Skip to main content

Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

See other formats

experiences. The idea appealed strongly to Stevenson's
love of adventure and romance. The party visited
Honolulu and Samoa, and finally reached Sydney, where
they stayed for a time, till a recurrence of his old malady
once more drove him forth on his wanderings. His
Odyssey finally ended at Apia in Samoa, where he decided
to buy an estate of four hundred acres, to which he gave
the name of Yailima (five rivers). ' Our place is in a deep
cleft of Voea mountain, some six hundred feet above the
sea,5 he writes to Sir Sidney Colvin, ' embowered in
forest, which is our strangling enemy, and which we
combat with axes and dollars.' Stevenson threw himself
with his usual boyish zest into the tasks of house-building,
road-making and jungle-clearing. His mother joined the
party in 1891. The last four years of Stevenson's life
were perhaps the happiest he had ever known. They are
pictured for us in the delightful Vailima Letters to Sir
Sidney Colvin, a faithful chronicle of his doings. Mean-
while, in the Intervals of strenuous manual labour, his
pen was even busier than ever. The books of this period
are redolent of the atmosphere of his island-home, the
atolls and the palm-trees, the long Pacific rollers, the
blue skies and the white coral beaches. Most of his Pacific
sketches appear in The Island Nights Entertainments, and
In the South Seas. His novel, The Ebb-Tide, written in
collaboration with Mr. Lloyd Osbourne, is an admirable bit
of local colouring. Amongst other works belonging to the
sojourn at Vailima may be mentioned Catriona, a sequel
to Kidnapped, The Wrecker and St. Ives (neither of which
added greatly to his reputation), and Across the Plains, a
collection of earlier essays of the American period; contain-
ing some of his best writing in this direction. The ceaseless
strain told upon his strength, and to a certain degree upon
his creative power, and his health once more began to
cause his friends serious anxiety. Stevenson's gaiety,
however, never deserted him, and he stuck to his task
with rare courage. His step-daughter, Mrs. Strong, was a
devoted amanuensis. Part of his work was dictated, and
when his voice failed him, he carried on by talking on his
fingers. Stevenson's rare charm of manner, which capti-