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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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complacency. It is not to be wondered at, for stolen
waters are proverbially sweet. I am now upon a painful
chapter. No doubt the parrot once belonged to Robinson
Crusoe. No doubt the skeleton is conveyed from Poe. I
think little of these, they are trifles and details ; and no
man can hope to have a monopoly of skeletons or make a
corner in talking birds. The stockade, I am told, is from
Masterman Eeadij. It may be, I care not a jot. These
useful writers had fulfilled the poet's saying : departing,
they had left behind them Footprints on the sands of time,
footprints which perhaps another—and I was the other !
It is my debt to Washington Irving that exercises my
conscience, and justly so, for I believe plagiarism was
rarely carried farther. I chanced to pick up the Tales of
a Traveller some years ago with a view to an anthology
of prose narrative, and the book flew up and struck me ;
Billy Bones, Ms chest, the company in the parlour, the
whole inner spirit, and a good deal of the material detail
of my first chapters—all were there, all were the property
of Washington Irving. But I had no guess of it then as
I sat -writing by the fireside, in what seemed the spring-
tides of a somewhat pedestrian inspiration; nor yet day
by day, after lunch, as I read aloud my morning's work
to the family. It seemed to me original as sin ; it seemed
to belong to me like my right eye. I had counted on
one boy, I found I had two in my audience. My father
caught fire at once with all the romance and childishness
of his original nature. His own stories, that every night
of his Me he put himself to sleep with, dealt perpetually
with ships, roadside inns, robbers, old sailors, and com-
mercial travellers before the era of steam. He never
finished one of these romances ; the lucky man did not
require to ! But in Treasure Island he recognized some-
thing kindred to his own imagination ; it was his kind of
picturesque ; and he not only heard with delight the
daily chapter, but set himself acting to collaborate. When
the time came for Billy Bones Js chest to be ransacked, he
must have passed the better part of a day preparing, on
the back of a legal envelope, an inventory of its contents,
which I exactly followed; and the name of ' Flint's old