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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

Johnson as * a loose sally of the mind; an irregular
undigested piece ; not a regular and orderly composition/
but it is a studied negligence, an ' admired disorder/
concealing the highest art. Miniature work of this polished
kind particularly appealed to Stevenson. Another char-
acteristic of the essay is its personal note. Personality,
self-revelation, has been the keynote of the essay from
the days of the genial Sieur de Montaigne down to those
of Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt and Charles Lamb. And it is
to this class of writers that Stevenson belongs. He loves
to take his reader completely into his confidence. 'Self-
portraiture, a genial egotism, was a passion with him. ' He
was of his essence/ to quote Henley once more, * what
the French call personnel. He was, that is, incessantly
and passionately interested in Stevenson. He could not
be in the same room with a mirror but that he must
invite its confidences every time he passed it; to him
there was nothing obvious in time and eternity, and
the smallest of his discoveries, his most trivial appre-
hensions, were all by way of being revelations, and as
revelations must be thrust upon the world ; he was never
so much in earnest, never so well pleased (this were he
happy or wretched), never so irresistible, as when he wrote
about himself.' * Belonging to the race of Scott and
Dumas, of the romantic narrators and creators/ says Sir
Sidney Colvin, ' Stevenson belongs no less to that of
Montaigne and the literary egoists.' Without any further
materials, it would be possible to reconstruct R. L. Steven-
son frpm his Essays, Memories and Portraits^ Across the
Plains and Virginibus Puerisque. * These papers/ he
himself says, e are like milestones on the wayside of my
life/ Of no writer can it be said, with the same truth as
of Stevenson, that * the style is the man'; from every
line lie writes, peeps out the whimsical, kindly face of the
Nerli portrait.

And yet in Stevenson there is none of the morbid self-
analysis, the sickly Introspection, of works like Eousseau's
Confessions. He does not even, like his friend Henley,
stop to thank God for his unconquerable soul. Yet few
people have laboured in more depressing circumstances.