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proposed to take it up; and a letter to Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin widow of the friend on whose memoir he was then at work) reveals the man perhaps more fully than any other in the book. Unfortunately it is much too long to quote. It sets out the considerations for and against the project with the most curious frankness and absence of illusion, mingling in the soberest way jest and earnest, quixotism and cynicism. Cynicism is met indeed on its own ground by analysis as unsparing as La Rochefoucauld's. Is he sure he is not taking up the notion for the sake of excitement ? His answer is, first, that he does not think so; secondly, that excitement is the natural and merited reward of those who face danger. But fundamentally the philosophy of the letter is the same as that indicated in • Lay Morals’: an ethical teaching based literally on the reported utterances of Christ. •Fourth objection: I am married. “I have married a wife." I seem to have heard it before; it smells ancient ; what was the context ?' Christ, in short, denounces that objection, as it is Christ's philosophy that dictates the conclusion.
It seems to us a thing to be regretted that in this matter Stevenson was deterred from executing his intention ; a resolute man is safe almost anywhere under such conditions. The thought of his father, who was then approaching his end, and must have been tortured with anxiety, was probably the chief obstacle. That care kept Stevenson in England when the needs of his health called him abroad. When, in May 1887, the tie was severed by his father's death, he determined to fly from a climate in which he could barely exist, and in August took leave of England_little knowing that it was for the last time. His original design was a temporary settlement in the mountains of Colorado; but business detained him in New York—where offers of work at high prices showered upon him—and American doctors advised a season in the Adirondack Hills. Here he and bis family lived till the following summer, and here the Master of Ballantrae' was conceived and in part written. Before it was completed, Stevenson, who had always loved the sea, projected a yachting cruise, and a publisher offered 2,0001. for the account of a voyage in the South Seas : and so it came to pass that in June 1888 he, with his wife, his stepson, and his mother, sailed on board the schooner yacht Casco out of San Francisco for the Marquesas. In America, the introspective speculations upon life and art and man's worth in the world, of which we have spoken, had condensed themselves into the
* Vol. ii, p. 30.
moralistic papers published in 'Scribner's Magazine,' of which • Pulvis et Umbra' and 'A Christmas Sermon excellent examples. This new departure in the artist's lifeas it proved to be—was undertaken not only in quest of health, but as a means to get over the green-sickness of maturity (the actual phrase occurs in a letter to Mr. Henry James written before sailing); and the experiment proved wholly successful. For if Stevenson slept and woke in his art, as he wrote to Mr. Henley, if it was the very body of him, he could say with equal truth that he was a person who prefers life to art, and who knows that is a far finer thing to be in love or to risk a danger than to paint the finest picture or write the finest book.' So he writes a little later in reply to his French admirer, M. Marcel Schwob :
* You say l'artiste inconscient set off to travel ; you do not divide me right: 0.6 of me is artist, 0•4 adventurer. First, I suppose, come letters; then adventure ; and since I have indulged the second part, I think the formula begins to change : 0·55 of an artist, 0.45 of the adventurer were nearer true. And if it had not been for my small strength, I might bave been a different man in all things.'
Both the artist and the adventurer found their account in the new life. The Pacific islands had always charmed Stevenson as a dream, from the day in 1875 when Mr. Seed, Premier of New Zealand, had come to the house in Edinburgh and talked of beautiful places green for ever'—'absolute balm for the weary. Now, fourteen years later, he made that first landfall at Nuka-hiva, which is described in the opening chapter of his book. In the South Seas':
“The mark of anchorage was a blow-hole in the rocks, near the south-easterly corner of the bay. Punctually to our use, the blowhole spouted; the schooner turned upon her heel; the anchor plunged. It was a small sound, a great event; my soul went down with these moorings whence no windlass may extract nor any diver fish it up; and I and some part of my ship’s company were from that hour the bond-slaves of the isles of Vivien.'
It is impossible here to do more than sketch the remaining five years of his life, for they were full years. They began with two seasons of perilous sailing in the Casco,' then one in a trading steamer, the Janet Nicoll,' after which he settled down to his home and his last resting-place in Samoa. One can only indicate here the fascination which this life had for him. First, the adventure, the danger of the schooner experiences, which may be inferred from several passages in these letters ; secondly, the actual beauty of the scenes and the charm of the
natives; thirdly, the strangeness of the whole life in this noman's-land, a stir-about of epochs and races, barbarisms and civilisations, virtues and crimes'; fourthly, and perhaps chiefly, the extraordinary increase of physical energy which the climate granted to him. This was at least the determining cause of his exile; for out of those far-off isles he sighed for the grey hills of Scotland and the familiar voices of friends, and his longing found expression in the touching lines, addressed to Charles Baxter :
Home no more home to me, whither must I wander ?
Hunger my driver, I go where I must.
Thick drives the rain, and my roof is in the dust.
The true word of welcome was spoken in the door-
Kind folks of old, you come again no more.
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.
Song, tuneful song, built a palace in the wild.
Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold.
The kind Learts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old.'* But it was some time before he dared to face the
of permanent banishment—he could hardly mention it even to his friends. In his mind the project grew slowly. 'I am outright ashamed of my news,' he writes to Mr. Colvin from Honolulu in April 1889, which is that we are not coming home for another year. It was only in August 1890 that he formed the plan of purchasing Vailima, and in that month he wrote to Mr. Henry James :
'I must tell you plainly—I can't tell Colvin—I do not think I shall come to England more than once, and then it'll be to die. Health I enjoy in the tropics; even here [in Sydney), which they
* 'Letters,' ii, 122. He subsequently added a third stanza which deserves to be quoted too (“Songs of Travel,' svi).
"Spring shall come, come again, calling up the moorfowl,
Spring shall bring the sun and rain, bring the bees and flowers;
Soft flow the stream through the even-towing hours;
Fair shine the day on the house with open door;
But I go for ever and come again no more.'
call sub- or semi-tropical, I come only to catch cold. . . . The sea, the islands, the islanders, the island life and climate, make and keep me truly happier. These two last years I have been much at sea, ... and never once did I lose my fidelity to blue water and a ship.' With his actual settlement in Samoa came new
cares and pleasures; first, the pleasure of a householder in supervising the completion of his own house and in roughing out an estate from the wild; then the excitement of politics, played on stage so small that the human interest was at its highest. He himself staked no more than deportation, with resultant loss; but men's lives were in the balance, and loves and hates were in proportion. It pleased the adventurer, it pleased the artist, who had little care for the comedies or tragedies of Brompton drawing-rooms; and it gave the man a sense of playing a man's part. The natural result followed, in a great broadening and deepening of the whole scope of the man's art. The completed work of this period is largely experimental; it attempts the task of narrative history, though on a restricted scale, in the Footnote on Samoa,' and of what may be called descriptive history in the book on the South Seas; it handles a new folk-lore both in ballad and tale ; but especially it essays to break in, for the purposes of art, this new strange life, this medley composed of natives warped from their primitive simplicity by European influence, and of Europeans not less profoundly modified by a climate and surroundings to which they were not born. His imagination still haunted the grey huddle of hills' which he and his forefathers had trodden, and he produced in Samoa a worthy sequel to David Balfour's boyish adventures. But the new world about him tempted and distracted him, and he found himself wooed by new methods and new effects in style, • The Ebbtide' marks the most violent phase in his experimentation. In one of the many passages of acute self-criticism which render his letters perfectly invaluable to any writer who studies the art of fiction, he remarks that the strain between a vilely realistic dialogue and a narrative style pitched (in musical phrase) about “four notes higher ” than it should have been has sown my head with grey hairs'; and the result was a work which sinned almost unforgivably against the maxim which he is never tired of enforcing, that literature ought to inspirit, and that art should eschew the ugly. For the time, he was infected —and he knew it-with that realism against which he testifies in these letters even more strongly than in his published essays : yet it was through • The Ebbtide' that he worked to the pitch attained in his fragment, Weir of Hermiston.' This essay does not aim at a critical estimate of Stevenson's work ; but it
should be remarked that to judge Stevenson without reference to this fragment is as unjust as it would have been to judge Thackeray on · Barry Lyndon' and the Hoggarty Diamond, if Thackeray had died after writing, let us say, the Waterloo episodes of Vanity Fair.' Barry Lyndon’ is a fine work ; so is Catriona'; but the few chapters left of Weir' mark an advance as great as that which Thackeray made when Becky Sharp, Amelia, Rawdon Crawley, and George Osborne began to live and move on the canvas.
To return to the biographical interest, which is our real concern, we have in the volume of journal-letters to Mr. Colvin from Vailima a very full record of Stevenson's daily life and activities. They are inspiriting but not enlivening to read; the picture they give is of a man overtasked, fighting beyond his strength; and those in the new volume sadly complete the impression. He had lost what was the charm of his earlier life, the faculty of idling: he oscillated between periods when his work progressed freely and periods of non-work' when labour accomplished nothing ; but repose was gone from him. Life flowed now, not like the happy streams that delighted his youth, but like the mountain torrent at Davos which moved him to indignant verse :• Still hurry, hurry, to the end-Good God, is that the way to run ?'
Life tempted him on many sides-politics, farming, society, as well as literature. His letters repeatedly show him thinking of the full life that Sir Walter lived without weariness or fret ; of the great Italians, from Cæsar to Michelangelo, who did many great things and were not overtaxed by one little one. "Why the artist can do nothing else?' was a question that haunted him; and, looking back on life, he reflected sadly that his pursuit of art had justified itself to his father, who originally disapproved it, but that he himself was now minded to be of his father's first opinion. In the saddest of all these letters, one written to Mrs. Sitwell, he looks forward, not to death-the thought of which he always welcomed—but to a continuity of jaded existence. And the last letter of all—to Mr. Gosse—re-echoes in substance the cry he had sent from the Riviera twenty years before when ordered south '__0 Medea, kill me, or make me young again!' 'I was not born for age,' he writes to his friend.
· And curiously enough I seem to see a contrary drift in my work from that which is so remarkable in yours. You are going on, sedately travelling through your ages, decently changing with the years to the proper tune. And here am I, quite out of my true course, and with nothing