Robert Louis Stevenson
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
The Complete Works of Robert Louis Stevenson in 35 volumes by Robert Louis Stevenson Summary
Robert Louis Stevenson has always been a writer’s writer. Contemporaries like Arthur Conan Doyle and Henry James were awed by his kaleidoscopic invention and the flawless “English” of his prose, while later authors like Somerset Maugham and Robertson Davies, drawn to the physical and psychological exotica of his subject, introduced him into their own writing—a quasi-postmodernist way of elevating their own status by alluding to his achievement and doffing their hats at the same time. Yet Stevenson was also, and perhaps foremost, a reader’s writer, a phrase that has less currency but far greater reach. Jorge Luis Borges offered it as his belief that Stevenson brought happiness to more people than any other author, although the observation was admittedly made before the age of the megamarket paperback. The great Argentinean, who late in life could refer to details from Stevenson’s earliest short stories with astonishing accuracy, clearly derived immense pleasure in conjuring up ficciones that he read as a young man. His example illuminates an experience shared by all sorts and conditions of Stevenson readers: they remember him, or come to him, from the profusion of his compositions, and even from forms, like cinema, that his work was subsequently incorporated into. One reader might have a dim memory of a line or two that was read to her when she was a small child (“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me”). Another recalls the dark and searching N.C. Wyeth illustration of Blind Pew, his tapping stick motionless as he hovers, crook-backed, before the “Admiral Benbow.” For countless numbers Stevenson emerged from chiaroscuro images of Spencer Tracy or Frederick March as the eponymous Jekyll/Hyde, or more recently from John Malkovich and Julia Roberts in Mary Reilly, Valerie Martin’s revision of filmdom’s favorite doppelganger movie. These bit examples barely convey Stevenson’s ubiquity in general culture. The name has more popular recognition than most other authors (Shakespeare, Austen, Twain always excepted) yet people are continually surprised when they discover how widely the writer is quoted, indeed how proverbial he has become (“Home is the sailor, home from sea,/ And the hunter home from the hill”; “Marriage…is a field of battle, and not a bed of roses”; “Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary”; “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest / Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”). Stevenson was the first modernist writer to systematically experiment with grafting serious matter onto popular forms. He virtually invented the twentieth century short story; he breathed new life into a tired and tedious Victorian essay without stripping it of its importance; he brought psychological realism into historical fiction, and adapted the mode as well in his studies of contemporary life in the South Seas. As for language, he did for English what Goethe did for German, and elevated his own Scots tongue to a level of art that had not been matched since Walter Scott. Stevenson’s work—short and long fiction, travel writing, poetry, essays, and letters (he was one of the great letter writers of the nineteenth century) will ensorcell readers with a writer who, like Ernest Hemingway, is that rare figure whose prose at its best is dateless, and one whose intellectual theories of art and culture are perhaps more compelling today because we are better prepared to understand them. This edition of the Works contains all of Stevenson's known works, including the novels, short stories, essays, plays and a substantial collection of letters, plus both the version of 'The Beach of Falesá' originally published and the unexpurgated version only discovered in the 1980s. This includes some material written in collaboration. The contents of the volumes are: Volume 1 (237 pp.): Critical introduction to the Works by Dr. Barry Menikoff; New Arabian Nights Volume 2 (171 pp.): Treasure Island Volume 3 (158 pp.): The Dynamiter Volume 4 (144 pp.): Prince Otto Volume 5 (157 pp.): Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Fables; other stories and fragments Volume 6 (175 pp.): Kidnapped Volume 7 (218 pp.): Catriona Volume 8 (165 pp.): The Merry Men and other stories Volume 9 (195 pp.): The Black Arrow Volume 10 (288 pp.): The Wrecker Volume 11 (154 pp.): The Wrong Box; The Body-Snatchers Volume 12 (180 pp.): The Master of Ballantrae Volume 13 (205 pp.): Island Nights' Entertainments; The Beach of Falesá (unexpurgated); The Misadventures of John Nicholson Volume 14 (155 pp.): The Ebb-Tide; The Story of a Lie Volume 15 (286 pp.): St. Ives Volume 16 (189 pp.): Weir of Hermiston; some unfinished stories Volume 17 (179 pp.): An Inland Voyage; Travels with a Donkey Volume 18 (187 pp.): The Amateur Emigrant; The Old and New Pacific Capitals; The Silverado Squatters; The Silverado Diary (excerpts) Volume 19 (224 pp.): Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin; Records of a Family of Engineers Volume 20 (222 pp.): In the South Seas Volume 21 (249 pp.): Vailima Papers including Letters from the South Seas and A Footnote to History; An Object of Pity Volume 22 (244 pp.): Poems, volume I. Volume 23 (306 pp.): Poems, volume II. Volume 24 (239 pp.): Plays Volume 25 (146 pp.): Virginibus Puerisque Volume 26 (137 pp.): Ethical Studies; Edinburgh Picturesque Notes Volume 27 (178 pp.): Familiar Studies of Men and Books Volume 28 (146 pp.): Essays Literary and Critical Volume 29 (138 pp.): Memories and Portraits and other fragments Volume 30 (139 pp.): Further Memories Volume 31 (176 pp.): Letters, volume I. Volume 32 (245 pp.): Letters, volume II. Volume 33 (243 pp.): Letters, volume III. Volume 34 (192 pp.): Letters, volume IV. Volume 35 (139 pp.): Letters, volume V. All of the Works have been newly typeset for this edition. The texts have been taken from the Tusitala Edition prepared by Lloyd Osborne with Stevenson's widow (London: William Heinemann, Ltd., inter alia, 1923, 35 vols.), with the exception of the unexpurgated version of The Beach of Falesá, which has been taken from the 1987 Stanford University Press (edited by Barry Menikoff) by permission of Stanford University Press, and An Object of Pity, which has been taken from the 1900 New York Dodd, Mead edition. Dr. Barry Menikoff (University of Hawaii) has contributed an introduction to the Works as a whole, printed in volume 1.