Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

The moral problems of the bourgeois society and the spirit of adventure flour­ished side by side in English literature in the last decades of the 19th century.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s novels can be given as the example of the grotesque modern tales of “The New Arabian Nights” (1882). His poetry for children is highly imaginative; he tries to identify himself with the children, with their vision.

Good Play

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.

We took a saw and several nails,

And water in the nursery pails;

And Tom said, “Let us also take

An apple and a slice of cake”;—

Which was enough for Tom and me

To go a-sailing on, till tea.

We sailed along for days and days,

And had the very best of plays;

But Tom fell out and hurt his knee.

So there was no one left but me.

The imaginative mind of a child draws Stevenson’s attention. The naivety of childish perception is even comical in his poem describing the cow, who is asso­ciated with cream “to eat with apple-tart”:

The friendly cow all red and white,

I love with all my heart:

She gives me cream with all her might,

To eat with apple-tart…

(“A Child’s Garden of Verse”, 1885)

In his another poem Stevenson reveals the feelings of a child’s fear of the dark­ness and the mystery of night:

Whenever the moon and stars are set,

Whenever the wind is high,

All night long in the dark and wet,

A man goes riding by.

Late in the night when the fires are out,

Why does he gallop and gallop about?…

(“Windy Nights”)

But Stevenson’s greatest fame came to him with the publication of a novel of adventure “Treasure Island” (1883). This was followed by the Scottish 18th cen­tury romances “The Master of Ballantrae” (1883), “Kidnapped” (1886) and the historical 15th century tale of “The Black Arrow” (1888). His novels are still popular today, they have become classic children’s books.

In “The Black Arrow” the action is revealed against the background of the medieval straggle between those who remained loyal to Henry VI, the “Lancastrians”, and those who supported the duke of York, the “Yorkists”. The main characters of the story are Dick, Joanna, Sir Daniel, John Matcham and some others. All of them are different, but they are shown vividly and very picturesque. Dick and Joanna love each other; they get married at the end of the story. Both are courageous, ready to help and honest. Sir Daniel is, on the contrary, a coward who “had changed sides many times, and every change made him richer… He goes to bed Lancaster and gets up York”. The Black Arrow is a symbol of revenge. People hate Sir Daniel and his men who rob and kill them. That’s why the people become angry, and one day they send an arrow to oppressors with the following message:

I had four black arrows under my belt,

Four for the griefs that I have felt,

Four for the number of bad men

That have oppressed me now and then.

One is gone; one is well sped;

Old Appleyard is dead,

One is for Master Bennet Hatch,

That burned Grimstone, walls and thatch.

One for Sir Oliver Oates,

That cut Sir Harry Shelton’s throat.

Sir Daniel, you will have the fourth.

We shall think it fair sport.

You will each have your own part,

A black arrow in each black heart.

John Amend — All of the Green Wood,

And his merry men.

Stevenson’s novel asserts the value of moral and physical courage, of truth and honour. The author’s personality is fully reflected in his novels.

Stevenson was born in Scotland, but the last days he spent on the Samoa is­lands, where he was buried on top of Mount Vaea by the natives whose friend Stevenson was. On his tomb there was the epitaph he had written for himself:


Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie.

Glad did I live arid gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be;

Home is the sailor, home from sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

He died when he was only 44 because of his lung disease, but he managed to create the notable works based on his dislike of the narrow-mindness of the Vic­torian middle-class way of living and thinking.

The beginning of the crisis of Victorianism is reflected in the pessimistic novels of Thomas Hardy.

Read on Google Books

Развивающий языковой центр в г. Ейске