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Familiar Studies of Men and Books by Robert Louis Stevenson
  

Synopsis

Familiar Studies of Men and Books by Robert Louis Stevenson

This collection of literary essays by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) explores the lives and works of nine writers from around the world and across the centuries, including Victor Hugo, Robert Burns, Walt Whitman and Samuel Pepys. Published together in 1882, the studies here had previously appeared in periodicals, chiefly the Cornhill Magazine, and are known for their conversational style and unusual combination of character assessment and scholarly critique. In his preface, Stevenson describes the book as 'the readings of a literary vagrant', emphasising that the essays were inspired by a genuine personal interest in the authors and their works. Over the course of his own career as a writer, Stevenson published in a wide range of literary forms and genres. Today this collection reveals much about the diversity of his influences and tastes, as well as offering an insight into his moral and aesthetic values.

About the Author

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850. The son of a prosperous civil engineer, he was expected to follow the family profession, but was allowed to study law at Edinburgh University. Stevenson reacted strongly against the Presbyterian respectability of the city’s professional classes and this led to painful clashes with his parents. In his early twenties he became afflicted with a severe respiratory illness from which he was to suffer for the rest of his life; it was at this time that he determined to become a professional writer. The effects of the often harsh Scottish climate on his poor health forced him to spend long periods abroad. After a great deal of travelling he eventually settled in Samoa, where he died on 3 December 1894.

Stevenson’s Calvinistic upbringing gave him a preoccupation with pre-destination and a fascination with the presence of evil. In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde he explores the darker side of the human psyche, and the character of the Master in The Master of Ballantrae (1889) was intended to be ‘all I know of the Devil’. Stevenson is well known for his novels of historical adventure, including Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886) and Catriona (1893). As Walter Allen comments in The English Novel, ‘His rediscovery of the art of narrative, of conscious and cunning calculation in telling a story so that the maximum effect of clarity and suspense is achieved, meant the birth of the novel of action as we know it.’ But these works also reveal his knowledge and feeling for the Scottish cultural past. During the last years of his life Stevenson’s creative range developed considerably, and The Beach of Falesá brought to fiction the kind of scene now associated with Conrad and Maugham. At the time of his death Robert Louis Stevenson was working on his unfinished masterpiece, Weir of Hermiston. He also wrote works of non-fiction, notably his descriptive and historical books on the South Seas area, A Footnote to History (1892) and In the South Seas (1896), as well as his celebrated defence of Father Damien, the Belgian priest who devoted his life to caring for lepers, in Father Damien; an open letter to the Reverend Hyde of Honolulu (1890).

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Book Info

Publication date

11th June 2014

Author

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Author's Website

www.robert-louis-stevenson....

Publisher

Cambridge University Press

Format

Paperback
432 pages

Categories

Literary studies: general

ISBN

9781108074568

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