EdRLS

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

Mysterious story titles

with 7 comments

RLS plans something—but what?

The Beinecke Library at Yale has a single sheet with what looks like a series of titles or subjects:

Yale, B 6530: 'List of subjects'

Yale, B 6530: ‘List of subjects’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

==========

talisman
…..Excellent old melodrama: the bottle Imp.
…..…..…..Aladdin, Pollock [?]

Mistaken identity.
…..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?].
Revenge:
…..…..Rahero.

Return of the Husband:
…..…..…..Ulysses. (concealed [?] ^disguised^ Prince)
…..…..…..Colonel Chabert
…..…..…..Enoch Arden

[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.

Notes:

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).

Dating

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.

Mysteries

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.

 

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7 Responses

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  1. [In ink and in another hand] Avance | imaginaire 20%

    mafalda

    29/04/2014 at 7:13 am

  2. Imogine (in ballad of “Alonzo the Brave” in Lewis: ‘Monk’; or Imogen in ‘Cymbeline’? the Body Changer.
    Morgan (le Faye) the Body Changer (i.e. shape shifter)
    ‘Hoxton’ – name of London street where Pollock’s shop situated and where RLS visited to buy theatricals.
    Just ideas.

    Neil Brown

    29/04/2014 at 5:26 pm

  3. Re. ‘Metempsychosis: from Magics [?]. The Body Changer.’ – I believe this is a reference to ‘The Metempsychosis: by a Pythagorean’, published in _Blackwoods_, May 1826. The tale concerns two students who ‘swap’ bodies as the result of an experiment (i.e. A’s mind occupies B’s body and vice versa – so ‘body changer’ possibly better understood as ‘body swapper’). The comment ‘from Magics’ perhaps implies that Stevenson was considering a version of this story with an occult inciting incident, rather than a scientific or pseudo-scientific one?

    The tale was a favourite with Doyle, who discussed it in his consideration of the short story in _Through the Magic Door_ (1907):
    ‘There was a story, too, in one of the old Blackwoods—”Metempsychosis” it was called, which left so deep an impression upon my mind that I should be inclined, though it is many years since I read it, to number it with the best.’

    James

    02/05/2014 at 10:16 am

    • Thanks for this — ‘from Magics’ was only a stab in the dark — your convincing identification makes the the list seems more a mixture of story-types remembered and to write (we still don’t know why…)

      rdury

      02/05/2014 at 10:59 am

  4. Re. ‘Metempsychosis: from Magics [?]. The Body Changer.’ – I believe this is a reference to ‘The Metempsychosis: by a Pythagorean’, published in _Blackwoods_, May 1826. The tale concerns two students who ‘swap’ bodies as the result of an experiment (i.e. A’s mind occupies B’s body and vice versa – so ‘body changer’ possibly better understood as ‘body swapper’). The comment ‘from Magics’ perhaps implies that Stevenson was considering a version of this story with an occult inciting incident, rather than a scientific or pseudo-scientific one?

    The tale was a favourite of Doyle’s, who discussed it in his consideration of the short story in _Through the Magic Door_ (1907):
    ‘There was a story, too, in one of the old Blackwoods—”Metempsychosis” it was called, which left so deep an impression upon my mind that I should be inclined, though it is many years since I read it, to number it with the best.’

    James Machin

    02/05/2014 at 10:18 am

  5. ‘Scientific, from an American pastor Hoxton’ may have to do with the Dissenting [Hoxton] Academy, founded 1701 in Moorfields (then in Stepney and latterly in Hoxton Square, Hackney, from 1762), where the first tutor was an American, Isaac Chauncey, a Harvard graduate, who returned to the country of his father. The college had a ‘strong scientific tradition’, according to “Hackney’s Alternative Universities” online. A more liberal direction was adopted after 1762 by tutors Andrew Kippis and Abraham Rees; Kippis influenced the young William Godwin, a student there.
    ‘Sand Boy’?

    Neil Brown

    03/05/2014 at 5:30 pm

  6. […] time back we looked at a page of mysterious story titles (Yale B 6530), that seem to be organized according to archetypal story-types. Now another scrap of […]


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