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

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Journal of Stevenson Studies 9 (2012): Special essays number

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The Journal of Stevenson Studies 9 has just been published and is on its way to subscribers. The contributions all address aspects of Stevenson’s essays. Richard Dury and Robert-Louis Abrahamson, the guest editors, along with Lesley Graham and Alex Thomson, are editing Stevenson’s essays in five volumes for the New Edinburgh Edition. The four of us have been working together on the project for the last few years, discussing the essays with others in the ‘ReadingRLS’ internet forum and speaking with each other often several times a week via Skype.

This present collection constitutes the lengthiest study of Stevenson’s essays yet published, and we hope will open up a way for critics to talk about them, not merely in an instrumental way, when explaining the narrative works or the historical context of when they were written (revealing though these approaches are), but also in their own right as interesting literary works and memorable reading experiences.


1. overviews
Robert-Louis Abrahamson, ‘“The essays must fall from me”: an outline of Stevenson’s career as an essayist’

Traces RLS’s career as an essayist, the literary networks and magazines associated with the beginning of his career, RLS’s attitude towards the genre and his reasons for abandoning it.

Richard Dury, ‘Stevenson’s essays: language and style’

A study of S’s style in his essays, emphasizing reader-involvement and the many factors of variety and shifting focus that lead to their experience as performances in time by a mercurial, ever-changing artist.

2. 1880s essays /essays on memory, art and imagination
Richard Hill, ‘Stevenson in the Magazine of Art’

The six essays RLS wrote for Henley’s Magazine of Art 1882-4, though apparently diverse are linked by interest in relationship between the visual arts and literature, in the possibilities of an illustrated text, and on the importance of childhood memories and the imagination in the creative process.

Alex Thomson, ‘Familiar style in Memories and Portraits’

An examination of how Memories and Portraits is a collection of ‘familiar essays’ that explores autobiography, memorial and the consequences of pervasive inherited memory, and how the self-reflexive essay form distinguishes them from the Scottish tradition of nostalgic ‘reminiscences’.

Dewi Evans, ‘Stevenson in Scribner’s: ethics and romance in the literary marketplace’

A study of connected and contrasting ethical and aesthetic ideas in earlier essays and how they are consolidated in the Scribner’s series, with particular attention to the writer in the literary marketplace.

Neil Macara Brown, ‘Had their day: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Popular Authors’

Documents Stevenson’s reading of popular authors and planned and finished works connected with popular genres, supplies bio- bibliographical information about the writers, speculates on their attraction for him, and suggests scenes from popular books that he read that may have inspired his own fiction.

Marie Léger-St-Jean, ‘“Long for the penny number and weekly woodcut’: Stevenson on reading and writing popular romance’

A comparative reading of papers on popular literature by Rymer (1842) and Stevenson (1888), followed by an exploration of the imaginative importance of illustrations for RLS and their link with ‘romance’, dreams and daydreams and a ‘true’ inner life.

3. Californian and South Seas essays / essays on sympathetic understanding / evolution as an essayist
Jennifer Hayward, ‘“The Foreigner at Home”: The Travel Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson’

How RLS’s writings about California helped him develop views of national identity and race and empathy towards the marginalized.

Andrew Robson, ‘Stevenson as sympathetic essayist’

RLS shows sympathy and understanding for the dispossessed and oppressed; this is present in early essays and develops in his American and Pacific writings.

Timothy Hayes, ‘“Not so childish as it seems”: Stevenson’s interrogation of childishness in the South Seas’

RLS showed an interest in childhood and its relation to adult existence in a series of essays and his ‘South Seas’ pieces continue with an interest in ‘childlike’ behaviour in adults. In the South Seas can be considered a collection of essays because of their variety of approach, their shifts in point-of-view, and seen as exploratory ‘attempts’.

4. afterlife
Lesley Graham, ‘The reception of Stevenson’s essays’

Traces Stevenson’s literary reputation and his appreciation as an essayist and relates this to the decline in interest in the essay.

JSS is available by annual subscription only; to obtain a copy of this issue, send a cheque for £15 (UK) or £17/€18/$23 US/$24 CA (overseas) to JSS, English Studies, Univ. Stirling, with subscription form.

Written by rdury

14/11/2012 at 10:45 am