Vailima Letters – Robert Louis Stevenson
The value of these letters lies in their being like their writer. All Stevenson’s work, when it was successful, was a more or less literal transcription of his everyday self. Even his literary discipline tended and helped to this end, instead of to the production of an artificial and unfamiliar self. No writer owed so much to his own social qualities ; and his popularity is very far from being an exclusively literary one. His interests, his views of life, his opinions on books, his hopes, his despondencies, his eccentricities, heresies, prejudices, he insinuates into his readers, and they are adopted, cheered, echoed, in most unlikely quarters, not because of their intrinsic worth 01 reasonableness, but because they were his, and had, therefore, the most winning of advocates and expounders. The Vailima Letters are not to be named with epistolary masterpieces. But they let out the secret, to whoever has not already guessed it, of Stevenson’s beguiling influence. Just what delighted you in Kidnapped, or The New Arabian Nights, or in the Travels with a Donkey, is here to delight you when he is speaking of his own private concerns, or of Samoan politics, or of his literary hopes and fears—his sparkling fun, his varying moods, his austere indignation, his gentleness, his ready confidence. If Stevenson ever posed at all he posed in naturalness, in being so much himself that no one could think him other than he was.
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Biography of Robert Louis Stevenson (from Wikipedia):
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.
A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson now ranks as the 26th most translated author in the world. His works have been admired by many other writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Proust, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Cesare Pavese, Emilio Salgari, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Vladimir Nabokov, J. M. Barrie, and G. K. Chesterton, who said of him that he „seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins“.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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