this Stevenson gives an
instance in which a complete story of marked ingenuity is vetoed
through the moral impossibility of its presentment by a writer so
scrupulous (and in some directions he is extremely scrupulous) as
Stevenson was. But Stevenson admits that his most famous story,
by a dream, but that some of the most important and most criticised
points, such as the matter of the powder, were taken direct from
the dream. It had been extremely instructive and interesting had
he gone more into detail and mentioned some of the other stories
into which the dream-element entered largely and pointed out its
influence, and would have given us a better clue than we have or
now ever can have.

"Even in THE SUICIDE CLUB and the RAJAH'S DIAMOND, I seem to feel
strongly the presence of the dream-Stevenson. . . . AT CERTAIN
But let no one suppose these stories are lacking in vividness and
in strangely realistic detail; for this is of the very nature of
dreaming at its height. . . . While the DRAMATIS PERSONAE play
their parts with the utmost spirit while the story proceeds, they
do not, as the past creations do, seem to survive this first
contact and live in our minds. This is particularly true of the
women. They are well drawn, and play the assigned parts well
enough, but they do not, as a rule, make a place for themselves
either in our hearts or memories. If there is an exception it is
Elvira, in PROVIDENCE AND THE GUITAR; but we remember her chiefly
by the one picture of her falling asleep, after the misadventures
of the night, at the supper-table, with her head on her husband's
shoulder, and her hand locked in his with instinctive, almost
unconscious tenderness."


FROM our point of view it will therefore be seen that we could not
have read Mr George Moore's wonderfully uncritical and misdirected
diatribe against Stevenson in THE DAILY CHRONICLE of 24th April
1897, without amusement, if not without laughter - indeed, we
confess we may here quote Shakespeare's words, we "laughed so
consumedly" that, unless for Mr Moore's high position and his
assured self-confidence, we should not trust ourselves to refer to
it, not to speak of writing about it. It was a review of THE
SECRET ROSE by W. B. Yeats, but it passed after one single touch to
belittling abuse of Stevenson - an abuse that was justified the
more, in Mr Moore's idea, because Stevenson was dead. Had he been
alive he might have had something to say to it, in the way, at
least, of fable and moral. And when towards the close Mr Moore
again quotes from Mr Yeats, it is still "harping on my daughter" to
undo Stevenson, as though a rat was behind the arras, as in HAMLET.
"Stevenson," says he, "is the leader of these countless writers who
perceive nothing but the visible world," and these are antagonistic
to the great literature, of which Mr Yeats's SECRET ROSE is a
survival or a renaissance, a literature whose watchword should be
Mr Yeats's significant phrase, "When one looks into the darkness
there is always something there." No doubt Mr Yeats's product all
along the line ranks with the great literature - unlike Homer,
according to Mr Moore, he never nods, though in the light of great
literature, poor Stevenson is always at his noddings, and more than
that, in the words of Leland's Hans Breitmann, he has "nodings on."
He is poor, naked, miserable - a mere pretender - and has no share
in the makings of great literature. Mr Moore has stripped him to
the skin, and leaves him to the mercy of rain and storm, like Lear,
though Lear had a solid ground to go on in self-aid, which
Stevenson had not; he had daughters, and one of them was Cordelia,
after all. This comes of painting all boldly in black and white:
Mr Yeats is white, R. L. Stevenson is black, and I am sure neither
one nor other, because simply of their self-devotion to their art,
could have subscribed heartily to Mr Moore's black art and white
art theory. Mr Yeats is hardly the truest modern Celtic artist I
take him for, if he can fully subscribe to all this.

Mr Marriott Watson has a little unadvisedly, in my view, too like
ambition, fallen on 'tother side, and celebrated Stevenson as the
master of the horrifying. (11) He even finds the EBB-TIDE, and
Huish, the cockney, in it richly illustrative and grand. "There
never was a more magnificent cad in literature, and never a more
foul-hearted little ruffian. His picture glitters (!) with life,
and when he curls up on the island beach with the bullet in his
body, amid the flames of the vitriol he had intended for another,
the reader's shudder conveys something also, even (!) of regret."

And well it may! Individual taste and opinion are but individual
taste and opinion, but the EBB-TIDE and the cockney I should be
inclined to cite as a specimen of Stevenson's all too facile make-
believe, in which there is too definite a machinery set agoing for
horrors for the horrors to be quite genuine. The process is often
too forced with Stevenson, and the incidents too much of the
manufactured order, for the triumph of that simplicity which is of
inspiration and unassailable. Here Stevenson, alas! all too often,
PACE Mr Marriott Watson, treads on the skirts of E. A. Poe, and
that in his least composed and elevated artistic moments. And
though, it is true, that "genius will not follow rules laid down by
desultory critics," yet when it is averred that "this piece of work
fulfils Aristotle's definition of true tragedy, in accomplishing
upon the reader a certain purification of the emotions by means of
terror and pity," expectations will be raised in many of the new
generation, doomed in the cases of the more sensitive and
discerning, at all events, not to be gratified. There is a
distinction, very bold and very essential, between melodrama,
however carefully worked and staged, and that tragedy to which
Aristotle was there referring. Stevenson's "horrifying," to my
mind, too often touches the trying borders of melodrama, and
nowhere more so than in the very forced and unequal EBB-TIDE,
which, with its rather doubtful moral and forced incident when it
is good, seems merely to borrow from what had gone before, if not a
very little even from some of what came after. No service is done
to an author like Stevenson by fatefully praising him for precisely
the wrong thing.

"Romance attracted Stevenson, at least during the earlier part of
his life, as a lodestone attracts the magnet. To romance he
brought the highest gifts, and he has left us not only essays of
delicate humour" (should this not be "essays FULL OF" OR
"characterised by"?) "and sensitive imagination, but stories also
which thrill with the realities of life, which are faithful
pictures of the times and tempers he dealt with, and which, I
firmly believe, will live so" (should it not be "as"?) "long as our
noble English language."

Mr Marriott Watson sees very clearly in some things; but
occasionally he misses the point. The problem is here raised how
two honest, far-seeing critics could see so very differently on so
simple a subject.

Mr Baildon says about the EBB-TIDE:

"I can compare his next book, the EBB-TIDE (in collaboration with
Osbourne) to little better than a mud-bath, for we find ourselves,
as it were, unrelieved by dredging among the scum and dregs of
humanity, the 'white trash' of the Pacific. Here we have
Stevenson's masterly but utterly revolting incarnation of the
lowest, vilest, vulgarest villainy in the cockney, Huish.
Stevenson's other villains shock us by their cruel and wicked
conduct; but there is a kind of fallen satanic glory about them,
some shining threads of possible virtue. They might have been
good, even great in goodness, but for the malady of not wanting.
But Huish is a creature hatched in slime, his soul has no true
humanity: it is squat and toad-like, and can only spit venom. . .
. He himself felt a sort of revulsive after-sickness for the story,
and calls it in one passage of his VAILIMA LETTERS 'the ever-to-be-
execrated EBB-TIDE' (pp. 178 and 184). . . . He repented of it
like a debauch, and, as with some men after a debauch, felt cleared
and strengthened instead of wrecked. So, after what in one sense
was his lowest plunge, Stevenson rose to the greatest height. That
is the tribute to his virtue and strength indeed, but it does not
change the character of the EBB-TIDE as 'the ever-to-be-

Mr Baildon truly says (p. 49):

"The curious point is that Stevenson's own great fault, that
tendency to what has been called the 'Twopence-coloured' style, is
always at its worst in books over which he collaborated."

"Verax," in one of his "Occasional Papers" in the DAILY NEWS on
"The Average Reader" has this passage:

"We should not object to a writer who could repeat Barrie in A
WINDOW IN THRUMS, nor to one who would paint a scene as Louis
Stevenson paints Attwater alone on his South Sea island, the
approach of the pirates to the harbour, and their subsequent
reception and fate. All these are surely specimens of brilliant
writing, and they are brilliant because, in the first place, they
give truth. The events described must, in the supposed
circumstances, and with the given characters, have happened in the
way stated. Only in none of the specimens have we a mere
photograph of the outside of what took place. We have great
pictures by genius of the - to the prosaic eye - invisible
realities, as well as of the outward form of the actions. We
behold and are made to feel the solemnity, the wildness, the
pathos, the earnestness, the agony, the pity, the moral squalor,
the grotesque fun, the delicate and minute beauty, the natural
loveliness and loneliness, the quiet desperate bravery, or whatever
else any of these wonderful pictures disclose to our view. Had we
been lookers-on, we, the average readers, could not have seen these
qualities for ourselves. But they are there, and genius enables us
to see them. Genius makes truth shine.

"Is it not, therefore, probable that the brilliancy which we
average readers do not want, and only laugh at when we get it, is
something altogether different? I think I know what it is. It is
an attempt to describe with words without thoughts, an effort to
make readers see something the writer has never seen himself in his
mind's eye. He has no revelation, no vision, nothing to disclose,
and to produce an impression uses words, words, words, makes daub,
daub, daub, without any definite purpose, and certainly without any
real, or artistic, or definite effect. To describe, one must first
of all see, and if we see anything the description of it will, as
far as it is in us, come as effortless and natural as the leaves on
trees, or as 'the tender greening of April meadows.' I, therefore,
more than suspect that the brilliancy which the average reader
laughs at is not brilliancy. A pot of flaming red paint thrown at
a canvas does not make a picture."

Now there is vision for outward picture or separate incident, which
may exist quite apart from what may be called moral, spiritual, or
even loftily imaginative conception, at once commanding unity and
commanding it. There can be no doubt of Stevenson's power in the
former line - the earliest as the latest of his works are witnesses
to it. THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE abounds in picture and incident
and dramatic situations and touches; but it lacks true unity, and
the reason simply is given by Stevenson himself - that the "ending
shames, perhaps degrades, the beginning," as it is in the EBB-TIDE,
with the cockney Huish, "execrable." "We have great pictures by
genius of the - to the prosaic eye - invisible realities, as well
as the outward form of the action." True, but the "invisible
realities" form that from which true unity is derived, else their
partial presence but makes the whole the more incomplete and lop-
sided, if not indeed, top-heavy, from light weight beneath; and it
is in the unity derived from this higher pervading, yet not too
assertive "invisible reality," that Stevenson most often fails, and
is, in his own words, "execrable"; the ending shaming, if not
degrading, the beginning - "and without the true sense of
pleasurableness; and therefore really imperfect IN ESSENCE." Ah,
it is to be feared that Stevenson, viewing it in retrospect, was a
far truer critic of his own work, than many or most of his all too
effusive and admiring critics - from Lord Rosebery to Mr Marriott

Amid the too extreme deliverances of detractors and especially of
erewhile friends, become detractors or panegyrists, who disturb
judgment by overzeal, which is often but half-blindness, it is
pleasant to come on one who bears the balances in his hand, and
will report faithfully as he has seen and felt, neither more nor
less than what he holds is true. Mr Andrew Lang wrote an article
in the MORNING POST of 16th December 1901, under the title
"Literary Quarrels," in which, as I think, he fulfilled his part in
midst of the talk about Mr Henley's regrettable attack on

"Without defending the character of a friend whom even now I almost
daily miss, as that character was displayed in circumstances
unknown to me, I think that I ought to speak of him as I found him.
Perhaps our sympathy was mainly intellectual. Constantly do those
who knew him desire to turn to him, to communicate with him, to
share with him the pleasure of some idea, some little discovery
about men or things in which he would have taken pleasure,
increasing our own by the gaiety of his enjoyment, the brilliance
of his appreciation. We may say, as Scott said at the grave of
John Ballantyne, that he has taken with him half the sunlight out
of our lives. That he was sympathetic and interested in the work
of others (which I understand has been denied) I have reason to
know. His work and mine lay far apart: mine, I think, we never
discussed, I did not expect it to interest him. But in a
fragmentary manuscript of his after his death I found the unlooked
for and touching evidence of his kindness. Again, he once wrote to
me from Samoa about the work of a friend of mine whom he had never
met. His remarks were ideally judicious, a model of serviceable
criticism. I found him chivalrous as an honest boy; brave, with an
indomitable gaiety of courage; on the point of honour, a Sydney or
a Bayard (so he seemed to me); that he was open-handed I have
reason to believe; he took life 'with a frolic welcome.' That he
was self-conscious, and saw himself as it were, from without; that
he was fond of attitude (like his own brave admirals) he himself
knew well, and I doubt not that he would laugh at himself and his
habit of 'playing at' things after the fashion of childhood.
Genius is the survival into maturity of the inspiration of
childhood, and Stevenson is not the only genius who has retained
from childhood something more than its inspiration. Other examples
readily occur to the memory - in one way Byron, in another
Tennyson. None of us is perfect: I do not want to erect an
immaculate clay-cold image of a man, in marble or in sugar-candy.
But I will say that I do not remember ever to have heard Mr
Stevenson utter a word against any mortal, friend or foe. Even in
a case where he had, or believed himself to have, received some
wrong, his comment was merely humorous. Especially when very
young, his dislike of respectability and of the BOURGEOIS (a
literary tradition) led him to show a kind of contempt for virtues
which, though certainly respectable, are no less certainly
virtuous. He was then more or less seduced by the Bohemian legend,
but he was intolerant of the fudge about the rights and privileges
of genius. A man's first business, he thought, was 'keep his end
up' by his work. If, what he reckoned his inspired work would not
serve, then by something else. Of many virtues he was an ensample
and an inspiring force. One foible I admit: the tendency to
inopportune benevolence. Mr Graham Balfour says that if he fell
into ill terms with a man he would try to do him good by stealth.
Though he had seen much of the world and of men, this practice
showed an invincible ignorance of mankind. It is improbable, on
the doctrine of chances, that he was always in the wrong; and it is
probable, as he was human, that he always thought himself in the
right. But as the other party to the misunderstanding, being also
human, would necessarily think himself in the right, such secret
benefits would be, as Sophocles says, 'the gifts of foeman and
unprofitable.' The secret would leak out, the benefits would be
rejected, the misunderstanding would be embittered. This reminds
me of an anecdote which is not given in Mr Graham Balfour's
biography. As a little delicate, lonely boy in Edinburgh, Mr
Stevenson read a book called MINISTERING CHILDREN. I have a faint
recollection of this work concerning a small Lord and Lady
Bountiful. Children, we know, like to 'play at' the events and
characters they have read about, and the boy wanted to play at
being a ministering child. He 'scanned his whole horizon' for
somebody to play with, and thought he had found his playmate. From
the window he observed street boys (in Scots 'keelies') enjoying
themselves. But one child was out of the sports, a little lame
fellow, the son of a baker. Here was a chance! After some
misgivings Louis hardened his heart, put on his cap, walked out - a
refined little figure - approached the object of his sympathy, and
said, 'Will you let me play with you?' 'Go to hell!' said the
democratic offspring of the baker. This lesson against doing good
by stealth to persons of unknown or hostile disposition was, it
seems, thrown away. Such endeavours are apt to be misconstrued."


THE complete artist should not be mystical-moralist any more than
the man who "perceives only the visible world" - he should not
engage himself with problems in the direct sense any more than he
should blind himself to their effect upon others, whom he should
study, and under certain conditions represent, though he should not
commit himself to any form of zealot faith, yet should he not be,
as Lord Tennyson puts it in the Palace of Art:

"As God holding no form of creed,
But contemplating all,"

because his power lies in the broadness of his humanity touched to
fine issues whenever there is the seal at once of truth, reality,
and passion, and the tragedy bred of their contact and conflict.

All these things are to him real and clamant in the measure that
they aid appeal to heart and emotion - in the measure that they
may, in his hands, be made to tell for sympathy and general effect.
He creates an atmosphere in which each and all may be seen the more
effectively, but never seen alone or separate, but only in strict
relation to each other that they may heighten the sense of some
supreme controlling power in the destinies of men, which with the
ancients was figured as Fate, and for which the moderns have hardly
yet found an enduring and exhaustive name. Character revealed in
reference to that, is the ideal and the aim of all high creative
art. Stevenson's narrowness, allied to a quaint and occasionally
just a wee pedantic finickiness, as we may call it - an over-
elaborate, almost tricky play with mere words and phrases, was in
so far alien to the very highest - he was too often like a man
magnetised and moving at the dictates of some outside influence
rather than according to his own freewill and as he would.

Action in creative literary art is a SINE QUA NON; keeping all the
characters and parts in unison, that a true DENOUEMENT, determined
by their own tendencies and temperaments, may appear; dialogue and
all asides, if we may call them so, being supererogatory and weak
really unless they aid this and are constantly contributory to it.
Egotistical predeterminations, however artfully intruded, are,
alien to the full result, the unity which is finally craved:
Stevenson fails, when he does fail, distinctly from excess of
egotistic regards; he is, as Henley has said, in the French sense,
too PERSONNEL, and cannot escape from it. And though these
personal regards are exceedingly interesting and indeed fascinating
from the point of view of autobiographical study, they are, and
cannot but be, a drawback on fiction or the disinterested
revelation of life and reality. Instead, therefore, of "the
visible world," as the only thing seen, Stevenson's defect is, that
between it and him lies a cloud strictly self-projected, like
breath on a mirror, which dims the lines of reality and confuses
the character marks, in fact melting them into each other; and in
his sympathetic regards, causing them all to become too much alike.
Scott had more of the power of healthy self-withdrawal, creating
more of a free atmosphere, in which his characters could freely
move - though in this, it must be confessed, he failed far more
with women than with men. The very defects poor Carlyle found in
Scott, and for which he dealt so severely with him, as sounding no
depth, are really the basis of his strength, precisely as the
absence of them were the defects of Goethe, who invariably ran his
characters finally into the mere moods of his own mind and the
mould of his errant philosophy, so that they became merely erratic
symbols without hold in the common sympathy. Whether
- the company before all is done are translated into misty shapes
that he actually needs to label for our identification and for his
own. Even Mr G. H. Lewes saw this and could not help declaring his
own lack of interest in the latter parts of Goethe's greatest
efforts. Stevenson, too, tends to run his characters into symbols
- his moralist-fabulist determinations are too much for him - he
would translate them into a kind of chessmen, moved or moving on a
board. The essence of romance strictly is, that as the characters
will not submit themselves to the check of reality, the romancer
may consciously, if it suits him, touch them at any point with the
magic wand of symbol, and if he finds a consistency in mere
fanciful invention it is enough. Tieck's PHANTASUS and George
MacDonald's PHANTASTES are ready instances illustrative of this.
But it is very different with the story of real life, where there
is a definite check in the common-sense and knowledge of the
reader, and where the highest victory always lies in drawing from
the reader the admission - "that is life - life exactly as I have
seen and known it. Though I could never have put it so, still it
only realises my own conception and observation. That is something
lovingly remembered and re-presented, and this master makes me
lovingly remember too, though 'twas his to represent and reproduce
with such vigor, vividness and truth that he carried me with him,
exactly as though I had been looking on real men and women playing
their part or their game in the great world."

Mr Zangwill, in his own style, wrote:

"He seeks to combine the novel of character with the novel of
adventure; to develop character through romantic action, and to
bring out your hero at the end of the episode, not the fixed
character he was at the beginning, as is the way of adventure
books, but a modified creature. . . . It is his essays and his
personality, rather than his novels, that will count with
posterity. On the whole, a great provincial writer. Whether he
has that inherent grip which makes a man's provinciality the very
source of his strength . . . only the centuries can show.

The romanticist to the end pursued Stevenson - he could not, wholly
or at once, shake off the bonds in which he had bound himself to
his first love, and it was the romanticist crossed by the casuist,
and the mystic - Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Markheim and Will of the
Mill, insisted on his acknowledging them in his work up to the end.
THE MODIFIED CREATURE at the end of Mr Zangwill was modified too
directly by the egotistic element as well as through the romantic
action, and this point missed the great defect was missed, and Mr
Zangwill spoke only in generals.

M. Schwob, after having related how unreal a real sheep's heart
looked when introduced on the end of Giovanni's dagger in a French
performance of John Ford's ANNABELLA AND GIOVANNI, and how at the
next performance the audience was duly thrilled when Annabella's
bleeding heart, made of a bit of red flannel, was borne upon the
stage, goes on to say significantly:

"Il me semble que les personnages de Stevenson ont justement cette
espece de realisme irreal. La large figure luisante de Long John,
la couleur bleme du crane de Thevenin Pensete s'attachent a la
memoire de nos yeux en vertue de leur irrealite meme. Ce sont des
fantomes de la verite, hallucinants comme de vrais fantomes. Notez
en passant que les traits de John Silver hallucinent Jim Hawkins,
et que Francois Villon est hante par l'aspect de Thevenin Pensete."

Perhaps the most notable fact arising here, and one that well
deserves celebration, is this, that Stevenson's development towards
a broader and more natural creation was coincident with a definite
return on the religious views which had so powerfully prevailed
with his father - a circumstance which it is to be feared did not,
any more than some other changes in him, at all commend itself to
Mr Henley, though he had deliberately dubbed him even in the times
of nursing nigh to the Old Bristo Port in Edinburgh - something of
"Shorter Catechist." Anyway Miss Simpson deliberately wrote:

"Mr Henley takes exception to Stevenson's later phase in life -
what he calls his 'Shorter Catechism phase.' It should be
remembered that Mr Henley is not a Scotsman, and in some things has
little sympathy with Scotch characteristics. Stevenson, in his
Samoan days, harked back to the teaching of his youth; the tenets
of the Shorter Catechism, which his mother and nurse had dinned
into his head, were not forgotten. Mr Henley knew him best, as
Stevenson says in the preface to VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE dedicated to
Henley, 'when he lived his life at twenty-five.' In these days he
had [in some degree] forgotten about the Shorter Catechism, but the
'solemn pause' between Saturday and Monday came back in full force
to R. L. Stevenson in Samoa."

Now to me that is a most suggestive and significant fact. It will
be the business of future critics to show in how far such falling
back would of necessity modify what Mr Baildon has set down as his
corner-stone of morality, and how far it was bound to modify the
atmosphere - the purely egotistic, hedonistic, and artistic
atmosphere, in which, in his earlier life as a novelist, at all
events, he had been, on the whole, for long whiles content to work.


WHAT is very remarkable in Stevenson is that a man who was so much
the dreamer of dreams - the mystic moralist, the constant
questioner and speculator on human destiny and human perversity,
and the riddles that arise on the search for the threads of motive
and incentives to human action - moreover, a man, who constantly
suffered from one of the most trying and weakening forms of ill-
health - should have been so full-blooded, as it were, so keen for
contact with all forms of human life and character, what is called
the rougher and coarser being by no means excluded. Not only this:
he was himself a rover - seeking daily adventure and contact with
men and women of alien habit and taste and liking. His patience is
supported by his humour. He was a bit of a vagabond in the good
sense of the word, and always going round in search of "honest
men," like Diogenes, and with no tub to retire into or the desire
for it. He thus on this side touches the Chaucers and their
kindred, as well as the Spensers and Dantes and their often
illusive CONFRERES. His voyage as a steerage passenger across the
Atlantic is only one out of a whole chapter of such episodes, and
is more significant and characteristic even than the TRAVELS WITH A
DONKEY IN THE CEVENNES or the INLAND VOYAGE. These might be ranked
with the "Sentimental Journeys" that have sometimes been the
fashion - that was truly of a prosaic and risky order. The appeal
thus made to an element deep in the English nature will do much to
keep his memory green in the hearts that could not rise to
appreciation of his style and literary gifts at all. He loves the
roadways and the by-ways, and those to be met with there - like him
in this, though unlike him in most else. The love of the roadsides
and the greenwood - and the queer miscellany of life there unfolded
and ever changing - a kind of gipsy-like longing for the tent and
familiar contact with nature and rude human-nature in the open
dates from beyond Chaucer, and remains and will have gratification
- the longing for novelty and all the accidents, as it were, of
pilgrimage and rude social travel. You see it bubble up, like a
true and new nature-spring, through all the surface coatings of
culture and artificiality, in Stevenson. He anew, without
pretence, enlivens it - makes it first a part of himself, and then
a part of literature once more. Listen to him, as he sincerely
sings this passion for the pilgrimage - or the modern phase of it -
innocent vagabond roving:

"Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me;
Give the jolly heaven above,
And the by-way nigh me:
Bed in the bush, with stars to see;
Bread I dip in the river -
Here's the life for a man like me,
Here's the life for ever....

"Let the blow fall soon or late;
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Health I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me:
All I ask the heaven above,
And the road below me."

True; this is put in the mouth of another, but Stevenson could not
have so voiced it, had he not been the born rover that he was, with
longing for the roadside, the high hills, and forests and newcomers
and varied miscellaneous company. Here he does more directly speak
in his own person and quite to the same effect:

"I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird song at morning, and star shine at night,
I will make a palace fit for you and me,
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.

"I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,
Where white flows the river, and bright blows the broom,
And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white,
In rainfall at morning and dew-fall at night.

"And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches, and the roadside fire."

Here Stevenson, though original in his vein and way, but follows a
great and gracious company in which Fielding and Sterne and so many
others stand as pleasant proctors. Scott and Dickens have each in
their way essayed it, and made much of it beyond what mere
sentiment would have reached. PICKWICK itself - and we must always
regard Dickens as having himself gone already over every bit of
road, described every nook and corner, and tried every resource -
is a vagrant fellow, in a group of erratic and most quaint
wanderers or pilgrims. This is but a return phase of it; Vincent
Crummles and Mrs Crummles and the "Infant Phenomenon," yet another.
The whole interest lies in the roadways, and the little inns, and
the odd and unexpected RENCONTRES with oddly-assorted fellows there
experienced: glimpses of grim or grimy, or forbidding, or happy,
smiling smirking vagrants, and out-at-elbows fellow-passengers and
guests, with jests and quips and cranks, and hanky-panky even. On
high roads and in inns, and alehouses, with travelling players,
rogues and tramps, Dickens was quite at home; and what is yet more,
he made us all quite at home with them: and he did it as Chaucer
did it by thorough good spirits and "hail-fellow-well-met." And,
with all his faults, he has this merit as well as some others, that
he went willingly on pilgrimage always, and took others, promoting
always love of comrades, fun, and humorous by-play. The latest
great romancer, too, took his side: like Dickens, he was here full
brother of Dan Chaucer, and followed him. How characteristic it is
when he tells Mr Trigg that he preferred Samoa to Honolulu because
it was more savage, and therefore yielded more FUN.


IMMEDIATELY on reading Lord Rosebery's address as Chairman of the
meeting in Edinburgh to promote the erection of a monument to R. L.
Stevenson, I wrote to him politely asking him whether, since he
quoted a passage from a somewhat early essay by Stevenson naming
the authors who had chiefly influenced him in point of style, his
Lordship should not, merely in justice and for the sake of balance,
have referred to Thoreau. I also remarked that Stevenson's later
style sometimes showed too much self-conscious conflict of his
various models in his mind while he was in the act of writing, and
that this now and then imparted too much an air of artifice to his
later compositions, and that those who knew most would be most
troubled by it. Of that letter, I much regret now that I did not
keep any copy; but I think I did incidentally refer to the
friendship with which Stevenson had for so many years honoured me.
This is a copy of the letter received in reply:

17th DECEMBER 1896.

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