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

Archive for April 2012

Dr Jekyll MS at the British Library

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‘Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands’, The British Library, 11 May – 25 Sept 2012.

A new exhibition at the British Library collects manuscripts and other artefacts to explore ‘how the landscapes and places of Britain permeate our great literary works’ and also to reveal ‘the secrets and stories surrounding the works’ creation’.

One of the manuscripts on display is the final manuscript of Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on loan from the Morgan Library, New York. As reported in the Observer and in the exhibition blog, the Stevenson manuscript will be open at f. 47 (the beginning of the last chaper “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”) to illustrate how RLS was making important changes even at a late stage of composition.

Image from the British Library exhibition blog, where the credit line is: Manuscript for Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde © The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. MA 1202. Photography, Graham S. Haber, 2012

As this news story may have created some interest, we here illustrate a few sentences, with their changes, and also compare them with the earlier draft (in the Beinecke Library, not in the exhibition), which RLS clearly had open before him on the table as he wrote this final MS. To make things easier to read, I’ve shown deletions in red and insertions in blue, but secondary changes within these have been shown thus: <deletions>, ^insertions^


Draft: From a very early age, however, I became add in secret the slave of disgraceful pleasures;

MS: From an early age, however, I became in secret the slave of certain appetites [inserted in margin:] And indeed the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition, such as has made the happiness of many, but such as I found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, and wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public. Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures;

In the Draft S probably started to write “addicted” and then decided on the sensuous alliteration of “became in secret the slave of disgraceful pleasures”. In the MS, he starts by copying this phrase (which might be taken as allusions to masturbation or homosexuality), but then sacrifices it — crossing it out to add “And indeed the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition” etc. — much more elusive and giving an idea of Jekyll excusing himself.


Draft: on the other, as soon as night had fallen and I could shake off my friends, the iron hand of indurated habit plunged me once again into the mire of vices. I will trouble you with these no further than to say that they were at once criminal in the sight of the law and abhorrent in themselves. They cut me off from the sympathy of those whom I otherwise respected; and with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed the those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature.

MS: [boxed deletion in the middle of the page] […] on the other, as soon as night released me from my engagements and <covered> ^hid^ me from the <espial> ^notice^ of my friends, <the iron hand> indurated habit plunged me again into the mire of my vices. I will trouble you with these no further than to say that they were, at that period, no worse than those of many who have lived and died with credit. It was rather the somewhat high aspirations of my life by daylight [substituted text inserted in the margin, see below] than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was; [picks up the draft again:] and with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature.

[inserted in margin:] Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views <of conduct> ^that I had^ set before me I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame, and it was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations

RLS, following the Draft, starts to copy out “the iron hand of indurated habit” (which hints at masturbation, seen at this period as leading to homosexuality), then crosses it out and decides to write the more ambiguous “indurated habit”. In the next sentence (“I will trouble you…”) he leaves the Draft again and instead of saying his vices were “at once criminal in the sight of the law and abhorrent in themselves” (which again hints at homosexuality, more easily punished since August 1885 by the Labouchère Amendment), he writes that they were “no worse than those of many who have lived and died with credit”).

RLS then continues with this new re-writing, picking up the Draft again at the end of the sentence.

Some time after writing this, on a re-reading he decides that the new hypocritical defence by Jekyll is the right choice but to do it right he needs to scrap the whole passage and start again (with “Many a man would have blazoned…”), moving the style away from a “sinner’s confession” towards an equivocal “full statement of the case” from Jekyll’s point-of-view.

Today’s manuscript puzzle – from the Winter’s Walk notebook

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Arctic soil or sail? and what does it mean?

In the notebook recording his walk from Ayr to Stranraer and beyond, RLS collects snatches of conversation and notes things seen. At one point near Maybole, he writes the following

We (Mafalda Cipollone, Neil Macara Bown, Robert-Louis Abrahamson and myself) finally arrived at the following transcription:

Lasses in the field <ins>by the sea</ins>, kilted to the

knee and hooded – between Dutch” {inv commas intended to go before ‘Dutch’?}

& Arctic soil” {*unidentified allusion}– delicate agacerie {*French, ‘provocation’}


Concerning the unidentified allusion, in the context of this Sterne-like observation I’d expect something like “kilted between high and low” or “kilted way high”, but I can’t see how to get there from “between Dutch and Arctic soil” or, indeed, “sail” (RLS would write the two words in the same way since he goes down from the ‘o’ in order to lead up to the ‘i’).

Identifying the quotation (indicatated by the inverted commas, the first set strangely misplaced) would help, but it seems to be as yet beyond the Google horizon. Can anyone solve the puzzle?

Written by rdury

15/04/2012 at 9:46 am

Talks by the EdRLS Essay Editors

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The Literary 1880s: James, Stevenson and the Literary Essay

As part of the Literary 1880s workshops, the editors of the new EdRLS edition of Stevenson’s essays were invited to present aspects of their work on 23rd March 2012, in the Conference Room of David Hume Tower, in the University of Edinburgh.


James and Beerbohm

First, we heard from two people on other 1880s essay topics. Workshop-organizer Andy Taylor explored the changing position of Henry James in his 1883 essay on Trollope. This enters the 1880s area of debate over Realism, French Naturalism, and the art of fiction to which RLS made important contributions in essays such as “A Note on Realism” and “A Humble Remonstrance”, but the focus here was on James’s shifting attitude to Trollope and his position in the cultural rivalries of Britian and the USA.

Then Sara Lodge talked on Max Beerbohm and “camp aesthetics”, in which she made many points of interest to our exploration of Stevenson’s essays, starting with her thoughts about the essay as a literary genre, identifying it as a performative form associated with the creation of a persona, and so related to the dramatic monologue.

This she saw as developing from the 1820s onwards, citing Lamb and Hazlitt — though my view of Stevenson’s essays is that he revives this tradition after it had disappeared under the oratorical and earnest emphatic style of the mid-Victorian monthly magazines. So in what way was the obvious “performance” of the high-Victorian sages different from that of Lamb, Hazlitt and Stevenson? Perhaps readers of this blog would like to comment.

The essay, Sara continued, is also like a confession — and here she referred to Adam Phillips, who the essay editors had seen speaking on this very subject (the affinities of the essay with the psychoanalytic narrative) at the Literary Essay conference at Queen Mary in London a few months before.

In any case, the essayist keeps a distance between the apparent and the real object of the writing, and this can be seen as either deliberate and artful, or unintended. The same can be said of performing in general: we are always performing, but we don’t realize it most of the time. One form of very self-aware performance, is “camp” behaviour.

(Sara sees the origin of “camp” in a distancing from aestheticism and as being created by Wilde. I feel that, although “camp” as “homosexual codes of signifying behaviour” is very probably modelled on Wilde, it has, however, a wider and non-homosexual meaning, deriving, as Susan Sontag suggests, from “the eighteeth-century pleasure of over-refinement”. Stevenson’s New Arabian Nights can be seen as a camp text, and was written in the 1870s before Wilde appeared on the London scene, and the reported behaviour and the discourse of RLS, Bob and Simpson also have, to me, clear campish aspects.)

Sara then illustrated self-mocking camp “failed seriousness”, the celebration of the absurdity of things, in the early essays of Beerbohm, such as “1880” and “An Infamous Brigade”.


The Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert-Louis Abrahamson opened the session on Stevenson’s essays with an overview of Stevenson’s career as an essayist. He made the point that the 1879-80 journey to California was not an immediate turning point. His essay-writing career falls into two main periods 1874-82 (with one essay in 1873) and 1883-88 (with one final essay in 1894).

His first essays were aesthetic, to fit their destination, the fine-art magazine Portfolio; and a focus on the visual arts also marked his group of essays for Henley’s Magazine of Art in the early 80s. Sidney Colvin steered him away from heavy subjects (the essays on Knox and Savonarola he had planned), seeing him as an irreverent ally in the Darwinian cultural wars. He also introduced him to Leslie Stephen’s Cornhill Magazine, which became his “home” for twenty essays  in the first part of his career, including most of those collected in Virgninibus Puerisque in 1881 and in Familiar Studies in 1882.

The magazine associated with later part of his career was the New York Scribner’s, where he published thirteen essays, including the monthly series published in 1888. These twelve essays have, strangely, never been published together in a sequence before, but will be so in our edition.

Alex Thomson then talked about Memories and Portraits (1887), the collection of essays that he is editing, characterizing it as an “Edinburgh book”, significantly placed in 1894 in volume 1 of the Edinburgh Edition, together with Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes.

The “Memories” of the title can be seen in the context of a Scottish tradition of “reminiscences” (for example, Ramsay’s Reminiscences of Sottish Life and Character) and of commemoration, linked to the desire to preserve the memory of a disappearing culture. The “Talk and Talkers” essays can also be seen in a Scottish Enlightenment tradition of conversation and sociability. “Portraits”, on the other hand, suggests more a London-based tradition of aestheticism (e.g. Pater’s Imaginary Portraits).

Examples were given of the changes between 1871 and 1887 in “An Old Scotch Gardener”, showing how Stevenson mostly deleted, allowing anecdotes to stand on their own without the earlier chatty interpretation.

These essays are self-reflexive (both about memories and the reflecting subject, as RLS admits in the prefatory “Note”), and so have interesting affinities to the romantic lyric poem. They also reveal a subject that is both detached from his culture, attracted to a wider cultural context outside Scotland, distrustful of nostalgia, yet desiring to get back into contact with his own cultural identity (a quandary suggested by the key concept of “the foreigner at home”).

Richard Dury: I talked on style and its important persuasive and relation-creating function in the personal essay. An indication of  its prominence is the way commentators illustrating Stevenson’s style in general have taken most of their quotations from the essays. His was a new voice in the 1870s, a reviver of Montaigne’s scepticism and an essayist who broke with high Victorian seriousness and emphasis.

I then went on to charactize Stevenson’s essay style through six broad characteristics: lightness, enthusiasm, variousness, playfulness, strangeness and “charm” — used merely as tools to understand an elusive and mobile set of features, and as a way to understand why reading these essays is a source of pleasure.

The playful, complex and unexpected linguistic form of Stevenson’s essays can be seen in terms of Stevenson’s own concept of the “knot”: a slight delay in understanding, and also an interweaving of strands. This form is interwoven with an equally fascinating play of thought, both of them working together in the exploration of a world that has no centre or essence, where language is mobile and malleable. The effect of “a lot going on” in form and meaning is to make the reader more aware of text as performance and reading as an event in time. Stevenson’s essays are works of great value in themseves: elusive, fascinating and memorable reading experiences.

Lesley Graham ended the afternoon with an overview of the history of the reception of the essays. Often appreciated above all as a brilliant essayist in his lifetime, in the early years of the twentieth century the essays were quarried for quotations (collected in slim self-help volumes), especially those emphasising on happiness and friendship and the importance of courage to face the struggle of life. These very aphorisms were then used to condemn the essays after the First World War.

In the USA, where the teaching of literature was associated with the teaching of writing, essays were a privileged genre and Stevenson’s  widely used as models. Then, however, there was a turn away from the literary essay in both Britain and the USA, “the death of the essay”, reinforcing Stevenson’s general decline in critical favour.

With perhaps the single exception of Furnas in 1951, critics then continued to mainly criticize and downplay Stevenson’s essays, including Daiches in 1947 and Saposnik in 1974. A significant moment of change comes in 1988, a year which saw the publication of three anthologies of Stevenson’s essays by Treglown, and (in translation) Le Bris and Almansi.


MS transcription: further or farther?

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In the “Note on the Text” to his edition of Kidnapped (a reading transcription of the MS), Barry Menikoff says

“Stevenson’s hand makes it a judgment call to distinguish further from farther” (p. lxv).

This quite frequent word usually looks very much like “farther” in all cases. Here are a series of examples from the “Reminiscences of Colinton Manse” (early 1870s, Beinecke B 6788):

— all these look like “farther” and, normally using that form for distance, I would use it in the first example “a good bit farther” (but might also say “further” for “in addition”) and perhaps in the second example “on the[deletion] farther (side)”; but probably not for the “further course of the river/stream” and definitely not for “the further attraction” (“the additional attraction”).

So how does RLS write “far”? There’s one example in the MS — “at the far end”, and it looks like “fur”, dammit; it’s true there seems to be an attempt to make the bowl of the  “a” — but then that seems visible in the first example of “furniture” too. At least the last example is a clear “u”.

So where does that leave us?

RLS is capable of making a clear “fu” sequence when he wants to (the last example), but usually he gets to the end of the “f” crossbar and then curves back and down, making what looks like the left-hand side of an a-like letter.

Back at square one. With his “u” capable of looking like an “a”, I suppose we should adopt the more normal choice of further/farther, even in those five “squashed-letter” cases at the top that look very much like “a”. We are imposing our usage on the text, to a certain extent, but we aren’t imposing a strangeness that we can’t be sure was intended.

Or has anyone a better way of deciding?


Addition (September 2013). In an early MS (‘Victor Hugo’s Romances’) there is a very clear example of ‘farther’, in the sense of ‘to a greater distance’—in time in this case:

[in Hugo’s romances] we shall find the revolutionary tradition of Scott carried farther.

This form was then used for the magazine version and later for the volume Familiar Studies; Colvin and the Edinburgh Edition, however, changed it to ‘further’—probably because they thought ‘farther’ should be confined to spatial distance only.


Addition (December 2013). In ‘Forest Notes’, three uses of ‘further’ are changed by Colvin to ‘farther’ in the Edinburgh Edition, all of them referring to spatial distance:

the shadows stretching further into the open

which will send us somewhere further off than Grez.

and say farewell noisily to all the good folk going further.

Addition (July 2014). The ‘Forest Notes’ proofs (Princeton) have ‘calling you further in’ corrected to ‘farther’.


Addition (December 2014). On the 1880 proofs of The Amateur Emigrant (galley 19), ‘without entering further into details’ has been changed by Stevenson to ‘farther‘ — showing that he used this form for both spatial distance and metaphorical distance.

MS transcription: mis-spellings

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Mis-spellings can be interesting (even if not normally relevant to our edition). In “Reminiscences of Colinton Manse” (early 1870s, published in abridged form in Balfour’s Life vol 1, pp. 40-47), RLS writes of watching the foam on the Water of Leith at Colinton:

Sometimes there came a great, quivering castle of foam like trifle, great lumps of which adhered to the grass and roots on the opposite side.

In the early draft (B 6788), he writes

This is understandable, since (ignoring the final-s) the imaginary word ‘lumb’ would have the same pronunciation as ‘lump’.

But now we come to a puzzle, for in the second draft of the 1879 ‘Lay Morals’ MS (B6498), RLS refers to “a dog in the manger“, writing it like this:

Now, why would anyone write “manger” as “manker”?

That is, unless, he pronounced the word, (i) “mangh-er” (in which case there might be a g/k confusion in the spelling, rather like “lump” spelt “lumb”), or (ii) maybe “man(g)-er”, with “n(g)” representing the velar nasal, as in “sing”, or the Scottish pronunciation of the surname “Menzies”  as “men(g)-is” or “men(g)-iz”.

The SND doesn’t help us with pronunciation, but does (like the OED) record the form “maniour”, which conceivably could have been pronounced in that second way.

Does anyone know if there are Scottish pronunciations of the word like “mangh-er” or “man(g)-er”?

Written by rdury

09/04/2012 at 10:50 am

Posted in News

The Literary 1880s

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The 1880s: Literature’s Uncertain Decade

On Friday and Saturday 23-24 March 2012, Andy Taylor and Penny Fielding (and the SWINC centre) organized two workshops at the University of Edinburgh on The Literary 1880s.


Saturday 24th was a one-day meeting to explore what was changing in literature and culture in the 1880s that is distinctive and that prepared the ground for the much better-known developments of the 1890s.

In the morning we heard talks by William Greenslade (on radical politics and literature, and the turn away from oratory and highmindedness), by Clare Pettitt (on the cultural influence of seabed exploration and of telegraphic communication via transatlantic cable: how deep-sea life seemed formless, how telegraphic coding may be connected with a patterned and coded aesthetics), and also by Anna Vaninskaya (on the evolving image of Russian Nihilists in Britain in the 1880s, as terrorists and then as fighters against oppression).


The central contribution was by Steve Arata on ‘The Modernity of the 1880s’. Steve focussed on what happened to the Realist novel: achieving success with the work of Gissing and Moore in the very same period as its foundations were called into question by ‘romance’ (which shattered the givenness of the real), and by new interest in both artistic form and artful formlessness. (And both challenges clearly involve RLS as novelist and essayist.)


The afternoon started with John Holmes (on the critical reception of Robert Bridges, on his poetry of detached emotion and attention to form); then continued with Glenda Norquay (on Stevenson’s aesthetics of reading pleasure and his problems with accomodating it with the sale of pleasure; how Baxter allowed him to forget business and became his ideal reader, repository of his nostalgia); and ended with Sally Shuttleworth (on Meredith’s One of Our Conquerors as a psychological/social/political study of the strains of the 1880s).

— The Friday workshop on the literary essay in the 1880s will be reported in a separate posting —

Written by rdury

06/04/2012 at 2:44 pm

Manuscript transcription: volunteer helpers

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Neil Macara Brown

A ‘forty-niner’, that’s me in a Bruntsfield primary photo ten years later – around the time my not so Gradgrind teacher father ‘tipped’ me the Mervyn Peake illustrated Treasure Island, and I was never so innocent again. An early memory is of a visit with him to the house where RLS was born at Howard Place, when still a museum.

A good wind took me to Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, reeking of history and classical architecture, both of which remain passions. After embarking on a B. Ed. course in geography and history at Edinburgh in 1969, I changed tack midway, graduated as a youth and community worker from Moray House College of Education in 1974, and worked in centres in east Edinburgh for Lothian Regional Council from 1975.

In 1981-2 I did a post-graduate in Outdoor Education at Moray House, and then conducted environmental projects in Edinburgh, notably on the Water of Leith, organising the city’s Beautiful Britain project in 1983 and establishing the river’s Heritage Centre in 1988. I returned to community education work during 1990, but left the following year for child-care reasons. While a freelance writer I was asked contribute the Edinburgh section and other entries, some literary, to the Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland first publication in 1994 and its revised edition in 2000.

My first serious attempts at writing on RLS began in the centenary year 1994, when items of his, which I inherited, were displayed at the ‘Treasure Islands’ exhibition in the Royal Scottish Museum; a chance meeting at Tollcross with the editor of Scottish Book Collector resulted a series of articles detailing RLS’s library – the start of a trail which many years later eventually led to an invitation from Richard Dury through Glenda Norquay to help compile the RLS Library database for assisting the Edition.

Several transcriptions, including ‘Colinton Manse’ and ‘The Water of Leith’, have come my way, but the most recent, ‘Winter’s Walk’ with its unpublished passages – very much a group effort along with Mafalda, Robert and Richard – has been the most enjoyable. There is something very satisfying about cracking the complicated code, which RLS, with all his knowledge and intelligence, hurriedly scribbled down in his notebook long ago and faraway; reading his vivid descriptions, his touching record of voices unheard for 150 years.

Written by rdury

05/04/2012 at 5:40 am