Monday, May 01, 2017

The Tale-Teller

Robert Louis Stevenson

"I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house."  - Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped

On this day in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped began serialization in Young Folks magazine. It was this book, along with the earlier Treasure Island (1883) and A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) where I first enjoyed reading Stevenson more than half a century ago. Along with a handful of other authors these books became the foundation of my early reading and love of books. I still have that feeling for Stevenson as I have gradually explored some of his other novels, short stories, and essays. While he is considered one of England's most popular writers of "Children's Literature", these novels and his others, especially The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, are worth exploring and enjoying as an adult. 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, provoked by a dream and written in a ten-week burst during the writing of Kidnapped, is one of the outstanding examples of the use of the theme of 'the double' in literature, and a classic late Victorian text.  Other examples of this theme range from Poe (William Wilson) and Dostoevsky (The Double) to moderns like Daphne du Maurier (The Scapegoat).  Though Stevenson wrote prolifically and in almost every genre, his four books from the mid-1880s have become classics.  They are all he would need to be remembered more than a century later. This reader continues to look back a the beginning of his reading as a boy and remember when he first encountered the adventures depicted in Kidnapped and Treasure Island.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. Random House, New York. 1949 (1886)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Random House, New York. 1949 (1883)


Brian Joseph said...

I agree that it is well worth it for adults to read Stevenson.

I read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the a few years ago and I found it to be superb. I am thinking of rereading some of his other books soon. Perhaps I will give Kidnapped a try.

James said...


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the classic Victorian novels for many reasons - yet also very modern. It surely is in the same league with Dostoevsky and Conrad (The Secret Sharer). The theme of the doppelanger in literature is a favorite of mine.