Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
"Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill."
Robert Louis Stevenson
As far as I can recall, it is only the section in inverted commas which is graven on Robert Louis' grave on that high hill in Samoa. I had the rare privilege of climbing up to it in January 1975 with two friends during a 3 months South Pacific Soujourn which took in the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Samoa.I will never forget that climb. We wore thongs which took us over thousands of rounded stones, thus ensuring that we had sore and aching feet for some days afterwards.And the steamy climate resulted in my cotton shirt being drenched as if a bucket of water had been thrown over it.(If only it had, with me still in it!!!)Dennis, whom we had come to Samoa to visit,and yours truly had plonked ourselves, exhausted,(What else!)on the raised edge of Robert Louis' tomb and it was there that John immortalised our visit on camera.I remember reading that wistful, melancholy yet wholly accepting verse and it still leaves me with a tear in my eye.
And now for "Catriona", Robert Louis' last completed novel, written of course on Samoa and whose political machinations and superstitious psychology parallel somewhat political events and consequent fearful omens indicative of anxiety, waiting and discontent in Samoa.
I read "Kidnapped" last year because I'd seen several film and TV versions and wanted to find out from the horse's mouth so to speak. I DID enjoy the "genuine article".And ALL the seemingly Hollywood obligatory "romantic love" stuff was totally missing.
Then recalled vaguely that there were further adventures of David Balfour and the enigmatic and conceited but very attractive Alan Breck; and as I'd always enjoyed their company, whether in book or film form, I took myself off to the local library after a fruitless search of the book stores and got my copy yesterday after an inter-library search.
Some classics are definitely becoming extinct!!!During my fruitless search, I came across a man in a bookshop last week asking about John Evelyn's diaries(1641-1706).I wished him luck and assured him the search was worth it.The World's Classics ceased publishing their paperback version some years ago.I picked up my Evelyn secondhand for $20.00, hardcover, published by Frederick and Warne, London(publishers of Beatrix Potter's wee books!!) no date, but their Complete Works of Shakespeare are advertised with other classics in the back pages all in 4 distinct styles, prices ranging from:
1 shilling and sixpence for a neat paper cover;
2 shillings for cloth gilt,new style, cut edges edition;
2 shillings for library style,smooth dark blue cloth,white label,uncut;
and finally 2 shillings and sixpence for library style extra(imitation Roxburghe), leather label,gilt top,trimmed edges.
Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the date of publication!!
By the way, I think mine ,having cut edges and blue cover with gilt print, may be the second one priced above.
My edition(back to Robert Louis!!) has "Kidnapped" and "Catriona" in one volume as published by the World's Classics - but NO LONGER!!!!AND other of their classics, I may add, have dropped out of print. SEE!!...extinct!!
"Kidnapped", these days, is published without Part Two,ie. Catriona, but THAT is NOT how Stevenson conceived of it."Kidnapped" is definitely UN-finished. When we leave David, he may have come into his inheritance, but he is still under suspicion of aiding and abetting a murder;and Alan Breck is under suspicion of having committed that murder. For what good reason did Robert Louis not finish the book in one go? And when he did, why was it that "Kidnapped" (1886) had had to wait until 1893, not for its sequel, as World Classics' Introducton might claim, but for its conclusion??
Well, the answer to the latter question is: Life. Life intervened. Death (RL's father), and ill health, and travel and resettlement(in Samoa).
And the answer to the former question is Life, again.
Stevenson could no longer continue with the book ie."Kidnapped", as illness had got the better of him"..says the Introduction in World's Classics. Rather than butcher, as he himself said, "alot of good material for no good purpose", Stevenson had to be content "to leave the door open for a sequel if the public take to it." And they did...hence the sequel or mere continuation of "Kidnapped", for it begins exactly where the Part One finished - with David still in peril, and Alan too. The public did take to "Kidnapped", so that as early as May 1887 Stevenson and his publisher Cassell had agreed on a 'sequel' So Stevenson was able to save his "good material" but whether it was to good purpose only the reader of "Catriona" can tell.
After having read only the first chapter of "Catriona", I realise I owed an apology to Hollywood (OUCH!!).David IS in love. (This is no boys' book!)And the language is difficult. (Have our previous and present generations of youth been dumbed down by writers? Today, no sign of complex sentence structures, clauses, challenging vocabulary...by the standards of children's lit of the 19th Century.) And Stevenson was DEFINITELY writing to be published in a young people's magazine. Both books had a strong appeal for adults, but "Kidnapped" was written primarily for boys and serialised in "Young Folks", while "Catriona" was serialised in a girls' magazine,"Atalanta". It was the Scottish language that really threw me.Thankfully a more extensive glossary than Stevenson provided IS provided here.It certainly adds to the flavour an essential ingredient but can make for alot of frustration...it really is like reading a foreign language on occasions.
Well, I'm definitely more informed and now sorry I didn't purchase that latest biography of Robert Louis I saw reduced two days ago!!If I purchase it you will be hearing alot more from me!!If not, you'll still be hearing alot more from me!!I guess I'll be apologising to more than Hollywood!!...wayne.
I have just phoned Glee Books in Sydney, and the biography lies waiting for me beneath the front counter!!!
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