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

RLS’s Bournemouth reading

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Following the post on Stevenson’s Bournemouth, here are four listings of books that were acquired and read in the Bournemouth years. They were obtained by filtered searches on the RLS Library Database (http://bit.ly/RLSLibrary) .

Facts, raw data, bits of information etc. as stored in records and surveys, are themselves sterile and need to be selected, isolated and linked to stimulate understanding. This explains the eternal fascination of lists and the way the few facts on a series of tombstones can open up unsuspected stories. Lets see what we can do by grouping together some of the entries in the RLS Library Database concerning books that Stevenson read while in Bournemouth.

None of the descriptions of Skerryvore mention bookshelves or bookcases, but we may imagine that books would have been kept in the drawing room and in the separate bedrooms of Fanny and Louis. The following lists contain the books that were probably acquired in the Bournemouth years. There were other books, with the Skerryvore bookplate too, but they had been acquired earlier and had been transported from Edinburgh or Hyères, and these have been excluded. Like the casual visitor who looks over the bookshelves or at the books lying on tables while waiting alone in a room, running the eye down these lists (in the momentary absence of the master and the mistress of the house) gives us some idea of the interests, current interests, and character of their owners.

The first list gives an idea of a network of literary friends sending each other copies of their latest books. One unexpected result of this listing is that it includes two books published in 1886 that their authors call a shilling romance or shilling dreadful—the same format/genre adopted by the Stramge Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, suggesting how this work inspired others to try their hand at something similar. There are also presentation copies from their Bournemouth friends the Taylors and (following Stevenson’s growing repute) a number of unsolicited books, some welcome, others less so.

Stevenson’s Skerryvore bookplate


1. Presentation volumes from friends and other writers

received 1884

Vernon Lee [Violet Paget], The Countess of Albany (1884)
          probably a presentation copy, untraced; discussed in a letter to the author, Oct 1884

received 1885

John Webster, Edmund Gosse (ed.), Love’s Graduate (1885)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘Robert Louis Stevenson from his friend Edmund Gosse 5. 6. 85.’

Joseph Pennell and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, A Canterbury Pilgrimage, Ridden, Written, and Ilustrated by J. and E. R. P. (1885)
          a tandem tricycle journey from London to Canterbury; volume dedication to Stevenson: ‘To Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, We, who are unknown to him, dedicate this record of one of our short journeys on a Tricycle, in gratitude for the happy hours we have spent travelling with him and his Donkey’; RLS replied with thanks in July 1885: ‘when I received the Pilgrimage, I was in a state (not at all common with me) of depression, and the pleasant testimony that my work had not all been in vain did much to set me up again.’ (L5, p.121).

Julian Russell Sturgis, John Maidment (1885)
          presentation copy, untraced; letter from the author, 27 Nov 1885: ‘I venture to send you my new book, hoping you may find something to like in it’ (McKay, 4, 5825, p. 1654)

Sir Henry Taylor, Autobiography of Henry Taylor, 1800-1875 (1885)
          probably a presentation copy, untraced; letter to the author 24 Dec 1885: ‘I have at last read your autobiography, and that with so lively a pleasure that I cannot resist writing to thank you etc.’ (L5, pp.160-1); reply 25 Dec 1885: ‘It is a real and fine pleasure to me that that book of mine has given you pleasure & especially that your admiration of those whom I admired has fixed itself upon my step mother’ (McKay, 4, 5838, p.1658)

John Keats, Will H. Low (ill.), Lamia (1885)
          volume dedication to Stevenson: ‘In testimony of loyal friendship and of a common faith in doubtful tales from faery land, I dedicate to Robert Louis Stevenson my work in this book          WHL’; see letter from RLS to Low, 2 Jan 1886: Lamia has come and I do not know how to thank you not only for the beautiful art of the designs, but for the handsome and apt words of the dedication etc.’ (L5, p.163)

Charles Warren Stoddard, A Troubled Heart and How it was Comforted at Last (1885)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘Louis and Fanny Stevenson – with the love of their devoted friend, the author.’

Henry James, The Author of Beltraffio, etc. (1885)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘Robert Louis Stevenson, from his friend of many evenings, Henry James’

William Wilberforce Newton, Summer Sermons from a Berkshire Pulpit (1885)
          presentation copy with inscription to RLS; at Yale, inscription not seen

Gabriel Sarrazin (ed.), Poetes modernes de l’Angleterre (1885)
          presentation copy with inscription to RLS; inscription not seen

received 1886

William Sharp (ed.), Sonnets of this Century (1886)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘To Robert Louis Stevenson in slight acknowledgment of an irredeemable debt of pleasure—from William Sharp January ‘86’; Sharp produced a second edition including ‘The Touch of Life’, one of the two sonnets that Stevenson sent with his reply (Letters 5, pp. 191–2)

William Sharp (ed.), Sonnets of this Century (large paper copy) (1886)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘To Robert Louis Stevenson, with high regard — William Sharp’, from a letter sent in Dec, this was sent early Nov 1886 (McKay, 4, 5488, p.1574)

John Coventry [John Williamson Palmer, After his Kind (1886)
          untraced presentation copy from an American physician and poet; see RLS’s cool reply, 13 Feb 1886: ‘Thank you for your letter and book, which is of more promise (in my eyes) than performance’ etc. (L5, p. 201)

Edmund Gosse, From Shakespeare to Pope. An Inquiry into the Causes and Phenomena of the Rise of Classical Poetry in England (1885)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘Robert Louis Stevenson from his friend Edmund Gosse – 28/3/86’

Andrew Lang, The Mark of Cain (1886)
          presentation copy with inscription : ‘A. L. can scribble, A. L. can scrawl, / A. L. can rhyme all day, / But he can’t hit it off with a shilling romance, / For, – he never was built that way! / A. L. // To the author of / The Hells of Gourock. / Mr. Hide and Dr. Seek-ill. / A Sequel. / In Fact / To R. L. Stevenson. / puris omnia pura’ (L5, p. 253); see letter from RLS to Lang, May 1886: I have never thanked you for the magnificent Mark de luxe. I had already read it in the bob [= shilling form etc.’ (L5, p.253); Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was also in price and format ‘a shilling romance’(see note for Vernon Lee below)

William Archer, About the Theatre. Essays and Studies (1886)
          presentation copy with inscription on half-title: ‘Robert Louis Stevenson  from W. A. 5 June: 86’

Edmund W. Gosse, Raleigh (1886)
          probably a presentation copy, untraced; letter from RLS to Gosse, 29 July 1886: ‘I must not lose a moment in congratulating you on your Raleigh. It is a thoroughly sound piece of narrative, and brilliant, not in patches, but by general effect etc.’ (5, p. 295).)

William Smith, Morley, Ancient and Modern (1886)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘To R. L. Stevenson, Esq., with the Author’s kind regards, Morley, Aug. 17, 1886.’; Skerryvore bookplate; in a letter accompanying the book dated 17 Aug 1886, the author asks if he could have a copy of one of Stevenson’s works with an autograph inscription; local history and description of a Yorkshire town

Vernon Lee [Violet Paget], A Phantom Lover (1886)
          presentation copy, untraced, sent with a letter in which the author calls it a ‘shilling dreadful’, McKay, 6, p. 2556; see letter from RLS, late Aug 1886: I am just but returned and have found the dreadful and your note etc.’ (L5, pp. 306-7); another ‘shilling dreadful’ possibly inspired by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (see Andrew Lang above)

Aubrey de Vere, The Search after Proserpine and other Poems (1886)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘R. Louis Stevenson, from Aubrey de Vere, August 31, 1886’; letter from RLS to Ida Taylor, late Aug / early Sept 1886: I am death on [= (slang) enthusiastic about] Aubrey de Vere’s poems, and shall write to him soon (L5, p. 308); de Vere was a cousin of the Stevensons’ Bournemouth friend Lady Taylor

John C Dunlop & Alison Hay Dunlop, William Hole (ill.), The Book of Old Edinburgh (1886)
          presentation copy from Stevenson’s friend William Hole, illustrator of Kidnapped and author of the illustrations in the book; see letter from RLS to Hole, late Sept 1886: ‘Many thanks for the beautiful book: some of the pictures are most engaging, and some very spirited’ (L5, p. 325)

Ida A. Taylor, Allegiance: a Novel (1886)
          probably a presentation copy, untraced

Richard W Gilder, Lyrics (1885)
          presentation copy with inscription: ‘To Robert Louis Stevenson, with the regard & admiration of his friend, R. W. Gilder – Oct. 1887’; Skerryvore bookplate; Gilder was poet and editor of the Century Magazine in which The Silverado Squatters had been published in 1883

received 1887

Sir Stephen Edward de Vere, Translations from Horace and a few original Poems (1886)
          presentation copy with inscription to RLS, 1887; elder brother of Aubrey de Vere


2. English language literature

Excluding books known to have been acquired and read later

published 1884

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
          read enthusiastically immediately upon London publication in Dec 1884; Henley was among the earliest reviewers (Athenæum, 27 Dec 1884 (L5, pp. 41, 80; L6, pp. 161–2)

published 1885

H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines (1885)
          probably sent by Henley with recommendation: cf. Henley’s letter to RLS, 16 Oct 1885: ‘How do you like King Solomon’s Mines? I think it is blamed good. Not art, of course; but a good deal of blazing imagination’ (Atkinson, p.144).

George Meredith, Diana of the Crossways (1885)
          published 16 Feb 1885; in a letter c. 6 May 1885 RLS says he is ‘sitting now in the porch, now out on the gravel, reading Meredith, looking at the rhododendrons and red hawthorn’

Brander Matthews, The Last Meeting (1885)
          sent by Henley; letter from Henley to Brander Matthews 24 Dec 1885: ‘I am going to send Louis the Last Meeting. Whatever he says of it you shall hear’; letter from RLS to Henley early Jan 1886: ‘Brander Matthews is one of the damndest idiots on record. He had better stick to criticism; the reviews on his swindle of a story are a disgrace to journalism’ (L5, p. 174); how Henley replied to Matthews is not known

Henry James, Stories Revived (1885)

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (1885?)
          Skerryvore bookplate

Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1885?)
          Skerryvore bookplate

published 1886

George Bernard Shaw, Cashel Byron’s Profession (1886)
          recommended by William Archer (perhaps sent as a gift by him); see RLS’s enthusiastic letter to Archer of March 1886 (L5, 224–5)

Andrew Lang, Letters to Dead Authors (1886)
          untraced; bought by Stevenson himself; see letter from RLS to Lang, c. 10 March 1886: Letter from [Bournemouth to Andrew Lang, [c10 Mar 1886: ‘I treated myself to your Dead Authors, by way of an unbirthday present; and I can fancy none better. I think it the best thing you have done, I have read it once, much of it twice, and am not yet done reading etc.’ (L5, pp. 226–7).

Andrew Lang, In the Wrong Paradise: and other Stories (1886)

Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
          untraced; see letter from RLS to Hardy, June 1886: ‘I have read The Mayor of Casterbridge with sincere admiration: Henchard is a great fellow, and Dorchester is touched in with the hand of a master. Do you think you could let me try to dramatise it?’ (L5, p. 259)

Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall Sixty Years After etc. (1886)
          possibly acquired later

Eric Sutherland Robertson (ed.), The Children of the Poets. An Anthology from English and American Writers of Three Centuries (1886)
          sold at auction 1914, untraced; possibly a presentation copy; Robertson was a London-based Scottish man of letters who RLS probably knew


3. French and Russian literature

Excluding books known to have been acquired and read later

published 1884

Dostoievsky, Le Crime et le chatiment [Crime and Punishment (1884)
          see letter Letter Henley, early Nov 1885: ‘Dostoieffsky is of course simply immense: it is not reading a book, it is having a brain fever, to read it etc.’ (L5, p. 151

Dostoievsky, Humiliés et offensés [The Insulted and the Injured] (1884)
          see letter to Symonds, early March 1886: ‘even more incoherent than Le Crime et le Chatiment; but breathes the same lovely goodness, and has passages of power’ (L5, pp. 220–1)

Alexandre Dumas, Le vicomte de Bragelonne (1884)
          ‘I have now just risen from my last (let me call it my fifth) perusal’, ‘Gossip on a Novel by Dumas’ (1887)

published 1885

Alphonse Daudet, Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885)
          possibly acquired later

Alexandre Dumas, La tulipe noire (1885)
          possibly acquired later

Ernest Renan, Dialogues et fragments philosophiques (1885)
          possibly acquired later

Jules Verne, La Jangada: huit cent lieues sur l’ Amazone (1885)
          with inscription: ‘Mrs. Osbourne’s copy — Eastham, Bournemouth West’; Eastham was the name of the house in Bournemouth West (exact location unknown, but somewhere near Skerryvore) where Lloyd was a resident pupil of the Rev. Henry John Storr (see L4, p. 41n), though he had left to go to Hyères in 1883 and by late Feb/early March 1885 he was a student at Edinburgh University (L5, p. 80); perhaps Fanny lent the book after a social visit

published 1886

Octave Feuillet, La Morte (1886)
          possibly acquired later


4. Other books acquired and read 1884–87

Excluding books bought in the USA, Sep-Dec 1887

published 1884

Margaret Stuart (Mrs. Calderwood), Alexander Fergusson (ed.), Letters and Journals of Mrs. Calderwood of Polton, from England, Holland and the Low Countries in 1756, (1884)
          sold at auction 1914, untraced; Skerryvore bookplate; much local colour in chapters 21–3 of Catriona comes from here

published 1885

Horace Beng Dobell, The Medical Aspects of Bournemouth and its Surroundings (1885)

Henry Bruce and David Chalmers, Mr Gladstone and the Paper Duties, by Two Midlothian Paper-Makers (1885)
          untraced, sold at auction 1914; possibly left behind at Skerryvore by Thomas Stevenson

William Kingdon Clifford, The Common Sense of the Exact Sciences (1885).

Clifford was a fellow member of the Savile Club, first met through Sidney Colvin in late August 1873 (see the continuation of ‘Memoirs of Himself’ dictated in Samoa, Vailima Edition, 26 (1926), 235-236)

John S. Keltie, A History of the Scottish Highlands, Highland Clans and Highland Regiments (1885)

Fulke Greville, The Greville Memoirs (Second Part). A Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1852 (1885)
          sold at auction 1914, untraced; Skerryvore bookplate; for the planned Wellington biography

Leslie Stephen, Dictionary of National Biography (1885–), earliest volumes

Lady Adelaide Cadogan, Illustrated Games of Patience (1885)
          Skerryvore bookplate

Gustave Strauss, Philosophy in the Kitchen: General Hints on Foods and Drinks. By an Old Bohemian (1885)
          RLS’s Skerryvore visiting card as bookplate

published/read 1886

William Youatt, The Dog (1886)
          veterinary treatise

Charles Warren Stoddard, Summer Cruising in the South Seas (1881)
          Skerryvore bookplate; orignally published in 1873, the same year as the American edition (with the title South-sea Idyls), which Stevenson also possessed (probably a gift from the author in San Francisco in 1880). Stevenson was re-reading one of these in Feb 1886 for the purpose of choosing extracts for a proposed anthology of prose to be selected with Henley (L5, pp. 198, 200, 203)


Written by rdury

27/07/2020 at 4:15 pm

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  1. […] I used RLS’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cèvennes as a template. This morning I cam across this swell list of his reading during the time he spent in Bournemouth (Skerryvore, 1884-1887) — this is […]

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