Happy RLS Day! Robert Louis Stevenson is 168 today.
He really doesn’t though, does he? Look at the light in those wee eyes! To look at him, you wouldn’t believe that he would be dead by the end of the next year.
In just 44 years, he established himself as a literary celebrity with a collection of work behind him that sees him today as the 26th most translated author in the world. His wiki page presents a list of literary admirers that includes
Jorge Luis Borges, Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Proust, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Cesare Pavese, Emilio Salgari, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Vladimir Nabokov, J. M. Barrie, and G. K. Chesterton
And he was held in disdain by H.G. Wells – Score!
As a quick aside, I like to think that Borges would love Wikipedia and that one day a note in his handwriting describing it in detail will pop up among Tim Berners-Lee‘s effects.
If you follow me on Twitter or like my author page on Facebook or subscribe to the Tiny Letter☝️, you may be aware that Sandstone Press is releasing my book Stroke at the beginning of 2019. Bear with me. This is relevant.
You may think that we had difficulty with the title, but it’s part of a master plan to corral all of the intellectual property rights in strokes and take a percentage of all of the healthcare costs accrued treating strokes in the U.S. every year.
(I’ve not written about the book here at Apoplectic Me previously, because I’m really looking forward to my own building excitement. Other writers have suggested to me that this is the best bit.)
As part of the preparation for launch on 22 January, I’ve recently been reading proofs of the text of Stroke. That’s what gave rise to this thought –
RLS died of a cerebral haemorrhage at the age I am now. Been thinking how grateful I am that some of the prescient and timeless themes of Stevenson’s life and work – not his style and craft, obviously – bled through a C21st prism into #Stroke. Thanks, Big Man. 🙇
— Ricky Monahan Brown (@ricky_ballboy) November 13, 2018
Didn’t he look happier in 1893 at the top of the page? Eyes all a-sparkle? 😢 And well he might. He had begun Weir of Hermiston, of which he said
It’s so good that it frightens me
It’s not known for certain that it was a cerebral haemorrhage that killed Stevenson before he could finish the book, but the account of the events immediately leading up to his death have a haunting echo for the haemorrhagic stroke survivor.
In his last years leading up to the events of that day, Stevenson had been living in Samoa, where he took the native name Tusitala – Teller of Tales – and became involved in local politics.
He was convinced that the European officials were incompetent who had been appointed to rule the Samoans, and he published A Footnote to History after many futile attempts to resolve the matter.
Ian Wiki continues, [t]his was such a stinging protest against existing conditions that it resulted in the recall of two officials, and Stevenson feared for a time that it would result in his own deportation.
Happy at 44, seemingly at the height of his powers –
– and fully engaged in his world, who knows what Stevenson could have gone on to achieve. You know, I heard on 6Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie show today that Stan Lee didn’t get involved in comics until he was 39, and Windsor Davies didn’t take up acting until he was 40. One might say that Stevenson was still a young man.