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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

INTRODUCTION:  AN APPRECIATION       six

* For fourteen years/ he writes to George Meredith, ' I
have wakened sick and gone to bed weary, and have done
my work unflinchingly. I was made for a contest, and
the Powers have so willed that my battlefield should be
the dingy, inglorious one of the bed and the physic-bottle.3
Stevenson's was the truest kind of courage, the kind that
comes from conviction and effort. Occasionally, as in
Pulvis et Umbra, ' the lights are turned a little lowJ ;
but they are soon up again. Courage, good humour,
patience in the face of adversity, are at the bottom of
all Stevenson's teaching. ' Gentleness and Courage, these
come before all morality : they are the perfect duties.5
4 Help us to perform our duties with laughter and kind
faces,5 he prays in the Vailima prayers. £ As we dwell/
he writes in the noble passage which closes Pulvis et Umbra,
' we living things, in our isle of terror and under the
imminent hand of death, God forbid it should be man
the erected, the reasoner, the wise in his own eyes—
God forbid it should be man that wearies in well-doing,
that despairs of unrewarded effort, or utters the language
of complaint. Let it be enough for faith, that the wjiole
creation groans in mortal frailty, strives with unconquerable
constancy : Surely not all in vain.' The shadow of death is
over much that he writes, but his spirit remains undaunted.
e When the Greeks made their fine saying/ he says
prophetically in Aes Triplex, ' that those whom the gods
love die young, I cannot help believing they had this
sort of death also in their eye. For surely, at whatever
age it overtake the man, this is to die young. Death has
not been suffered to take so much as an illusion from his
heart. In the hot-fit of life, a-tiptoe on the highest
point of being, he passes at a bound on to the other side.
The noise of the mallet and'chisel is scarcely quenched,
the trumpets are hardly done blowing, when, trailing
with him clouds of glory, this happy-starred, full-blooded
spirit shoots into the spiritual land.' ' This world appears
a brave gymnasium, full of sea-bathing, and horse exercise,
and bracing, manly virtues ' he tells Henley in the preface
to Virginibus Puerisque. * In each and all of these views
and situations, there is but one conclusion possible, that