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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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In 1880 Stevenson returned to Scotland, but a fresh
attack, borne with his usual buoyant cheerfulness, drove
the family to Davos, and later to Hyeres :l indeed, the
rest of his life, until he settled in Vailima, was little more
than a ceaseless pilgrimage in search of health. Added
to this was the menace of poverty, for before 1886 Steven-
son seldom succeeded in making more than 200 a year
by his pen.2 Up to now, he had been recognized by the
select few as an artist in words, a new force in literature,
In 1883, however, he scored his first great popular success
with Treasure Island, the most inimitable of sea yarns, which
revealed at once his mastery of the art of story-telling.
Amongst other novels of the period were The Black Arrow,
a romance of the wars of the Roses, and Kidnapped, a
Highland story. Stevenson was always a boy at heart,
and all these were essentially boys' tales, robust, healthy
and vigorous in tone. To another category belong Prince
Otto and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The latter took the public by storm, and Stevenson's
reputation as a writer of fiction was now established.
Other writings of this busy period were A Child's Garden of
Verses, another volume of verse called Underwoods,
Memories and Portraits, and a number of short stories.
The latter branch of literature particularly suited Steven-
son's genius, and he is acknowledged as one of the greatest
story-tellers in the English language.

From 1885 to the death of his father two and a half
years later, the Stevensons were in Bournemouth. After
this, they returned to America and settled down in the
Adirondack mountains. Here Stevenson wrote several
of the essays collected in Across the Plains and began
the Master of Ballantrae, the best of all his novels.

In 1888 Stevenson, still in quest of a climate suited
to his health, set out with his family upon a prolonged
cruise among the Pacific Islands. He was destined never
to return. The necessary funds had been guaranteed by
Mr. McClure, the American publisher, who had offered
him 2,000 in return for a series of letters describing his

1  Ordered South in Virginibus Puerisque.

2  My First Book, p. 125.