January 9th, 2018

Robert Louis Stevenson, changer

Robert Louis Stevenson is one of those writers I connect with childhood, where he loomed large.

A Child’s Garden of Verses and Treasure Island, of course (which I now see were published in the same year), and then the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And although the only works of his I’ve actually read are those for children, his oeuvre was certainly not limited to that. It included musical compositions for the flageolet (which is a sort of recorder and not a bean, although beans have been called “the musical fruit“).

Stevenson and Longfellow seemed to have long ago merged in my head. But in an effort to differentiate them (sparked by seeing this painting earlier today) I decided to do a bit of research on Stevenson. Lo and behold, I discovered much interesting stuff in his Wiki profile. He was quite the youthful rebel in his twenties, in a way that sounds mighty familiar:

His dress became more Bohemian; he already wore his hair long, but he now took to wearing a velveteen jacket and rarely attended parties in conventional evening dress. Within the limits of a strict allowance, he visited cheap pubs and brothels. More importantly, he had come to reject Christianity and declared himself an atheist. In January 1873, his father came across the constitution of the LJR (Liberty, Justice, Reverence) Club, of which Stevenson and his cousin Bob were members, which began: “Disregard everything our parents have taught us”. Questioning his son about his beliefs, he discovered the truth, leading to a long period of dissension with both parents…

As for politics, the following should sound extremely familiar:

Stevenson remained a staunch Tory for most of his life…During his college years, he briefly identified himself as a “red-hot socialist”. By 1877, at only twenty-six years of age and before having written most of his major fictional works, Stevenson reflected: “For my part, I look back to the time when I was a Socialist with something like regret. I have convinced myself (for the moment) that we had better leave these great changes to what we call great blind forces: their blindness being so much more perspicacious than the little, peering, partial eyesight of men…

But Stevenson was not too happy about the change, although he remained a conservative:

Now I know that in thus turning Conservative with years, I am going through the normal cycle of change and travelling in the common orbit of men’s opinions. I submit to this, as I would submit to gout or gray hair, as a concomitant of growing age or else of failing animal heat; but I do not acknowledge that it is necessarily a change for the better—I dare say it is deplorably for the worse.”

If you read his Wiki entry or other accounts of his activities, you’ll see that Stevenson suffered from ill health almost continually but lived an incredibly varied and energetic life not just in terms of writing (and of music: “over 123 original musical compositions or arrangements, including solos, duets, trios and quartets for various combinations of flageolet, flute, clarinet, violin, guitar, mandolin, and piano”), but he was especially well-traveled in an age in which travel was a long and difficult undertaking. He lived in many lands, including California, and ended up in Samoa. His literary reputation has waxed and waned over the years and then waxed again.

It’s shocking to read an account of Stevenson’s life and all his accomplishments and realize that he died at the ripe old age of only 44. He packed quite a lot into it, and he himself said towards the end of his life, “sick and well, I have had splendid life of it, grudge nothing, regret very little .”

15 Responses to “Robert Louis Stevenson, changer”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    Time to pile all copies of all his books out into a big big pile and set them on fire.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    vanderleun:

    Why?

  3. n.n Says:

    Why?

    They may have occult, conservative content, which will influence people and society’s progression.

  4. The Other Chuck Says:

    Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is the place where the famous author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped spent his honeymoon in 1880. Although nothing remains of Stevenson’s cabin, the site is identified on the trail to the summit.

    The area features rough terrain, with evergreen forests in the canyons on north-facing slopes and chaparral on the south-facing slopes.

    There is a five-mile hike to the top of Mt. St. Helena from which one can see much of the San Francisco Bay Area. On good days the top of Mt. Shasta can be seen, 192 miles in the distance.

    To protect the park’s wildlife and other natural resources, dogs are not permitted in this park.

    View of the Napa Valley looking toward Calistoga from the park:
    https://i.pinimg.com/736x/9b/49/35/9b4935e91bc0c91452f20221e5f6acf6–louis-stevenson-robert-louis.jpg

    Most of the trails have been closed since the Tubb’s Fire, but the park was saved.

  5. vanderleun Says:

    I was posting under the sign of Sardonicus.

  6. vanderleun Says:

    Sort of a Conservative version of the One-Drop-Rule as applied to those who introduce an element of conservatism into a canon previously known for progressive or politically neutral positions.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    vanderleun:

    Got it.

  8. chuck Says:

    The last book of his I read was “Kidnapped”, and that some time ago. But I recall being impressed by how well written it was, the prose just flowed.

  9. The Other Chuck Says:

    died at…only 44.

    Jack London was 41, Chopin & Mozart were 39, and Schubert & Joyce Kilmer were 31. Genius and talent seem to manifest in youth, with some exceptions like George Eliot. The plodding old man’s music of late Brahms still shows workable genius, but doesn’t doesn’t have that fresh vitality.

  10. The Other Chuck Says:

    Correction (had to look it up) – Mozart was 35. My old man’s memory proves my point.

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    The Other Chuck:

    Don’t forget Irving Thalberg. The guy was some kind of movie genius with an amazing life story, although his life was short.

  12. AesopFan Says:

    The Other Chuck Says:
    January 9th, 2018 at 6:38 pm
    died at…only 44.

    Jack London was 41, Chopin & Mozart were 39, and Schubert & Joyce Kilmer were 31. Genius and talent seem to manifest in youth, with some exceptions like George Eliot. The plodding old man’s music of late Brahms still shows workable genius, but doesn’t doesn’t have that fresh vitality.

    The Other Chuck Says:
    January 9th, 2018 at 6:41 pm
    Correction (had to look it up) – Mozart was 35. My old man’s memory proves my point.

    ***
    “When Mozart was my age, he had been dead two years…”

  13. AesopFan Says:

    vanderleun Says:
    January 9th, 2018 at 1:37 pm
    Time to pile all copies of all his books out into a big big pile and set them on fire.

    n.n Says:
    January 9th, 2018 at 2:05 pm
    Why?

    They may have occult, conservative content, which will influence people and society’s progression.

    vanderleun Says:
    January 9th, 2018 at 4:41 pm
    Sort of a Conservative version of the One-Drop-Rule as applied to those who introduce an element of conservatism into a canon previously known for progressive or politically neutral positions.
    * * *
    Egad, an actual example of the Milkshake Duck meme!

    I suspect RLS would fall to the legions of SJW PC brigades for “cultural appropriation” and “heteropatriarchy” — if any of them read enough to spot him among the classics of literature.
    I’m not sure where he would appear amongst the “Three Pillars of White Supremacy” but he’s bound to be there.

    https://www.cpt.org/files/Undoing%20Racism%20-%20Three%20Pillars%20-%20Smith.pdf

    “Envision three pillars, one labeled Slavery/Capitalism,
    another labeled Genocide/Colonialism, and the
    last one labeled Orientalism/War, as well as
    arrows connecting each of the pillars together.”

    FWIW,
    I watched “Kidnapped” recently in an old VHS copy of the movie starring Armand Assante & Brian McCardie. I enjoyed it; I understand it helps to have someone speak the (somewhat edited) Scots dialect, instead of trying to decipher it on ones own. I have the same problem with George MacDonald’s books, and preferred the abridged “translations” with just enough dialect to keep one in the milieu of the story.
    Although I confess to never having read the book, I do have its sequel “Catriona” (also not yet read), which was an unusual acquisition as I didn’t even know it existed.

    I have the dubious distinction of having written and directed a parody mash-up of “Treasure Island” with “The Princess Bride” and “Star Wars” plus a bit of “Pirates of Penzance” (in spirit), including music and dancing (!), for our church youth group to perform.
    They did quite well, and all of them got to use the swords, which made me very popular and wonderfully run after.

  14. om Says:

    For those who may be interested in Stevenson’s background and the family reputation and significance

    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/bella-bathurst/the-lighthouse-stevensons/

    It is a very good book.

  15. Caedmon Says:

    Wow, how am I going to get anything done this damp January morning with so many interesting things to follow up.

    The flageolet, BTW, is a grand name for the pennywhistle, much played in British and Irish pubs and nowhere else as far as I know. I had no idea anyone composed for it. Writing for the guitar was quite unusual in the 19th Century too.

    I’ll endorse Bella Bathurst too. She writes well about the sea.

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