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A Gossip on Romance

In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process
itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a
book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our
mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images, incapable
of sleep or of continuous thought. The words, if the book be eloquent,
should run thence-forward in our ears like the noise of breakers, and
the story, if it be a story, repeat itself in a thousand coloured
pictures to the eye. It was for this last pleasure that we read so
closely, and loved our books so dearly, in the bright, troubled period
of boyhood. Eloquence and thought, character and conversation, were
but obstacles to brush aside as we dug blithely after a certain sort
of incident, like a pig for truffles.[1] For my part, I liked a story
to begin with an old wayside inn where, "towards the close of the year
17--," several gentlemen in three-cocked hats were playing bowls. A
friend of mine preferred the Malabar coast[2] in a storm, with a ship
beating to windward, and a scowling fellow of Herculean proportions
striding along the beach; he, to be sure, was a pirate. This was
further afield than my home-keeping fancy loved to travel, and
designed altogether for a larger canvas than the tales that I
affected. Give me a highwayman and I was full to the brim; a
Jacobite[3] would do, but the highwayman was my favourite dish. I can
still hear that merry clatter of the hoofs along the moonlit lane;
night and the coming of day are still related in my mind with the
doings of John Rann or Jerry Abershaw;[4] and the words "postchaise,"
the "great North road,"[5] "ostler," and "nag" still sound in my ears
like poetry. One and all, at least, and each with his particular
fancy, we read story-books in childhood; not for eloquence or
character or thought, but for some quality of the brute incident. That
quality was not mere bloodshed or wonder. Although each of these was
welcome in its place, the charm for the sake of which we read depended
on something different from either. My elders used to read novels
aloud; and I can still remember four different passages which I heard,
before I was ten, with the same keen and lasting pleasure. One I
discovered long afterwards to be the admirable opening of _What will
he Do with It?_[6] It was no wonder I was pleased with that. The other
three still remain unidentified. One is a little vague; it was about a
dark, tall house at night, and people groping on the stairs by the
light that escaped from the open door of a sickroom. In another, a
lover left a ball, and went walking in a cool, dewy park, whence he
could watch the lighted windows and the figures of the dancers as they
moved. This was the most sentimental impression I think I had yet
received, for a child is somewhat deaf to the sentimental. In the
last, a poet, who had been tragically wrangling with his wife, walked
forth on the sea-beach on a tempestuous night and witnessed the
horrors of a wreck.[7] Different as they are, all these early
favourites have a common note--they have all a touch of the romantic.

Drama is the poetry of conduct, romance the poetry of circumstance.
The pleasure that we take in life is of two sorts--the active and the
passive. Now we are conscious of a great command over our destiny;
anon we are lifted up by circumstance, as by a breaking wave, and
dashed we know not how into the future. Now we are pleased by our
conduct, anon merely pleased by our surroundings. It would be hard to
say which of these modes of satisfaction is the more effective, but
the latter is surely the more constant. Conduct is three parts of
life,[8] they say; but I think they put it high. There is a vast deal
in life and letters both which is not immoral, but simply a-moral;
which either does not regard the human will at all, or deals with it
in obvious and healthy relations; where the interest turns, not upon
what a man shall choose to do, but on how he manages to do it; not on
the passionate slips and hesitations of the conscience, but on the
problems of the body and of the practical intelligence, in clean,
open-air adventure, the shock of arms or the diplomacy of life. With
such material as this it is impossible to build a play, for the
serious theatre exists solely on moral grounds, and is a standing
proof of the dissemination of the human conscience. But it is possible
to build, upon this ground, the most joyous of verses, and the most
lively, beautiful and buoyant tales.

One thing in life calls for another; there is a fitness in events and
places. The sight of a pleasant arbour[9] puts it in our minds to sit
there. One place suggests work, another idleness, a third early rising
and long rambles in the dew. The effect of night, of any flowing
water, of lighted cities, of the peep of day, of ships, of the open
ocean, calls up in the mind an army of anonymous desires and
pleasures. Something, we feel, should happen; we know not what, yet we
proceed in quest of it. And many of the happiest hours of life fleet
by us in this vain attendance on the genius of the place and moment.
It is thus that tracts of young fir, and low rocks that reach into
deep soundings, particularly torture and delight me. Something must
have happened in such places, and perhaps ages back, to members of my
race; when I was a child I tried in vain to invent appropriate games
for them, as I still try, just as vainly, to fit them with the proper
story. Some places speak distinctly. Certain dank gardens cry aloud
for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain coasts
are set apart for ship-wreck. Other spots again seem to abide their
destiny, suggestive and impenetrable, "miching mallecho."[10] The inn
at Burford Bridge,[11] with its arbours and green garden and silent,
eddying river--though it is known already as the place where Keats
wrote some of his _Endymion_ and Nelson parted from his Emma--still
seems to wait the coming of the appropriate legend. Within these ivied
walls, behind these old green shutters, some further business
smoulders, waiting for its hour. The old Hawes Inn at the Queen's
Ferry makes a similar call upon my fancy. There it stands, apart from
the town, beside the pier, in a climate of its own, half inland, half
marine--in front, the ferry bubbling with the tide and the guard-ship
swinging to her anchor; behind, the old garden with the trees.
Americans seek it already for the sake of Lovel and Oldbuck, who dined
there at the beginning of the _Antiquary_. But you need not tell
me--that is not all; there is some story, unrecorded or not yet
complete, which must express the meaning of that inn more fully. So it
is with names and faces; so it is with incidents that are idle and
inconclusive in themselves, and yet seem like the beginning of some
quaint romance, which the all-careless author leaves untold. How many
of these romances have we not seen determine at their birth; how many
people have met us with a look of meaning in their eye, and sunk at
once into trivial acquaintances; to how many places have we not drawn
near, with express intimations--"here my destiny awaits me"--and we
have but dined there and passed on! I have lived both at the Hawes and
Burford in a perpetual flutter, on the heels, as it seemed, of some
adventure that should justify the place; but though the feeling had me
to bed at night and called me again at morning in one unbroken round
of pleasure and suspense, nothing befell me in either worth remark.
The man or the hour had not yet come; but some day, I think, a boat
shall put off from the Queen's Ferry, fraught with a dear cargo, and
some frosty night a horseman, on a tragic errand, rattle with his whip
upon the green shutters of the inn at Burford.[12]

Now, this is one of the natural appetites with which any lively
literature has to count. The desire for knowledge, I had almost added
the desire for meat, is not more deeply seated than this demand for
fit and striking incident. The dullest of clowns tells, or tries to
tell, himself a story, as the feeblest of children uses invention in
his play; and even as the imaginative grown person, joining in the
game, at once enriches it with many delightful circumstances, the
great creative writer shows us the realisation and the apotheosis of
the day-dreams of common men. His stories may be nourished with the
realities of life, but their true mark is to satisfy the nameless
longings of the reader, and to obey the ideal laws of the day-dream.
The right kind of thing should fall out in the right kind of place;
the right kind of thing should follow; and not only the characters
talk aptly and think naturally, but all the circumstances in a tale
answer one to another like notes in music. The threads of a story come
from time to time together and make a picture in the web; the
characters fall from time to time into some attitude to each other or
to nature, which stamps the story home like an illustration.
Crusoe[13] recoiling from the footprint, Achilles shouting over
against the Trojans, Ulysses bending the great bow, Christian running
with his fingers in his ears, these are each culminating moments in
the legend, and each has been printed on the mind's eye forever. Other
things we may forget; we may forget the words, although they are
beautiful; we may forget the author's comment, although perhaps it was
ingenious and true; but these epoch-making scenes, which put the last
mark of truth upon a story and fill up, at one blow, our capacity for
sympathetic pleasure, we so adopt into the very bosom of our mind that
neither time nor tide can efface or weaken the impression. This, then,
is the plastic part of literature: to embody character, thought, or
emotion in some act or attitude that shall be remarkably striking to
the mind's eye. This is the highest and hardest thing to do in words;
the thing which, once accomplished, equally delights the schoolboy and
the sage, and makes, in its own right, the quality of epics. Compared
with this, all other purposes in literature, except the purely lyrical
or the purely philosophic, are bastard in nature, facile of execution,
and feeble in result. It is one thing to write about the inn at
Burford, or to describe scenery with the word-painters; it is quite
another to seize on the heart of the suggestion and make a country
famous with a legend. It is one thing to remark and to dissect, with
the most cutting logic, the complications of life, and of the human
spirit; it is quite another to give them body and blood in the story
of Ajax[14] or of Hamlet. The first is literature, but the second is
something besides, for it is likewise art.

English people of the present day[15] are apt, I know not why, to look
somewhat down on incident, and reserve their admiration for the clink
of teaspoons and the accents of the curate. It is thought clever to
write a novel with no story at all, or at least with a very dull one.
Reduced even to the lowest terms, a certain interest can be
communicated by the art of narrative; a sense of human kinship
stirred; and a kind of monotonous fitness, comparable to the words and
air of _Sandy's Mull_, preserved among the infinitesimal occurrences
recorded. Some people work, in this manner, with even a strong touch.
Mr. Trollope's inimitable clergymen naturally arise to the mind in
this connection. But even Mr. Trollope[16] does not confine himself to
chronicling small beer. Mr. Crawley's collision with the Bishop's
wife, Mr. Melnette dallying in the deserted banquet-room, are typical
incidents, epically conceived, fitly embodying a crisis. Or again look
at Thackeray. If Rawdon Crawley's blow were not delivered, _Vanity
Fair_ would cease to be a work of art. That scene is the chief
ganglion of the tale; and the discharge of energy from Rawdon's fist
is the reward and consolation of the reader. The end of _Esmond_ is a
yet wider excursion from the author's customary fields; the scene at
Castlewood is pure Dumas;[17] the great and wily English borrower has
here borrowed from the great, unblushing French thief; as usual, he
has borrowed admirably well, and the breaking of the sword rounds off
the best of all his books with a manly, martial note. But perhaps
nothing can more strongly illustrate the necessity for marking
incident than to compare the living fame of _Robinson Crusoe_ with the
discredit of _Clarissa Harlowe_.[18] _Clarissa_ is a book of a far
more startling import, worked out, on a great canvas, with inimitable
courage and unflagging art. It contains wit, character, passion, plot,
conversations full of spirit and insight, letters sparkling with
unstrained humanity; and if the death of the heroine be somewhat
frigid and artificial, the last days of the hero strike the only note
of what we now call Byronism,[19] between the Elizabethans and Byron
himself. And yet a little story of a ship-wrecked sailor, with not a
tenth part of the style nor a thousandth part of the wisdom, exploring
none of the arcana of humanity and deprived of the perennial interest
of love, goes on from edition to edition, ever young, while _Clarissa_
lies upon the shelves unread. A friend of mine, a Welsh blacksmith,
was twenty-five years old and could neither read nor write, when he
heard a chapter of _Robinson_ read aloud in a farm kitchen. Up to that
moment he had sat content, huddled in his ignorance, but he left that
farm another man. There were day-dreams, it appeared, divine
day-dreams, written and printed and bound, and to be bought for money
and enjoyed at pleasure. Down he sat that day, painfully learned to
read Welsh, and returned to borrow the book. It had been lost, nor
could he find another copy but one that was in English. Down he sat
once more, learned English, and at length, and with entire delight,
read _Robinson_. It is like the story of a love-chase. If he had heard
a letter from _Clarissa_, would he have been fired with the same
chivalrous ardour? I wonder. Yet _Clarissa_ has every quality that can
be shown in prose, one alone excepted--pictorial or picture-making
romance. While _Robinson_ depends, for the most part and with the
overwhelming majority of its readers, on the charm of circumstance.

In the highest achievements of the art of words, the dramatic and the
pictorial, the moral and romantic interest, rise and fall together by
a common and organic law. Situation is animated with passion, passion
clothed upon with situation. Neither exists for itself, but each
inheres indissolubly with the other. This is high art; and not only
the highest art possible in words, but the highest art of all, since
it combines the greatest mass and diversity of the elements of truth
and pleasure. Such are epics, and the few prose tales that have the
epic weight. But as from a school of works, aping the creative,
incident and romance are ruthlessly discarded, so may character and
drama be omitted or subordinated to romance. There is one book, for
example, more generally loved than Shakespeare, that captivates in
childhood, and still delights in age--I mean the _Arabian
Nights_--where you shall look in vain for moral or for intellectual
interest. No human face or voice greets us among that wooden crowd of
kings and genies, sorcerers and beggarmen. Adventure, on the most
naked terms, furnishes forth the entertainment and is found enough.
Dumas approaches perhaps nearest of any modern to these Arabian
authors in the purely material charm of some of his romances. The
early part of _Monte Cristo_, down to the finding of the treasure, is
a piece of perfect story-telling; the man never breathed who shared
these moving incidents without a tremor; and yet Faria is a thing of
packthread and Dantès[20] little more than a name. The sequel is one
long-drawn error, gloomy, bloody, unnatural and dull; but as for these
early chapters, I do not believe there is another volume extant where
you can breathe the same unmingled atmosphere of romance. It is very
thin and light, to be sure, as on a high mountain; but it is brisk and
clear and sunny in proportion. I saw the other day, with envy, an old
and a very clever lady setting forth on a second or third voyage into
_Monte Cristo_. Here are stories which powerfully affect the reader,
which can be reperused at any age, and where the characters are no
more than puppets. The bony fist of the showman visibly propels them;
their springs are an open secret; their faces are of wood, their
bellies filled with bran; and yet we thrillingly partake of their
adventures. And the point may be illustrated still further. The last
interview between Lucy and Richard Feveril[21] is pure drama; more
than that, it is the strongest scene, since Shakespeare, in the
English tongue. Their first meeting by the river, on the other hand,
is pure romance; it has nothing to do with character; it might happen
to any other boy and maiden, and be none the less delightful for the
change. And yet I think he would be a bold man who should choose
between these passages. Thus, in the same book, we may have two
scenes, each capital in its order: in the one, human passion, deep
calling unto deep, shall utter its genuine voice; in the second,
according circumstances, like instruments in tune, shall build up a
trivial but desirable incident, such as we love to prefigure for
ourselves; and in the end, in spite of the critics, we may hesitate to
give the preference to either. The one may ask more genius--I do not
say it does; but at least the other dwells as clearly in the memory.

True romantic art, again, makes a romance of all things. It reaches
into the highest abstraction of the ideal; it does not refuse the most
pedestrian realism. _Robinson Crusoe_ is as realistic as it is
romantic:[22] both qualities are pushed to an extreme, and neither
suffers. Nor does romance depend upon the material importance of the
incidents. To deal with strong and deadly elements, banditti, pirates,
war and murder, is to conjure with great names, and, in the event of
failure, to double the disgrace. The arrival of Haydn[23] and Consuelo
at the Canon's villa is a very trifling incident; yet we may read a
dozen boisterous stories from beginning to end, and not receive so
fresh and stirring an impression of adventure. It was the scene of
Crusoe at the wreck, if I remember rightly, that so bewitched my
blacksmith. Nor is the fact surprising. Every single article the
castaway recovers from the hulk is "a joy for ever"[24] to the man who
reads of them. They are the things that should be found, and the bare
enumeration stirs the blood. I found a glimmer of the same interest
the other day in a new book, _The Sailor's Sweetheart_,[25] by Mr.
Clark Russell. The whole business of the brig _Morning Star_ is very
rightly felt and spiritedly written; but the clothes, the books and
the money satisfy the reader's mind like things to eat. We are dealing
here with the old cut-and-dry legitimate interest of treasure trove.
But even treasure trove can be made dull. There are few people who
have not groaned under the plethora of goods that fell to the lot of
the _Swiss Family Robinson_,[26] that dreary family. They found
article after article, creature after creature, from milk kine to
pieces of ordnance, a whole consignment; but no informing taste had
presided over the selection, there was no smack or relish in the
invoice; and these riches left the fancy cold. The box of goods in
Verne's _Mysterious Island_[27] is another case in point: there was no
gusto and no glamour about that; it might have come from a shop. But
the two hundred and seventy-eight Australian sovereigns on board the
_Morning Star_ fell upon me like a surprise that I had expected; whole
vistas of secondary stories, besides the one in hand, radiated forth
from that discovery, as they radiate from a striking particular in
life; and I was made for the moment as happy as a reader has the right
to be.

To come at all at the nature of this quality of romance, we must bear
in mind the peculiarity of our attitude to any art. No art produces
illusion; in the theatre we never forget that we are in the theatre;
and while we read a story, we sit wavering between two minds, now
merely clapping our hands at the merit of the performance, now
condescending to take an active part in fancy with the characters.
This last is the triumph of romantic story-telling: when the reader
consciously plays at being the hero, the scene is a good scene. Now in
character-studies the pleasure that we take is critical; we watch, we
approve, we smile at incongruities, we are moved to sudden heats of
sympathy with courage, suffering or virtue. But the characters are
still themselves, they are not us; the more clearly they are depicted,
the more widely do they stand away from us, the more imperiously do
they thrust us back into our place as a spectator. I cannot identify
myself with Rawdon Crawley or with Eugène de Rastignac,[28] for I have
scarce a hope or fear in common with them. It is not character but
incident that woos us out of our reserve. Something happens as we
desire to have it happen to ourselves; some situation, that we have
long dallied with in fancy, is realised in the story with enticing and
appropriate details. Then we forget the characters; then we push the
hero aside; then we plunge into the tale in our own person and bathe
in fresh experience; and then, and then only, do we say we have been
reading a romance. It is not only pleasurable things that we imagine
in our day-dreams; there are lights in which we are willing to
contemplate even the idea of our own death; ways in which it seems as
if it would amuse us to be cheated, wounded or calumniated. It is thus
possible to construct a story, even of tragic import, in which every
incident, detail and trick of circumstance shall be welcome to the
reader's thoughts. Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the
child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his
life; and when the game so chimes with his fancy that he can join in
it with all his heart, when it pleases him with every turn, when he
loves to recall it and dwells upon its recollection with entire
delight, fiction is called romance.

Walter Scott is out and away the king of the romantics. _The Lady of
the Lake_ has no indisputable claim to be a poem beyond the inherent
fitness and desirability of the tale. It is just such a story as a man
would make up for himself, walking, in the best health and temper,
through just such scenes as it is laid in. Hence it is that a charm
dwells undefinable among these slovenly verses, as the unseen cuckoo
fills the mountains with his note; hence, even after we have flung the
book aside, the scenery and adventures remain present to the mind, a
new and green possession, not unworthy of that beautiful name, _The
Lady of the Lake_,[29] or that direct, romantic opening,--one of the
most spirited and poetical in literature,--"The stag at eve had drunk
his fill." The same strength and the same weaknesses adorn and
disfigure the novels. In that ill-written, ragged book, _The
Pirate_,[30] the figure of Cleveland--cast up by the sea on the
resounding foreland of Dunrossness--moving, with the blood on his
hands and the Spanish words on his tongue, among the simple
islanders--singing a serenade under the window of his Shetland
mistress--is conceived in the very highest manner of romantic
invention. The words of his song, "Through groves of palm," sung in
such a scene and by such a lover, clench, as in a nutshell, the
emphatic contrast upon which the tale is built. In _Guy
Mannering_,[31] again, every incident is delightful to the
imagination; and the scene when Harry Bertram lands at Ellangowan is a
model instance of romantic method.

"'I remember the tune well,' he says, 'though I cannot guess what
should at present so strongly recall it to my memory.' He took his
flageolet from his pocket and played a simple melody. Apparently the
tune awoke the corresponding associations of a damsel.... She
immediately took up the song--

"'Are these the links of Forth, she said;
Or are they the crooks of Dee,
Or the bonny woods of Warroch Head
That I so fain would see?'

"'By heaven!' said Bertram, 'it is the very ballad.'"

On this quotation two remarks fall to be made. First, as an instance
of modern feeling for romance, this famous touch of the flageolet and
the old song is selected by Miss Braddon for omission. Miss Braddon's
idea[32] of a story, like Mrs. Todgers's idea of a wooden leg,[33]
were something strange to have expounded. As a matter of personal
experience, Meg's appearance to old Mr. Bertram on the road, the ruins
of Derncleugh, the scene of the flageolet, and the Dominie's
recognition of Harry, are the four strong notes that continue to ring
in the mind after the book is laid aside. The second point is still
more curious. The reader will observe a mark of excision in the
passage as quoted by me. Well, here is how it runs in the original: "a
damsel, who, close behind a fine spring about half-way down the
descent, and which had once supplied the castle with water, was
engaged in bleaching linen." A man who gave in such copy would be
discharged from the staff of a daily paper. Scott has forgotten to
prepare the reader for the presence of the "damsel"; he has forgotten
to mention the spring and its relation to the ruin; and now, face to
face with his omission, instead of trying back and starting fair,
crams all this matter, tail foremost, into a single shambling
sentence. It is not merely bad English, or bad style; it is abominably
bad narrative besides.

Certainly the contrast is remarkable; and it is one that throws a
strong light upon the subject of this paper. For here we have a man of
the finest creative instinct touching with perfect certainty and charm
the romantic junctures of his story; and we find him utterly careless,
almost, it would seem, incapable, in the technical matter of style,
and not only frequently weak, but frequently wrong in points of drama.
In character parts, indeed, and particularly in the Scotch, he was
delicate, strong and truthful; but the trite, obliterated features of
too many of his heroes have already wearied two generations of
readers. At times his characters will speak with something far beyond
propriety with a true heroic note; but on the next page they will be
wading wearily forward with an ungrammatical and undramatic rigmarole
of words. The man who could conceive and write the character of
Elspeth of the Craigburnfoot,[34] as Scott has conceived and written
it, had not only splendid romantic, but splendid tragic gifts. How
comes it, then, that he could so often fob us off with languid,
inarticulate twaddle?

It seems to me that the explanation is to be found in the very quality
of his surprising merits. As his books are play to the reader, so
were, they play to him. He conjured up the romantic with delight, but
he had hardly patience to describe it. He was a great day-dreamer, a
seer of fit and beautiful and humorous visions, but hardly a great
artist; hardly, in the manful sense, an artist at all. He pleased
himself, and so he pleases us. Of the pleasures of his art he tasted
fully; but of its toils and vigils and distresses never man knew less.
A great romantic--an idle child.


This essay first appeared in _Longman's Magazine_ for November 1882,
Vol. I, pp. 69-79. Five years later it was published in the volume
_Memories and Portraits_ (1887), followed by an article called _A
Humble Remonstrance_, which should really be read in connection with
this essay, as it is a continuation of the same line of thought. In
the eternal conflict between Romanticism and Realism, Stevenson was
heart and soul with the former, and fortunately he lived long enough
to see the practical effects of his own precepts and influence. When
he began to write, Realism in fiction seemed to have absolute control;
when he died, a tremendous reaction in favor of the historical romance
had already set in, that reached its climax with the death of the
century. Stevenson's share in this Romantic revival was greater than
that of any other English writer, and as an English review remarked,
if it had not been for him most of the new authors would have been
Howells and James young men.

This paper was written at Davos in the winter of 1881-2, and in
February, writing to Henley, the author said, "I have just finished a
paper, 'A Gossip on Romance,' in which I have tried to do, very
popularly, about one-half of the matter you wanted me to try. In a
way, I have found an answer to the question. But the subject was
hardly fit for so chatty a paper, and it is all loose ends. If ever I
do my book on the Art of Literature, I shall gather them together and
be clear." (_Letters_, I, 269). On Dec. 8, 1884--the same month in
which _A Humble Remonstrance_ was printed, Stevenson wrote an
interesting letter to Henry James, whose views on the art of fiction
were naturally contrary to those of his friend. See _Letters_, I, 402.

[Note 1: _Like a pig for truffles_. See the _Epilogue_ to Browning's
_Pacchiarotto etc_., Stanza XVIII:--"Your product is--truffles, you
hunt with a pig!"]

[Note 2: _The Malabar coast_. A part of India.]

[Note 3: _Jacobite_. After James II was driven from the throne in
1688, his supporters and those of his descendants were called
Jacobites. Jacobus is the Latin for James.]

[Note 4: _John Rann or Jerry Abershaw_. John Rann I cannot find. Louis
Jeremiah (or Jerry) Abershaw was a highway robber, who infested the
roads near London; he was hung in 1795, when scarcely over twenty-one
years old.]

[Note 5: "_Great North road_." The road that runs on the east of
England up to Edinburgh. Stevenson yielded to the charm that these
words had for him, for he began a romance with the title, _The Great
North Road_, which however, he never finished. It was published as a
fragment in _The Illustrated London News_, in 1895.]

[Note 6: _What will he Do with It_? One of Bulwer-Lytton's novels,
published in 1858.]

[Note 7: Since traced by many obliging correspondents to the gallery
of Charles Kingsley.]

[Note 8: _Conduct is three parts of life_. In _Literature and Dogma_
(1873) Matthew Arnold asserted with great emphasis, that conduct was
three-fourths of life.]

[Note 9: _The sight of a pleasant arbour_. Possibly a reminiscence of
the arbour in _Pilgrim's Progress_, where Christian fell asleep, and
lost his roll. "Now about the midway to the top of the hill was a
pleasant arbour."]

[Note 10: "_Miching mallecho." Hamlet's_ description of the meaning of
the Dumb Show in the play-scene, Act III, Sc. 2. "Hidden
treachery"--see any annotated edition of _Hamlet_.]

[Note 11: _Burford Bridge ... Keats ... Endymion ... Nelson ... Emma
... the old Hawes Inn at the Queen's Ferry_. Burford Bridge is close
to Dorking in Surrey, England: in the old inn, Keats wrote a part of
his poem _Endymion_ (published 1818). The room where he composed is
still on exhibition. Two letters by Keats, which are exceedingly
important to the student of his art as a poet, were written from
Burford Bridge in November 1817. See Colvin's edition of Keats's
Letters, pp. 40-46.... "Emma" is Lady Hamilton, whom Admiral Nelson
loved.... Queen's Ferry (properly _Queensferry_) is on the Firth of
Forth, Scotland. See a few lines below in the text, where Stevenson
gives the reference to the opening pages of Scott's novel the
_Antiquary_, which begins in the old inn at this place. See also page
105 of the text, and Stevenson's foot note, where he declares that he
did make use of Queensferry in his novel _Kidnapped_ (1886)(Chapter

[Note 12: Since the above was written I have tried to launch the boat
with my own hands in _Kidnapped_. Some day, perhaps, I may try a
rattle at the shutters.]

[Note 13: _Crusoe ... Achilles ... Ulysses ... Christian_. When
Robinson Crusoe saw the footprint on the sand, and realised he was not
alone.... To a reader of to-day the great hero Achilles seems to be
all bluster and selfish childishness; the true gentleman of the Iliad
is _Hector_.... When Ulysses returned home in the _Odyssey_, he bent
with ease the bow that had proved too much for all the suitors of his
lonely and faithful wife Penelope.... Christian "had not run far from
his own door when his wife and children, perceiving it, began to cry
after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears and ran
on crying, 'Life! Life! eternal Life!'"_--Pilgrim's Progress_.]

[Note 14: _]_. The Greek heavy-weight in Homer's _Iliad_.

[Note 15: _English people of the present day_. This was absolutely
true in 1882. But in 1892 a complete revolution in taste had set in,
and many of the most hardened realists were forced to write wild
romances, or lose their grip on the public. At this time, Stevenson
naturally had no idea how powerfully his as yet unwritten romances
were to affect the literary market.]

[Note 16: _Mr. Trollope's ... chronicling small beer ... Rawdon
Crawley's blow_. Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) wrote an immense number
of mildly entertaining novels concerned with the lives and ambitions
of English clergymen and their satellites. His best-known book is
probably _Barchester Towers_ (1857).... _Chronicling small beer_ is
the "lame and impotent conclusion" with which Iago finishes his poem
(_Othello_, Act II, Sc. I).... _Rawdon Crawley's blow_ refers to the
most memorable scene in Thackeray's great novel, _Vanity Fair_
(1847-8), where Rawdon Crawley, the husband of Becky Sharp, strikes
Lord Steyne in the face (Chap. LIII). After writing this powerful
scene, Thackeray was in a state of tremendous excitement, and slapping
his knee, said, "That's Genius!"]

[Note 17: _The end of Esmond ... pure Dumas_. Thackeray's romance
_Henry Esmond_ (1852) is regarded by many critics as the greatest work
of fiction in the English language; Stevenson here calls it "the best
of all his books." The scene Stevenson refers to is where Henry is
finally cured of his love for Beatrix, and theatrically breaks his
sword in the presence of the royal admirer (Book III, Chap. 13).
Alexander Dumas (1803-1370), author of _Monte Cristo_ and _Les Trois
Mousquetaires_. Stevenson playfully calls him "the great, unblushing
French thief"; all he means is that Dumas never hesitated to
appropriate material wherever he found it, and work it into his

[Note 18: _The living fame of Robinson Crusoe with the discredit of
Clarissa Harlowe_. A strong contrast between the romance of incident
and the analytical novel. For remarks on _Clarissa_, see our Note 9 of
Chapter IV above.]

[Note 19: _Byronism_. About the time Lord Byron was publishing _Childe
Harold_ (1812-1818) a tremendous wave of romantic melancholy swept
over all the countries of Europe. Innumerable poems and romances
dealing with mysteriously-sad heroes were written in imitation of
Byron; and young authors wore low, rolling collars, and tried to look
depressed. See Gautier's _Histoire du Romantisme._ Now the death of
Lovelace (in a duel) in Richardson's _Clarissa_, was pitched in
exactly the Byronic key, though at that time Byron had not been
born.... The Elizabethans were of course thoroughly romantic.]

[Note 20: _Faria_..._Dantès_. Characters in Dumas's _Monte Cristo_

[Note 21: _Lucy and Richard Feveril_. Usually spelled "Feverel."
Stevenson strangely enough, was always a bad speller. The reference
here is to one of Stevenson's favorite novels _The Ordeal of Richard
Feverel_ (1859) by George Meredith. Stevenson's idolatrous praise of
this particular scene in the novel is curious, for no greater contrast
in English literary style can be found than that between Meredith's
and his own. For another reference by Stevenson to the older novelist,
see our Note 47 of Chapter IV above.]

[Note 22: _Robinson Crusoe is as realistic as it is romantic_. Therein
lies precisely the charm of this book for boyish minds; the details
are given with such candour that it seems as if they must all be true.
At heart, Defoe was an intense realist, as well as the first English

[Note 23: _The arrival of Haydn_. For a note on George Sand's novel
_Consuelo_ see Note 9 of Chapter IV above.]

[Note 24: _A joy for ever_. The first line of Keats's poem _Endymion_
is "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."]

[Note 25: _The Sailor's Sweetheart_. Mr. W. Clark Russell, born in New
York in 1844, has written many popular tales of the sea. His first
success was _The Wreck of the Grosvenor_ (1876); _The Sailor's
Sweetheart_, more properly, _A Sailor's Sweetheart_, was published in

[Note 26: _Swiss Family Robinson_. A German story, _Der schweizerische
Robinson_ (1812) by J.D. Wyss (1743-1818). This story is not so
popular as it used to be.]

[Note 27: _Verne's Mysterious Island_. Jules Verne, who died at
Amiens, France, in 1904, wrote an immense number of romances, which,
translated into many languages, have delighted young readers all over
the world. _The Mysterious Island_ is a sequel to _Twenty Thousand
Leagues under the Sea_.]

[Note 28: _Eugène de Rastignac_. A character in Balzac's novel, Père

[Note 29: _The Lady of the Lake_. This poem, published in 1810, is as
Stevenson implies, not so much a poem as a rattling good story told in

[Note 30: _The Pirate_. A novel by Scott, published in 1821. It was
the cause of Cooper's writing _The Pilot_. See Cooper's preface to the
latter novel.]

[Note 31: _Guy Mannering_. Also by Scott. Published 1815.]

[Note 32: _Miss Braddon's idea_. Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Maxwell),
born in 1837, published her first novel, _The Trail of the Serpent_,
in 1860. She has written a large number of sensational works of
fiction, very popular with an uncritical class of readers. Perhaps her
best-known book is _Lady Audley's Secret_ (1862). It would be well for
the student to refer to the scenes in _Guy Mannering_ which Stevenson
calls the "_Four strong notes_."]

[Note 33: _Mrs. Todgers's idea of a wooden leg_. Mrs. Todgers is a
character in Dickens's novel, _Martin Chuzzlewit_ (1843-4).]

[Note 34: _Elspeth of the Craigburnfoot_. A character in the
_Antiquary_ (1816).]

Robert Louis Stevenson

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