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Title: Robert Louis Stevenson
Author: Black, Margaret Moyes
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Robert Louis Stevenson" ***

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ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON


FAMOUS SCOTS SERIES

_The following Volumes are now ready:--_


THOMAS CARLYLE. By HECTOR C. MACPHERSON.

ALLAN RAMSAY. By OLIPHANT SMEATON.

HUGH MILLER. By W. KEITH LEASK.

JOHN KNOX. By A. TAYLOR INNES.

ROBERT BURNS. By GABRIEL SETOUN.

THE BALLADISTS. By JOHN GEDDIE.

RICHARD CAMERON. By Professor HERKLESS.

SIR JAMES Y. SIMPSON. By EVE BLANTYRE SIMPSON.

THOMAS CHALMERS. By Professor W. GARDEN BLAIKIE.

JAMES BOSWELL. By W. KEITH LEASK.

TOBIAS SMOLLETT. By OLIPHANT SMEATON.

FLETCHER OF SALTOUN. By G. W. T. OMOND.

THE BLACKWOOD GROUP. By Sir GEORGE DOUGLAS.

NORMAN MACLEOD. By JOHN WELLWOOD.

SIR WALTER SCOTT. By Professor SAINTSBURY.

KIRKCALDY OF GRANGE. By LOUIS A. BARBÉ.

ROBERT FERGUSSON. By A. B. GROSART.

JAMES THOMSON. By WILLIAM BAYNE.

MUNGO PARK. By T. BANKS MACLACHLAN.

DAVID HUME. By Professor CALDERWOOD.

WILLIAM DUNBAR. By OLIPHANT SMEATON.

SIR WILLIAM WALLACE. By Professor MURISON.

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. By MARGARET MOYES BLACK.



ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

BY MARGARET MOYES BLACK

FAMOUS SCOTS SERIES

PUBLISHED BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
NEW YORK



PREFACE AND DEDICATION

In so small a volume it would be somewhat hopeless to attempt an
exhaustive notice of R. L. Stevenson, nor would it be desirable. The
only possible full biography of him will be the _Life_ in preparation by
his intimate friend Mr Sydney Colvin, and for it his friends and his
public look eagerly. This little book is only a reminiscence and an
appreciation by one who, in the old days between 1869 and 1880, knew him
and his home circle well. My earlier and later knowledge has been
derived from his mother and those other members of his mother's family
with whom it was a pleasure to talk of him, and to exchange news of his
sayings and doings.

In the actual writing of this volume, I have received most kind help for
which I return grateful thanks to the givers. For the verification of
dates and a few other particulars I am indebted to Mr Colvin's able
article in the _Dictionary of National Biography_.

It is dedicated, in the first instance, to the memory of Mr and Mrs
Thomas Stevenson and their son, and, in the second, to all the dearly
prized friends of the Balfour connection who have either, like the
household at 17 Heriot Row, passed into the 'Silent Land,' or who are
still here to gladden life with their friendship.

                                      MARGARET MOYES BLACK.
_August_ 1898.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I
                                                     Page
HEREDITY AND ANTECEDENTS                                9

CHAPTER II

CHILDHOOD                                              22

CHAPTER III

BOYHOOD AND COLLEGE DAYS                               33

CHAPTER IV

AS I FIRST KNEW HIM                                    45

CHAPTER V

HIS HOME LIFE                                          57

CHAPTER VI

HIS CHOICE OF A LITERARY LIFE AND HIS EARLY BOOKS      70

CHAPTER VII

WANDERINGS IN SEARCH OF HEALTH                         83

CHAPTER VIII

HIS MARRIAGE AND FRIENDSHIPS                           92

CHAPTER IX

HIS ESSAYS AND VERSES                                 101

CHAPTER X

HIS STORIES                                           117

CHAPTER XI

HIS LIFE IN SAMOA                                     131

CHAPTER XII

HIS DEATH                                             141

CHAPTER XIII

HIS LIFE-WORK                                         150



ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON



CHAPTER I

HEREDITY AND ANTECEDENTS


     'These are thy works, O father, these thy crown,
     Whether on high the air be pure they shine
     Along the yellowing sunset, and all night
     Among the unnumbered stars of God they shine.
     Or whether fogs arise, and far and wide
     The low sea-level drown--each finds a tongue,
     And all night long the tolling bell resounds.
     So shine so toll till night be overpast,
     Till the stars vanish, till the sun return,
     And in the haven rides the fleet at last.'
                                         --R. L. STEVENSON.


In no country in the world is heredity more respected than in Scotland,
and her hard-working sons freely acknowledge the debt they owe, for the
successes of to-day, to the brave struggle with sterner conditions of
life their ancestors waged from generation to generation. We of the
present are 'the heirs of all the ages'; but we are also in no small
degree the clay from the potter's hands, moulded and kneaded by the
natures, physical and mental, of those who have gone before us, and
whose lives and circumstances have made us what we are.

Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson--for so the writer whom the world knows
as Robert Louis Stevenson, was baptised--valued greatly this doctrine of
heredity, and always bore enthusiastic testimony to the influence his
ancestry and antecedents had exercised in moulding his temperament and
character. He was proud of that ancestry, with no foolish pride, but
rather with that appreciation of all that was noble and worthy in his
forefathers, which made him desire to be, in his own widely differing
life-work, as good a man as they.


      ... 'And I--can I be base?'--he says;
     'I must arise, O father, and to port
     Some lost complaining seaman pilot home.'


He had reason to think highly of the honourable name which he received
from his father's family. Britain and the whole world has much for which
to thank the Stevensons; not only all along our rough north coasts, but
in every part of the world where the mariner rejoices to see their
beacon's blaze have the firm, who are consulting engineers to the
Indian, the New Zealand, and the Japanese Lighthouse Boards, lit those
lights of which Rudyard Kipling in his 'Songs of the English,' sings--


     'Our brows are bound with spindrift, and the weed is on our knees;
     Our loins are battered 'neath us by the swinging, smoking seas;
     From reef and rock and skerry, over headland, ness, and voe,
     The coastguard lights of England watch the ships of England go.'


Wild and wind-swept are the isles and headlands of the northern half of
the sister kingdoms, but from their dreariest points the lights that
have been kindled by Robert Stevenson, the hero of Bell Rock fame, and
his descendants flash and flame across the sea, and make the name of
Stevenson a word of blessing to the storm-tossed sailor.

The author was third in descent from that Robert Stevenson, who, by
skill and heroism, planted the lighthouse on the wave-swept Bell
Rock--only uncovered for the possibility of work for a short time at low
tides--and made safety on the North Sea, where before there had been
death and danger, from the cruel cliffs that guard that iron coast.

What child has not thrilled and shivered over the ballad of 'Ralph the
Rover,' who, hoping doubtless that the wrecked ships might fall into his
own piratical hands, cut the bell which the good monks of Aberbrothock
had placed on the fatal rock, and who, by merited justice, was for lack
of the bell himself, on his return voyage, lost on that very spot! What
boy has not loved the story of one of the greatest engineering feats
that patience and skill has ever accomplished!

If other young folk so loved it what a depth of interest must not that
noble story have had for the grandson of the hero, whose childish soul
was full of chivalry and romance, and whose boyish eyes saw visions of
the future and pictures of the past as no ordinary child could see them,
for his was the gift of genius, and even the commonplace things of life
were glorified to him.

Alan Stevenson, who was the father of Robert, died of fever when in the
island of St Christopher on a visit to his brother, who managed the
foreign business of the Glasgow West India house with which they were
connected. The brother unfortunately dying of the same fever, business
matters were somewhat complicated, and Alan's widow and little boy had
to endure straitened circumstances. The mother strained every nerve to
have her boy, whom she intended for the ministry, well educated, and the
lad profited by her self-denial. Her second marriage, however, very
fortunately changed her plans for Robert, for her second husband, Mr
Smith, had a mechanical bent which led him to make many researches on
the subject of lighting and lighthouses, and finding that his stepson
shared his tastes, he encouraged him in his engineering and mechanical
studies.

The satisfactory results of Mr Smith's researches caused the first Board
of Northern Lights to make him their engineer, and he designed Kinnaird
Head, the first light they exhibited, and illuminated it in 1787. He was
ultimately succeeded as engineer to the Board by his stepson, of Bell
Rock fame, and his descendant, Mr David Alan Stevenson, who now holds
the post, is the sixth in the family who has done so. Young Stevenson
not only became his stepfather's partner but married his eldest
daughter, and with her founded a home that was evidently a happy one,
for the great engineer was a most unselfish character, and made an
excellent husband and father. He was a notable volunteer in the days
when a French invasion was greatly feared, and all his life he took a
keen interest in the volunteering movement.

Like his son Thomas, Mr Robert Stevenson was a man of much intellect and
humour, though of a grave and serious character. He was also a keen
Conservative and a loving member of the Established Church of Scotland.
He was warmly beloved and his society was greatly sought after by his
friends; a voyage of inspection with him on his tours round the coast
was much appreciated. On one occasion Sir Walter Scott made one of the
party which accompanied him. Mr Robert Stevenson died in July 1850, a
few months before the birth of his grandson, Robert Louis.

That this grandson held in high esteem the deeds and sterling qualities
of his grandfather is amply proved by his Samoan Letters to Mr Sydney
Colvin, published in 1895. In many of them he speaks of the history of
his family, which he intended to write, and into which he evidently felt
that he could put his best work. Alas! like so much that the brave
spirit and the busy brain planned, it was not to be, and the writer
passed to his rest without leaving behind him a full record of the
workers who had made his name famous.[1]

Mr Alan, Mr David, and Mr Thomas Stevenson worthily handed on the
traditions of their father, and in its second generation the lustre of
the great engineering family shone undimmed; while now the sons of Alan
Stevenson maintain the reputation of their forefathers, and the
Stevenson name is still one to conjure with wherever their saving lights
shine out across the sea.

Mr Thomas Stevenson served under his brother Alan in building the famous
lighthouse of 'Skerryvore,' and with his brother David he built 'The
Chickens,' 'Dhu Heartach,' and many 'shore lights' and harbours. He was
a notable engineer, widely known and greatly honoured at home and
abroad, besides being a very typical Scotsman.

When one thinks of his grand rugged face, and remembers how the stern
eyes used to light up with humour and soften with tenderness, as their
glance fell on his wife and his son, one realises what a very perfect
picture of such a character in its outward sternness and its inward
gentleness, lies in those lines of Mr William Watson's, in which he
speaks of


     'The fierceness that from tenderness is never far.'


Mr Stevenson's broad shoulders, his massive head, his powerful face,
reminded one of that enduring grey Scotch stone from which he and his
ancestors raised round all our coasts, their lighthouses and harbours.

Strong, grey, silent, these solid blocks resist winds and waves, and so
one felt would that powerful reticent nature stand steadfast in life's
battle, a tower of strength to those who trusted him. Like his own
'Beacon Lights,' on cliff and headland brilliant gleams of humour bright
gems of genius flashed out now and then from the silence. One felt too
that safe as the ships in his splendid harbours, would rest family and
friends in the strong yet loving heart that could hold secure all that
it valued through the tests and changes of time and the conflicts of
varying thoughts and opposing opinions. A man of strong prejudices, a
man too of varying moods, Mr Stevenson knew what it was at times to
endure hours of depression, to suffer from an almost morbidly religious
conscience, but he always kept a courageous hold on life and found the
best cure for a shadowed soul lay in constant and varied work.

The charming dedication of _Familiar Studies of Men and Books_ is a
delightful tribute from the gifted son to the strength and nobility of
his father's character.

Highly favoured in his paternal heredity Mr R. L. Stevenson was no less
fortunate in his mother and his mother's family.

If strength and force of intellect characterised Mr Thomas Stevenson,
his wife, Margaret Balfour, had no less powerful an individuality; in
beauty of person, in grace of manner, in the brilliance of a quick and
flashing feminine intelligence--that was deep as well as bright--she was
a fitting helpmate for her husband, and the very mother to sympathise
with and encourage a son whose genius showed itself in quaint sayings,
in dainty ways, and in chivalrous thoughts almost from his infancy.

Mrs Stevenson was the youngest daughter of the Rev. Dr Lewis Balfour,
from 1823 to 1860 minister of Colinton, and of Henrietta Scott Smith,
daughter of the minister of Galston. There had been thirteen children in
the manse of Colinton, and father and mother had made of the picturesque
old house a home in truth as well as in name. Many of these children
survived long enough, two of them indeed are still living, to carry the
sacred traditions of that happy home out into a world where they made
honourable positions for themselves.

After the death of the mother her place was taken by her daughter Jane,
that aunt of whom Robert Louis Stevenson wrote so sweetly in his
_Child's Garden of Verses_--


     'Chief of our Aunts not only I
     But all your other nurslings cry,
     What did the other children do?
     And what were childhood wanting you?'


To other 'motherless bairns,' as well as to her own brothers and
sisters, nephews and nieces, that most motherly heart and gentle and
beautiful soul has been a comfort and a refuge on the thorny highway of
life, and many whose love she has earned by the tenderness of her
sympathy still call Miss Balfour blessed.

She was a true helper to her father in the motherless home and in his
parish work, and in spite of much bad health filled the mother's place
in the house and won for herself the undying affection and regard not
only of her own family but of her father's parishioners and friends.

A testimony to the high esteem in which her father's memory and hers,
and indeed that of all the Balfour family, is still held in Colinton,
was given to me a few years ago by the old beadle there. Fond as he was
of Dr Lockhart, to speak to him of the Balfours, whom he remembered in
his younger days, at once won his attention and regard. On my saying to
him it was for their sakes I wished to see the inside of the church he
queried with a brightening face:

'Ye'll no be ane o' them, will ye?'

'No' was the reply, 'but they have been so long known and loved they
seem like my "ain folk" to me.'

'Aweel come awa' an' see the kirk. Will ye mind o' him?'

Alas! no; for the minister of Colinton had died seven years before my
friendship with the Balfours began.

'Eh!' was all the old man said, but that and the shake of his head
eloquently expressed what a loss that was for me!

'But ye'll ken _her_?' meaning Miss Balfour, he queried again, and as I
said I did and well, the face brightened with a great brightness.

So, having found a friend in common, together we went over the church
and the manse grounds, but, as Dr Lockhart was away from home, I
resisted his persuasion to ask leave to go through the house and
contented myself with a pleasant talk with him of Dr John Balfour, who
had fought the mutineers in India and the cholera at Davidson's Mains,
Slateford, and Leven; of Dr George, who is still fighting the ills that
flesh is heir to, in Edinburgh; of the sons and daughters of the manse
who had gone to their rest; of Mrs Stevenson, then in Samoa with her
son, and whose charm of personality made her dear to the old man, and
lastly of 'the clivir lad,' her son, who had spent such happy days in
the old manse garden.

Of all the children in that large family Maggie, the youngest, was
perhaps especially her sister's charge; and one knows, from that elder
sister's description, how sweet, and good, and bright the little girl
was, and how charming was the face, and how loving the heart of the
mother of Robert Louis Stevenson when she too was a child at play in the
manse garden. The mother's beauty and that dainty refinement of face and
voice which she bequeathed to her son came to her in a long and
honourable descent from a family that had for many centuries been noted
for the beauty and the sincere goodness of its women, for the godliness
and the manliness of its men.

The Rev. Dr Lewis Balfour of Colinton was the third son of Mr Balfour,
the Laird of Pilrig. The quaint old house of Pilrig stands a little back
from Leith Walk, the date on it is 1638; and the text inscribed on its
door-stone, 'For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle
were dissolved we have a building of God, an house not made with hands
eternal in the heavens,' is a fitting motto for a race whose first
prominent ancestor was that James Balfour of Reformation times, who not
only was a cousin of Melville the Reformer, but who married one of the
Melville family. This double tie to those so entwined with the very life
of that great period in Scotland's history brought Mr James Balfour into
very close communion with such men as Erskine of Dun, the Rev. John
Durie, and many others of the Reforming ministers and gentlemen, with
whom a member of the Pilrig family, the late James Balfour-Melville,
Esq., W.S., in his interesting pamphlet dealing with his family says,
that his ancestor had much godly conversation and communing.

The early promise of the race was not belied in its later descendants,
and the Balfours were noted for their zeal in religion, and in their
country's affairs, as well as for an honourable and prudent application
to the business of life on their own account. Andrew Balfour, the
minister of Kirknewton, signed the protestation for the Kirk in 1617,
and was imprisoned for it. His son James was called to the Scotch Bar,
and was a Clerk of Session in Cromwell's time. A son of his was a
Governor of the Darien Company, and his son, in turn, purchased the
estate of Pilrig where his descendants kept up the godly and honourable
traditions of the house, and dispensed a pleasant and a kindly
hospitality to their friends in Edinburgh, from whom, at that time,
their pretty old home was somewhat distant in the country!

With such an ancestry on both sides one can easily understand the bent
of Robert Louis Stevenson's mind towards old things, the curious
traditions of Scotch family history and the lone wild moorlands,


     'Where about the graves of the martyrs
     The whaups are calling,'


one can comprehend, too, the attraction for him of the power and the
mystery of the sea. All these things came to him as a natural
inheritance from those who had gone before, and in the characters who
people his books, in _Kidnapped_, in _Catriona_, in _Weir of Hermiston_,
we see live again, the folk of that older Edinburgh, whom those bygone
Balfours knew.

In the fresh salt breeze that, as it were, blows keen from the sea in
_Treasure Island_, in _The Merry Men_, and about the sad house of
Durrisdeer in _The Master of Ballantrae_, we recognise the magic wooing
of the mighty ocean that made of the Stevensons builders of lighthouses
and harbours, and masters of the rough, wild coasts where the waves beat
and the spray dashes, and the sea draws all who love it to ride upon its
breast in ships.

From the union of two families who have been so long and so honourably
known in their different ways, there came much happiness, and one feels
somewhat sorry that when Louis Stevenson signed his name to the books by
which he is so lovingly remembered, he did not write it in full and
spell 'Lewis' in the old-time fashion that was good enough for our
Scotch ancestors in the days when many a 'Lewis' drew sword for Gustavus
Adolphus, or served as a gentleman volunteer in the wars of France or
the Netherlands, and when 'O, send Lewie Gordon hame' rang full of
pathos to the Scotch ears, to which the old spelling was familiar. Mr
Stevenson's Balfour relatives naturally regret the alteration of the
older spelling and the omission of his mother's family name from his
signature. With regard to the latter, he himself assured his mother that
having merely dropped out the Balfour to shorten a very long name, he
greatly regretted having done so, after it was too late, and he had won
his literary fame as 'Robert Louis Stevenson,' and much wished that he
had invariably written his name as R. L. Balfour Stevenson. The spelling
of Lewis he altered when he was about eighteen, in deference to a wish
of his father's, as at one time the elder Mr Stevenson had a prejudice
against the name of Lewis, so his son thereafter signed himself Louis.
That he may have himself also preferred it is very possible; he was fond
of all things French, and he may have liked the link to that far off
ancestor, the French barber-surgeon who landed at St Andrews to be one
of the suite of Cardinal Beaton! In spite of the belief on the part of
Robert Louis, who had a fancy to the contrary, the name in the Balfour
family was _invariably_ spelt Lewis. His grandfather was christened
Lewis, and so the entry of his name remains to this day in the old
family Bible at Pilrig; so also it is spelt in that, already mentioned,
most interesting pamphlet for private circulation, written by the late
James Balfour-Melville, Esq., who gives the name of his uncle, the
minister of Colinton, as Lewis Balfour, and so the old clergyman signed
himself all his life.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] The portion of this family history--_Family of
Engineers_--which Mr Stevenson had completed, at the time of his death,
is to be found in 'The Edinburgh Edition' of his works.



CHAPTER II

CHILDHOOD


     ... 'With love divine
     My mother's fingers folded mine.'
         --FROM VERSES IN AN AMERICAN PAPER.


     'We built a ship upon the stairs,
     All made of the back bedroom chairs;
     And filled it full of sofa pillows,
     To go a-sailing on the billows.'
                               --R. L. STEVENSON.


Mr and Mrs Thomas Stevenson, who were married in 1848, made their first
home at 8 Howard Place, and there, on 13th November 1850, Robert Lewis
Balfour Stevenson was born. In 1853 they moved to a house in Inverleith
Terrace, and in 1857, when Louis was about seven years old, they took
possession of 17 Heriot Row, the house so long and so intimately
associated with them in the minds of their many friends.

The little Louis was from his earliest babyhood a very delicate child,
and only the most constant and tender care of his devoted mother and
nurse enabled him to survive those first years which must have been so
full of anxiety to his parents. In _The Child's Garden of Verses_ there
are some lines called 'The Land of Counterpane,' the picture heading of
which is a tiny child propped up against his bed pillows, and with all
his toys scattered on the coverlet. Beneath it are four verses that
give a wonderfully graphic description of the life the little boy too
often led.

In the last verse he was a giant who saw before him all 'the pleasant
land of counterpane,' and in the very word 'pleasant' the temperament of
the child shows itself. How many children would have found anything
'pleasant' in the enforced days of lie-a-bed quietness, and would have
made no murmurs over the hard fate which forbade to them the active joys
of other boys and girls?

But this small lad had a sweet temper and an unselfish, contented
disposition, and so he bore the burden of his bad health as bravely in
those days as he did in after years, and made for himself plays and
pleasures with his nimble brain while his weary body was often tired and
restless in that bed whereof he had so much. His mother used to
describe, with the same graphic touch that gives life to all her son
wrote, the bright games the little fellow invented for himself when he
was well enough to be up and about, and tell how, in a corner of the
room, he made for himself a wonder-world all his own, in which heroes
and heroines of romance loved and fought and walked and talked at the
bidding of the wizard in frock and pinafore.

It was not all indoor life happily, and if there were many bad days
there were some good and glad ones also, when he was well and allowed to
be out and at play in the world of outdoor life he always loved so
dearly.

Two quaint pictures of the child as he was in those days have been
supplied by his aunt, Miss Balfour. One of them is from a note-book of
his mother's, in which she had jotted down a few things that had been
said or written of him. The first interesting description is that given
by a very dear old friend of the family, and is an exceedingly early
one, for it was written in October 1853, when Louis was barely three,
and the family had just settled in Inverleith Terrace.

'One day,' she says, 'I called and missed you, and found Cummie' (the
valued nurse) 'and Louis just starting for town, so we walked up
together by Canonmills, keeping the middle of the road all the way.'

Louis, she continues, was dressed in a navy blue pelisse trimmed with
fur, a beaver hat, a fur ruff, and white gloves. A very quaint little
figure he must have been with the thin delicate face and the wonderfully
bright eyes, so luminous and far-seeing even then!

The tiny mite repeated hymns all the way, 'emphasising so prettily,' the
friend goes on to say, 'with the dear little baby hands. All of a
sudden, when near St Mary's Church he stood still, and looking in my
face, said:


     '"But by-the-bye did I ever give you my likeness?"

     '"No," was the reply, "have you got your likeness?"

     '"Oh! yes, I will give it you; I will send it by the _real_ post
     to-morrow."'


'It seemed,' the lady adds, 'as if the wonderful little mind had been
considering what other kind thing he could do besides repeating the
hymns.'

The whole incident is an excellent example of his sweetness of
disposition, and his innate thoughtfulness for others. It is pleasant to
know that the pretty promise was fulfilled, Mrs Stevenson herself acting
'postman,' and taking the likeness to her friend next day.

The second picture is from the memory of Miss Balfour herself. She too
describes the blue pelisse trimmed with grey astrakhan, which he wore in
the winter of 1853 and '54. In the spring of 1854 she went to the
Stevensons' house to tell her sister that their father had been given
the degree of Doctor of Divinity. The small Louis, on hearing his
grandfather spoken of as 'Doctor,' immediately said:

'Now that grandpapa is a doctor, surely you'll have him instead of Dr
Hunter?'

A wonderfully quick thought and old-fashioned remark from a child not
four years old, but a suggestively sad one too; he already knew so well
the necessity of a doctor to help human bodies, although he could not
yet comprehend the use of one for the 'cure' of human souls!

When he heard that his aunt was going to see a relative in Saxe Coburg
Place, he begged to be allowed to go with her, and, the permission
granted, started off in great pride on his very first expedition without
his nurse, that faithful friend of the Stevenson family having promised
to follow later to take him home. The aunt at least had cause to
remember that walk! He had started gloveless, and would not go back for
his gloves, but popped his cold hands under the cape of his pelisse, and
even then, unconventional as to clothing, said cheerfully:

'That will keep them from John Frost.'

So the pair set out on what proved a chilly and prolonged excursion;
for, in spite of all remonstrances, the child calmly sat down on every
doorstep and rested till he felt inclined to go on again, to the no
small dismay of his aunt, who knew how serious a thing the taking of a
cold was to the placid little personage smiling at her from the steps.

During the Crimean war, while he was still a very tiny mite, he,
entirely of his own accord, always prayed for the soldiers. When asked
by his mother if he would like to be a soldier, his answer was--

'I would neither like to kill nor to be killed,'--a very sensible reason
to have been thought out by so young a child.

His aunt says of him--


     'I never knew so sweet a child.'


And his mother always said of him that his sweetness and patience were
beautiful. On one subject only mother and child sometimes differed.
Louis wished her to agree with him that grandpapa's home was the nicest
in the world, but the mother maintained their own home was best.

Until his grandfather died in 1860, when he was ten years old, the manse
at Colinton was the little boy's favourite abiding place. Here 'Auntie'
lived, and near here, too, was the home of the 'sister-cousin,' and her
brother who grew up with him, and who, of all the much loved cousins of
that large connection, were nearest and dearest in his child-life, and
to whom he sings--


     'If two may read aright
     These rhymes of old delight,
     And house and garden play
     You two, my cousins, and you only may.

     'You in a garden green,
     With me were king and queen,
     Were soldier, hunter, tar,
     And all the thousand things that children are.'


With these two cousins the favourite game was the fleeing from,
conquering, and finally slaying a huge giant called Bunker, invented by
Louis, who, the trio believed, haunted the manse garden, and required
continual killing. One time, on the Bonaly Road, they were shipwrecked
hungry sailors, who ate so many buttercups that the little boys were
poisoned and became very ill, and the little girl only escaped because
she found the flowers too bitter to eat! In the 'Redford burn of happy
memories' they sailed ships richly laden with whin pods for vanilla, and
yellow lichen for gold. They always hoped to see ghosts, or corpse
candles, and were much disappointed they never saw anything more
terrible, in the gruesome place where the sexton kept his tools, than a
swaying branch of ivy.

Of the tall, pale, venerable grandfather, with his snowy hair, Louis
stood a good deal in awe; and he tells us in his charming paper, 'The
Manse,' in _Memories and Portraits_, that he had not much in common with
the old man although he felt honoured by his connection with a person
reverend enough to enter the pulpit and preach the sermon every Sunday.
So many Balfours were scattered over the world, in India and the
Colonies, that the old rooms at the manse were full of eastern
curiosities and nick-nacks from distant lands dear to the hearts of
little folks. And, while the garden was a bower of delight, the house
was a veritable treasure trove to the grandchildren from far and near
who played in it.

To Robert Louis Stevenson, with his mind full of romance, it must have
been a paradise indeed, and one that he admirably pictures in the verses
addressed to an Anglo-Indian cousin who, as a married woman, has
returned to the India of her birth.

It is worth mentioning--as a note by the way which illustrates that
abiding boyishness in Mr Stevenson, so well known to all who knew
him--that four particularly hideous Indian idols stood guard at the hall
door of 'The Turret,' the house of his uncle, John Balfour, at Leven.
Two of them were life-size with their hands discreetly folded in prayer,
two of them were smaller and made in a kneeling posture, and, as
something rattled if you shook them, it was our juvenile belief that
treasure was concealed inside their bodies. This idea Mr R. L. Stevenson
eagerly fostered in the slightly younger generation, and, with the love
of harmless mischief natural to him, implored us to 'rattle them
_soundly_ when we were about it!'

In the manse garden at Colinton there was a mysterious and delightful
gap that gave egress to the Water of Leith, and to pass through this and
stray, out of safe and guarded precincts, into a wide and wet world
beyond was a keen pleasure to the little boy whose gipsy instincts were
already loudly calling to him to take 'the road' his wandering soul so
dearly loved.

'Keepsake Mill' is a charming tribute to the joys of those illicit
escapes and to the memories of the cousin playfellows now scattered in
far lands, or for ever at rest from life's labour, who played in the
garden where the delicate bright-eyed lad was the inventor and leader in
their games.

One sweet fancy of the imaginative child, who all his life had a fine
mental and physical courage in spite of his delicacy, is still recalled
by his 'sister-cousin'; the graveyard wall was at one place high above
the garden it partially enclosed, and the little boy, afflicted with no
superstitious terrors, had an idea that the souls of the dead people at
rest in 'God's acre,' peeped out at him from the chinks of the wall. And
one feels sure that here as all through his life, shadowed by so much of
suffering, he held fast, after a fashion of his own, the belief that
goes deeper than his playful rendering of it in _The Unseen Playmate_
seems at first to infer:


     'Whene'er you're happy and cannot tell why,
     The Friend of the children is sure to be by.'


A faith that was taught him by an earnest father and by the loving voice
of a mother who held it fast through her own happy childhood and the
joys and sorrows that as wife and mother came to her in later years.

After the death of the Rev. Dr Balfour, in April 1860, the manse ceased
to be the second home of Louis Stevenson, and in the November of that
year his aunt, Miss Balfour, and the nephews and nieces who stayed with
her moved to a house in Howard Place.

In 1858 he went to school, and from 1860 to 1861 he and his cousin,
Lewis Charles Balfour, were together at Mr Henderson's preparatory
school in India Street from which both went to the Academy in 1861. Of
Lewis Stevenson,--who in later life was always called Louis or Lou by
his family and friends,--Mr Henderson reports: 'Robert's reading is not
loud, but impressive.'

In July he was in bed with scarlet fever on his examination day, which
was a great disappointment to him. He had a first prize for reading that
year; but his zeal over school and lessons was very short-lived, and he
never hungered for scholastic honours.

As a child he did not learn quickly, and he was in his eighth year
before he could read fluently for himself. Nevertheless his especial
bent showed itself early, and when in his sixth year he dictated a
_History of Moses_, which he illustrated, giving the men pipes in their
mouths. This, and an account of _Travels in Perth_, composed in his
ninth year, are still in existence. The _History of Moses_ was written
because an uncle had offered a prize to his own children for the best
paper on the subject, and the little Louis was so disappointed at not
being asked to compete that he was finally included among the
competitors, and did a paper which though not best was still good and
which was given a prize. He had begun to print it for himself, with much
toil, but his mother offered to write it out from his dictation. Another
composition of this time was a fierce story of shipwreck and fighting
with savages.

In 1863 he was sent for a few months to a boarding school kept by a Mr
Wyatt at Spring Grove, near London. Life at a boarding school was misery
to a lad so fond of wandering at his own sweet will as the small Louis,
and he was full of distress at the prospect of leaving home. In _Random
Memories_ he gives his ideas as to going to school, and expresses his
belief that it is not so much the first night or day at school that is
so terrible to a courageous child, as the dismay at the thought of
leaving home with its familiar life and surroundings, and the painful
suspense for some days before the plunge into the new world of school is
taken. It was, he says, this miserable feeling of suspense that made
him share his sorrows with a desolate, but amiable cat in the Easter
Road, which mingled its woes with his and as it purred against him
consoled him.

His tender-hearted parents were so touched by his evident affliction,
and especially by the little story of the cat that his father took him a
trip round the coast of Fife in _The Pharos_ and he thus made an early
and delightful acquaintance with some of the lights and harbours which
his father had gone to inspect.

Although the cousin, Lewis Charles Balfour, who had been his
schoolfellow in Edinburgh, and two of his younger brothers were day
pupils at the Spring Grove School, and his aunt, Miss Balfour, was
living near, he became very homesick and unhappy, and the regular school
work, with its impositions and punishments, fretted him and made him so
ill, that in December his father, who had been at Mentone with his
mother, hastily returned and took him away from school. It was too late,
however, the few months had been too great a trial for his health, and
he had a serious illness, during which, Dr Henry Bennett prescribed some
very bracing treatment of which the youthful patient highly disapproved.

Of the home where so much consideration was shown to a child's health
and feelings, no better description can be given than the graphic one of
a little Stevenson cousin who had gone with his parents to stay there,
and who thus spoke of it: 'A child who never cries, a nurse who is never
cross, and late dinners.'

Can one imagine a dignified, childish paradise that could go much
further! Nor were the joys of books awanting to the happy small boy who
describes himself as in early days being carried off by his nurse


     'To bed with backward looks,
     At my dear world of story books.'


As soon as he had learned to read he was an eager and an omnivorous
reader, and could, from his eighth year, pass happy hours with a book,
any book so long as it did not mean lessons.

He was before very long a book-buyer as well as a book-lover, and he has
for ever immortalised, in the charming pages of _A Penny Plain and
Twopence Coloured_, that old bookshop (late J. L. Smith) at the corner
of Leith Walk, where eager boys without coppers were but coldly
received, but whence the fortunate capitalist could emerge, after having
spent his Saturday pocket-money, the proud possessor of plays positively
bristling with pirates and highwaymen. With these treasures he fled home
in the gathering dusk, while 'Leerie-Light-the-Lamps' was kindling his
cheery beacons along the streets, and, with pleasant terrors, devoured
the weird productions, finally adding to their weirdness by the garish
contents of a child's paint-box.



CHAPTER III

BOYHOOD AND COLLEGE DAYS


     'A boy's will is the wind's will,
     And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'
                                               --LONGFELLOW.


      ... 'Strange enchantments from the past
     And memories of the friends of old,
     And strong tradition binding fast
     The "flying terms" with bands of gold.'
                                      --ANDREW LANG.


The years 1861 and 1862 found Louis, with his childhood left behind him,
a boy among other boys who sat on the forms and who played in the yards
of the Academy, at which, during the greater part of the present
century, many of the sons of Edinburgh men, and indeed of Scotsmen
everywhere at home and abroad, have received their education.

From 1864 to 1867 he was principally at a Mr Thompson's school in
Frederick Street, and he studied from time to time with private tutors
at the different places to which his parents went for the benefit of
their own health or his. These rather uncommon educational experiences
were of far more value to him in after life than a steady attendance at
any one school, as they made him an excellent linguist and gave him,
from very youthful years, a wide knowledge of foreign life and foreign
manners. In 1862 the Stevenson family visited Holland and Germany, in
1863 they were in Italy, in 1864 in the Riviera, and at Torquay for some
months during the winter of 1865 and 1866; but after 1867 the family
life became more settled and was chiefly passed between Edinburgh and
Swanston.

In those days Louis was a lean, slim lad, inclined to be tall, and with
soft, somewhat lank, brown hair and brown eyes of a shade that seemed to
deepen and change with every passing impression of his quick working
brain. His features were rather long, the upper part of his narrow face
was delicately formed like his mother's, but the lips were full, and a
more virile strength in chin and jaw faintly reminded one of his
father's powerful physiognomy.

He had opinions of his own in regard to education, and they by no means
led him to consider a strict attendance at school or a close application
to lessons as necessary for his future life-work. He read, it is true,
voraciously, but it was hardly on the lines of the sternly respectable
classical curriculum which his tutors or the Academy offered him. He was
an historical student after a fashion of his own, dipping deep into such
books of bygone romance as Sir Walter Scott had conned and loved. His
geography at that time took a purely practical and somewhat limited
form, and resolved itself into locating correctly the places and abodes
sacred to the characters in his favourite books.

In the delightful dedication of _Catriona_,--to Mr Charles Baxter, W.S.,
Edinburgh, who was his life-long friend--he describes those pilgrimages
charmingly, and one can, in imagination, see the eager lads wandering in
search of famous 'streets and numbered houses,' made historic for them
by some such magic pen as that which has for ever made sacred the _Old
Tolbooth_ or the _Heart of Midlothian_, from the coblestones of which,
in the pavement of St Giles and near the Parliament House, one
reverently steps aside lest careless feet should touch that memento of
the past. One can picture too as he himself does, the romantic boys of
to-day following the wanderings of David Balfour by Broughton and
Silver-mills, the Water of Leith, the Hawes Inn at Queensferry, and the
wind-swept shores of the Forth. But one can still more clearly see that
slim, brown-eyed youth--a-quiver with the eagerness that was so
conspicuous a characteristic of his,--as in these very places he
remembered bygone tales and even then formed plans for, and saw visions
of, his own stories yet to be.

One can think of him with his eyes shining, and his face luminous, as he
held forth to some choice friend, of sympathetic soul, on all these
things of which his heart and brain were so full. One knows that when
his walks were solitary his time was already put to a good account, and
that the note-books which even then he carried in his pocket were in
constant requisition.

The boy, from the very first, felt a strong leading to the profession of
letters, which he ultimately followed; and he describes himself as from
very early boyhood having been given to make notes for possible
romances, and to choose words of peculiar fitness for the purpose he had
in hand, as well as to weave tales of thrilling adventure.

Style was from the first a passion with him; and the lad had already
begun in these juvenile note-books that careful choice of words and
language which was at the very outset of his literary career to make so
competent a critic as Mr Hamerton call him one of the greatest living
masters of English prose. That he became something of a master in verse
also those few thin volumes of deep thoughts, in a setting of fitly
chosen words and rhymes, which he has published, amply prove.

To return, however, to the boy who went to the Academy, or rather who
did _not_ go to the Academy, for he had a faculty for playing truant
which must have been extraordinarily provoking to parents and masters.
No sooner was he out of the door in the morning than he could truly
say--


     'I heard the winds, with unseen feet,
     Pass up the long and weary street,

     'They say "We come from hill and glen
     To touch the brows of toiling men."

     'That each may know and feel we bring
     The faint first breathings of the spring.'


And the voice of the spring thus calling him as soon as it was heard,
was obeyed; and, careless of the frowns that were bound to greet his
return, he was off to wander on his beloved Braids and Pentlands, to lie
long days among the whin and the broom, or to slip away to watch the
busy shipping on the Forth, and to think deep thoughts beside the
wave-washed shore of that sea which ever drew him like the voice of a
familiar friend.

To that intense love of Nature, and of Nature's solitude, his readers
owe much, and we to-day may all say with the writer who gave such an
interesting description of Swanston in _Good Words_ in the spring of
1895, that those truant hours of his educated him for his future work
far better than a careful attendance at school and college could have
done. The same writer says that it was this open air life that he loved
so dearly which gave to Stevenson's books their large leisure, and to
his style its dignity. There is much truth in the remark; but as far as
the style is concerned it is the product of time and thought, and it was
most carefully and diligently formed by labour so earnest and
painstaking, that few authors can even conceive of it.

In _Memories and Portraits_ Mr Stevenson gives a delightful account of
boyish days at a seaside resort, that is evidently North Berwick, and
lovingly describes adventures with bull's-eye lanterns; adventures which
seem to be intimately associated with the young folk of his connection,
and which repeated themselves a few years later on the other side of the
Forth, where boys and girls recalled the doings of Robert Louis and his
friends with bull's-eye lanterns and gunpowder, in that cheerful form
known to Louis Stevenson as a 'peeoy,' and considered it a point of
honour to do likewise, no matter how indignant such mischief made the
authorities. As for him, he was always the inventor and prime mover in
every mischievous escapade the heart of youth could glory in.

The wind-swept coast about North Berwick had a strong fascination for
him, and in several of his books we feel the salt breeze blowing in from
the sea, across the bents, and hear the sea birds crying on the lonely
shore. The autumn holidays were a great joy to him, and another
epoch-making event must have been the taking of Swanston Cottage, in May
1867, to be the summer home of the Stevensons.

The boy took intense pleasure in his rambles about the hills, in his
dreamy rests on 'Kirk Yetton'[2] and 'Allermuir,' and in his wanderings
with John Todd, the shepherd, after that worthy had ceased, as he
comically puts it, to hunt him off as a dangerous sheep-scarer, and so
to play 'Claverhouse to his Covenanter'! The two soon became great
friends, and many a bit of strange philosophy, many a wild tale of
bygone droving days the lad heard from the old man. Another great friend
of early Swanston years was Robert Young, the gardener, whose austere
and Puritan views of life were solemnly shared with his young master.

Existence at Swanston was even more provocative of truant-playing than
it had been in Edinburgh, and Louis, in his later school days and his
early sessions at the University, was more than ever conspicuous by his
absence from classes, more lovingly wedded to long hours among the
hills, long rambles about the 'Old Town,' the Figgate Whins, the port of
Leith, and the rapidly changing localities round Leith Walk, somewhat
back from which, Pilrig, the ancient home of his ancestors, still stands
gravely retired from the work-a-day world.

In the year 1867 he went with his father to the 'Dhu Heartach'
Lighthouse, and so began to develop that passion for the Western Isles
and the Western seas which future voyages in _The Pharos_ were to bring
to the state of fervour and perfection which gave birth of _The
Merrymen_, and to those descriptions of the wild and lovely scenery of
Appin and the West Highlands, in which David Balfour and Alan Breck
wander through the pages of _Kidnapped_.

It was his father's intention that he should follow the family
profession of engineering, and with this in view he went to the
Edinburgh University in the autumn of 1868. The professors in those days
included Professors Kelland, Tait, Crum-Brown, Fleeming-Jenkin, Blackie,
Masson, and many others whose names are still remembered as 'a
sweet-smelling savour' in that Edinburgh which they and the truant
student, who honoured his class attendance 'more in the breach than the
observance,' loved so well.

It was a stirring time at the University, and the students who warred
manfully against the innovation of Dr Sophia Jex-Blake and the pioneers
of the Lady Doctors' movement, were, it would seem on looking back,
scarcely so mildly mannered, so peacefully inclined as those who now sit
placidly beside 'the sweet girl graduates' of our day, on the class-room
benches, and acknowledge the reign of the lady doctor as an accomplished
fact. A torchlight procession of modern times is apparently a cheerful
and picturesque function, smiled on by the authorities, and welcomed as
a rather unique means of doing honour to a new Lord Rector or some
famous guest of the city or the University. In Mr Stevenson's time, a
torchlight procession had all the joys of 'forbidden fruit' to the merry
lads who braved the police and the professors for the pleasure of
marching through the streets to the final bonfire on the Calton Hill,
from the scrimmage round which they emerged with clothes well oiled and
singed, and faces and hands as black as much besmearing could make them;
while anxious friends at home trembled lest a night in the police cells
should be the reward of the ringleaders.

Of one such procession, in the spring when Mr Stevenson's law studies
were first interrupted by a journey south for his health, a clever
student wrote an epic which was presented to me by one of Louis
Stevenson's Balfour cousins as something _very precious_! The occasion
was the Duke of Edinburgh's wedding, in 1874, and, yellow and faded, the
_Epic_ still graces my _Every Day Book_, and, as one reads its
inspiriting lines, one sees again those bygone days in which the slim
figure and eager face of Louis Stevenson are always so conspicuous in
every memory of the old, grey city of his birth.

The following lines from the clever skit give a really excellent picture
of the college life in his day.


                       ... 'A deputation we
     Sent hither by the students to demand
     That they--that is the students--in a band
     May march, illumed by torches flaring bright,
     Along the leading streets on Friday night.
     Brave was the Provost, yet towards his heart
     The glowing life blood thrilled with sudden start;
     Well might he tremble at the name he heard,
     The Students! Kings might tremble at the word!
     He thought of all the terrors of the past,
     Of that fell row in Blackie's, April last--
     Of Simpson wight, and Stirling-Maxwell too,
     Of Miss Jex-Blake and all her lovely crew--
     He thought, "If thus these desperadoes dare
     To act with ladies, learned, young and fair,
     Old women, like the Councillors and me,
     To direr torments still reserved may be.
     The better part of valour is discretion,
     I'll try to soften them by prompt concession."
     Then coughing thrice, impression due to make
     And clear his throat, in accents mild he spake,
     "Ye have my leave, 'V.R.,' I mean 'D.V.'"
     The students bowed, retired, and he was free.'


The High Sheriff and the Chief of Police, when they heard of the
Provost's weakness, were filled with wrath and dismay, and very promptly
insisted on his lordship taking back the concession, so that this
historic procession was as much 'forbidden fruit' as its predecessors,
and the students probably enjoyed it the more that they had as usual to
dare all those in authority to carry it out.

Another old-time enjoyment of that date was a snowball fight. Whether
snow is less plentiful, or students are too cultured and too refined for
these rough pastimes it is impossible to say, but certain it is that a
really _great_ snowball fight is also a thing of the past. In those days
they were Homeric combats, and a source of keen enjoyment to Robert
Louis Stevenson, a very funny account of whom, on one of these
occasions, was given me at the time by his cousin, Lewis Balfour, from
Leven, himself a jovial medical student enjoying an active part in the
melée. On the occasion of a great battle in the winter of 1869--or
1870--Mr Stevenson and one or two men, now well known in various
professions, had seated themselves on a ledge in the quadrangle to watch
the fight. From this vantage ground they encouraged the combatants, but
took no active part in the fray. Within swarmed the students armed with
snowballs, without, the lads of the town, equally active, stormed the
gates. All were too intent on the battle to notice the advent of the
police, who rushed into the college quadrangle and made prisoners where
they could. Craning his neck too much, in his keen enjoyment, Mr
Stevenson overbalanced himself, slipped from his perch and was promptly
captured by 'a bobby,' and, in spite of gallant efforts for his rescue,
was ignominiously marched off to the Police Office at the very moment
that his blandly unconscious mother was driving up the Bridges. It was
useless for his attendant friends to assert that he had been a
non-combatant. Was he not taken in the very thick of the fight? The
police had him and they meant to keep him for he could not produce
sufficient bail from his somewhat empty pockets. His cousin and his
friends, by leaving all their stray coins, their watches and other
valuables, managed to secure his release so that he had not the
experience--which it is possible he might have enjoyed--of passing a
night in the police cells of his native city.

In his introduction to the _Memoirs of Professor Fleeming-Jenkin_, he
himself tells a good story of his relations with that Professor, who was
always a true and appreciative friend to his clever if idle student. He
had handed in so few cards at the class of Engineering that his
certificate was not forthcoming until he told his friend that his father
would be very vexed if he could not produce the certificate--which he
never intended to _use_--whereat the tender-hearted Professor handed it
to him.

Another prime favourite of his among the Professors was Professor
Kelland; and one can well understand the attraction which the dainty,
gentle refinement of that most kind-hearted of men had for a nature so
akin to it as young Stevenson's. All Professor Kelland's students loved
him; this one understood him also. Professor Masson was one of the
giants of those days whom he was also most capable of appreciating, and
whose lectures he occasionally attended although not a member of his
class; and, himself not without his amiable eccentricities, he could not
fail to have a soft spot in his heart for the quaint humour and the
pleasant eccentricity which endeared Professor Blackie to his class and
to the public. He was a poor attender at the Greek Class, however, and
when he presented himself for his certificate the keen blue eyes of the
Professor looked at him critically, and the Professor's remark was that
he had been so seldom present at lectures it was hardly possible to
recognise his face!

Many of the students of that day have taken a good place in the world;
some of them have long ere now left the things of time behind them; one
or two of them Mr Stevenson has pictured in his graphic pages. Several
of them regarded him as an interesting personality, but very few of them
suspected that he was 'the chiel amang them takin' notes' for future
work that would bring world-wide fame, not only to himself, but to his
University and to the city of his birth.

On the 2nd March 1869 he was proposed by George Melville, Esq.,
Advocate, as a member of the Speculative Society, and we know from
_Memories and Portraits_ how much he appreciated his membership of that
Society, which has in its day included in the roll, on which his name
stood No. 992, most of the men whose names are honoured in Scotland's
capital, and many of whom the fame and the memory are revered in far
places of the earth. That he might smoke in the hall of the Speculative,
in the very stronghold of University authority, he playfully professes
to have been his chief pleasure in the thing; but other men, to whom his
earnest face, his eagerness in debate, made one of the pleasures of its
meetings, tell another story, and it was commonly said in those days
that there would always be something of interest in hand if Stevenson
took a part in it.

When he forsook the profession of engineering, Mr Stevenson attended the
Law classes at the University, with the intention of being called to the
Bar, but it is not on record that he was a more exemplary student of law
than he had been of engineering, and he still found more satisfaction in
his truant rambles and his meditations in old graveyards than he did in
the legitimate study of his profession.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] Cairketton is the form used in the Ordnance Survey.



CHAPTER IV

AS I FIRST KNEW HIM


     'Blessed are his parents in a son, so graced in face and figure
     And of mind so wise.'
                    --LORD DERBY'S TRANSLATION OF _The Iliad_.


That was one of the quotations by which in those days we were wont to
describe Mr Stevenson. Strictly speaking, perhaps he was not a handsome
man. He was too slim, too ethereal, if one may use the term, to attain
to anything sufficiently commonplace to be described as merely handsome.
But he was indeed 'graced in face and figure,' for he possessed that
rare attribute _distinction_, and his face, with its wonderfully
luminous eyes, its ever changing expression, had a beauty peculiar to
itself, and one which harmonised perfectly with the quaint wisdom of his
mind.

That wisdom was so deep, yet so whimsical, so peculiar and so many-sided
that one can only apply to its possessor another quotation half
indignantly thrown at him, when he was too successful in argument, by an
acquaintance of his, whose quick wit had a great charm for him.


     'We gaze and still the wonder grows
     That one small head can carry all he knows.'


He bowed to the compliment, he demurred as to the smallness of his head,
and he enjoyed the quotation immensely. With the same opponent he once
tried a competition in verse-making. Both showed considerable skill, but
the umpire decided that Louis had won, so he bore off in triumph the
prize of a bottle of olives, and was only sorry that he could not compel
the loser to share his feast, which he well knew would be as abhorrent
to her as it was delightful to him.

With Edinburgh, wind-swept and grey, with its biting breeze, its
swirling dust of March, there will always be associated in my mind
certain memories of Robert Louis Stevenson, and of that happy home of
the Stevenson family, 17 Heriot Row. In summer sunshine Swanston, lying
cosily at the foot of the Pentlands, claimed them year by year, but
every winter found them, for business or pleasure, established in that
most homelike house, the windows of which, to the front, looked into the
Heriot Row gardens, and at the back, from that upper flat where was the
book-lined study of the son of the house, snatched a glimpse, over roofs
and chimney cans, of the gold-fringed shores of Fife.

Across the blue Forth in Fife, at the little seaside town of Leven, well
known to golfing fame, there had settled in 1866 an uncle of R. L.
Stevenson, Dr John Balfour, who was noted for his gallantry and skill
throughout the Indian Mutiny, and in more than one outbreak of cholera
in India and at home. Of the town and the man Mr Stevenson gives a
graphic picture in _Random Memories_, when describing a visit to the
Fife coast, where his father was making an inspection of lights and
harbours.

In 1849 when home on leave Dr Balfour volunteered to go to Davidson's
Mains, in the parish of Cramond, where as a specialist in cholera
symptoms he was amazed to find the outbreak as virulent and as fatal as
the Asiatic cholera he had seen in India. In 1866, when another wave of
cholera swept over Britain, he was asked to go to Slateford, where he
coped with its ravages almost single-handed, saving life in every case
after he went, except those already too far gone before his arrival. In
late autumn of the same year the scourge broke out seriously in the
small towns on the coast of Fife, and Dr Balfour went to Leven, where
the doctor had just died of it, and a state of panic prevailed, and
there too he succeeded in quickly stamping it out.

Having retired from his Indian appointment he felt idle time hang heavy
on hand, so he acceded to the request of the inhabitants and went to
Leven to take up practice there. His wife, who was a cousin of his own,
and their four children, shortly after followed him from Edinburgh, and
he built a house called 'The Turret' there, where he remained until his
greatly lamented death in 1887.

There from childhood I grew up in intimate friendship with the young
Balfours, and went out and in to the doctor's house, receiving in it
such kindness from parents and children that it was regarded by me as a
second home, and its inmates were looked upon as one's 'ain folk.' As
one's 'ain folk,' too, by-and-bye, were regarded those other Balfour
families, notably Dr George W. Balfour's household and Miss Balfour, and
the nephews and nieces who had their home with her--who made of the
little Fife town their holiday resort. Later an Edinburgh school and
long visits to Edinburgh relatives made the Scotch capital as familiar
to me as Fife; and then the Stevenson family in their home at Heriot Row
were added to the little circle of friends, now, alas! so thinned by
grievous blanks. Old and young have passed into 'The Silent Land,' and
life is infinitely the poorer for those severed friendships--those lost
regards of early days.

Not a few of the old folk were notable in their time, some of the
younger generation have made, or mean to make, some stir in the world.
But round none of them gathers so much of romance of honour and of
distinction as about Robert Louis Stevenson, who used to visit his
uncle's house in Leven, doubtless from one of those expeditions to
Anstruther, of which he tells us that he spent his time by day in giving
a perfunctory attention to the harbour, at which his father's firm were
working, and lived his real life by night scribbling romances in his
lodgings. It is on record that he felt a thrill of well-merited pride
when an Anstruther small boy pointed to him, as he stood beside the
workmen, and said: 'There's the man that's takin' charge.' But he
assuredly knew more of pleasure in his hours of scribbling than in his
hours of inspection, although the out-of-door, wind-swept, wave-splashed
part of engineering was never so abhorrent to him as office work. In the
office he was known very little; but tradition has it that a small pile
of evil spellings is still treasured there as a characteristic memento
of the genius, and the thought has been known to comfort the sad hearts
of other apprentice engineers afflicted with a like shakiness in their
orthography, that the now much appreciated man of letters once shared
their melancholy failing.

Stories of all sorts were handed about in our little clique of the
wondrous Robert Louis whose sayings and doings were already precious to
an appreciative circle of relatives and friends. But it was not till
sometime in the autumn of 1869 that he first became personally known to
me.

The introduction took place on a September afternoon in the drawing-room
of 'The Turret,' and he inspired a great deal of awe in a youthful
admirer who even then had literary aspirations, and who therefore looked
up to him with much respect as someone who already wrote. From that time
he was regarded as one of the quaintest, the most original and the most
charming personalities among one's acquaintances. There was about him,
in those days, a whimsical affectation, a touch of purely delightful
vanity that never wholly left him in later life, and that far from
repelling, as it would have done in any one more commonplace, was so
intrinsically a part of his artistic nature that it was rather
attractive than otherwise. Full of delightful humour, his idlest
sayings--when he took the trouble to say anything which he frequently
did not!--were teeming with the elements not only of laughter but of
thought, and you wondered, long after you had talked with him, why it
was that you saw new lights on things, and found food for mirth and
matter for reflection where neither had suggested itself before.

In those days he was not only original himself, but he had to a great
degree that rare faculty of bringing to the surface in others the very
smallest spark of originality, and of remembering it and appreciating
it in a way that was stimulating and helpful to those who had the
pleasure of knowing him. When the little seaside town was empty of
visitors, and it was not time to pay Edinburgh visits for the season, in
February and March, one kindness of his was very greatly prized by some
of us who beguiled the tedium of the winter months by writing for and
conducting an amateur magazine, called _Ours_. For this, in 1872 and
1873, Mr Stevenson gave us a short contribution, _The Nun of Aberhuern_,
a trifle in his own graceful style, which, as he was even then beginning
to be known in the world of letters, we valued much. Moreover, he took a
friendly interest in the sheets of blue MS. paper so closely written
over with our somewhat juvenile productions, and made here a criticism,
there a prediction, which has not been without its effect on the future
work of some of us.

Mr Stevenson was always kind and always sympathetic; he laughed at your
follies of course, but he did it so pleasantly that the laughter seemed
almost a compliment, and the kindness was more memorable than the mirth.
In one among his juniors at least, imbued like himself with a love of
old-time romance and of ancient story, he inspired a passion of
gratitude that abides to this day. Mr Stevenson not only never laughed,
as the other boys and girls did, nor treated the memory of delightful
childish plays with contempt, as was the fashion of the generation just
grown up, he never even smiled over the unfeminine tastes of a child who
went pirate-hunting in an upturned table with a towel for a sail and
dried orange skins for provender--or whose dolls were not treated as
those dainty girlish playthings ought to be, as pretty babies and gay
society dames, but figured as the tattered and battered followers of
Prince Charlie--himself a hero very much the worse for the wear in a
plaid and a kilt!--after Culloden. Or, in gayer moods, the same dolls
attended his receptions at Holyrood in garish garments, or masqueraded
as Mary Queen of Scots and her four Maries in that 'turret chamber high
of ancient Holyrood' where 'she summoned Rizzio with his lute and bade
the minstrel play.'

Mr Stevenson listened gravely to all these things. He professed a real
interest in them. He even remembered the names of the puppets and the
parts they had played, and so gained for himself an enduring niche in
the heart that had bitterly resented the mockery of the others. It is
quite possible that a nature so gentle and so appreciative as his really
_felt_ the sympathy. The juniors are rarely mistaken as to the
genuineness of the feelings of their elders, and his interest certainly
rang true to the youthful mind. He had been himself a delicate child, so
he was capable of understanding how many weary and solitary hours the
romantic plays had filled pleasantly.

It is not a memory of much moment, perhaps, but it shows that even at an
age when most young men are too keenly concerned with themselves and
their own affairs to take much trouble for those who are a few years
their juniors, Mr Stevenson had thought and sympathy to spare for the
small joys and sorrows, the interests, and the 'make-believes' that had
amused a lonely child, and which, after all, in one form or another,
make up a good deal of life to most of us.

One is inclined to gather from his books, and from the statements
accredited to him in magazines and newspapers, that he never took women
very seriously. He may not have done so--save those who were very near
and dear to him, and they were set in a sacred shrine of their own--but
he certainly always treated women very charmingly; and the young girl
relatives and friends, who were accustomed to be much in his home
circle, had never any reason to complain of the lack of the most dainty
and courtly attentions or of a most constant and spontaneous kindness
from the somewhat solemn youth, who, like other youths of twenty,
considered that it showed a great knowledge of the world to affect a
rather cynical disdain of the feminine half of humanity. In himself
there was, curiously enough, always a reminder of the feminine; an
almost girlish look passed now and again, in those days, over the thin
delicately-tinted face, and a womanly gentleness in voice and manner
reminded one of his mother.

The same ready sympathy, the same power, as it were, of putting himself
into a friend's place and entering with heart and soul into the affairs
of others which made him so interested a listener to a young girl's
story of her childhood's plays, made him in his later years the friend
of the Samoans, the champion of Samoan liberties, and, all through his
life, the one man whom the men and women who knew him loved with the
love that is only given to the very few, and those the few, too often,
whose death in life's prime, or before it, prove them to have been among
those whom the old poet tells us 'the gods love.'

Nothing at this time was more remarkable in Mr Stevenson than his
extraordinary youthfulness of mind. At an age when other young men
affect to be blasé and world weary he was delightfully and fearlessly
boyish. Boyish even in his occasional half-comic solemnity of
appearance; he was boyish likewise in his charming jests and jokes, and,
above all, in his hearty delight in any outdoor 'ploy' that came in his
way.

A comical instance of this nearness of the boy to the surface in him
displayed itself one grey east-windy afternoon at Leven, when one saw
quite another side to him than the literary and dilettante one
displayed, with something of a mannered affectation, the day before in
'The Turret' drawing-room. He had walked down to the sands with his aunt
and there were assembled various younger members of the Balfour clique,
and some whom age and sex ought perhaps to have taught to despise,
though it had not, the hoydenish pleasures of 'a sea-house.' A
'sea-house,' for the benefit of the uninitiated, is a deep hole dug in
the sand while the tide is out, and the sand taken from the hole is
built round in broad, high walls to make the fort resist as long as
possible the rush of the incoming waves. It takes hours to make, but no
trouble is too great, for is there not the fierce joy of adventure at
the last when the waves finally win in the struggle and the
huddled-together inmates of the now submerged house are thoroughly
soaked with spray and salt water?

The 'sea-house,' the shouts of its builders, the tempting curl on the
waves, as each one came a little further, the slight rise of the wind
driving the breakers hurriedly landwards, were evidently too much for Mr
Stevenson. One moment the weight of his nineteen years and the duty of
politeness to his aunt restrained him, the next Mrs Balfour was left
standing alone, and overcome with laughter, while Louis was in the sea
house scolding, praising, and exhorting all at once, but above all
imploring us to 'sit it out a little longer' as wave after wave widened
the breach in the ramparts of sand, and


     'In every hole the sea came up,
     Till it could come no more,'


while wetter and wetter grew the heroic few who, with Mr Stevenson 'sat
it out' loyally, till it was possible to sit there no longer. Then
wet--wetter indeed than ever before--the remnant crept home to be
frowned upon and punished but to know no repentance; for had not Robert
Louis been the ringleader, and was there any punishment invented that
could take from the joy and the pride of a mischievous adventure in
which _he_ had had a part! And he, with the water dripping from his
trousers and 'squirching' in his boots, was perfectly and placidly
happy, regardless of his aunt's dismay and the future horrors of a
possible bad cold. He had been a schoolboy again for the all too brief
half hour beside the grey and gurly sea, and that youthfulness, that
survived through all the patient suffering of his life and that seems to
laugh out of the pages of his books to the last, was in the ascendant as
he walked off jauntily townwards, amiably oblivious of the lecture his
aunt gave him by the way.

Anything which brought him into close contact with the sea had a charm
for him, even that mock combat with the waves of the autumn equinox on
the flat shore of Fife. Therefore at this time although classes and
study were a weariness to him his days spent in the old-fashioned town
of Anstruther, or on the desolate coast of Caithness, had many
pleasures; had many romances also, for everywhere he went he picked up
odd and out-of-the-way knowledge, and came across strange stories and
stranger characters, from the lingering tradition of the poor relic of
the Spanish Armada, the Duke of Modena Sidonia,[3] who after his sojourn
in Fair Isle landed at Anstruther and still glorified the quaint
sea-port in the East Neuk with his ghostly dignity--to the peer of the
realm, in actual flesh and blood, whom Mr Stevenson found acting as a
home missionary to the present day population of the Fair Isle. All
things were treasured in the note-book of his memory, or jotted down in
the note-book in his pocket; and, while the engineer progressed very
little in his profession, the future novelist was undergoing a training
for his work almost perfect in its way and assuredly most admirably
suited to the nature that loved an open air life and revelled in an
existence on the sea or beside it.'

Possibly not all aspiring civil engineers, certainly very few budding
novelists, so test the reality of things as to go down into the ocean
depths in a diver's dress and in the company of a professional diver,
but this Robert Louis Stevenson actually did. His account of it, in
bygone days, was gruesomely graphic, his pen-and-ink sketch of it, to be
read in _Random Memories_, is not less so; and the thing itself must
have been an experience well worth having to a mind like his. Well worth
knowing too, both to the man and to the future creator of character,
were those brave hardy sons of toil who did the rough work of his firm's
harbours and lighthouses; and many a good yarn he must have heard them
spin as he stood side by side with them on some solid block of granite,
or on some outlying headland, or chatted and smoked with the captain and
the sailors of _The Pharos_ as she made her rounds among the islands.

FOOTNOTE:

[3] Although Mr Stevenson spoke and wrote of this personage as
'the Duke of Modena Sidonia,' he was in reality Don Jan Gomez de Modena,
who is mentioned in T. M'Crie's 'Life of Andrew Melville.'



CHAPTER V

HOME LIFE


     'O, pleasant party round the fire.'
                               --R. L. STEVENSON.


Often a little indifferent, sometimes politely bored in general society,
it was at home that Robert Louis Stevenson seemed to me to be seen to
the greatest advantage. That little household of three, that delightful
trio who so thoroughly appreciated each other were charming everywhere,
but only quite perfect when taken together within the hospitable walls
that enshrined so true a home. Not a house or an abiding place merely,
whence the business or the gaieties of life could be comfortably
indulged in, but a _home_ where, however much the amusements of the
Scotch capital were shared in and appreciated, the truest happiness lay
around the quiet fireside where the mother, father, and son loved and
understood each other with a love the deeper, that the intense Scotch
reticence of all made it, like a hidden jewel, the more precious because
so rarely displayed to strangers' eyes.

No son could be more fortunate in his parents, no parents could have
given a child a more unselfish devotion, a more comprehending sympathy.
His very delicacy and the anxiety it had so often caused them had drawn
their hearts more tenderly to him, and, absolutely happy in each other,
they were equally happy in their pride and pleasure in their son's
evident genius and most original personality.

In days when discontent and extravagance have done so much to lessen, at
least upon the surface of things, the sacredness of home, and weaken the
solemnity of marriage, it is comforting and pleasant to look back upon
such a home as that was, and to realise that it is possible, in the
midst of a busy life of work and of pleasure, to preserve an inner holy
of holies around the domestic hearth, into which no jarring discord, no
paltry worldly worry, can come, because love is there. Before love's
clear gaze all that is selfish and petty and false dies away, while all
that is true, good, and gentle makes for sweet peace and that perfect
union of hearts which can alone create a true marriage and a perfect
home life.

Into the Stevenson household, as into other households, came from time
to time real worry, real grief, and not infrequent anxiety. The very
frailty of tenure by which their son had always held his life was in
itself a daily burden to the parents. Mrs Stevenson, especially in her
earlier married life, was often far from strong; to Mr Stevenson came
now and then those darker moods to which the Scotch temperament,
particularly when tinged with the Celtic, is liable. Personal and
business disappointments were not wholly unknown, although life in these
latter respects was one saved at least from monetary anxieties, and
crowned with a large measure of success. But in "all the changes and
chances of this mortal life" this household had a sure sheet anchor on
which to depend. Love met the trials smiling, and because they loved
each other they were clothed in the armour of defence.

It was a home ennobled by a high ideal of what life ought to be, and
hallowed by a strong and personal faith in God. Mr Stevenson's somewhat
austere Calvinism gave a gravity to his character and his religion that
were admirably balanced by the happy nature and the sunny active faith
of his wife, whose religion was none the less real and earnest that it
was bright and always cheerfully practical. Both loved the grand old
Church of Scotland, with her far-reaching history and her noble
traditions; both, with money and with personal interest, helped not only
their own congregation of St Stephen's but the missions and schemes of
the Church at large, and many private kindnesses and public charities
besides evinced their liberality of heart. Mrs Stevenson, among other
things, took a keen pleasure in work for the Indian Zenanas, and among
his many engrossments Mr Stevenson was greatly occupied as to the public
good of Edinburgh, and notably interested himself in the restoration of
St Giles, that grand old landmark of national history of which, in its
present condition, Scotland has every reason to be proud.

In such a home as this Robert Louis Stevenson was from early childhood
educated in a deeply-rooted respect for the Bible and the old solemn
teachings which gave to Scotland those 'graves of the martyrs,' of which
he so often writes. The Calvinism of his ancestors, inherited to a
certain extent by his father, softened to him by his mother's sweetness
of nature and brightness of faith, always remained with him something
to be regarded with a tender reverence; and if, as he grew to manhood,
the 'modern spirit' changed and modified his beliefs, so that it might
be said of him, as of so many large natures and earnest souls,


     'His God he cabins not in creeds,'


God and religion remained very real to him; and the high ideal of duty
first learned in his childhood's home guided his life to the last.
Robert Fergusson's life and poems interested him greatly, and he often
declared himself drawn to him by a certain spiritual affinity; while,
when suffering from his frequent attacks of distressing illness, he
sometimes thought with dread of Fergusson's sad fate.

Pleasure as well as duty, however, was always made welcome in the
Stevenson home. Mr and Mrs Thomas Stevenson held no stern views of
everyday life, no gayer or brighter household could be found than
theirs. None certainly existed where young folk received a warmer
welcome, whether the family were established for the winter at 17 Heriot
Row, or were spending the summer at Swanston, that delightful nook,
nestling in the shelter of the Pentland hills, where the old-fashioned
flowers had so sweet a scent, the rustic sounds of country life were so
full of charming music, and where the home trio themselves loved


     'Every path and every plot,
       Every bush of roses,
     Every blue forget-me-not
       Where the dew reposes.'


Differing much in their natures, but fitting, as it were, closely into
each other's souls and characters, Louis Stevenson's parents early made
for him that ideal of home and of marriage that shows itself from the
first in his writings, just here a line and there a sentence, which
indicates how his thoughts ran, and how, whatever enjoyment he might
take in poking cynicism at women in the abstract, he was full of a noble
idea, a manly longing for that one woman, of whose soul and his own, he
could say--


     'Once and beyond recollection,
       Once ere the skies were unfurled,
     These an immortal affection
       Found at the birth of the world,'


a woman who would be what his mother was to his father, a something as
sacred as all through his life that mother was to him. Save that Mrs
Thomas Stevenson's eyes were rather hazel than blue, it might have been
of her that the late Professor Blackie wrote so sweetly:--


     'True to herself and to the high ideal
     That God's grace gave her to inform the real,
     True to her kind, and to your every feeling
     Respondent with a power of kindliest healing
     She knows no falseness, even the courtliest lie;
     She dreams not, truth flows from her deep blue eye,
     And if her tongue speaks pleasant things to all,
     'Tis that she loveth well both great and small,
     And all in her that mortals call politeness
     Is but the image of her bright soul's brightness.'


That Stevenson home was to many of us, besides the son of the house, a
picture of what a true life ought to be, and one that seemed to make the
realisation of all high ideals possible in whatever fashion one's own
existence might ultimately be led.

There was something so strong and manly in Mr Thomas Stevenson,
something so sweetly womanly in his wife. A beautiful woman always,
because hers was the beauty of soul, as well as of feature, in those
early seventies, one cannot imagine anyone more graceful, more gracious,
or more charming than she was.

It would also be difficult to imagine a wife or mother more sympathetic
or more sensible. She could always see the fun of things; she never
objected to clubs and men's dinners, and the excuse for a night away
from the home hearth, that is so dear to the best of men.

Not many weeks before her death, when we were talking of those happy
days of long ago, she told me that she always took a book and contented
herself, and then was ready to be interested when the truant returned
with a latch-key. An example, that if closely followed, would assuredly
make for domestic peace. And one fancies that the woman who said
smilingly, she always much approved of 'The Evening Club,' because her
husband or son could make merry there so late, that she was sound
asleep, and could not miss their conversation, was likely to be a
pleasant wife to live with, and an ideal mother for a son of such
Bohemian tendencies as Robert Louis.

Even that marvellous taste in dress which her son affected, and which
would certainly have dismayed more conventional mothers, only amused her
immensely. Among other jottings of hers about him in her little
note-book is one which relates with much appreciation that a faithful
servant says of him, 'One summer he tried to wear a frock-coat and tall
hat, but after a little he laid them aside and said, "I am not going to
be a swell any more," and returned to the velveteen coat and the straw
hat which he preferred.'

Except at a wedding, or some such solemn function, whereat he probably
looked misery personified, one cannot remember him so conventionally
apparelled as in the frock-coat and the tall hat. Possibly it was before
this access of propriety temporarily had him in its grasp that one day
we saw him in Princes Street 'taking the air' in an open cab with a
Stevenson cousin, attired in like manner with himself. In those days
fashionable people often walked in Princes Street in the afternoon, so
what was our dismay, in the midst of quite a crowd of the gay world, to
see that open cab, at a word of command from Robert Louis, draw near the
pavement as we approached, when two battered straw hats were lifted to
us with quite a Parisian grace. Both young men wore sailor hats with
brilliant ribbon bands, both were attired in flannel cricketing jackets
with broad bright stripes, and round Louis's neck was knotted a huge
yellow silk handkerchief, while over both their heads one of them held
an open umbrella. In days when the wearing of cricketing clothes, except
in the playing fields, was in Scotland still so uncommon that it is on
authentic record that an elderly unmarried lady in an east coast
watering place, on meeting in its high street a young man in boating
flannels, was so shocked at the innovation that she promptly went home,
leaving all her shopping undone and her tea-drinking and friendly gossip
forgotten, such an apparition as that in the open cab required more
courage to face than people accustomed to the present-day use of gay
tennis garb can easily imagine. It was fortunate that nerve to return
the salutation smilingly was not wanting, or Mr Stevenson would
certainly have pitilessly chaffed the timid victims of conventionality
afterwards.

Having borne the ordeal with such courage as we possessed, we hastened
to have tea with Mrs Stevenson, whose first question was, 'Have you seen
Lou?'

And when we described that startling vision that was slowly creeping
along Princes Street in the open cab, she laughed till her tears fell.
In half an hour or so her son came in cool and unconcerned, and as
punctiliously polite as if his attire had been the orthodox apparel for
an afternoon tea-party.

The effects of his dressing and appearance on the foreign mind is most
humorously described by himself in his _Epilogue to an Inland Voyage_,
where the extraordinary nature of his garments so dismayed the French
police that while his friend, the late Sir Walter G. Simpson, 'The
Cigarette,' was allowed to go free, 'The Arethusa' was popped into
prison, kept there for an hour or two, and finally hustled off to Paris,
an adventure of the two friends, who were so systematically taken for
'bagmen,' on that charming expedition, which was always told with much
laughter by 'The Arethusa's' parents.

One of the last memories of Mr Stevenson in Edinburgh that distinctly
remains with me was finding him looking into the window of Messrs
Douglas & Foulis in Castle Street on a grey, east windy day that was
cold enough to make the thickest great-coat necessary. But he was
visibly shivering in one of his favourite short velvet coats. It was
palpably too short in the arms, and certainly the worse for wear; his
long hair fell almost to his shoulders, and he wore a Tyrolese hat of
soft felt. With a whimsical and appreciative glance at his garments, he
offered to accompany me along Princes Street; so we set off westwards
together, when, so charming was his conversation, that long before we
reached the doorsteps of his relative's house, which was my destination,
one had forgotten that the wind was in the east, and the sky greyer than
the pavements, and only longed for the walk to begin over again, that he
might talk all the way. These eccentricities of attire were merely a
part of the rather attractive vanity of a clever youth, whose exuberance
of spirits was, in spite of much bad health, at that time so great that
he was often merry with a gaiety that was as child-like as it was
amusing. In later life he gradually modified his ideas as to dress, and
in the _Vailima Letters_ he writes of himself in Samoa as going to Apia
to social amusements in most orthodox coats and ties.

At evening parties he always looked like a martyr in the dismal black
coat and white tie, which he described as a mixture of the livery of a
waiter and the mourning of an undertaker. At dances, he propped himself
against a wall, in a doorway or in some coign of vantage about the
staircase, looking limp and miserable, but keenly observant all the
time. When he found a congenial soul, whether man or woman, to talk to,
he brightened, the limpness vanished, and his quick flow of wit and
fancy streamed on in a delightful river of talk which touched on grave
and gay with equal ease, and was exactly what a poet describes, as--


     'His talk was like a stream that runs
       With rapid change from rocks to roses,
     It skipped from politics to puns,
       It passed from Mahomet to Moses.
     Beginning with the laws that keep
       The planets in their rapid courses,
     And ending with a precept deep
       For stewing eels or shoeing horses.'


Although he looked so unhappy at dances or 'at homes,' at dinners, if
the guests were fitly chosen, he was thoroughly at his ease and
exceedingly amusing. With his few intimate friends too he was seen at
his best; but in general society he was usually as bored as he looked.

The Edinburgh of that day was very pleasant socially. Its world seemed
somewhat smaller than it is now, less ostentatiously rich, more
seriously cultured; or so at least it appeared to the young folk who
belonged to the old-fashioned law and professional set in which the
Stevensons largely had their acquaintance. People in that set still
lived, more than they do to-day, eastwards or northwards of Heriot Row,
in the large old houses which were so homelike and so comfortable. The
centre of things was in those grand grey houses from Heriot Row upwards
to Charlotte Square, westwards to Randolph Cliff and a little way over
the Dean Bridge. Drumsheugh Gardens was an innovation. The terraces,
Royal, Regent, and Carlton, that 'west end of the east,' were still
fashionable, and few people had, as yet, migrated southwards to


     'That proud part of Morningside,
     Where houses girt with gardens
     Do stretch down far and wide.'


It was not a very large world, but it was a very agreeable one, and one
which had its notabilities. Lord Neaves with his delightful songs, and
the other old-time judges were still with us. Sir David Brewster was not
so very long dead; Sir James Y. Simpson was yet a very recent memory.
Professor Blackie was in the zenith of his fame. Sir Daniel Macnee told
his wonderful stories; Professor, now Sir, Douglas Maclagan sang his
delightful songs. Mr Sam Bough's hearty laugh rang out among the
artists, and Sir R. Christison, and Syme, and Keith, and Lister, had
made the Edinburgh medical world famous. Professors Masson, Tait,
Kelland, Crum-Brown, Fleeming-Jenkin--in whose theatricals R. L.
Stevenson took a picturesque part--and a host of other well-known names
were among the guests at dinners, and most beloved personality of all,
perhaps, Dr John Brown, accompanied by his 'doggies' still nodded to us
out of his carriage window, or left wonderful scraps of drawings on the
hall tables as he passed out from seeing a patient. And everywhere in
that pleasant world the Stevenson family were welcome and well known.

By the host of young people who are now in turn taking the busy work of
life, from which so many of the elders are resting for ever, parties at
17 Heriot Row and at Swanston were much appreciated. Dinner parties for
young people were not then so common as now, and the delightful ones
given by Mr and Mrs Thomas Stevenson were greatly enjoyed. The guests
were carefully chosen, and limited to ten or twelve, so that
conversation at dinner was general. And how amusing that conversation
was! The humour of father and son as they drew each other out was
wonderful, they capped each other's good things, and somehow made less
gifted folk shine in the conversation also in a way peculiar to them and
which was fully shared by Mrs Thomas Stevenson, who made the most
charming of hostesses. Father and son on these occasions were simply
full of jests and jollity, everything started an argument, and every
argument lent itself to fun. It is odd that nothing definite of those
clever sayings of theirs seems to return to one; it is only, as it were,
the memory of an aroma that filled the air sweetly at the time, and is
still faintly present with one that remains; the actual 'bon-mots' have
unhappily passed away. It is consoling to find that Mr Edmund Gosse, who
in _Kit-Cats_ writes delightfully of his friend Louis Stevenson, notes
the same intangible character of his talk.

After the little dinners there were delightful informal dances, to which
nephews, nieces, friends, and neighbours came as well as the dinner
guests, and one can still remember with a smile, perilously near to
tears, Mr Thomas Stevenson driving his unwilling son to dance the
old-time dance 'Sir Roger de Coverley,' which the elder man loved and
the younger professed to scorn even while he entered with a zeal that
finally satisfied his father into the performance of it, that always
ended an informal evening at 17 Heriot Row.

Music, too, was a pleasant feature of those little parties, and one
still recalls, especially, the songs and the lovely voice of a favourite
niece of Mrs Stevenson, whose early death made the first break in the
home at 'The Turret,' too soon to be followed by the passing away of all
save one of that happy household. Even now, after the lapse of so many
years, one seems to see Mr Thomas Stevenson leaning eagerly forward as
she sang such sweet old songs as 'My Mother bids me bind my Hair,' and
'She wore a wreath of Roses,' or Robert Louis applauding his favourites,
'I shot an Arrow into the Air,' and 'The Sea hath its Pearls.'

On one occasion one of these merry parties was enlivened by the presence
of some young Japanese engineer students, who were on tour in Edinburgh,
and who had brought introductions to the distinguished engineer, who
made them very cordially welcome. It was not then very common to meet
Japanese, and these quiet dignified young men, in their gracefully
flowing black garments, interested the Stevenson family and their
youthful guests greatly.



CHAPTER VI

HIS CHOICE OF A LITERARY LIFE AND HIS EARLIER BOOKS


     'A clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
     Who pens a stanza when he should engross.'
                        --POPE'S _Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot_.


His son's refusal to become a civil engineer, and to take his natural
position in the family business, was undoubtedly a great trial to a man
of Mr Thomas Stevenson's character and professional traditions. That
business had in it not only wealth, honour, and success, but, to every
Stevenson, the glamour of romance, the fascination of adventure, and to
the father his firm's history appealed strongly. Therefore the blow that
fell upon him during that memorable walk, when his son at last found
courage to confess to him that he could not persevere in the traditional
path which he was expected to tread, must have been a crushing one, and
it said much for the strength of his fatherly affection that he received
it as he did. It was a painful decision for the son to make, and an
equally painful one for the parents to hear.

Mrs Thomas Stevenson as well as her husband felt it a keen
disappointment that her son could not walk in his father's footsteps. To
them, as to all parents of their position and very natural social
prejudices, it seemed a foolish thing for a man to turn seriously to
literature as a means of winning his daily bread. The Edinburgh of that
day did not think much of the profession of letters, and although the
memory of Sir Walter Scott, the 'Edinburgh Reviewers,' and the literary
lights of an earlier time was still green, all parents held the opinion
that, although a few authors had made for themselves fame and fortune,
literature was but a beggarly trade at the best, and one to which no
wise man would apprentice his son.

Only those who knew the elder Mr Stevenson's nature well could fully
understand how great a trial to him was his son's decision; and only
those very near and dear to him could quite appreciate the depth of the
father's love, the tenderness of the father's heart, which permitted no
tinge of bitterness, no lasting shadow of repining, to darken his
relations with his son or to lessen in the slightest his overwhelming
affection for him. Sensitive in the extreme, the son in his turn could
not fail to feel his father's disappointment, almost to exaggerate its
effect on the older man in his own tender-hearted remorse that he was
unable to fulfil his destiny in any other way than by following
literature, which was calling him with no uncertain voice. It was good,
therefore, to hear from the lips of the wife and mother, who was so
fully in the confidence of both, that no abiding cloud remained between
the father and the son, and that both quietly accepted the inevitable
when law, like engineering, was also laid aside to allow Louis to fulfil
his one strong desire. Lovingly and unselfishly the parents finally
accepted the fact that genius must have its way, and that in the dainty
book lined study, in travel by ways quaint and unusual, in prolonged
sojourns in search of health in distant lands, the younger Stevenson's
life-work was to be done.

When he found that his son would not be an engineer, Mr Thomas Stevenson
very naturally wished him to have a profession to fall back upon should
literature not prove a success, and it was agreed that he should read
for the Bar. Louis, therefore, about the end of 1871, entered the office
of the firm which is now known as Messrs Skene, Edwards, & Garson, W.S.
The late Mr Skene, LL.D., was then senior partner of the firm. Another
partner was the father of Mr J. R. P. Edwards, who has kindly supplied
the following very interesting facts about Robert Louis Stevenson while
he was undergoing his legal training in his office.

'Mr Stevenson entered the office, which was then in 18 Hill Street, in
1871, and left it about the middle of the year 1873, and was afterwards
called to the Bar. His position in the office was neither that of a
clerk nor of an apprentice, but merely of a person gaining some
knowledge of business. He never received any salary, and, as is usual
with aspirants for the Bar, his position was in no way subject to the
ordinary office discipline. After searching through papers which were
written in the office during the time Stevenson was in the office, I
find a good many papers which were written by him, but they are all
merely copies of documents, and I can find no trace of any deeds which
were actually drawn up by him. This is no doubt accounted for, firstly,
because he was not experienced enough in the drafting of deeds, and,
secondly, because he may have found the somewhat dry intricacies of
conveyancing, which are for the most part governed by hard and fast
rules of law, foreign to his marvellous imagination.

'I have not been able to trace any of the staff of the office who were
in it with Robert Louis Stevenson, with the exception of two men, who
seem to remember little about him, but they said that he was very
reserved and kept very much to himself. One of the men did not even know
that he was the great Stevenson. The other man, however, said that he
remembered that Stevenson had, as he described it to me, "an awful
notion of the Pentland hills, and was that fond of talking about them."
I believe he was very fond of scribbling pieces of writing on odd pieces
of paper in his spare moments, but, unfortunately, I can find no trace
of these; but that is not to be wondered at, as the firm have removed to
two different houses since Stevenson was in the office.

'Mr Skene, who was head partner of the firm during the time that
Stevenson was in the office, had always a great admiration for his
writings, and shortly before his (Mr Skene's) death he said that it was
a great regret to him that he had not known him better, and recognised
in him a brother in letters. My father, who saw a good deal more of
Stevenson, says that he struck him as being a very shy and nervous man,
or rather, as he then was, a boy. My father also states that Stevenson
was a tremendous walker, and that he used often to come into the office
in the morning in the somewhat unprofessional garb of walking kit,
having covered a good many miles before breakfast.'

The office staff in 1871 consisted of ten men. Six of them have died,
two cannot now be traced, and the remaining two mentioned by Mr Edwards
are very old men.

Mr Edwards also says that in one deed which was written by Louis
Stevenson there are five errors on two short pages, so that although the
handwriting in it is neat, round, and clear, it is evident that his
thoughts were not on his work, and that he was no more diligent in law
than he had been in engineering. His handwriting, although neat and
distinct, can hardly be called pretty, he seemed to use a good deal of
ink in those days as the down strokes are all black and heavy. In spite
of his lack of interest in his office work he passed advocate with
credit on 14th July 1875, was called to the Bar on the 15th, and had his
first brief on the 23rd.

He duly donned a wig and gown during the following session, and the
delicate face that was so grave and refined looked very picturesque with
the luminous eyes gleaming out from under the grey horse-hair. He joined
the ranks of those 'Briefless Barristers' whose business it is to walk
the hall of the Parliament House in search of clients. He had either one
or two briefs, but he gave them away as he never acted as an advocate.
His mother treasured the shillings he got for them among her relics of
his early days.

Although his connection with the Parliament House was totally devoid of
that professional success that ultimately leads to a seat on the
Bench--but for which Mr Stevenson had no desire--it was not without its
uses as an education for that other success by reason of which very many
people who have never seen his face know and love him to-day. If his
sojourn within those venerable halls was useless for law it was
fruitful for literature, and one can imagine that as he now and then
haunted the courts and listened to the advocates and the judges he was
already, from a study of the Bench of the present, laying the foundation
for those brilliant pictures of the judges of a ruder past which he
gives us in Lord Prestongrange or Lord Hermiston. It is not very fair or
very complimentary to the judges of 1875 to compare them with such a
creation as Lord Hermiston, but it was not much more than half a
century, before their day, that customs and manners like his were
possible.

The robes, the forms, the etiquette, and the procedure of the Court of
Session are still a sufficiently picturesque survival of an older time;
and to a mind like Mr Stevenson's that short association with the
historic Parliament House, with its far-reaching traditions and with the
acting majesty of the law in Scotland that is so old and so unchanged an
institution, which to-day employs the very words and phrases of bygone
centuries, and still holds, in many points, to the structure of the
ancient Roman Law, could not fail to be interesting and useful. Like Sir
Walter Scott, when he too walked in the Advocates' Hall, he no doubt
found much that was worth studying in the old law procedure as well as
in the men and manners of his own day, and appreciated to the full the
magnificent library in its dark and silent rooms that are such a
contrast to the bustle of the courts, and every corner of which is
teeming with history.

But his heart was not in the Law Courts, and already in that book-lined
study at 17 Heriot Row, the window of which looked over the Forth to
Fife, and the walls of which were so temptingly covered with books, his
real life work had begun. No treat was greater, no honour more esteemed,
than a visit to that study and a learned disquisition there on its
owner's favourite books or methods of work.

Walking up and down with the hands thrown out in gesticulations,
semi-foreign but eminently natural--for did not the child of three do it
while repeating hymns on that walk to Broughton!--Mr Stevenson gave his
opinions on matters grave and gay. Possibly he even produced his
note-books, and with a slim finger between the leaves showed us the
practice which he considered necessary for the creation of an author and
the making of a style, breaking off in the middle of his disquisition to
quote some master of the art or to take from the shelves a favourite
book and read aloud a pertinent illustration of the subject in hand.

Boswell's _Life of Johnson_, Borrow's _Bible in Spain_, the Bible
itself, Butler's _Hudibras_, George Meredith's novels, then less
appreciated than now, were all books for a better knowledge of which
some of us had to thank those visits to the study: on the shelves too
were Bulwer Lytton, Sir Walter Scott, the old dramatists, ballads, and
chapbooks, and innumerable favourites that had a place in his heart as
well as in his bookcase.

Keen and clever were the criticisms he made on them--criticisms that
come back to one with the pathos of 'a voice that is still' when one
reads in his _Gossip on Romance_ and _A Humble Remonstrance_ his delight
in Boswell, his pleasure in _All Sorts and Conditions of Men_, and his
admiration for Scott as a Prince of Romance writers, for whose style he
had not one good word to say!

He had early edited and written for amateur magazines, and when only
sixteen he wrote a pamphlet on the Pentland Rising of 1666,[4] which is
still in existence but a great rarity; the same subject inspired a
romance, and another romance was composed about Hackston of Rathillet,
that sombre and impressive witness of the murder of Archbishop Sharp,
whose conscientious refusal either to take part for or against the
victim had from childhood appealed to Mr Stevenson as pathetic and
picturesque. He also wrote in those days a poetical play, some dramatic
dialogues, and a pamphlet called _An Appeal to the Church of Scotland_,
in which his father was keenly interested. The style in his early
letters and notes of travel was excellent, but he destroyed most of his
writings at that time as he worked for practice rather than for
publication. He contributed frequently about 1871 to the _University
Magazine_, in which, as he kindly lent it to us, some of us had the
pleasure of reading _An Old Gardener_ and _A Pastoral_, two papers of
much promise, very full of outdoor life, the caller air of the Pentland
hills and the scent of the old-fashioned flowers in the Swanston garden.

Edinburgh, as a picturesque, historic city, he loved with a life's
devotion; Edinburgh, as a frivolous social centre, he despised; so some
of the strictures he made on it in _Picturesque Edinburgh_, published
in 1879, and beautifully illustrated by Mr Sam Bough and Mr Lockhart,
gave dire offence at the time to the denizens of 'Auld Reekie,' and are
in some quarters hardly pardoned even now when death and fame have made
Scotland's capital value her gifted son at his true worth.

In 1873 Mr Stevenson made the acquaintance of Mr Sydney Colvin and a
life-long friendship ensued. The older man was of great use in many ways
to the younger, whose genius he early discovered, and whose leaning to
literature he encouraged. In the interesting preface to _The Vailima
Letters_ Mr Colvin tells of his help in that time of trial, and that he
used his influence to persuade the parents that Louis had found his real
vocation in literature, and ought to follow it. No doubt when the large
and full _Life_ of Mr Stevenson, which Mr Colvin is preparing, appears,
he will have much of interest to tell of that turning-point in the young
man's life. He was of service also in introducing his friend to editors,
and Mr Stevenson's first serious appearance in literature was an essay
on _Roads_ sent by Mr Colvin to Mr Hamerton, the editor of _The
Portfolio_, in 1873. It appeared shortly, and was followed by more work
there and elsewhere; _Cornhill_, _Longmans_, and _Macmillan_ having all
before long printed papers by the new writer. In Macmillan the paper
_Ordered South_ appeared in April 1874, and had a pathetic interest as
it was an account of the first of its author's many pilgrimages in
search of health, which, after he grew to manhood, were to make up so
much of his life's experience.

In _Fraser's_, _Scribner's_, _The New Amphion_, _The Magazine of Art_,
his early work also found acceptance, and he occasionally contributed to
_The Contemporary Review_ and _The English Illustrated_, a list of
well-known magazines in the home country which makes the more remarkable
the refusal of the American papers to use his contributions largely,
during his stay in San Francisco and Monterey.

Of that charming dreamy sketch of those days, _Will o' the Mill_, which
appeared in _Cornhill_, Mr Hamerton wrote in the highest terms of
praise. Most of these early essays, sketches, and tales have been
republished, and in the beautiful _Edinburgh Edition_ of his works,
presently being seen through the press by Mr Colvin and Mr Baxter, and
all but completed, his many admirers will be able to read all that came
from his busy and graceful pen.

In 1878 Mr Stevenson's first book, _An Inland Voyage_, was published by
Messrs Chatto & Windus. It is a bright, fresh account of a trip in
canoes, 'The Arethusa' and 'The Cigarette,' made by Mr Stevenson and his
friend the late Sir Walter G. Simpson up the Oise and the Sambre. The
travellers had unique opportunities of observing people and scenery, and
of these the writer made the most, consequently the book is full of
pretty pictures of scenery and quaint touches of human life which make
it charming reading.

'There is nothing,' he says, 'so quiet and so much alive as a woodland.
And surely of all smells in the world the smell of many trees is
sweetest and most satisfying.'

These are the reflections of a man to whom the teeming silence of the
woods was very dear, and who, in _Prince Otto_, afterwards wrote a prose
poem on the mystery of the woods which Thoreau himself could not have
excelled.

'If we were charged so much a head for sunsets, or if God sent round a
drum before the hawthorns came into flower, what a work we should make
about their beauty. But these things, like good companions, stupid
people early cease to observe;' a state of affairs fortunately
incomprehensible to Mr Stevenson, who had not only a keen perception of
the beauty of the world but 'that inward eye which is the bliss of
solitude' that enabled him to recall and reproduce from memory these
pleasures of the past.

The volume which ends with the statement that 'The most beautiful
adventures are not those we go to seek,' is from its first page to its
last brightly readable and full of pleasant and graceful thoughts and
fancies. Its style is more mannered and less excellent than that of his
later work, but it already appealed to that cultured public who welcomed
the appearance of a new writer likely to make his mark as a 'maker' of
English style.

In 1895 _An Inland Voyage_ had run into its seventh edition; it was
followed by the even more popular _Travels in the Cevennes with a
Donkey_, which the same publishers sent out in 1879, and which in 1895
had reached a ninth edition.

On this occasion Mr Stevenson travelled alone. He had been living for a
time in the little town of Le Monastier, fifteen miles from Le Puy, and
here, in the late autumn, he bought an ass which he called 'Modestine,'
and with it, to the great interest of his simple neighbours, started on
a tour in the Cevennes. The pair set forth speeded on their way by many
good wishes and, in spite of a slow pace and not a few misfortunes with
the baggage and the pack-saddle, the tour was most successful. As to
Modestine's pace her master describes it as being 'as much slower than a
walk as a walk is slower than a run'!

The experiences of the traveller in the crisp, bright autumn weather and
the perfect scenery of the Cevennes were thoroughly enjoyable. The
simple peasantry and the homely innkeepers proved more friendly and
agreeable than those along the route of the canoeists had done. In the
monastery of 'Our Lady of the Snows' he had a kindly welcome from the
Trappist monks, who seemed to have found it possible to break their
stern rule of silence in their eagerness to convert him to Roman
Catholicism. Among themselves this rule of silence and the poorest diet
is rigidly enforced, and as the traveller left their hospitable doors he
'blessed God that he was free to wander, free to hope, and free to
love.'

In the country of the Camisards--that little sect of persecuted
religionists whose fierce brief struggle against the tyranny of the
Church of Rome he so graphically describes--the descendant of Scotch
Covenanters found himself at home, and at 'Pont de Montvert' his heart
beat in a certain stern sympathy with the persecuted remnant, who here
slew Du Chayla, and with that strange weird prophet Spirit Séguir, who,
after the deed was done, and he was about to suffer death for it at the
stake, said: 'My soul is like a garden full of shelter and fountains.'

The rising took place on 24th July 1702, and Mr Stevenson says of it:

''Tis a wild night's work with its accompaniment of psalms; and it seems
as if a psalm must always have a sound of threatening in that town upon
the Tarn.'

There is a delightful description of a night among the firs in which the
very spirit of nature breathes through his words, and his reason for
travelling as he does is happy and convincing.

'I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move, to feel the
needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off the feather
bed of civilisation and find the globe granite under foot and stern with
cutting flints. Alas! as we get up in life and are more pre-occupied
with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing to be worked for.'

Many people have all through life a closer acquaintance with 'the globe
granite under foot' than with 'the feather bed of civilisation,' and
daily bread even more than a holiday is a thing to be worked for. But Mr
Stevenson's lines had hitherto fallen in very pleasant places, and he
had not as yet entered as seriously as he had to do later into the
bitter battle of life.

After twelve days together he sold Modestine at St Jean du Gard and made
his return journey by diligence. This book, like the first, was widely
read and heartily appreciated as soon as it appeared.

FOOTNOTE:

[4] This is to be found reprinted in the Edinburgh Edition, in
which are also published for the first time the _Amateur Emigrant_ in
full, a fragmentary romance, _The Great North Road_, and other papers
and letters, &c., not hitherto known to the public.



CHAPTER VII

WANDERINGS IN SEARCH OF HEALTH


     'Know how sublime a thing it is
     To suffer and be strong.'--LONGFELLOW.


Mr Stevenson's health, although always a cause of more or less anxiety,
was from time to time somewhat better; else he could hardly have learned
the practical work of a brass foundry, superintended the building of
light towers and harbours, and taken such very active holidays as _An
Inland Voyage_, and the tour _Through the Cevennes with a Donkey_.
Nevertheless the delicacy was there, and it not only increased in 1873
but culminated in the autumn of that year in the first of those serious
attacks of illness which afterwards frequently caused himself so much
suffering and his friends such keen distress all through the life that,
in spite of them, he lived so bravely.

In the October of 1873 the doctors took so grave a view of his
indisposition that they ordered him south for the winter, and on the 5th
of November he started on the first of those pilgrimages in search of
health of which he says, somewhat sadly, in writing of his grandfather,
in his paper on _The Old Manse_:

'He sought health in his youth in the Isle of Wight; I have sought it
in both hemispheres, but whereas he found it and kept it, I am still on
the quest.'

The anxiety and distress of his parents during that winter were
naturally intense, and there is something tragic in the dates so
carefully preserved:

'Lou started on 5th November 1873.'

'He returned to Heriot Row on 26th April 1874.'

_Ordered South_ appeared in _Macmillan_ for that same April, and in its
very beauty there is a most painful pathos. The polish of its style, its
exquisitely chosen words, give to it something of the sadness of the
brilliant autumn tints on a wood, the red gold and the glory of decay.
It is a brave paper and it is an intensely sad one, the sadness in which
goes straight to the reader's heart, while the courage takes his respect
by storm. No wonder it calls forth universal sympathy; too many homes
have been darkened by the dread sentence 'Ordered South,' too many
sufferers have obeyed it in life's gay noonday, or in its sunny prime,
and few, alas! very few, have even returned to face the long struggle
with fate that Mr Stevenson fought so heroically! This was the first,
for him, of many journeys 'South'; for although the winter in the
Riviera sent him back somewhat stronger, the inherent delicacy was still
there, and time after time, in the twenty years and eleven months that
he lived after the November morning when he set out on that melancholy
journey, the recurrence of the graver symptoms of his malady obliged him
to seek sunnier skies and warmer climates.

Scotland which he loved, the grey skies, the greyer mists, the snell
winds,--that even in his happy Samoan life his exile's heart hungered
for to the last,--were fatal to his delicate lungs, and year by year he
was compelled to live less and less in his old Edinburgh home.

In 1880 when he brought his wife to Scotland to visit his parents his
health was so precarious that he had to hurry abroad before the winter,
and he and his wife and stepson went to Davos where they met and formed
a pleasant friendship with Mr J. A. Symonds and his family. On their
return it was hoped that the climate of the south of England might suit
Mr Stevenson and be conveniently near London for literary business and
literary friendships, so he, and his wife and son settled at Bournemouth
in a house called Skerryvore, after the famous lighthouse so dear to all
the Stevensons. Here too, alas! his enemy found him out; and chronic,
indifferent health, with not infrequent attacks of lung disease in its
more serious forms, finally obliged him about 1887 to take another
journey to America in the hope that it might do him good.

Through all his life the shadow of death was never quite out of sight
for him or for those who loved him; the skeleton hand was continually
beckoning to him. When we think what that means, in a man's life, we
realise with amazement his charming cheerfulness, his wonderful courage,
and the magnitude of his work, the exactitude of his methods, the
carefulness of his research, appeal to us as something positively heroic
in one so handicapped by adverse fate.

When many men in despair would have given in he fought on; and the sum
of his work, the length of his years--comparatively short as these
were--witness to the truth that _will_ can do many things. He willed to
fight, he willed to live, he scorned to drop by the wayside, or to die
one day before the battle was hopeless, and he fought his fight with a
smiling face and a gay courage that was as fine a thing in its way as an
act which has won a Victoria Cross; nay, finer, perhaps, for the
struggle was not of minutes, or of hours, but of a lifetime, a stern
prolonged tussle with death, in which he was never selfish, never
peevish, always thoughtful of others, invariably merry and bright, with
a wonderful sparkling whimsical mirth that had in it no touch of
bitterness or of cynicism. Even the last years of life, when the need to
work hard for an income that would sufficiently maintain his household,
made brain work, under conditions of physical weakness, often peculiarly
trying, were largely full of the same marvellous pluck and illumined by
the same sunny temperament.

In the years between 1873 and 1879, in the summer of which he went to
San Francisco, he had sought health in many places with a varying degree
of success. He had seen much of life and, as he was an excellent
linguist, had everywhere formed friendships with men of all
nationalities, and was thus enabled to study at his leisure continental
life and manners. He frequently stayed at Fontainbleau, where he had a
Stevenson cousin studying art, and the pleasant unconventional life of
the student settlement at Brabazon was very attractive to a man of Mr
Stevenson's temperament. His first visit to the artist colony was paid
in 1875, and it was often repeated.

His wanderings had unfortunately brought no permanent improvement to his
health so, for that and other reasons, it occurred to him in 1879 to go
to San Francisco to see if the Californian climate would be of benefit
to him. Eager as ever to study life in all its phases and from every
point of view he took his passage in an emigrant ship--where he tells us
he posed as a mason and played his part but indifferently well!--and at
New York resolved to continue his journey across America by emigrant
train.

In the graphic account of his experiences, in the volume of essays
entitled _Across the Plains_, and in _The Amateur Emigrant_, he
describes what must have been a very trying time to a man of his refined
upbringing and frail constitution. But he looks, here as elsewhere, at
the bright side of people and things; and even for the Chinaman, from
whom the other emigrants hold themselves aloof, he has a good word to
say. He keenly observed everything from his fellow-passengers, the
character of the newsboys on the cars, and the petty oppressions of the
railway officials to the glories of the scenery on that marvellous
journey of which Joaquin Miller says:--


     'We glide through golden seas of grain,
     We shoot, a shining comet, through
     The mountain range, against the blue,
     And then, below the walls of snow,
     We blow the desert dust amain,
     We see the orange groves below,
     We rest beneath the oaks, and we
     Have cleft a continent in twain.'


After the long rush across the plains, Mr Stevenson's heart bounded with
joy when he caught a glimpse of 'a huge pine-forested ravine, a foaming
river, and a sky already coloured with the fires of dawn.'

'You will scarce believe it,' he says, 'how my heart leaped at this. It
was like meeting one's wife. I had come home again--home from unsightly
deserts to the green and habitable corners of the earth.'

By the afternoon they had reached Sacramento, which he writes of as 'a
city of gardens in a plain of corn,' and before the dawn of the next day
the train was drawn up at the Oaklands side of San Francisco Bay. The
day broke as they crossed the ferry, and he says:

'The fog was rising over the citied hills of San Francisco; the bay was
perfect, not a ripple, scarce a stain upon its blue expanse, everything
was waiting breathless for the sun.

'A spot of gold first lit upon the head of Talampais and then widened
downwards on its shapely shoulder' ... and by-and-bye


     'The tall hills Titan discovered,'


'and the city of San Francisco and the bay of gold and corn were lit
from end to end with summer daylight.'

In _The Old Pacific Capital_ he writes delightfully of San Francisco and
the surge of its 'toss'd and tumbled sea,' that echoes forever around
Monterey and its woods of oaks and pines and cedars. He has much that is
interesting to tell of the curious contrast between San Francisco,
modern and American, and Monterey, the 'Old Pacific Capital,' so full of
a pathetic and a half-forgotten history. He has a deep sympathy with its
refined and impoverished Spanish gentle-folk and their unpractical ideas
of what is honourable; and he predicts that the people who do not
consider it etiquette to look through an important paper before signing
it are, in spite of America's assertions that they are well able to take
care of themselves, little likely to survive long in a world of Yankee
sharpness and smartness.

He revelled in the beautiful woods so often devastated by forest fires.
On one occasion, he says, he came perilously near lynching, for he
applied a match to the dry moss which clings to the bark of the trees to
see if it were so peculiarly ignitable as to be an important factor in
the rapid spread of a fire. In a moment flames broke out all over the
tree, and he found to his horror that he had started a fresh fire of his
own very difficult to put out, and exceedingly likely to arouse the
indignation of the men who were struggling to beat out the existing
conflagration, to the point of lynching the too officious stranger.

The solemn boom of the Pacific was a constant delight to him, and he
gloried in the ever-changing lights and shadows on the sea. If he did
not attain to permanent good health while at San Francisco and Monterey
he at least found there something else which made for the lasting
happiness of his life, as it was there that he married his wife.

After spending about seven years of married life at Bournemouth he
again, in 1887, tried a visit to America. His health, however, did not
improve, and, during the winter of 1887 and 1888, when he was at Saranac
Lake, he speaks of himself, in _The Vailima Letters_, as having been--in
the graphic Scots words--'far through'; and the idea occurred to him of
chartering a yacht and going for a voyage in the South Seas. His mother
on this occasion accompanied the family party, and between 1888 and
1890 they sailed about among the lovely islands of the South Sea,
visiting Honolulu, and finally touching at Apia in Samoa, where they
promptly fell in love with the beauty of the scenery and the charm of
the climate.

On this voyage, as always, Mr Stevenson made friends wherever he went,
and had much pleasant intercourse with wandering Europeans, missionaries
and natives.

On her return to Edinburgh, after this cruise with him, his mother used
to give most entertaining accounts of the feasts given in their honour
by the native kings and chiefs, and of the quaint gifts bestowed on
them. At an afternoon tea-party at 17 Heriot Row, shortly before the
home there was finally broken up, she put on for our benefit the
wreath--still wonderfully green--that had been given to her to wear at
one of those island festivities. She had promised the sable majesty who
gave it to her to be photographed with it on, and to send him one of the
copies. One of these photographs is beside me now, and is an excellent
likeness. Close to it is the graceful one of her son, taken at
Bournemouth, wearing his hair long, and one of the velvet coats that he
loved, and it is a most curious contrast to the sturdy Scotsman, his
father, who looks out at it from his frame, in conventional broadcloth
and with the earnest gravity so characteristic of his face in repose.

Innumerable photographs, pictures, and busts, were taken of Robert Louis
Stevenson, but not one of them has ever been a very real or a very
satisfying likeness. In recent years one rarely sees an Academy
Exhibition without one or more representations of the mobile face, the
expression of which has, alas! eluded the grasp of even the best of
artists.

The Stevenson party had been so charmed with Samoa, that, as the climate
suited Louis admirably, they resolved to give up the Bournemouth home,
buy some ground in Samoa, and finally settle there. So sometime about
1890 Vailima was bought, and building and reclaiming operations were
begun, and, save for occasional visits to Sydney or Honolulu, Mr
Stevenson and his household gave up personal communication with the busy
and civilised world, and happily settled themselves in a peaceful life
among the palms and the sunshine of the tropics and the friendly Samoan
natives, who grew to be so deeply attached to them, and so proud of
'Tusitala.'



CHAPTER VIII

HIS MARRIAGE AND FRIENDSHIPS


      ... 'What we seek is but our other self
     Other and higher, neither wholly like
     Nor wholly different, the half life the gods
     Retained when half was given--one the man
     And one the woman.'...--_Epic of Hades_.
                                          L. MORRIS.


     'Old friends are best, old coats that fit.'
                                --ROBERT RICHARDSON.


It was naturally to be supposed that a man of Mr Stevenson's
temperament, before whose eyes from his earliest childhood there had
been present a woman good enough to give him the very highest ideal of
womanhood, would not easily or lightly give his heart away. He knew that
he longed for the best, and to nothing less than the best could he give
his soul's worship. That he did not find his ideal in the beaten track
of everyday social life, or among the gay and agreeable girls whom he
met in his young manhood, is not surprising.

The element of romance, as well as the longing for what was noblest in
womanhood, was in him; and romance for him was not embodied in a pretty
young woman in a ball gown. Possibly he considered that the amusing
advice as to matrimony which he gives in _Virginibus Puerisque_, was as
applicable to a man as to a woman, and that 'the bright' girl of Society
was as apt to be a wearisome and an exacting helpmate as her brother,
'the bright boy of fiction,' against whom as a husband his essay warns
the woman in search of marriage to whom he recommends, as a more
comfortable partner, the man old enough to have loved before, and to
have undergone something of an apprenticeship in devotion. Very
pertinent also is his advice to men in the same essay, that kindred
tastes are more likely to ensure lasting happiness than a fair face or
an acceptable dowry.

Beneath the easy brightness of thought and style that make the essay so
amusing and so readable, one sees that its writer knows his world well,
and has given graver thought to matters matrimonial than at a first
reading one is inclined to believe.

Holding firmly the faith that 'all things come to him who knows how to
wait,' Mr Stevenson was in no hurry to realise his ideal, and it was not
until he was between twenty-seven and thirty that he met the woman whom
he chose for his wife. That there was an element of romance in their
acquaintance altogether removed from everyday love stories made it all
the more fitting an ending to that watchful waiting for what fate had to
give him.

When Mr Stevenson arrived in San Francisco in 1879, there was living
with her sister, at Monterey, Mrs Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne of
Indiana. Mrs Osbourne had been married when very young, and her domestic
experience was so unhappy that she had to obtain a divorce from her
husband. She had, with her son and daughter, lived for some time in
that student colony at Fontainbleau which Mr Stevenson knew and loved so
well, and in after years they must have had in common many pleasant
memories of people and places dear to both, so that his ideal of
matrimony described in _Virginibus Puerisque_ was realised, and he and
his wife had 'many an old joke between them which time cannot wither nor
custom stale.'

At a party at San Francisco Mr Stevenson much admired Mrs Osbourne and
her daughter Belle, who married a Mr Strong, and who afterwards, in the
Vailima days, became her step-father's secretary. The young girl he
found very fresh and sweet with the gay brightness of youth, but of her
mother his impression was much deeper, and he always spoke and wrote of
her as the most beautiful and the most charming woman whom he had ever
seen. Although she was several years his senior she was then in the very
prime of a womanly beauty which, to judge from the photographs taken at
Vailima more than ten years later, was only at its ripest when other
women are beginning to think of growing old. No one who had even once
looked into her dark eyes could fail to endorse Mr Stevenson's verdict,
to realise her charm of person, or doubt for a moment the loveliness of
nature and the nobility of soul to which these strange deep eyes were
the index. She was indeed charming, and it was no wonder that such a
nature as Mr Stevenson's found in her that 'other half of the old
Platonic tradition, the fortunate finding of which can alone make a
marriage perfect.

The romantic and the unusual in the story comes in when, at the request
of his doctor, Mrs Osbourne gave willingly of her kindness and her
skill in nursing to the young man who was lying at point of death alone
in a far land. The child of the people with whom he was boarding had
been very ill, and when other folk left the house of sickness, Mr
Stevenson, who had liked his little playfellow, remained to help the
parents with the nursing, and wore himself out in their service as only
a man of his rare human sympathy and tenderness of heart would have
done. The child recovered, and long years afterwards when the monument
to his memory was erected at San Francisco, the mother laid a wreath at
its base in remembrance of that unforgotten kindness. Unfortunately,
already far from well and suffering much from the effects of the journey
by emigrant ship and train and the stern experience of 'roughing it'
which that had entailed, Mr Stevenson was quite unfit for the fatigue of
nursing and he became so ill that the doctor despaired of his life. This
doctor, who then and afterwards proved a very real friend, was greatly
distressed about his patient, especially as the danger of his illness
was greatly increased by the lack of that skilled nursing which was
there very difficult to obtain. In such a case the physician could do
much, but a good nurse could do far more, so the doctor, in his anxiety,
recollected that Mrs Osbourne was, like himself, interested in the
talented young Scotsman, and was also possessed of a rare and womanly
gift of nursing, and he begged her to do what she could for his patient.
She responded to his appeal, and with her sister showed the invalid a
kindness so great that it did more to help his recovery than the best of
drugs could have done. He was restored to a certain measure of health,
and it may thus be said that he owed his life to his future wife, but
he owed her much more for her unselfish devotion in his time of weakness
and loneliness, as a stranger in a strange land, glorified to him all
womanhood in her person, and the man who knew what it was to have an
ideal mother was so peculiarly fortunate as to find an ideal wife also.
Two such natures as theirs were inevitably attracted to each other, and
it is not surprising that their friendship deepened into love, or that
in later years he says of her:


     'Teacher, tender comrade, wife,
     A fellow-farer true through life,
     Heart-whole and soul-free,
     The august Father
         Gave to me.'


At San Francisco, on the 19th of May 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson and
Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne were married, and there began for them that
perfect life together which anxiety and illness could not cloud, and
which found its earthly termination when in that awful and sudden moment
in December 1894 Mr Stevenson entered into 'the Rest Eternal.'

Belle Osbourne became Mrs Strong, and by-and-bye she and her little boy
Austin joined the Stevensons in their home life. 'Sam,' as Mr Lloyd
Osbourne was called in those days, accompanied them to England when they
made their home at Bournemouth. He was a bright, eager boy when he used
to appear in Edinburgh, and one who was very welcome to the elder
Stevensons at Heriot Row. By-and-bye he went to the Edinburgh University
and there he was full of life and interest, keen on pleasures, keen on
friendships, interested in classes, and even then there was something
of the same earnestness, the same humour and brightness in him that
characterised his stepfather and which made him, by-and-bye, with no
small measure of the same gifts, his collaborator and friend. A
friendship that was begun in very early days when the two told each
other stories and issued romances from a toy printing-press, and when
the junior received that delightful dedication of _Treasure Island_ in
which he is described as 'a young American gentleman' to whose taste the
tale appeals.

Shortly after their marriage Mr and Mrs R. L. Stevenson had had the
quaint experience of housekeeping so charmingly described in _Silvarado
Squatters_, but their first real home was at Skerryvore, and Bournemouth
was the headquarters of the household until the necessities of Mr
Stevenson's health again made them wanderers; and that move in 1887
finally ended in the purchase of Vailima, and the pitching of their camp
in far Samoa.

The curtest mention of their Bournemouth life would be incomplete
without some notice of the many friends who found it so easy to reach
from London and so pleasant to visit, and who, themselves well known in
the literary world, so greatly appreciated the genius of Mr Stevenson.
Among old Edinburgh friends of long standing were his many Balfour and
Stevenson cousins and his old comrades of early days, and among the
latter Mr Charles Baxter and the late Sir Walter G. Simpson held a
principal place in his regard. Mr Sydney Colvin he had first met in
1873, Mr Henley he first knew in Edinburgh about the end of 1874, and Mr
Edmund Gosse was another much valued friend of long standing. Mr Colvin
was to the last one of the friends highest in his regard, and to him
were written _The Vailima Letters_.

His wonderful attire, at the Savile Club and elsewhere in orthodox
London, at first astonished and somewhat repelled literary men
accustomed to a more conventional garb than the velvet coats, the long
loose hair, and the marvellous ties Mr Stevenson delighted in; but very
soon they found out the charm of the personality that lay behind a
certain eccentricity of appearance, and Mr Leslie Stephen, Mr James
Payn, Dr Appleton, Professor Clifford, Mr Cosmo Monkhouse, and Mr George
Meredith, whom he met in 1878 and whose work he so much admired, were
numbered among his life-long friends. Mr Henley's description of him in
these days is better than any picture:


     'Thin-legged, thin-chested, slight unspeakably,
     Neat-footed, weak-fingered, in his face,--
     Lean, large-boned, curved of beak, and touched with race,
     Bold-lipped, rich tinted, mutable as the sea,
     The brown eyes radiant with vivacity,--
     There shines a brilliant and romantic grace,
     A spirit intense and rare, with trace on trace
     Of passion, impudence, and energy.'


Another friend of those days, Mr Andrew Lang, also lets his friendship
run into rhyme, and sends across the seas to the author of _The Master
of Ballantrae_ a quaint greeting in the best of Southland Doric:


     'Whan Suthern winds gar spindrift flee
     Abune the clachan, faddumes hie,
     Whan for the cluds I canna see
           The bonny lift,
     I'd fain indite an odd to thee
           Had I the gift!...

     ... 'O Louis, you that writes in Scots,
     Ye're far awa' frae stirks and stots,
     Wi' drookit herdies, tails in knots,
           An unco way!
     My mirth's like thorns aneth the pots
           In Ballantrae!'


To this Mr Stevenson promptly replied in equally fine Doric, and with a
playful allusion to the early 'grizzelled' hair which gives to Mr Andrew
Lang an appearance venerable beyond his years.

Mr Crockett, in the delightful dedication to _The Stickit Minister_,
celebrates his friendship with Mr Stevenson; and among the younger
school of writers, for whose work he had so generous an appreciation, he
had many friends as well as admirers. Mr Barrie, Mr Rudyard Kipling, Mr
Le Galliene, and a host of others loved him as a friend, as well as
looked up to him as a literary leader. To many of them he wrote charming
letters, although in several cases no actual meeting had ever taken
place. It was a keen disappointment to both men that circumstances
prevented Mr Rudyard Kipling from paying a visit to Samoa.

In his island home he was not forgetful of his 'own romantic town,' nor
of the interests of one, at least, of its publishing firms, whose
travellers and agents he introduced to new fields of usefulness in India
and the South Seas. One of his own favourite books was _Coral Island_,
by Mr R. M. Ballantyne, published by the Messrs Nelson.

But Stevenson, whose charm of personality was even greater than his
fame, had other friends, whose friendship is not measured by the
intellect but by the heart. Little children and young folk everywhere
loved the man whose _Child's Garden of Verses_ shows such a marvellous
insight into the hearts of children.

The ass Modestine, the Samoan horse Jack, well knew that the indignant
flow of language meant nothing, and that their master's heart was
altogether in the right place, although, when they were too provoking,
his words might be very unparliamentary.

For dogs he had as great an attraction as they had for him, and the
master of Coolin the wise, and Woggs, or Bogue, the gallant, discourses
as few men could do about canine thoughts and feelings in his essay _The
Character of Dogs_.

No fear of his being among the foolish people who remark that 'they like
dogs in their proper place,' and, as he stingingly adds, say, '"Poo'
fellow! Poo' fellow!" and are themselves far poorer!' He knew, because
he had taken the trouble to study him, that 'to the dog of gentlemanly
feelings, theft and falsehood are disgraceful vices.'



CHAPTER IX

HIS ESSAYS AND POEMS


     'Golden thoughts that ever will resound,
     And be re-echoed to the utmost parts of land and sea.'
                                              --R. S. MUTCH.


Mr Stevenson inherited both from the Stevenson and Balfour families some
measure of literary talent. His father and his grandfather had written
with considerable acceptance on the subject of their profession. His
father also wrote on religious matters, and at least one of these
pamphlets was believed to be of lasting value by competent judges. On
scientific and engineering subjects his work was thought so excellent,
and was so well known, that R. L. Stevenson tells, with some amusement,
that he was surprised to find in the New World it was his father and not
himself who was considered the important author. _The Life of Robert
Stevenson_, of Bell Rock fame, written by David Stevenson, is a very
interesting book.

Among his mother's relatives the gift of fluent and graceful expression
is also widely diffused, and in common with Mrs Thomas Stevenson and her
son, not a few of the Balfour connection have been very charming letter
writers, in the days when letters were worth receiving, and not the
hurried and uncharacteristic scraps which do duty for present-day
correspondence.

He himself considered that he inherited his literary talent largely
from his father's family, but there is interesting proof that even in
his grandfather's day it was inherent also in his Balfour ancestors. The
minister of Colinton wrote verses in his youth, and a sonnet preserved
by his surviving son and daughter is interesting as a proof of his
earnest mind and his literary skill. It was written on the fly-leaf of a
folio copy of _Pearson on the Creed_, presented to him by his friend,
the Reverend Patrick Macfarlane, who became, about 1832, minister of the
West Church at Greenock, and is dated 18th May 1801.


     'My friend, my Patrick, let me boast the name,
     For my breast glows with no inferior flame,
     This gift was thine, expressive of thy love,
     Which spurning earthborn joys for those above
     Would teach my friend in sacred lore to grow,
     And feel the truths impressive as they flow.
     While with our faith our kindred bosoms glow,
     And love to God directs our life below,
     One view of things now seen, and things to come,
     But pilgrims here, a future state our home,
     Nor time, nor death, our friendship shall impair,
     Begun below, but rendered perfect there.'


More than one of the old gentleman's family inherited his talent for
graceful and forcible writing. His son, Dr George W. Balfour, has
written two well-known medical books which have brought to him a large
measure of fame. These are _Clinical Lectures on Diseases of the Heart_,
and the even more popular _The Senile Heart_. About the latter he tells
an excellent story. A well-known literary critic, seeing the book lying
on the table, thought it a work of fiction with an admirable and unique
title, carried it off for review, and found to his disgust it was a
learned medical treatise. Dr John Balfour, an elder son of the manse,
wrote papers in _The Indian Annals_ and _The Edinburgh Medical Journal_,
which were very highly esteemed.

In the younger generation, a cousin of Mr R. L. Stevenson, Mrs Beckwith
Sitwell, has written much and pleasantly, principally for young people.
Another cousin, Mrs Marie Clothilde Balfour, whose father was a son of
the Colinton manse, who died young, and who is married to her cousin--a
son of Dr G. W. Balfour, who can also, like his father, write acceptably
on medical and other subjects--has already gained for herself no
inconsiderable repute as a novelist, her third book, _The Fall of the
Sparrow_, having been considered by competent critics one of the notable
books of last year.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the bent towards literature which
appears in both families should in Robert Louis Stevenson have been
developed into that rare gift which men call genius. While he was still
a careless student of twenty, his papers in _The Edinburgh University
Magazine_ possessed a peculiar attraction, and appealed to cultured
minds with a charm not often found in the work of so young a writer.

_An Old Gardener_ and _A Pastoral_ especially had much of the depth of
thought and the finish of style which so largely characterised Mr
Stevenson's later work. Interesting and delightful as he is as a
story-teller, there is in his essays a graceful fascination which makes
them for many of his readers infinitely more satisfying than the most
brilliant of his tales. In the essays you seem to meet the man face to
face, to listen to his spoken thoughts, to see the grave and the gay
reflections of his mind, to enjoy with him 'the feast of reason and the
flow of soul' provided by the writers into whose company he takes you,
or to return with him to his boyhood, and, in _The Old Manse_ and
_Random Memories_ see familiar places and people touched by the light of
genius, and made as wonderful to your own commonplace understanding as
to the intense and high-souled boy who wandered about among them,
hearing and seeing the everyday things of life as only the romancist and
the poet can hear and see them.

His style, too--strong and virile as it is in his tales--attains, one
almost fancies, its full perfection in his essays. The thoughts, both
grave and gay, are presented in a dainty dress that is peculiarly fitted
to do them justice. There is room in this quiet writing, disturbed by no
exigencies of plot, to give perfect scope to the grace and the leisure
which are the great charms of Mr Stevenson's work. One can take up a
volume of the essays or a slim book of verses at any time and dip into
it as one would into some clear and cold mountain well, full of
refreshment for the weary wayfarer, and, like the well, it is sure to
give one an invigorating sense of keen enjoyment, to take one far from
the dusty highways of life and plunge one into the depth and coolness of
the wide silence of nature, or to fill one's mind with strong and worthy
thoughts gleaned from the world of men and books.

In his _Familiar Studies of Men and Books_, published, in one volume,
by Messrs Chatto & Windus in 1882, with a charming dedication to his
father, Mr Stevenson gives in the preface a most interesting account of
his own fuller point of view regarding the studies which had originally
appeared in the _New Quarterly_, _Macmillan_, and _Cornhill_. The essays
deal with such well-known men as Knox, Burns, Thoreau, Charles of
Orleans, Samuel Pepys, and others, and are always fresh and agreeable
reading. The papers on Knox and Burns have an especial interest for Mr
Stevenson's fellow-countrymen who naturally appreciate the judgment of a
later day genius on the character and work of the two men who have had
so wide an influence on Scottish life and feeling.

To John Knox Scotland largely owes her reformed religion, her rigid
presbyterianism, and it is, to many people, a new and an interesting
phase of the character of the great Reformer--who so enjoyed
brow-beating Queen Mary--that Mr Stevenson shows, when he depicts Knox
as the confidential friend of the religious women of his day, writing
letters to them, comforting them in domestic trials, even shedding tears
with them, and keeping up, through a harassed and busy life, these
friendships which seem to have been as great a source of pleasure to the
Reformer as to the ladies.

Of Robert Burns, the peasant poet, whose songs did as much to bring back
the sunshine into everyday Scotch life as the Reformer's homilies did to
banish it, Mr Stevenson writes with sympathy and tenderness. For the
work he is full of admiration; for the man, whose circumstances and
temperament made his whole life a difficult walking in slippery places
where the best of men could hardly have refrained from falling, he has a
gentle understanding, a manly pity. There was much in the poet's life
and temperament repellent to a nature like Mr Stevenson's, but there was
far more where the human feeling of man to man and of soul to soul could
touch with comprehension, so that in his paper, and more especially in
his preface, we find him giving to Scotland's national bard an
ungrudging admiration in his struggles after the right, and no petty
condemnation when he lapsed and fell from his own higher ideals.

Of Walt Whitman and Thoreau, both most interesting studies in the
volume, he has much that is stimulating to say; and many readers, who
may not have time or opportunity for deep personal research, will find
his essays on _Villon_, _Victor Hugo's Romances_, _Samuel Pepys_,
_Yoshida Torajiro_ and _Charles of Orleans_ a very pleasant means of
obtaining a great deal of information in a very limited space.

In the early essays, republished in volume form in 1881 by Messrs Chatto
& Windus, under the title _Virginibus Puerisque_, Mr Stevenson
discourses delightfully on many things, touching, for instance, with a
light hand but a wise heart on matrimony and love-making, and the little
things, so small in themselves, so large as they bulk for happiness or
misery, that go to make peace or discord in married life. It is all done
with a pointed pen and a smiling face; but its lightness covers wisdom,
and it is full of sound counsel and makes wiser reading for young men
and maidens than many books of more apparent gravity.

That pathos always lay close behind his playful mockeries and was never
far away from the man whose paper on _Ordered South_ is like the bravely
repressed cry of all his fellow-sufferers the companion paper on _El
Dorado_ proves convincingly. Under its graceful phrases there lies deep
and strong sympathy for toil, for hope deferred and longed for, for the
disappointment of attainment, for the labour that after all has so often
to be its own reward.

Between 1880 and 1885 Mr Stevenson collaborated with Mr Henley in the
writing of four plays which were privately printed, _Deacon Brodie_ in
1880, _Beau Austin_ in 1884, _Admiral Guinea_ in 1884, and _Robert
Macaire_ in 1885--the whole being finally published in volume form in an
edition limited to 250 copies, in 1896. _Beau Austin_ was acted in 1890
at The Haymarket, and quite recently _Admiral Guinea_ has been played
with Mr Sydney Valentine in the part of David Pew, but in spite of the
literary distinction of the collaborators the plays have not been a
great success on the stage.

In the later papers, 'A Christmas Sermon,' 'A Letter to a Young
Gentleman,' and 'Pulvis et Umbra,' in the volume of collected essays
called _Across the Plains_, the note of pathos which appears now and
then in _Virginibus Puerisque_ is even more forcibly struck. The writer
is older, he has known more of life and of suffering, he has more than
once looked death closely in the face, and, though his splendid courage
is there all the time, the sadness of humanity is more apparent than in
most of his work. The other essays in this volume are very pleasant
reading, and _Across the Plains_ and _The Old and New Pacific Capitals_
give most graphic descriptions of the life and scenery on the shore of
the Pacific, and of the journey to get there.

In 'Random Memories' in the same volume, he goes back to his boyhood,
and we meet him at home beside the 'Scottish Sea,' under grey Edinburgh
skies, larking with his fellow-boys in their autumn holidays, touring
with his father in _The Pharos_ round the coast of Fife, and later
inspecting harbours at Anstruther, and on the bleak shores of Caithness,
an apprentice engineer, for whom, apart from the open air and the
romance of a harbour or a light tower, his profession had no charms.

Not the least pleasant of his volumes of _Essays_ is that called
_Memories and Portraits_, published by Messrs Chatto & Windus in 1887,
and dedicated to his mother, whom his father's death in the May of that
year had so recently made a widow. In it there is a most interesting
paper entitled 'Thomas Stevenson,' in which he writes very
appreciatively of that father who was so great a man in the profession
which the son admired although he could not follow it. Here, too, are
papers on 'The Manse,' that old home of his grandfather at Colinton
which he when a child loved so well; on the old gardener at Swanston,
who so lovingly tended the vegetables of which he remarked to his
mistress, when told to send in something choice for the pot, that 'it
was mair blessed to give than to receive,' but gave her of his best all
the same, and who loved the old-fashioned flowers, and gave a place to


     'Gardener's garters, shepherd's purse,
     Batchelors' buttons, lady's smock,
         And the Lady Hollyhock.'


In this book also are 'A Pastoral,' in which we learn to know John Todd,
that typical shepherd of the Pentlands, and his dogs; the charming paper
on 'The Character of Dogs,' and four literary essays beginning with an
account of his early purchases in the old book shop in Leith Walk, and
ending in 'A Humble Remonstrance,' with a summary of his views on
romance writing, and what it really ought to be.

Somewhat of the nature too of essays or sketches is that delightful
volume, made up of different chapters in a most ideal life, _The
Silvarado Squatters_, published in 1883, in which Mr Stevenson gives a
brilliant description of the very primitive existence he and his wife
with Mr Lloyd Osbourne, then a very small boy indeed, led shortly after
their marriage, in a disused miner's house--if one can by courtesy call
a _house_ the three-roomed shed, into which sunlight and air poured
through the gaping boards and the shattered windows!--on the slope of
Mount Saint Helena, where once had been the Silvarado silver mine.

Primitive in the extreme, the life must nevertheless have been
delightful; and, given congenial companionship and the perfect climate
of a Californian summer, one can imagine no more blissful experience
than 'roughing it' in that sheltered cañon on the mountain side with
the ravine close below, and the most marvellous stretch of earth, and
sea, and sky, hill and plain, spread out like an ever-changing picture
before the eyes, while to the ears there came no sound more harsh than
the shrill notes of the woodland birds. There came also the noise of the
rattlesnake very often, Mr Stevenson says, but they did not realise its
sinister significance until almost the end of their sojourn there, when
their attention was drawn to it, and certainly no evil befell them.

_Silvarado Squatters_, like _The Vailima Letters_, shows to perfection
how simple and how busy, with the most primitive household details, the
Stevensons often were on their wanderings, and how supremely happy
people, whose tastes and habits suit each other, can be without the
artificial surroundings and luxuries of society and civilisation that
most folk consider well-nigh necessary to their salvation.

One of the most beautiful descriptions of nature in all Mr Stevenson's
books, is that of the sea mist rising from the Pacific, and seen from
above, like a vast white billowy ocean, by the squatters on their
mountain ledge. Bret Harte, for whom and for whose works Mr Stevenson
had a sincere admiration, also alludes graphically to the curious scenic
effects of the mist rising from the Pacific. Very interesting, too, are
the papers on wine and wine-growers, and the two vineyards on the
mountain side; and Scotch hearts, warm even to the Scotch tramp who
looked in at the door, and to the various fellow-countrymen who arrived
to shake hands with Mr Stevenson because he was a Scot and like
themselves, an alien from the grey skies and the clanging church bells
of home.


     'From the dim sheiling on the misty island
     Mountains divide us and a world of seas,
     Yet still our hearts are true, our hearts are Highland,'


he quotes and adds--


     'And Highland and Lowland all our hearts are Scotch.'[5]


One last notice of his prose is connected with Edinburgh, and very
probably with a church charity, for to help some such sale as churches
patronise he wrote _The Charity Bazaar: a Dialogue_, which was given to
me by its author at 17 Heriot Row one day very long ago, and which,
rather frayed and yellow, is still safely pasted in my Everyday Book
with the initials 'R. L. S.' in strong black writing at the end of it.

Mr Stevenson has done so much in prose that the general reader is very
prone to forget those four thin volumes of verse which alone would have
done much to establish his fame as an author. The first published in
1885 was _The Child's Garden of Verses_, and anything more dainty than
the style and the composition of that really wonderful little book
cannot be imagined, nor has there ever been written anything, in prose
or in verse, more true to the thoughts and the feelings of an
imaginative child.

_Ballads_, published in 1890 by Messrs Chatto & Windus, the firm who
have published all the essays, is a collection of very interesting
narrative poems. The first two, 'Rahéro, a Legend of Tahiti' and 'The
Feast of Famine, Marquesan Manners,' deal with native life in the sunny
islands of the tropics, and show, with the same graphic and powerful
touch as his South Sea tales do, that human life, love, hatred, and
revenge are as fierce and as terrible there as in the sterner north.
With the north are associated the old and curious Scotch legends,
_Ticonderoga_ and _Heather Ale_. The first gives in easily flowing lines
a Highland slaying, the rather mean appeal of the slayer for protection
to the dead man's brother and the honourable fashion in which the
living Cameron elects to stand by his oath to the stranger in spite of
the three times repeated complaint and curse of his dead brother. The
spectre tells him that he will die at a place called Ticonderoga, but
such a word is known to no man, and yet, when Pitt sends a Highland
regiment, in which Captain Cameron is an officer, to the East, the
doomed man sees his own wraith look at him from the water, and knows,
when he hears the place is Ticonderoga, he will be the first to fall in
battle there.

The _Heather Ale_ is a Galloway legend which tells how the last Pict on
the Galloway moors prefers to see his son drowned and to die himself
rather than sell his honour and betray his secret to the King.

_Christmas at Sea_ is a sad little tale of how, when all men are glad on
board the labouring ship--that stormy Christmas Day--that she has at
last cleared the dangerous headland and is safely out at sea, the lad
who has left the old folk to run away to be a sailor can only see the
lighted home behind the coastguard's house,


     'The pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
     My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair ...
     ... And oh the wicked fool I seemed in every kind of way
     To be here hauling frozen ropes on Blesséd Christmas Day ...
     ... They heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
     As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea.
     But all that I could think of in the darkness and the cold
     Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.'


_Underwoods_ was published by the same firm in 1887, and is most
touchingly dedicated to all the many doctors of whose skill and kindness
Mr Stevenson had had such frequent need. The verses in it were written
at different times and in different places, and while many of them are
full of the early freshness of youth some of them give as pleasantly and
quaintly the riper wisdom of manhood.

Several of the verses are written to friends or relatives, some very
charming lines are to his father.

Eight lines called 'The Requiem' seem the very perfection of his own
idea of a last resting-place, and are almost prophetic of that lone
hill-top where he lies.

Book II. of _Underwoods_ is 'In Scots,' very forcible and graphic Scots
too, but as to the dialect Mr Stevenson himself disarms criticism. He
find his words, he says, in all localities; he spells them, he allows,
sometimes with a compromise.

'I have stuck for the most part to the proper spelling,' he writes; and
again--

'To some the situation is exhilarating; as for me I give one bubbling
cry and sink. The compromise at which I have arrived is indefensible,
and I have no thought of trying to defend it.'

And indeed he has no need of it; it is good, forcible 'Scots' after all,
and the thoughts he clothes in it are as 'hame-ower' and as pithy as the
words.

_The Maker to Posterity_, _Ille Terrarum, A Blast_, _A Counterblast_,
and _The Counterblast Ironical_, are all excellent; and one can point to
no prettier picture of a Scottish Sunday than _A Lowden Sabbath Morn_,
which has recently been published alone in book form very nicely
illustrated, while he pokes some, not undeserved, fun at our Scottish
good opinion of ourselves and our religious privileges in _Embro, her
Kirk_, and _The Scotsman's Return from Abroad_. Surely nowhere is there
Scots more musical or lines more true to the sad experience which life
brings to us all than these with which the book ends:


     'It's an owercome sooth for age and youth,
       And it brooks wi' nae denial,
     That the dearest friends are the auldest friends
       And the young are just on trial.

     'There's a rival bauld wi' young an' auld,
       And it's him that has bereft me,
     For the surest friends are the auldest friends
       And the maist o' mine hae left me.'...


The last volume of verses, _Songs of Travel_, has a pathos all its own,
for, like _St Ives_ and _Weir of Hermiston_, the author never saw it in
print. The verses were sent home shortly before his death, and in the
note appended to them Mr Sydney Colvin says they were to be finally
printed as Book III. of _Underwoods_, but meantime were given to the
world in their present form in 1896.

They were written at different periods, and they show their author in
varying moods; but they incline rather to the sadder spirit of the last
two years of his life, and have left something if not of the courage for
the fight, at least of the gaiety of living behind them. Two of them are
written to his wife, many of them to friends; some of them have the lilt
and the brightness of songs, others, like _If this were Faith_ and _The
Woodman_, are filled with the gravity of life and the bitterness of the
whole world's struggle for existence.

In _The Vagabond_ he is still in love with the open air life and the
freedom of the tramp. In his exile he longs to rest at last beside those
he loves; he feels the weariness of life, he writes--


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


After that one feels no surprise that he is waiting for the final
summons, and one has only a sense of the eternal fitness of things when
in the last words of the book he says--


     'I hear the signal, Lord,--I understand
     The night at Thy command
     Comes. I will eat and sleep, and will not question more.'


FOOTNOTE:

[5] Mr Stevenson was very fond of this quotation, which appeals
so truly to Caledonia's sons and daughters. He found it in an old volume
of _Good Words_, and never knew its source. Like many other people he
quoted it incorrectly. According to information kindly supplied by Mr W.
Keith Leask, the lines, which have an interesting history, stand thus in
the original--


     'From the lone sheiling on the misty island
       Mountains divide us and a waste of seas,
     Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
       And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.'


In _Tait's Magazine_ for 1849 it is given as 'Canadian Boat Song, from
the Gaelic.' The author of the English version was Burns' 'Sodger Hugh,'
the 12th Earl of Eglinton, who was M.P. for Ayrshire from 1784 to 1789,
and was the great-grandfather of the present Earl. When in Canada the
author is said to have heard a song of lament sung by evicted Hebridean
crofters in Manitoba, which gave him the idea for his verses--the first
four lines, and chorus, of which are--


           'Listen to me as when we heard our father
             Sing long ago the song of other shores;
           Listen to me, and then in chorus gather
             All your deep voices as ye pull your oars.
     _Chorus_--Fair the broad meads, these hoary woods are grand,
             But we are exiles from our fathers' land.'


Professor Mackinnon believes that the Gaelic version, known in the
Highlands to this day, is founded upon the Earl of Eglinton's lines, and
is not, as might be supposed, an earlier form of the poem which is known
and loved by Scotch folk all the world over.



CHAPTER X

HIS STORIES


     '... Thy genius mingles strength with grace,
     ... 'Neath thy spell the world grows fair;
     Our hearts revive, our inmost souls are stirred,
     And all our English race awaits thy latest word.'
                              --Sir L. MORRIS'
                  Birthday Ode to the late Lord Tennyson.


Beginning his literary career as a writer of such quaint books of travel
as _An Inland Voyage_ and _Through the Cevennes with a Donkey_, such
charming essays as _Roads_, _Ordered South_, _El Dorado_, and many
others, Mr Stevenson was not long in entering the arena as a
story-teller. His first printed stories were _A Lodging for the Night_,
which appeared in _Temple Bar_ in October 1877; _The Sire de Maletroit's
Door_, in the same magazine in January 1878; and _Will o' the Mill_, in
_Cornhill_, also in January 1878.

In _Cornhill_, in 1876 had appeared the series of essays republished as
_Virginibus Puerisque_, and in 1877 and 1878 those afterwards collected
under the title _Familiar Studies of Men and Books_. There also began,
now and then, to be short stories from his pen in _Cornhill_,
_Macmillan_, _Longmans_, Mr H. Norman's _Christmas Annual_, _The Court
and Society Review,_ and other magazines. These, as they added
originality and a certain weirdness of plot to his already recognised
beauty of style, still further attracted that cultured public which had
at once accepted his earlier work as that of a master of English. As
already stated, it was _Will o' the Mill_, a charmingly written story of
still life, with a quiet philosophy all its own, that Mr Hamerton had
pronounced a masterpiece of style. _Markheim_ was a graphic, but very
unpleasant, story of a murder; _Olalla_, a horrible, but powerfully
written, sketch of hereditary insanity, with a beautiful setting of
Italian scenery to relieve the gloomy picture.

_Thrawn Janet_ which, with most of the tales in _The Merry Men_, was
written at Pitlochry, appeared in _Cornhill_ in 1880. Mr Stevenson
himself considered it one of his best stories, and thought it an
excellent piece of dialect writing. It is weird and impressive in the
extreme, and no one who has read it is likely to forget the minister of
Balweary in the vale of Dull, and his terrible experiences in the matter
of a housekeeper; the 'het lowin' wind' and the coppery sky of that day
on which he met the black man coming down by Dull water, and knew that
he had spoken with the enemy of souls himself; or the awful storm, in
which Satan finally came for all that was left of Thrawn Janet. Into
this story of a few pages are condensed a power of forcible expression
and a weirdness of theme which have not been surpassed in any of the
larger books.

_The Merry Men_ is a story of wreck and wickedness on a desolate West
Highland island where the rocks called 'the Merry Men,' as the tides
boil and foam among them, make, as it were, an undercurrent of mad
laughter that forms a fitting accompaniment to the hideous passions of
greed and murder and the dead level of human misery that are the
prevailing atmosphere of the tale. It is one of the best of the stories
forming the volume, to which it gives its name, published by Messrs
Chatto & Windus in 1887.

In another collection of short tales Mr Stevenson also deals with the
seamy side of life, and _The New Arabian Nights_ published in 1882, and
which contains the reprint of such stories as _The Suicide Club_, _The
Rajah's Diamond_, _The Sire de Maletroit's Door_, and _The Pavilion on
the Links_, is quite as gruesome and by no means less interesting than
_The Merry Men_.

_The Sire de Maletroit's Door_ and _The Pavilion on the Links_, are most
graphically written, especially the latter with its splendid description
of the dreary sea and the wide and wind-swept stretch of drearier links
where the curious characters play their mysterious parts. It is
interesting to know that Mr Stevenson wrote _The Pavilion on the Links_
while he was very ill in California. All the stories in the two volumes
are favourites, and many readers give a preference to _The Suicide
Club_, _The Rajah's Diamond_, or _Prince Florizel_.

_Providence and the Guitar_ is also one of his best stories. _Prince
Otto_, the first draft of which was written at Monterey, is the peculiar
but very beautifully written story of a prince with no fancy for
princedom and no talent for governing, who leaves his vain young wife
and his unscrupulous prime minister in power and goes roaming among his
subjects only to hear some far from complimentary opinions of himself.
In the end both prince and princess learn love and wisdom and find
happiness in spite of the revolution that drives them from their tiny
kingdom. It is a fanciful tale, the charm of which lies less in the
rather vague characters, who have the haziness of motive and of
personality of the figures in some old play, than in the absolute
perfection of style and of description that make it a book to read and
re-read with infinite pleasure.

Mr Stevenson says, in its dedicatory preface, that he meant to make of
it a masterpiece; if he did not succeed in doing so, as a story, he
certainly gave in it a picture of the woods so true to nature and so
exquisite in style and in expression that it will live as among his best
work.

Good as this earlier writing was he had not yet found in it his full
inspiration, and it hardly appealed to so wide a public as the fresh and
delightful stories of adventure to which he finally turned his
attention. In connection with Mr Stevenson's fiction, it is interesting
to note that in his boyhood he greatly enjoyed the stories of a novelist
called Smythe, who at that time contributed to the _London Journal_, and
whose work had its influence on the boy's future tales. Smythe's novels
were full of stirring adventures, and many lads of that day, besides the
aspiring novelist, were much impressed by them, and can even now recall
incidents in them read so long ago as 1868!

He had applied for work to Mr Henderson, the Scotch editor of _Young
Folks_, and to the acceptance of this application the world owes
_Treasure Island_ and the charming stories which followed it. The editor
of _Young Folks_, who offered to take a story from him, showed him a
treasure-hunting tale by Mr Peace, and asked him to give him something
on the same lines. The result was _The Sea Cook_, which appeared in the
paper in the autumn of 1881, and was not very highly paid for. It was
written under the nom-de-plume of Captain North to give the idea the
author was a sailor; it was not given a very important place in the
paper and it had no very marked success as a serial. It was, with very
little alteration, published by Messrs Cassell & Co. in 1883, under the
name of _Treasure Island_, and it had an instant and well-deserved
success. It is an excellent book for boys, full of stirring adventure,
in the old-time fashion of fifty years ago, but it is much more; it is a
book that grown-up folk, whose taste is still fresh enough to enjoy a
good tale of the sea, delight in as heartily as the juniors. It was
written while the Stevenson family were staying for a time at Braemar,
and Mr Thomas Stevenson gave his son valuable help in it from his own
experiences at sea while on his cruises of inspection round the coasts.

_The Black Arrow_ also appeared in _Young Folks_ during 1883 as by
Captain North; it is said to have been very successful as a serial, but
it has not been a great favourite in book form, and is one of the least
interesting of his stories.

_Kidnapped_ came out in 1886 in the same paper and was the first to be
signed as by Robert Louis Stevenson. In its serial form it was not
highly paid for but it had, when Messrs Cassell & Co. published it as a
book, a large and an immediate success. It forms the first instalment of
the delightful experiences of David Balfour, that somewhat pawky young
Scot who, from the moment he leaves 'The Hawes Inn' at Queensferry and
embarks on his adventures with Alan Breck and other strange worthies in
Appin and elsewhere till we finally bid him good-bye on the last page of
_Catriona_, never fails at odd times and places to remind one of Mr
Stevenson himself at David's age and of what he might have been and done
had David Balfour's fate been his in those early days of plot and
turmoil in which his part is played.

_Catriona_, which is a continuation of _Kidnapped_, at first appeared in
_Atalanta_, and was published in book form by Messrs Cassell & Co. in
1893. In the recent edition of 1898 both volumes are brought out as _The
History of David Balfour_, and are beautifully illustrated. _Catriona_
is a charming book, full of life and action, and the breezy, outdoor
existence, in the picturing of which its author excels. The Edinburgh of
the last half of the eighteenth century, with its quaint closes, and
quainter manners, is admirably portrayed, and the old lady with whom
Catriona lives, and Lord Prestongrange and his daughters, are very
clever pictures from a bygone day. Indeed, Miss Grant is one of the best
drawn women in all Mr Stevenson's books; she has life and reality in a
greater degree than most of his female characters. She is true to
feminine human nature in any age, and as she makes eyes at David Balfour
from under her plumed hat, and flirts with him across the narrow close,
she is very woman, and alive enough to be some later day judge's
daughter of modern Edinburgh, coquetting with Mr Stevenson himself,
while she playfully adjusts her becoming head-gear, and lets her long
feathers droop to the best advantage.

She and the two Kirsties in the unfinished _Weir of Hermiston_ stand out
alone among all the heroines in Mr Stevenson's books as real breathing,
living women. They are natural, they are possible, they have life and
interest; all the rest are more or less lay figures put in because a
heroine is necessary--the more's the pity evidently from the author's
point of view!--and drawn somewhat perfunctorily by their creator, with
but a limited knowledge of the virtues, the faults, the failings, and,
above all, the 'little ways,' which go to make up the ordinary woman.

The women are undoubtedly a weakness in the author's work. It looks as
if he had known intimately only exceptional women,--who, possibly, had
left behind them, before he knew them well, most of a young girl's
faults and follies, and some of her attractions also,--and had never
found other women worth studying deeply, so that the girls in his books
do not read _real_ enough to interest one greatly, and it is almost a
relief to take up _Treasure Island_, _The Wrecker_, or _The Ebb Tide_,
in which there is very little about them. Lady Violet Greville, in a
recent article, expresses much the same opinion. She says, 'The late
Robert Louis Stevenson had no opinion of women writers, he said they
were incapable of grasping the essential facts of life. He was a great
master of style, but I doubt if he had much knowledge of feminine
character'--a dictum in which many women will agree with her. She goes
on to say that there is some truth in what he says of women writers,
because women and men regard as essential quite different facts in life;
and she explains it by saying that it is the difference of personality
and of point of view. Certainly Mr Stevenson's point of view in regard
to his heroines is not a satisfying one to most women.

Many men have drawn excellent female characters, just as a few women
have given us life-like heroes. These exceptions, one imagines, must
have been to some extent better able to appreciate the other sex
thoroughly than most writers; but it strikes one as odd that Mr
Stevenson, who had in himself so much of gentleness and of the
essentially feminine, should have so continually failed to give a living
interest to his heroines. Possibly had he lived longer, and had the
maturing of his powers, so evident in _Weir of Hermiston_, been
accompanied by a measure of improved health, the women of his later
books might all have been as powerful creations as the two Kirsties
promised to be.

His heroes are all that heart can desire, manly, brave, and natural; his
villains make villainy interesting; so it may be forgiven him that
scarcely one of his feminine characters lives in the reader's memory.

One of the most widely known of his books is that curious story,
published in 1886, called _The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde_,
the popularity of which, especially in America, was immense. It deals
with man's dual nature, and while Dr Jekyll embodies the good side of
it, Mr Hyde, with whom he is compelled continually to exchange bodies,
as well as souls, is the evil side, and commits crimes so atrocious,
that the miserable doctor is well-nigh driven to despair. It is a
powerful subject, powerfully treated, and contains in its small compass
more moral teaching than a hundred sermons. It has, particularly in
America, been used by many clergymen as the foundation of their
homilies.

_The Master of Ballantrae_, a weird and striking tale of the times of
'the forty-five,' is extraordinarily graphic both in its descriptions of
places and of people. The gloomy house of Durrisdeer, with its stately
panelled hall, the fine grounds so carefully laid out, the thick
shrubberies, the spot where the duel was fought on the hard, frozen
ground by the light of the flickering candles in the tall silver
candlesticks, the wave-beaten point where the smuggling luggers land
goods and passengers, and finally the awful journey through the
uncleared woods of America, make a fit setting, in our memories, for the
splendidly drawn pictures of the three Duries, the old father, the
unappreciated Henry, the mocking master, their faithful land-steward,
Mackellar, and the more shadowy personalities of the Frenchman, the
lady, and the children. The tale is one of unrelieved horror, but it is
a masterpiece nevertheless, and it has had a very large sale.

With his wife Mr Stevenson in _More New Arabian Nights_ and _The
Dynamiter_ did some work of considerable interest, and with his stepson,
Mr Lloyd Osbourne, he wrote that quaint tale, _The Wrong Box_. In
collaboration also with Mr Lloyd Osbourne he wrote _The Wrecker_ and
_The Ebb Tide_.

_The Wrecker_ is a wild and interesting story which had a large success.
It originally appeared in _Scribner's Magazine_ from August 1891 to July
1892, and was republished in book form by Messrs Cassell & Co. The scene
is constantly changing in it, and the hero visits Edinburgh, stays in
the students' quarter in Paris, personally conducts speculative picnics
at San Francisco, distinguishes himself at the wreck on the lonely reef
in mid-ocean, and finally, after appearing in England and Fontainbleau,
tells his wonderful story to a friendly trader in the south seas. There
is plenty of life and of action in the tale, and there are also some
delightful descriptions of the Pacific and of the wonderful glamour
lagoons and palm trees throw over the spirit of the man who learns to
know and to love the beautiful South Sea islands.

_The Ebb Tide_, originally published in Mr Jerome K. Jerome's magazine
_To-day_ from November 1893 to February 1894, was republished in book
form by Mr W. Heinemann in 1894. Like _Treasure Island_ it is a tale
without a heroine, almost, indeed, without the mention of a woman except
Attwater's statuesque native servant and the shadowy personalities of
Herrick's mother and fiancée in London, and Captain Davis's wife and his
little girl, who died before she got the doll he had so carefully bought
for her, and the memory of whom is the one soft spot in his dark soul.
They are merely mentioned, however, and take no actual part in the
story. It is not a pleasant tale, everyone in it is more or less bad;
more by preference rather than less!--and for no one in it can one feel
the slightest sympathy. There are villains and villains in fiction, and
for some of them, for instance, Bret Harte's Jack Hamlin, or even the
Master himself in _The Master of Ballantrae_, one can feel a sincere
affection or at least have a grudging sort of admiration, but it is not
possible to even faintly like or hesitatingly pity a cowardly Robert
Herrick, whose self-pity is so strong, and who from first to last is, as
his creator intended him to be, a thorough inefficient. Half-hearted in
his wickedness, self-saving in his repentance, he somehow fails to
interest one; and even his lower-class associates, the horrible Huish
and the American captain, are almost less detestable. Huish is quite
diabolical, but he, at least, has the courage of his iniquities.
Attwater is not attractive either as villain or as religious enthusiast,
but he is a fairly possible character and at least a degree less
unpleasant than the American captain after his conversion. Captain
Davis's effort to save Herrick's soul, given in the last paragraph of
the book, is disagreeably profane in its familiarity with things sacred.
Altogether it is not an attractive book, although it is an undoubtedly
clever one; it has some redeeming features in the really lovely
descriptions of the island and the lagoon; and the appearance of the
divers in full working costume remind one of Mr Stevenson's own early
experience in a diver's dress.

Without collaboration Mr Stevenson wrote the three pretty little tales
of South Sea life reprinted, as _Island Nights' Entertainments_, in book
form about 1893. _The Beach of Falésa_ was published in _The Illustrated
London News_ from July 2nd to August 6th, 1892. _The Bottle Imp_
appeared in _Black and White_ from March 28th to April 4th, 1891, and
_The Isle of Voices_ was in _The National Observer_ between 4th and 25th
February of 1893.

They are charming stories, rich in local colour, and in all of them one
sees that Mr Stevenson's quick eye for the essential in life has shown
to him that among these simple islanders are to be found just the same
elements of romance as among more highly civilised peoples, the same
motives make and influence character there as elsewhere. So in
Wiltshire and his relations with the islanders, in the curious stories
of _The Bottle Imp_ and _The Isle of Voices_, we are interested in a new
set of people in fresh surroundings, and can in a large measure
sympathise with the pleasure that the Samoans had in reading these tales
of island life in their own tongue. _The Bottle Imp_ was the first story
ever read by the Samoans in their native language, and it raised their
affection for 'Tusitala, the Teller of Stories' to positive enthusiasm.

_St Ives_ is a bright story of adventure which Mr Stevenson had almost
completed, and which Mr Quiller Couch was enabled very skilfully to
finish with the assistance of the author's step-daughter, Mrs Strong,
who had, besides being its amanuensis, helped Mr Stevenson with this
story and been much in his confidence regarding it. It appeared first in
_The Windsor Magazine_ where it was received with favour. It is the
history of a French prisoner in Edinburgh Castle during the wars of the
great Napoleon. He makes, like the other prisoners, little carved
ornaments for sale, and Flora, the heroine, has so touched him while
buying these that he falls in love with her and presents her with a
carved lion. She returns his sentiment of admiration, and after his
escape she and her brother, a natural gentlemanly lad, hide Mr St Ives
in the henhouse at Swanston Cottage where they live with a stern old
aunt. The aunt is a well-drawn type of old-fashioned Scotchwoman,
infinitely more natural and more interesting than the niece. In
Edinburgh and round Mr Stevenson's own country home Swanston, the
interest at first largely centres, and the writer gives a very graphic
description of the home garden and the cottage and its outhouses,


     'Marvellous places though handy to home.'


One imagines the tales of John Todd the shepherd must have helped much
in his splendid description of the escape into England with the drovers
by the solitary drove roads, at one point of which the escaping prisoner
has the honour of meeting and conversing with 'The Shirra,' so well
loved on Tweed side and elsewhere. After many and marvellous adventures,
Mr St Ives returns a free and pardoned man to sue, not in vain, for the
hand of Flora.

Last, but, if one may judge by its powerful beginning, which is, alas!
all that the master-hand had left of it, certainly best of Mr
Stevenson's work is _Weir of Hermiston_. In the few perfectly finished
chapters there is a fulness of power and a perfection of style that
promised great things. As one read the description of the fierce old
judge, his gentle artistic son, the cunning dandified friend, the two
Kirsties, and the four black Elliot brothers, one felt that here indeed
was congenial matter; and that in the tragedy of fierce human passion
about to be played out amid wild moorland surroundings, Mr Stevenson
would rise to a greater perfection and a nobler success than he had yet
attained to.... It was not to be, the busy brain stopped
instantaneously, the pen that had worked so happily all the morning was
laid by for ever; and the world is infinitely the poorer for the sudden
catastrophe of that sad December evening which left the home at Vailima
desolate.

       *       *       *       *       *

The beautiful _Edinburgh Edition_ of Mr Stevenson's works--which his
friends Mr Colvin and Mr Baxter have been seeing through the press--is
almost completed; one, or at most, two volumes only being now
unpublished. It consists of an edition of 1035 copies, and includes the
plays and everything of interest that he has written, and it will number
twenty-seven or perhaps twenty-eight volumes. While this book has been
passing through the press, volume twenty-seventh has been issued. It
contains _St Ives_, and practically completes the edition; but Mr
Stevenson's widow and Mr Sydney Colvin, who are acting as his executor
and his editor, have gratuitously given to the subscribers to this
_Edinburgh Edition_ a twenty-eighth volume, consisting of various odds
and ends not hitherto made public. Of this, 'A New Form of Intermittent
Light for Lighthouses' and 'The Thermal Influence of Forests,' recall
the period of his engineering and scientific training; and the
interesting facsimile reproductions of the quaint 'Moral Emblems,'
written by him at Davos in 1880 and 1882, and printed with illustrations
on a toy printing press by the then very youthful Mr Lloyd Osbourne, are
yet another proof that even in his time of acute invalidism he was
busily and cheerily employed.



CHAPTER XI

HIS LIFE IN SAMOA


     'Sometimes I am hopeful as the spring,
     And up my fluttering heart is borne aloft
     As high and gladsome as the lark at sunrise,
     And then as though some fowler's shaft had pierced it
     It comes plumb down in such a dead, dead fall.'
                               --FROM _Philip Van Artevelde_.


Mr Thomas Stevenson died early in May 1887, having lived long enough to
see his son's fame as an author firmly established. Not very long
afterwards Mrs Thomas Stevenson joined her son and his wife and with
them went to America, and on that yachting tour among the South Sea
islands, which finally resulted in the purchase, by Robert Louis, of the
little property on the slope of the Vaea mountain, above the town of
Apia, in Samoa, which he called by the musical name of Vailima, and
where, in 1890, he finally made his home.

His mother returned to Scotland for some months in 1889, arriving in the
June of that year and remaining till the October of 1890, when she
joined her son and his wife in their Samoan home. In 1893 she again
visited Edinburgh to see her relatives there, and to arrange for the
breaking up of the home at 17 Heriot Row, the sale of the house and of
such things as she did not care to keep or to take with her to that new
home which she also intended to make her headquarters. She remained on
this occasion almost a year, and left for London, en route for Samoa, on
the 5th of March 1894, promising her relatives and her friends, who so
greatly grudged her to her son and his household, that she would pay a
visit to Scotland once every five years.

Alas! in less than one year her son had followed his father into the
Life Eternal, and she was left that most desolate of all mourners 'a
widow and childless.' She remained for a little time with her
daughter-in-law and the sorrow-stricken Vailima household, and on 1st
June 1895 she arrived in Edinburgh to make her home with her sister,
Miss Balfour, as that sister so touchingly expresses it, 'a desolate
woman.'

Much was left to her in the love of relatives and friends, and in her
own bright spirit, which, while it recalled the happiness of the past,
never repined at the emptiness of the present; but so much of her heart
lay buried in her two graves that one dared not murmur, nay, one could
hardly fail to rejoice for her, when, early in May 1897, she too passed
into her rest, most deeply mourned by all who had so dearly loved her,
and not least by the little children who had held so warm a place in her
affections, and whose spontaneous offering of flowers so touched and
comforted the sad hearts of her sorrowing relatives.

In his mother's letters to her sister and to other members of her
family--so often kindly read to friends--one had almost as graphic an
account of Mr Stevenson's Samoan home as in the delightful volume of
_Vailima Letters_ itself. Gifted also with a fluent pen and a keen
interest in the details which make up life, the mother like the son
wrote charmingly; and one laughed, as one does in _The Vailima Letters_,
over such misfortunes as the raid of the little pigs among the young
corn; the more or less serious peccadilloes of the childlike Samoan
servants; and that crowning catastrophe, so comically described by Mr
Stevenson, when the carpenter's horse put its foot into a nest of
fourteen eggs, and 'made an omelette of all their hopes'!

Nothing could have, been more delightful or more amusing than that
unconventional sunny life to people who like the Stevensons were
perfectly happy among themselves, and, in spite of the often serious
anxieties and worries incident on their settling in the new home,
absolutely contented with their surroundings. The out-of-door existence,
the free, untrammelled life, was dear to all of them, and especially
good for Mr Stevenson; and far from the hurry and bustle of towns they
found, under the unclouded blue of the Samoan sky, the rest and the
peace their souls had longed for.

The climate worked wonders for Mr Stevenson, and it seemed hardly
possible to believe that the pale shadow of the Bournemouth days was the
active owner of Vailima, who himself worked untiringly in clearing the
scrub, and making the rank, tropical bush give place to the ordered
beauties of civilisation. Not only he but his wife cheerfully took a
turn in weeding, and, hot, tired, and with skins blistered by the
poisonous plants with which war had to be waged by hand, they themselves
did as much as, if not more than, their Samoan assistants to eradicate
the noxious growths and make the precious blades of grass spring up in
their place. Yet glad as they were to welcome the grass, Mr Stevenson,
as he pulled the weeds up, hated to cause their death, and felt that
they were victims in the great war of life against life of which the
world is full.

Existence at Vailima was simple and patriarchal in the extreme. The
Samoans, who found in its owner so kind and so staunch a friend, had the
warm hearts, the natural good qualities of children, but they had some
of the vices of untrained children also, and petty thefts and tiresome
acts of disobedience, gave their master and mistress abundant trouble,
and often necessitated a species of impromptu court of justice, in which
Mr Stevenson distributed reproofs and meted out punishments to the
offenders in the midst of a full gathering of the domestic staff, both
indoor and out, who all looked up to him much as one fancies the desert
herdsmen did to Abraham, or as in later days the Highland clansmen
feared and yet worshipped their chief, whose word was law.

His wife's ready wit on at least one occasion showed itself by utilising
the native superstition to bring home the enormity of the offence to the
possible stealer of a young pig. The fear of an 'Aitu,' or wicked
woman-spirit of the woods, and the general dread of devils, has far more
effect on the Samoan conscience than more civilised methods of warning
and reproof. So when Mrs Stevenson, by a clever imitation of native
conjuring, made Lafaele believe that 'her devil,' or divining spirit,
would tell her where the missing pig was, it is probable that Lafaele,
even if innocent himself, shared the feast with his friends with
trembling.

The master and mistress had the kindest interest in all their native
servants, and it is a quaint thing to read of the great writer, for
whose books publishers and public impatiently waited, not only giving Mr
Strong's little boy, Austin, history lessons, but spending hours over
teaching Henry, the Samoan chief, who was his native overseer. Very
strange, too, it is to realise that he carried his interest in missions
and missionaries to so practical a point as for a time at least to teach
Sunday school himself. His stepson, Mr Lloyd Osbourne, shared to the
full his interest in these things, and both of them must have been very
comforting to the missionaries in Samoa, one of whom especially, Mr
Clark, was so valued a friend of the whole Vailima household. The Roman
Catholic priests, many of whom are doing devoted work in the islands,
were also welcome visitors at Vailima.

Never bound by creeds or forms, Mr Stevenson had a thoroughly practical
religion, calculated to do infinitely more good in the world than all
the theological disputes and hair splittings that ever were penned in
ponderous volumes or thundered solemnly from orthodox pulpits.

Of his political work in Samoa, his earnestness for the good government
of its people, his anxiety that they should have a just control and a
due freedom, it is unnecessary to speak fully here, as his letters in
the home press at the time and the volume _Footnotes to History_ brought
the knowledge of his views and actions within reach of all. Nothing
could have been more unselfish than the attitude of the writer, to whom
politics were abhorrent, who, nevertheless, from sheer humanity entered,
at some personal risk, into the petty struggle with excellent results
for the Samoans. And certainly nothing more courageous can be imagined
than the man, whose tender heart winced at the sight of suffering and
bloodshed, going down into the hospitals during the brief war, and
himself helping to tend and comfort the wounded and the dying. In his
interest in native affairs he had, as in all else that made up life for
him, the thorough sympathy of his wife, and also of the other members of
his most united household.

It was a very happy party in spite of some misfortunes and anxieties,
occasional visits of the influenza, and the dread of ruin from rain or
hurricane; and after their first difficulties as to house-building were
over, it was to a very spacious and pleasant house that they welcomed
the elder Mrs Stevenson when she returned to Samoa in 1893. The scrub
still, however, required much clearing, and we find in _The Vailima
Letters_ Mr Stevenson dividing his day into so many hours of literary
work and so many hours of weeding!

The day began early, and Mr Stevenson, after the first breakfast, did
his literary work, until the sound of a conch summoned the family to a
lunch, or second breakfast, about eleven o'clock. After this there was
rest and music till four, and then outdoor work or play, lawn-tennis
being a very favourite pastime, and in the evening they had more music,
and a game at cards. It was a simple, natural life, and one that made
far more for health, mental and physical, to those whose constitutions
suited the climate, than the bustle and the clamour of cities. Visitors,
too, often came up the hill to Vailima, sometimes the residents in Apia,
sometimes home friends or distinguished strangers, who were glad to
visit the much-loved author in his distant retreat, and to all was
given the same cordial welcome, to all there remains the memory of
delightful hours in the company of those who knew so well how to make
time pass bewitchingly.

The household by this time consisted of Mr Stevenson, his wife, his
mother, Mr Lloyd Osbourne, his sister, Mrs Strong, who acted as her
stepfather's amanuensis, her little boy, Austin, who went to school in
California in 1892, and Mr Graham Balfour, a cousin of Mr Stevenson's.

Until he left for school, Mr Stevenson gave Austin his lessons, and, as
his uncle Lloyd had done, the boy considered the teacher only a larger
playfellow.

A very pretty picture of the home life is given in a note-book of Mrs
Thomas Stevenson's, in which she describes a birthday feast in her
honour, at which little Austin Strong recited some verses made for the
occasion by her son. Very amusing the verses are, and in them the small
scholar repeats with pride what strides in knowledge he had made under
the able tuition of his step-grandfather. It is not a little comic to
think that Mr Stevenson had at this time a well-grown step-grandchild,
and had, indeed, held the honourable and venerable position of a
step-grandparent shortly after he was thirty.

Very amusing features of the letters that Mrs Thomas Stevenson sent home
were the funny illustrations of daily life enclosed in them, and which
were drawn by a clever pencil in the household. Like the old plays in
the Leith Walk shop the youthful Louis once so frequently visited, they
were _A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured_. Sometimes they were mere
outlines of domestic processions, sometimes they were gay with paint in
shades of brown and green and blue. In them all the members of the
family were represented, and now and then there appeared the dusky
semblance of a Samoan domestic Faauma, 'the bronze candlestick,' or
Lafaele, the amiable and the willing. As one recalls them one sees again
a verandah, with long chairs and lazy loungers, Mr Stevenson pretending
to play his flageolet, but too comfortable actually to begin; the rest
in attitudes more or less suggestive of that warmth and satisfaction
which we in colder climes can only dream of; or in another a few bold
strokes pictured the ladies of the family on household cares intent,
domestic service of the humblest, cooking, dusting, bed-making, and all
the trivial daily doings that were so mirthfully treated both by pen and
pencil.

Mr Stevenson and his wife took a keen interest in their garden, which
stood so high above sea-level, that they could have the pleasure of
trying to grow in it some British flowers, fruits, and vegetables, as
well as those native to the tropics. This endeavour to naturalise the
products of the old home in the new one was a great pleasure to Mrs
Stevenson, and one fully shared by her husband, who was so often, in
spite of his delight in the soft airs, the blue skies, heart-sick for
the cold grey ones of the old country, and who was reminded on a fresh
wet morning after a storm, of the West Highlands, near Callander, and


     'The smell of bog, myrtle and peat,'


by the rain dashing on the roof, and trickling down the window panes, of
far-off misty Scotland, where


     'On the moors the whaups are calling.'


The Samoan days were very full of work, and much was done, and still
more was planned in them by Mr Stevenson's busy brain and untiring
activity. Here was written _Catriona_, _The Master of Ballantrae_, a
part of those annals of the Stevenson family which he hoped to give to
the public, _The Beach of Falésa_, _The Bottle Imp_, and _The Isle of
Voices_; and with Mr Lloyd Osbourne was completed _The Ebb Tide_ and
_The Wrecker_, the ideas for which had occurred to them when at sea.

_Father Damien_, _An Open letter_, had been already written, but here
was composed _A Footnote to History_, and both show to perfection their
writer's interest in suffering humanity. Here, saddest of all, were
planned many works never to be accomplished--among them that powerful
fragment _Weir of Hermiston_ and _St Ives_--the latter finished all but
the last portion, which Mrs Strong, who had helped much with this story,
could supply to Mr Quiller Couch, so that he was enabled to complete it.
Mr Stevenson, like his father, found his relaxation in a change of work,
so to this period also belong the fugitive verses collected under the
title, _Songs of Travel_, published after his death.

In spite of the apparent improvement in his health, Mr Stevenson had
had, especially when for a short time at Sydney and Honolulu, serious
returns of illness, and after one attack of influenza, the old foe
hemorrhage briefly reappeared. Not yet, however, would he own himself
beaten, and in spite of some anxiety on the part of his doctors, he
assured his friends he was very well. His friends' fears were not so
easily silenced. In the last year of his life his bright mood varied,
and his letters often caused grave anxiety to those at home. He had
times of despondency and of undue distress as to his monetary future and
his literary success, which were scarcely justified by the facts.
Although always gentle and gay with his own family circle, the little
strain of worry showed itself repeatedly in his correspondence with his
friends and caused them a keen foreboding of evil, so unlike was it to
the old, sunny, cheery spirit with which he had fought bad health, and
gained for himself so high a place in the world of letters and so warm a
niche in the heart of his public.



CHAPTER XII

HIS DEATH


     'Gone to thy rest--no doubt, no fear, no strife;
     Men whispering call it death--God calls it life.'
                                    ROBERT RICHARDSON.


As the months of 1894 slipped away, the unusual despondency and worry,
noticeable so especially in Mr Stevenson's correspondence, increased,
while it seemed that his literary work, which had hitherto been his
greatest pleasure, had now become a strain and a weariness to him.

By fits and starts the joy of working still visited him it is true.
_Weir of Hermiston_ he felt to be his very best--St Ives now and then
went gaily. But the dark moods were only dormant not dead, and anxiety
for the future of his family, and a longing to be able to cease working
for daily bread, grew upon him greatly.

That, for a time after the settlement in Samoa, monetary anxieties may
have been somewhat pressing, is not only possible, but probable. No
moving of 'the household gods,' however small, or for however short a
distance, can be managed without considerable cost and trouble, and the
expense invariably exceeds the estimate made, for unforeseen outlays and
difficulties crop up that entail added expenditure with its consequent
anxiety.

If this is so in ordinary cases, how much more would it be so when the
pulling up of stakes meant a move to the antipodes and the change of
home included the purchase of uncleared land in Samoa, the building of a
house and the laying out of an estate, which its owner felt certain
could not repay the money spent upon it for at least five or six years.

All great changes and large undertakings are fraught with difficulty,
and the Vailima venture was no exception to the rule. The Samoan home
meant much pleasure to its owner, but it entailed keen anxiety also.

Nevertheless the mental worry of those later months was by no means
justified by the facts. Mr Stevenson's literary work had long been paid
according to its merits, so that each book brought him in a satisfactory
sum; while the future of the _Edinburgh Edition_ of his works gave cause
for sincere satisfaction to the friends who were seeing it through the
press, and whose letters gave assurance of its success. The cloud was
therefore due to internal, not to external causes, and in the state of
Mr Stevenson's health was, alas! to be found the explanation of this sad
change from the gay bravery with which he had hitherto faced the world.
Suspected by his doctors, feared by his friends, but unknown to himself,
for at this time he constantly wrote of his improved health, a new
development in his illness was nearing its fatal crisis, and these
symptoms of mental distress and irritation were only the foreshadowing
of the end.

In these last days his life had many pleasures; he was enjoying the
Samoan climate and the free unconventional existence to the full; he was
surrounded by all his loved home circle; and in the October of 1894, two
months before his death, the Samoan chiefs, in whose imprisonment he had
proved his friendship to them, gave him a tribute of their love and
gratitude which was peculiarly pleasing and valuable to him. An account
of this and of the very beautiful speech he made in return appeared in
the home papers at the time, and are to be found in an appendix to _The
Vailima Letters_. The chiefs, who knew how much store he set by
road-making as a civilising element in Samoa, as elsewhere, themselves
went to him and offered their services to make a road to join his
property to the main highway. They, as well as their young men, worked
at it with picks and spades, and when it was finished they presented it
to their beloved 'Tusitala' as an abiding remembrance of their grateful
regard. It was a noble tribute to a noble nature, and one the value of
which can only be fully appreciated by those who realise what the
personal manual labour meant to these proud island chiefs so wholly
unaccustomed to exertion of any kind, and so imbued with the idea that
all labour was derogatory to their dignity. Their loving service touched
Mr Stevenson and all his family very deeply, and this bright memory
gladdened the last weeks of his life, and must be a very pleasant one to
recall for those of the Vailima household who still survive him.

At the celebration of his birthday on 13th November he had received
also a tribute of kindly appreciation from the European and American
residents in Apia. On the occasion of a 'Thanksgiving' feast in that
same November, he made a speech, in which he said he had always liked
_that_ day, for he felt that he had had so much for which to be
thankful. He especially mentioned the pleasure he had in his mother
being with him, and said that to America--where he had married his
wife--he owed the chief blessing of his life.

In spite of his assurances that he was very well, he was exceedingly
thin and wasted in those days, and later Samoan photographs show a
melancholy change in him. On the morning of the 3rd December, however,
he felt particularly well and wrote for several hours. It is very
pleasant to know, from _A Letter to Mr Stevenson's Friends_, sent to the
_Times_ after his stepfather's death by Mr Lloyd Osbourne as an
acknowledgment of the vast amount of sympathy expressed, and so
impossible to be otherwise answered, that he had enjoyed his work on
_Weir of Hermiston_, and felt all the buoyancy of successful effort on
that last morning of his life.

Letters for the mail were due to be written in the afternoon, and he
spent his time penning long and kindly greetings to absent friends.

'At sunset,' Mr Osbourne says, 'he came downstairs, rallied his wife
about the forebodings she could not shake off; talked of a lecturing
tour in America he was eager to make, "as he was so well," and played a
game of cards with her to drive away her melancholy.'

By-and-bye he said that he was hungry, and proposed a little feast, for
which he produced a bottle of old Burgundy, and went to help her to
prepare a salad, talking gaily all the while. As they were on the
verandah, he suddenly cried out, 'What is that?' put his hands to his
head, and asked, 'Do I look strange?' In a moment he had fallen down
beside her.

His wife called for help, and she and his body-servant Sosima carried
him into the great hall, where he had known so much happiness, and
placed him in the old arm-chair which had been his grandfather's.
Medical aid was quickly obtained, but he had already lost consciousness,
and, in spite of every effort, he never regained it. His mother's
letters written after his death touchingly describe how, although called
at once, she yet reached the hall too late to find him conscious, as by
that time he was leaning back in his chair breathing heavily. The
family, with an agony of grief, quickly realised that there was no hope.

A little bed was brought, and he was placed on it in the middle of the
hall, and there, with those he loved close about him, and his faithful
Samoan servants seated round him on the floor, he quietly passed away.
The deep breaths came at ever longer intervals, the sleep of
unconsciousness was never broken, and as his loved and valued friend,
the Reverend Mr Clark, prayed beside him, his spirit took its flight
into eternity. He died as he had wished, quickly and well-nigh
painlessly. He had known so much of lingering illness, he dreaded _that_
greatly, but of death he had no fear, and peacefully and suddenly he
passed into the Unseen.

His death took place at a little past eight o'clock on the evening of
the 3rd December at the early age of forty-four.

When the news was cabled to England, it was received by many people with
grave doubts. His relatives and friends dreaded its truth, but could not
at first believe it. Many exaggerated newspaper reports, copied
especially from the more sensational American press, had from time to
time caused needless distress and anxiety to those who loved him, so
that it was possible to allow oneself the shadow of a hope, particularly
as his uncle, Dr George W. Balfour, who had at first received the news
somewhat vaguely worded, doubted it also, and wrote to the _Scotsman_
expressing his unbelief.

Too soon, unfortunately, all such hopes were proved false, and eager
eyes scanning the morning papers on the 23d December 1894 read this sad
corroboration of the news that had been posted in London on the 17th of
the same month.


     'SAN FRANCISCO (no date).
             BALFOUR, 17 Walker Street, Edinburgh.
     LOUIS died suddenly third. Tell friends.
                                              STEVENSON.'


The telegram was from his mother in answer to one from his uncle asking
for true particulars as to the earlier report, and on its receipt and
publication relatives and friends knew that hope was dead, and there
remained only a sad waiting for further particulars. These by-and-bye
came in letters from his mother to her relatives and friends in
Scotland, in letters to his literary friends and in that 'Letter' to the
_Times_ from his friend and stepson Mr Lloyd Osbourne to the vast mass
of acquaintances and readers who all claimed him as a loved personal
friend.

From all these sources the manner of his death, and the touching final
tragedy of his pathetic funeral became known to the world of
English-speaking people everywhere, who each and all mourned
individually for the loved and lost author as one near and dear in their
personal regard.

He had always expressed a wish to be buried on the Vaea mountain which
rises immediately behind Vailima, and the summit of which commands a
wide prospect of land and sea and sky. In the spring of 1894, he had
suggested the making of a road, and the planting of the spot which he
had chosen for his resting-place, but, as the idea was painful to his
family, nothing was done in the matter. As soon as he had passed away,
those whom he loved hastened to give effect to his wishes, and Mr Lloyd
Osbourne planned and courageously carried out in an incredibly short
time the forming of a road which made it possible to carry him to the
summit of Vaea, and lay him on the spot that he had chosen. Forty
Samoans with knives and axes cut a path up the mountain side, and Mr
Lloyd Osbourne, with a few specially chosen dependents, dug the grave in
which he was to lie.

Meantime, his body covered with the Union Jack rested in the Samoan home
that he had loved so well, surrounded by the furniture of the old Scotch
home around which his childish feet had played, and on which his
father, and possibly his father's fathers, had daily looked, for his
mother had taken with her to Vailima all that had most of memory and of
family tradition from the house in Heriot Row.

His family lingered in the dear presence, the heartbroken Samoans knelt
and kissed his hands, and at the request of his favourite servant,
Sosima, who was a Romanist, the solemn and touching prayers of the
Church of Rome were, with a certain fitness, repeated over the man who
had been the champion of Father Damien, and among whose friends were
numbered the earnest and faithful Roman Catholic missionary priests of
the South Sea Islands.

On his coffin was laid the 'Red Ensign' that had floated from his mast
on many a cruise, and he was carried up the steep path by those who
loved him. Europeans as well as Samoans toiled up that difficult ascent
to place him with reverent hands in that grave which was so fitting a
resting-place for the man who had loved, above all things, the freedom
of the open air, the glory of the sea and the sky, the sighing of God's
winds among the trees, and the silent companionship of the stars.

       *       *       *       *       *

Life for those who remained in the Samoan home became an impossible
thing without him, and so Mrs Stevenson, with her son and daughter,
by-and-bye left Vailima, and the home of so much happiness is now
falling into ruin, the cleared ground lapsing back to the bush. And
perhaps it is best so; without him Vailima is like a body without a
soul; and he who so dearly loved nature would hardly have regretted that
the place he loved should return to the mother heart of the earth and
become once more a solitude--a green place of birds and trees.



CHAPTER XIII

HIS LIFE-WORK


     'Art's life, and when we live we suffer and toil.'
                               --MRS BARRETT BROWNING.


     'A healthful hunger for the great idea,
     The beauty and the blessedness of life.'
                                    --JEAN INGELOW.


It is perhaps impossible for those who knew Mr Stevenson and came under
the influence of the rare attraction of his charming personality, to
assign to him and to his work a suitable place in the world of letters.
Probably it is still too early for anyone to say what rank will in the
future be held by the man who in his life-time assuredly stood among the
masters of his craft. Fame, while he lived, was his, and, better than
fame, such love as is seldom given by the public to the writer whose
books delight it.

Deservedly popular as the books are, the man was still more popular; and
the personality that to his friends was so unique and so delightful,
made friends of his readers also. He was so frank, so human, in his
relations with his public.

His dedications not only gave pleasure to the members of his family, or
to the many friends to whom he wrote them, they, as it were, took his
readers into his confidence also, and let them share in the warmth of
his heart. His prefaces are delightfully autobiographical, and are
valuable in proportion to the glimpses they give of one of the most
amiable and most widely sympathetic natures imaginable.

His methods of work were singularly conscientious; even in the days
when, as a truant lad, he carried in his pocket one book to read, and
another to write in, he was slowly perfecting that style which was to
give to his literary work a distinction all its own. He spared himself
no trouble in ensuring the accuracy of all that he wrote.

It may be interesting to recall in this connection the letters written
by two of his readers to the _Scotsman_ expressing some doubt as to
there having been shops in Princes Street at the date of his story _St
Ives_--Mr Stevenson mentions shops in _St Ives_. In reply to the letters
of enquiry, his uncle, Dr G. W. Balfour, wrote to the _Scotsman_ on 26th
November 1897:--


     'Sir,--It may interest your correspondents "J. W. G." and "J. C.
     P." to know that Louis Stevenson always took care to verify his
     statements before making them, and that his correspondent, to whom
     he applied for information as to the existence of shops in Princes
     Street at the early date referred to, took the only legitimate
     means open to him of ascertaining this by consulting the
     directories of the date.'


And, as a matter of fact, it was conclusively proved that Mr Stevenson
was correct, by the name and number of at least one well-known shop, of
that date, being given by another correspondent in the paper very
shortly afterwards.

No minute observation was too trying for Mr Stevenson, no careful
research too tedious for him; no historical fact apparently too
insignificant or obscure for him to verify. He was never weary of
reading books dealing with the periods in which the action of his
stories takes place.

Costume, dialect, scenery, were all thoroughly studied, and when himself
distant from the scenes of his tales, he is to be found constantly
writing from Vailima to friends in London or in Edinburgh for the books
and the information he required. In the period between 1745 and 1816, in
which the plots of _Kidnapped_, _Catriona_, _The Master of Ballantrae_,
_Weir of Hermiston_, and _St Ives_ are laid, he is especially at home,
and old record rolls, books on manners and on costume, are all
laboriously studied to give to his stories that accuracy and truth to
life which he considered to be absolutely necessary. To such good effect
did he study volumes of old Parliament House trials, that the dress of
Alan Breck, in _Kidnapped_, is literally transcribed from that of a
prisoner of Alan's period, whose trial he had perused.

Nor did his conscientiousness stop here; he wrote and re-wrote
everything, sometimes as often as five times, and no page ever left his
hands which had not been elaborately pruned and polished. No wonder,
therefore, that his work was welcome to his publishers, and that he was
never among the complaining authors who think themselves underpaid and
unappreciated by the firms with whom they deal.

He gave of his best, good honest hard work, and he received in return
not only money but regard and consideration; and his own verdict was
that it was difficult to choose among his publishers which should have
a new book, for all of them were so good to him. A pleasant state of
matters that goes far to prove that, where work is conscientious and
author and publisher honourable and sensible, there need be little or no
friction between them. In this, as in the care which he bestowed on his
work, the long and earnest apprenticeship he served to the profession of
letters, he sets an example to his fellow-authors quite as impressive as
that which he showed to his fellow-men in the patience with which he
bore his heavy burden of bad health, and the courage with which he rose
above his sufferings and looked the world in the face smiling.

In an age when a realism so strong as to be unpleasant has tinged too
much of latter-day fiction Mr Stevenson stood altogether apart from the
school of the realists. His nature, fresh and boyish to the end,
troubled itself not at all with social questions, so he dipped his pen
into the wells of old romance and painted for us characters so alive
with strength and with humour that they live with us as friends and
comrades when the creations of the problem novelists have died out of
our memories with the problems they propound and worry over.

His books are bright, breezy, cheerful, rich in idealism, full of
chivalry, and they have in them a glamour of genius, a power of
imagination, and a spirit of purity, which makes them peculiarly
valuable in an age when these things are too often conspicuous by their
absence from the novel of the day.

His essays are full of a quaint, delightful humour, his verses have a
dainty charm, and in his tales he has given us a little picture gallery
of characters and landscapes which have a fascination all their own.
Like Sir Walter Scott he had to contend with the disadvantages of a
delicate childhood which interfered with settled work; and yet, in both
cases, one is tempted to think that that enforced early leisure was of
far more ultimate benefit to the life-work than years of dutiful
attendance at school and college. Like Sir Walter Scott, also, he has
drawn much of his inspiration from 'Caledonia, stern and wild'; and none
of her literary sons, save Burns and 'The Wizard of the North' himself,
has Caledonia loved so well or mourned so deeply.

Cosmopolite in culture, in breadth of view, in openness of mind, Mr
Stevenson was yet before all things a Scotsman, and one to whom Scotland
and his native Edinburgh were peculiarly dear. Condemned by his delicate
and uncertain health to make his dwelling-place far from the grey skies
and the biting east winds of his boyhood's home, these grey Scotch
skies, these bitter winds, still haunt him and appear in his books with
the strange charm they have for the sons and daughters of the north who,
even while they revile them, love them, and in far lands long for them
with a heart-hunger that no cloudless sky, no gentle zephyr, no
unshadowed sunshine of the alien shore can appease.[6]

In all his wanderings his heart turned fondly to the old home, to the
noble profession of his fathers, and on smiling seas and amid sunny
islands he never forgot the bleak coasts of Scotland, that his
ancestors' hands had lighted from headland to headland, and his heart


     'In dreams (beheld) the Hebrides.'


A Scot of whom Edinburgh and Scotland are justly proud, he was a man
whose life and faith did credit to the stern religion and the old
traditions of his covenanting forefathers, and although, like so many
men and women of earnest minds and broad culture in the present day, he
early left behind him much of the narrowness of churches and of creeds,
he held closely to 'the one thing needful,' a humble and a trusting
belief in God that filled all his soul with strength and patience, and
gave to him that marvellous sympathy with humanity which made him a
power among men, whether they were the learned and the cultured, or
simple children of nature like the Samoans, who so truly understood and
loved him.

The books undoubtedly are great, but the man is greater; and it is not
only as a writer of no small renown that he will be revered and
remembered but as a man among men whose patience and courage gave to his
too short life a pathos and a value. Among his friends he was beloved in
a manner quite unique, he had a peculiar place of his own in their
regard. By the younger school of writers, whose work he so fully and so
generously appreciated, he was regarded as a master; and one of the
pleasures to be enjoyed on the publication of that _Life_, which Mr
Sydney Colvin presently has in preparation, will be to learn more about
his agreeable relations with his literary juniors.

Of his sacred home life no outsider can speak; but it is the truest test
of perfect manhood when the man who is not unknown in the great world
shows himself at his best in the smaller world of home, and has a
brighter and a sweeter side of his nature to display to wife and mother
and close fireside circle than he has to his admiring public. Mr
Stevenson never despised the trivial things of life, and the everyday
courtesies, the little unselfishnesses--which are often so much more
difficult to practise than the great virtues--were never forgotten all
through the years in which so much of pain and of weariness might have
made occasional repining, occasional forgetfulness of others, almost
pardonable.

Eager in his own work, untiring in his literary activity, he was equally
eager to toil in the great vineyard, to do something for God and for
man, to make his faith active and not passive. This was his attitude
through life; he would always have 'tholed his paiks' that the poor
might 'enjoy their play,' the imprisoned go free; and the position which
he took up in regard to Samoan troubles was a practical proof that he
was, as he called himself, 'a ready soldier,' willing to spend and be
spent for others. Of one whose position was that of 'the ready soldier,'
no more fitting concluding words can be said than those in his mother's
note-book, and written to her by the wife of the Rev. Mr Clark, his
Samoan friend, in November 1895:--

... 'So few knew your dear son's best side--his Christian character. Of
course, men don't write often on that subject, and to many he was the
author, and they only knew him as such. To me his lovely character was
one of the wonderful things, so full of love and the desire to do good.
I love to think of him.' ...

That the man and his work are appreciated is amply proved by the
monument already erected to his memory in San Francisco by the zeal of
the American Committee, and by the enthusiastic meeting in his own
Edinburgh, presided over by Lord Rosebery, in the autumn of 1896, at
which Mr J. M. Barrie made an interesting and an appreciative speech;
and by the equally enthusiastic gathering in Dundee in the spring of
1897.

At these meetings it was proposed to receive subscriptions, and to erect
a Stevenson memorial in some form to be afterwards decided on. The
suggestion was largely responded to, but it is probable the response
would have been even more cordial had it been determined that the
memorial should take a practical rather than an ornamental form.
Monuments are cold things whereby to perpetuate love and admiration; an
'arbour of Corinthian columns,' which one paper recently suggested,
would have appealed to Mr Stevenson himself only as an atrocity in
stone. His sole sympathy with stone was when it served the noble purpose
to which his father had put it, and, as lighthouse or harbour,
contributed to the service of man. If the memorial might have been too
costly in the form of a small shore-light, a lifeboat seemed a thing
that would have been dear to his own heart. And as, in years to come,
men read of rescues by the _Robert Louis Stevenson_, on some
wreck-strewn, rock-bound corner of our coasts, the memory of the man
who loved the sea, and of the race who toiled to save life in its
storms, would have been handed down to future generations in a fitting
fashion.

The memorial is to take the form of a mural monument with a medallion
portrait of his head in high relief. It is to be placed in the Moray
Aisle of St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, which it is thought might be a
suitable 'Poets' Corner' for Scotland. If there is sufficient money, and
if the necessary permission is obtained, a stone seat may also be
erected on the Calton Hill at the point from which Mr Stevenson so
greatly admired the view. The medallion is to be entrusted to Mr A.
Saint Gaudens, an American sculptor of repute, who studied in France,
and who had the great advantage of personally knowing Mr Stevenson in
America in 1887 and 1888, and at that time getting him to sit for a
medallion, which is considered by his widow and family to be the best
likeness of him that they have seen. It is satisfactory that at last
someone has been found who can do justice to the quaint, mobile face,
and give to the memorial some of the living charm of the man. It is also
pleasant to know that Mrs Stevenson and her family have expressed
themselves perfectly satisfied with the choice of a sculptor.

The San Francisco monument is in the form of a sixteenth century ship,
of thirty guns, careening to the west, with golden sails full spread,
and with a figure of Pallas, looking towards the setting sun, in its
prow. The ship is about five feet high, and behind it, on a simple
granite plinth, is engraved the famous passage from his Christmas
sermon:--'To be honest, to be kind; to earn a little, to spend a little
less; to keep a few friends, and these without capitulations.'

On one surface of the plinth is a spigot and a cup, and underneath a
drip-stone, where thirsty dogs can drink. The drinking place is
assuredly a part of the monument that would have commended itself to the
man who loved his canine friends and all other animals so truly.

Even if a monument has about it something of the commonplace, it is well
that the memory of the man and of his work should be perpetuated; but of
all memorials of him, the Samoan 'Road of Gratitude' is likely to be for
ever remembered as the most suitable and the most perfect.

FOOTNOTE:

[6] It is on record that Mr Stevenson, who always talked to a
compatriot when he could, was, _à propos_ of his home in Samoa, told by
a sailor with whom he was having a chat, that he 'would rather gang hame
an' be hanged in auld Scotland than come an' live in this ---- hole.' No
doubt, Mr Stevenson appreciated the sturdy mariner's patriotism,
although it was expressed in language more forcible than polite!





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