Mysterious story titles
RLS plans something—but what?
The Beinecke Library at Yale has a single sheet with what looks like a series of titles or subjects:
…..Excellent old melodrama: the bottle Imp.
…..…..…..Aladdin, Pollock [?]
…..on a cue from a French author: the Twins
…..…..Humorous [?]: les trois Bossus.
…..Metempsychosis: from Magics [?]. The Body Changer.
…..…..Scientific, from an Axxxx [?American; Armenian?] xxxx [pastor?] Hoyten [Hayton?]: The Sand Bag [Bug?].
Return of the Husband:
…..…..…..Ulysses. (concealed [?] ^disguised^ Prince)
[in ink and in another hand, sloping, below: calculations of interest and: Aranxx | imaginaire]
Story-types and examples
Stevenson has organized the list as a series of universal story-types (Revenge, return of the Husband etc.), each followed by one or more titles as examples (Ulysses, Balzac’s Colonel Chabert, and Tennyson’s Enoch Arden are all examples of the Return of the Husband).
Is this a preparation for a study of narratives? ‘on a cue from’ suggests that this is a list of stories to be adapted from other sources, and also reminds us of Stevenson’s own proposed titles ‘ The Bottle Imp: A Cue from an Old Melodrama’ and ‘The Waif Woman: A Cue from a Saga’ (L7, 436; Dec 1892, to Colvin), and of course Stevenson actually wrote ‘The Bottle Imp’ and ‘Rahero’, a long-ish narrative poem published in Ballads (1890). On this evidence, the document would then seem to be a list of possible narratives to write (in verse or prose), subdivided into story types.
the bottle Imp: Stevenson read the story among the play collection of his neighbour Sir Percy Shelley, some time after spring 1885, and wrote his story with this title in 1889-90.
Aladdin, Pollock: ‘talisman’, ‘magical object’, fits the stories of the Bottle Imp and Aladdin and the lamp. Pollock, publisher of the toy theatre sets described in “A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured”, would seem more appropriate in notes for an essay or study of story types.
the Twins: this could possible be the story of Louis XIV and his twin (the Man in the Iron Mask) told by Dumas in in Le Vicomte de Bragelonne.
les trois Bossus: a humorous medieval French tale ‘Les trois bossus ménestrels’: a wife gets rid of her husband, killed by mistake as a result of his own actions prompted by jealousy.
Magics [?]: possibly the name of the author, something like ‘Murger’.
The Body Changer: untraced reference.
Hoyton/Hayton: The Sand Bug/Bag: untraced reference.
Rahero: Hawaiian folk-tale that Stevenson took as the basis of a ballad in 1889.
Ulysses / Colonel Chabert / Enoch Arden: stories of a husband’s return by Homer, Balzac and Tennyson. These titles seem more like examples of the story-type that ideas for stories to write (Stevenson cannot surely have been thinking of retelling the story of the return of Ulysses in verse or prose).
The best clue to dating is ‘Rahero’, which seems added later in lighter pencil. This story was learnt by Stevenson from Princess Moë and others some time after Nov 1888 in Tautira, Tahiti (Lewis, 465-66). The mention of ‘the bottle Imp’ fits into this dating, since Fanny Stevenson reports that ‘he spoke of it several times when we were living in Honolulu, as being, in its ingenuity and imaginative qualities, singularly like the Hawaiian tales’ (Tus 13, 12), in other words in the period in Hawaii immediately after the stay in Tahiti.
A list of ideas for a book of Ballads? (but including The Bottle Imp?)
A list of ideas for a book of prose tales? (but including Rahero?) The interesting ‘on a cue from a French author: the Twins’ suggests a planned companion piece for ‘The Bottle Imp’ and ‘The Waif Woman’ in a collection of retold and adapted stories.
An attempt to list some universal story types also found in the South Seas? (but with Rahero the only South Seas title?)
Ideas for an essay on story types? (but after the period when he had virtually abandoned essay-writing?)
Any suggestions will be welcome, as will any help with the untraced names and titles.