The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

News from the volume editors: Kidnapped

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The Kidnapped manuscript

Caroline McCracken-Flesher (University of Wyoming) is now at work on one of Stevenson’s masterpieces, Kidnapped. She reports that interesting problems with the manuscript start right from p. 1:

Just where did young David Balfour set out from? Generations of schoolchildren know that David’s travels began in Essendean—or did they? Without giving the game away, let me say that this is a matter of some doubt in the manuscript held at the Huntington Library. So what name will appear in the New Edinburgh Edition? This depends on some editorial choices yet to be made. So watch that space … ‘Mr. Campbell, the minister of [?         ] was waiting for me by the garden gate.’

Various editions of the text

Another problem with Kidnapped is the later changes made to the text, especially since we can’t be sure which of these came from Stevenson himself:

We know that RLS began to think about alterations to Kidnapped immediately after its publication. For example, he told his friend Edmund Gosse (in a letter five days after publication) that the conventionally poetic ‘ferny dells’ (ch. 17) should be Scotticized to ‘ferny howes’.

But between these changes, and those that appear in the 1895 Edinburgh Edition, we have little to go on. We know that in December 1893 Stevenson marked changes in a first edition of the novel for the braille translator Harriet Baker, and asked her to forward it to Cassell for the two-volume publication with David Balfour. Unfortunately, we currently lack the marked-up copy, nor has the braille edition yet been identified, though the search continues …

The changes Stevenson made in the marked-up copy were presumably incorporated in the Braille transcription, in the 1895 Cassells edition and then in the Edinburgh Edition (1895). But we do not know for sure what, in these editions, derives from Stevenson and what from the transcribers and editors.

The clincher would be that copy of Kidnapped with Stevenson’s markings—surely such an artefact would not have been thrown away in in 1893: Stevenson was then one of the most admired writers in English. If Cassells sent it on to Sidney Colvin then there’s a good chance that it has survived somewhere. But … if it was kept by Cassells … then it would have been destroyed—along with all their Treasure Island archive—in an air-raid which hit the Cassells offices in 1941.

Written by rdury

06/11/2010 at 4:39 pm

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