Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

by Frank McLynn
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Robert Louis Stevenson's extraordinary life had a formal structure like that of a hero in Greek myth. A difficult childhood in the care of a demon-haunted Calvinistic nurse and a battle of wills with his autocratic father were followed by marriage to a difficult woman from California. After valiant struggles with illness (in the form of a lung disease, probably… See more details below

Overview

Robert Louis Stevenson's extraordinary life had a formal structure like that of a hero in Greek myth. A difficult childhood in the care of a demon-haunted Calvinistic nurse and a battle of wills with his autocratic father were followed by marriage to a difficult woman from California. After valiant struggles with illness (in the form of a lung disease, probably tuberculosis), he returned to Scotland for reconciliation with his father, and on the patriarch's death left his native land forever to die prematurely in the South Seas. In reasserting Stevenson's claims as a writer of genius and moral seriousness, Mr. McLynn emphasizes the many obstacles that stood in his path: his father, his poor health, the squeamishness of the Victorian reading public, and, most of all, the stresses imposed on him by his wife and stepchildren - stresses that materially contributed to his early death in 1894 at the age of forty-four. Above all, the author's life is a story of courage - not just the bravery to face Pacific hurricanes unblinkingly, but the moral strength required to wrestle with many conflicts simultaneously while daily facing possible death from his weak lungs.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This massive biography is propelled by the conviction that Stevenson (1850-1894) was not merely a writer of adventure yarns for boys but Scotland's greatest writer and a major influence on Conrad, Wilde and even Yeats. In lucid, erudite prose, McLynn (Fitzroy Maclean) examines the forces that decisively shaped Stevenson's work. Protracted bouts of tuberculosis and a volatile relationship with his Calvinist father stimulated a moral pessimism that shadows even an apparently escapist adventure story like Treasure Island. The author gives sustained attention to Stevenson's relationship with Fanny Osbourne, the "rum creature''-vain, neurasthenic, opportunistic, according to McLynn-who became his wife. She persuaded him to burn a complete draft of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and exhausted the considerable sums Stevenson's work came to command. Frantically straining to counter her extravagance, the physically fragile novelist hastened his own death. Photos. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Those who believe-or ardently disbelieve-that Stevenson's writing was imitative and inconsequential and that he was only a boys' adventure writer should read this biography. McLynn (Stanley: The Making of an African Explorer, Madison Bks., 1990) does not offer a critical biography, but he certainly dispels any notion that Stevenson was a literary lightweight. Stevenson's early years in Edinburgh were influenced by his frequently absent, business-traveling father, Thomas; his constantly ill mother, Maggie; and most particularly by the family nurse, the religious fanatic Cummy. As he wandered the Pacific in 1887-88, he got his first sight of Polynesia and was touched by a virgin sense that he would never forget. His life ended in Samoa. This is the centenary year of his death, and McLynn's interest and concern for this great and gifted Scottish writer is more than evident. For public libraries.-Robert L. Kelley, Ft. Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
Ray Olson
Nineteen ninety-four is the centennial of Robert Louis Stevenson's death, a milestone already excellently commemorated by journalist Ian Bell's exciting narrative biography, Dreams of Exile. McLynn's more massive life is rife with the scholarly apparatus, literary analysis, and academic thoroughness and tone that Bell eschewed in order to tell a story and limn character. In short, McLynn's is a much more conventional literary biography, and those devoted to that genre will find it exemplary. In particular, those who have read many of Stevenson's works will enjoy its assessments of them and its accounts of their writing. Yet, compared to Bell's book, McLynn's is a dry read meant, it seems, primarily for avid, studious Stevensonians. McLynn offers a biographical accounting--literally, for all the relevant documents are scrupulously cited--but Bell gave us a work of literature in its own right. McLynn's book is for big collections of literary biographies; Bell's is for those and for the popular library. (Thoroughgoing literary collections should be cognizant of the ongoing edition of The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, the two most recent volumes of which are the third [Yale, $45, 0-300-06187-0] and the fourth [Yale, $45, 0-300-06188-9]; four more volumes will complete the set.)

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780091776381
Publisher:
Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/06/1993
Pages:
568
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.45(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >