Treasure Island: Wikis


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Treasure Island  
Treasure Island-Scribner's-1911.jpg
Cover illustration from 1911
Author Robert Louis Stevenson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Adventure,
Young Adult Literature
Publisher London: Cassell and Company (Now part of Orion Publishing Group)
Publication date 1883

Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "pirates and buried gold". First published as a book in 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881-82 under the title The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island.

Traditionally considered a coming-of-age story, it is an adventure tale known for its atmosphere, character and action, and also a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality—as seen in Long John Silver—unusual for children's literature then and now. It is one of the most frequently dramatised of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perception of pirates is vast, including treasure maps with an "X", schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.



Stevenson was 30 years old when he started to write Treasure Island, and it would be his first success as a novelist. The first fifteen chapters were written at Braemar in the Scottish Highlands in 1881. It was a cold and rainy late-summer and Stevenson was with five family members on holiday in a cottage. Young Lloyd Osbourne, Stevenson's stepson, passed the rainy days painting with watercolours.[1][2] Remembering the time, Lloyd wrote:

... busy with a box of paints I happened to be tinting a map of an island I had drawn. Stevenson came in as I was finishing it, and with his affectionate interest in everything I was doing, leaned over my shoulder, and was soon elaborating the map and naming it. I shall never forget the thrill of Skeleton Island, Spyglass Hill, nor the heart-stirring climax of the three red crosses! And the greater climax still when he wrote down the words "Treasure Island" at the top right-hand corner! And he seemed to know so much about it too — the pirates, the buried treasure, the man who had been marooned on the island ... . "Oh, for a story about it", I exclaimed, in a heaven of enchantment ... .[3]

Within three days of drawing the map for Lloyd, Stevenson had written the first three chapters, reading each aloud to his family who added suggestions. Lloyd insisted there be no women in the story which was largely held to with the exception of Jim Hawkins' mother at the beginning of the book. Stevenson's father took a child-like delight in the story and spent a day writing out the exact contents of Billy Bones's sea-chest, which Stevenson adopted word-for-word; and his father suggested the scene where Jim Hawkins hides in the apple barrel. Two weeks later a friend, Dr. Alexander Japp, brought the early chapters to the editor of Young Folks magazine who agreed to publish each chapter weekly. Stevenson wrote at the rate of a chapter a day for fifteen days straight, then ran dry of words, partly due to his health. He had never earned his keep by age thirty-one, and was desperate to finish the book. He turned to the proofs, corrected them, took morning walks alone, and read other novels.

As autumn came to Scotland, the Stevensons left their summer holiday retreat for London, and Stevenson was troubled with a life-long chronic bronchial condition. Concerned about a deadline they travelled in October to Davos, Switzerland where the break from work and clean mountain air did him wonders, and he was able to continue at the rate of a chapter a day and soon finished the storyline.

Map created by Robert Louis Stevenson

During its initial run in Young Folks from October 1881 to January 1882, Treasure Island failed to attract attention or even increase the sales of the magazine, but when sold as a book in 1883 it soon became very popular.[4] The Prime Minister, Gladstone, was reported to have stayed up until two in the morning to finish it. Critics widely praised it. American novelist Henry James praised it as "perfect as a well-played boy's game".[5] Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote "I think Stevenson shows more genius in a page than Sir Walter Scott in a volume". Stevenson was paid 34 pounds seven shillings and sixpence for the serialization and 100 pounds for the book.

Thanks to Stevenson's letters and essays, we know a great deal about his sources and inspirations. The initial catalyst was the island map, which was essentially the whole plot to him as author, he said. He mailed the map with his manuscript to the book publisher and was later told the map had been lost. He had no copy and was devastated. To Stevenson, the map he tediously reconstructed from memory and reference to the text was never the real Treasure Island. The novel also drew from memories of works by Daniel Defoe, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold-Bug", and Washington Irving's "Wolfert Webber", of which Stevenson said, "It is my debt to Washington Irving that exercises my conscience, and justly so, for I believe plagiarism was rarely carried farther.. the whole inner spirit and a good deal of the material detail of my first chapters.. were the property of Washington Irving."[6] The novel At Last by Charles Kingsley was also a key inspiration.

The character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend William Henley, a writer and editor, who had lost his lower leg to tuberculosis of the bone. Lloyd Osbourne described him as "..a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet". In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island, Stevenson wrote "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you".

Stevenson had never encountered real pirates: the "Golden Age of Piracy" had ended more than a century before he was born. However, his descriptions of sailing and seamen and sea life are very convincing. His father and grandfather were both lighthouse engineers and frequently voyaged around Scotland inspecting lighthouses, taking the young Robert along. Two years before writing Treasure Island he had crossed the Atlantic Ocean. So authentic were his descriptions that in 1890 William Butler Yeats told Stevenson that Treasure Island was the only book from which his seafaring grandfather had ever taken any pleasure.[7]

"The effect of Treasure Island on our perception of pirates cannot be overestimated. Stevenson linked pirates forever with maps, black schooners, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders. The treasure map with an X marking the location of the buried treasure is one of the most familiar pirate props",[8] yet it is entirely a fictional invention which owes its origin to Stevenson's original map. The term "Treasure Island" has passed into the language as a common phrase, and is often used as a title for games, rides, places, etc.

Plot summary

Jim Hawkins sitting in the apple-barrel, listening to the pirates

The novel is divided into 6 parts and 34 chapters: Jim Hawkins is the narrator of all these except for chapters 16-18 which are narrated by the Doctor.

The novel opens in a seaside village in south-west England in the mid-18th century. The narrator, Jim Hawkins, is the young son of the owners of the Admiral Benbow Inn. An old drunken seaman named Billy Bones becomes a long-term lodger at the inn, only paying for about the first week of his stay. Jim quickly realizes that Bones is in hiding, and that he particularly dreads meeting an unidentified seafaring man with one leg. Some months later, Bones is visited by a mysterious sailor named Black Dog. Their meeting turns violent, Black Dog flees, and Bones suffers a stroke. While Jim cares for him, Bones confesses that he was once the mate of the late notorious pirate, Captain Flint, and that his old crewmates want Bones's sea chest.

Some time later, another of Bones's crewmates, Pew, appears at the inn and forces Jim to lead him to Bones. Pew gives Bones a paper. After Pew leaves, Bones opens the paper to discover the Black Spot, a pirates' summons, with the warning that he has until ten o'clock, and he drops dead of apoplexy (in this context, a stroke) on the spot. Jim and his mother open Bones' sea chest to collect the amount due for Bones's room and board, but before they can count out the money that they are due, they hear pirates approaching the inn and are forced to flee and hide, Jim taking with him a mysterious oilskin packet from the chest. The pirates, led by Pew, find the sea chest and the money, but are frustrated that the chest does not contain "Flint's fist." Revenue agents approach and the pirates escape to their vessel, except for Blind Pew, who is accidentally run down and killed by the agents' coach and horses.

Jim Hawkins comes to the house of local landlord Squire Trelawney and his mother's friend and patron Dr. Livesey. Together, they examine the oilskin packet, which contains a logbook detailing the treasure looted during Captain Flint's career, and a detailed map of an island, with the location of Flint's treasure caches marked on it. Squire Trelawney immediately plans to outfit a sailing vessel to hunt the treasure down, with the help of Dr. Livesey and Jim. Livesey warns Trelawney to be silent about their objective.

Going to Bristol, Trelawney buys a schooner named Hispaniola, hires a Captain Smollett to command her, and retains Long John Silver, owner of "The Spy-glass" tavern and a former sea cook, to run the galley. Silver helps Trelawney to hire the rest of his crew. When Jim comes to Bristol and visits Silver at the Spy Glass tavern, his suspicions are immediately aroused: Silver is missing a leg, like the man Bones warned about, and Black Dog is sitting in the tavern. Black Dog runs away at the sight of Jim, and Silver denies all knowledge of the fugitive so convincingly that he wins Jim's trust.

Despite Captain Smollett's misgivings about the mission and Silver's hand-picked crew, the Hispaniola sets sail for the Caribbean Sea. As they near their destination, Jim crawls into the ship's apple barrel to get some apples. While inside, he overhears Silver talking secretly with some of the other crewmen. Silver admits that he was Captain Flint's quartermaster and that several of the other crew were also once Flint's men, and he is recruiting more men from the crew to his own side. After Flint's treasure is recovered, Silver intends to murder the Hispaniola's officers, and keep the loot for himself and his men. When the pirates have gone back to their berths, Jim warns Smollett, Trelawney, and Livesey of the impending mutiny.

When they reach Treasure Island, the bulk of Silver's men go ashore immediately. Although Jim is not yet aware of this, Silver's men have given him the Black Spot and demanded to seize the treasure immediately, discarding Silver's own more careful plan to postpone any open mutiny or violence until after the treasure is safely aboard. Jim lands with Silver's men, but runs away from them almost as soon as he is ashore. Hiding in the woods, Jim sees Silver murder Tom, a crewman loyal to Smollett. Running for his life, he encounters Ben Gunn, another ex-crewman of Flint's who has been marooned three years on the island, but who treats Jim kindly in return for a chance of getting back to civilization.

In the meanwhile, Trelawney, Livesey, and their men surprise and overpower the few pirates left aboard the Hispaniola. They row to shore and move into an abandoned, fortified stockade on the island, where they are soon joined by Jim Hawkins, having left Ben Gunn behind. Silver approaches under a flag of truce and tries to negotiate Smollett's surrender; Smollett rebuffs him utterly, and Silver flies into a rage, promising to attack the stockade. "Them that die'll be the lucky ones," he threatens as he storms off. The pirates assault the stockade, but are repulsed in a furious battle.

During the night, Jim sneaks out of the stockade, takes Ben Gunn's coracle and approaches the Hispaniola under cover of darkness. He cuts the ship's anchor cable, setting her adrift and out of reach of the pirates on shore. After daybreak, he manages to approach the schooner again and board her. Of the two pirates left aboard, only one is still alive: the coxswain, Israel Hands, who has murdered his comrade in a drunken brawl, and been badly wounded in the process himself. Hands agrees to help Jim helm the ship to a safe beach in exchange for medical treatment and brandy, but once the ship is approaching the beach, Hands tries to murder Jim. Jim escapes him by climbing the rigging, and when Hands tries to stab him with a dirk, Jim shoots Hands dead.

Having beached the Hispaniola securely, Jim returns to the stockade under cover of night and sneaks back inside. Because of the darkness, he does not realize until too late that the stockade is now occupied by the pirates, and he is easily captured. Silver, whose always-shaky command has become more tenuous than ever, seizes on Jim as a hostage, refusing his men's demands to kill him or torture him for information.

Silver's rivals in the pirate crew, led by George Merry, again give Silver the Black Spot and move to depose him as captain. Silver answers his opponents eloquently, rebuking them for defacing a page from the Bible to create the Black Spot and reveals that he has obtained the map to the treasure from Dr. Livesey, thus restoring the crew's confidence in him. The following day, the pirates search for the treasure. They are shadowed by Ben Gunn, who makes ghostly sounds to dissuade them from continuing, but Silver forges ahead and locates the place where Flint's treasure was buried. The pirates discover that the cache has been rifled and all of the treasure is gone.

The enraged pirates turn on Silver and Jim, but Ben Gunn, Dr. Livesey and his men attack the pirates by surprise, killing two and dispersing the rest. Silver surrenders to Dr. Livesey, promising to return to his duty. They go to Ben Gunn's cave home, where Gunn has had the treasure hidden for some months. The treasure is divided amongst Trelawney and his loyal men, including Jim and Ben Gunn, and they return to England, leaving the surviving pirates marooned on the island. Silver escapes with the help of the fearful Ben Gunn and a small part of the treasure. Remembering Silver, Jim reflects that "I dare say he met his old Negress [wife], and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint [his parrot]. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."

Captain Flint backstory

Treasure Island contains numerous references to fictional past events, gradually revealed throughout the story and yielding a backstory that sheds light upon the events of the main plot.

The bulk of this backstory concerns the pirate Captain J. Flint, "the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that ever lived", who never appears, being dead before the main story opens. Flint was captain of the Walrus, with a long career, operating chiefly in the West Indies and the coasts of the southern American colonies. His crew included the following characters who also appear in the main story: Flint's first mate, William (Billy) Bones; his quartermaster John Silver; his gunner Israel Hands; and among his other sailors: George Merry, Tom Morgan, Pew, "Black Dog" and Allardyce (who becomes Flint's "pointer" toward the treasure). Many other former members of Flint's crew were on the cruise of the Hispaniola, though it is not always possible to identify which were Flint's men and which later agreed to join the mutiny—-such as the boatswain Job Anderson and a mutineer "John", killed at the rifled treasure cache.

Flint and his crew were successful, ruthless, feared ("the roughest crew afloat"), and rich, if they could keep their hands on the money they stole. The bulk of the treasure Flint made by his piracy—-£700,000's worth of gold, silver bars and a cache of armaments—-was, however, buried on a remote Caribbean island. Flint brought the treasure ashore from the Walrus with six of his sailors, also building a stockade on the island for defence. When they had buried it, Flint returned to the Walrus alone-—having murdered all of the other six. A map to the location of the treasure he kept to himself until his dying moments.

The whereabouts of Flint and his crew are obscure immediately thereafter, but they ended up in the town of Savannah, Province of Georgia. Flint was then ill, and his sickness was not helped by his immoderate consumption of rum. On his sickbed, he was remembered for singing the chantey "Fifteen Men" and ceaselessly calling for more rum, with his face turning blue. His last living words were "Darby M'Graw! Darby M'Graw!", and then, following some profanity, "Fetch aft the rum, Darby!". Just before he died, he passed on the treasure map to the mate of the Walrus, Billy Bones (or so Bones always maintained).

After Flint's death, the crew split up, most of them returning to England. They disposed of their shares of the unburied treasure diversely. John Silver held on to £2,000, putting it away safe in banks—and became a waterfront tavern keeper in Bristol, England. Pew spent £1,200 in a single year and for the next two years afterwards begged and starved. Ben Gunn returned to the treasure island to try to find the treasure without the map, and as efforts to find it immediately failed, his crew mates marooned him on the island and left. Bones, knowing himself to be a marked man for his possession of the map (as soon as the other members of Flint's crew should desire to recover the treasure), looked for refuge in a remote part of England. His travels took him to the rural West Country seaside village of Black Hill Cove and the inn of the 'Admiral Benbow'.

Main characters

  • Jim Hawkins: the young man who finds the treasure map; he is the protagonist and chief narrator. His parents are the owners of "The Admiral Benbow Inn."
  • Billy Bones: ex-mate of Captain Flint's ship and possessor of the map of Treasure Island. Dies of a stroke brought on by a combination of alcoholism and fear when "tipped" the Black Spot.
  • Squire John Trelawney: a skilled marksman, he is naïve and hires the crew almost entirely on Long John Silver's advice. He has some sea-going experience and sometimes stands watch in calm weather.
  • Dr. Livesey: a doctor, magistrate, former soldier (having served under the Duke of Cumberland) and friend of Trelawney who goes on the journey and for a short while narrates the story.
  • Captain Alexander Smollett: the stubborn captain of the Hispaniola.
  • Long John Silver: formerly Flint's quartermaster, later leader of the Hispaniola's mutineers. Engaged as the ship's cook, and formerly the quartermaster on Flint's ship. Seemingly respectable in the beginning, he is landlord of "The Spy-glass" public house. Throughout the novel it is made clear that Silver is a remarkably charming man, whom even his enemies can't quite dislike. It is also clear that he is intelligent, ruthless, manipulative, and without a conscience.
  • Israel Hands: ship's coxswain and Flint's ex-gunner; tries to kill Jim Hawkins and ends up in Davy Jones' Locker. The character may have been named for the real-life pirate Israel Hands.
  • Ben Gunn: a half-insane and marooned ex-pirate, who becomes a lodge keeper after losing his share of the treasure; speaks in a "rusty voice" and craves toasted cheese. He has already found and removed the treasure before the events of the story.
  • Pew: a blind ex-pirate, now beggar and killer, who dies when he is trampled by horses. With Pew and Long John Silver, Stevenson sought to avoid predictability by making the two most dangerous characters in Treasure Island a blind man and an amputee. Stevenson also introduced a dangerous blind man in Kidnapped.
  • Captain Flint: a feared pirate captain who dies in Savannah; also the name of Long John's parrot.

Other characters

  • Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, the parents of Jim Hawkins
  • Black Dog, one of the companions of Pew who visit the Spyglass Inn
  • Tom Redruth: The gamekeeper of Squire Trelawney, accompanies him to the island, ends up being shot and killed by the mutineers before the attack on the stockade
  • Richard Joyce: One of the manservants of Squire Trelawney, accompanies him to the island, is later shot through the head and killed by a mutineer at the attack on the stockade
  • John Hunter: the other manservant of Squire Trelawney, accompanies him to the island, is later knocked unconscious at the attack on the stockade. He then dies of his injuries while unconscious
  • Abraham Gray: A sailor on the Hispaniola. He is incited to mutiny but later defects to the other side when asked to do so by Captain Smollett. Kills Job Anderson at the attack on the stockade, helps shoot the mutineers at the rifled treasure cache. Later escapes the island along with Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett, Long John Silver and Ben Gunn
  • Tom Morgan: an ex-pirate from Flint's old crew; ends up being marooned on the Island
  • Job Anderson: ship's boatswain and one of the leaders of the mutiny who is killed while trying to storm the blockhouse; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands
  • John: a mutineer who is injured while trying to storm the boathouse, later shown with a bandaged head, ends up being killed at the rifled treasure cache; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands
  • O'Brien: a mutineer who survives the attack on the boathouse and escapes, but is later killed by Israel Hands in a drunken fight on the Hispaniola; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands.
  • Dick: a mutineer who has a Bible. The pirates later use one of its pages to make a Black Spot. Dick later ends up being marooned on the island after the deaths of George Merry and John.
  • Mr. Arrow: The first mate of the Hispaniola. He drinks alcohol even though there was a rule about no alcohol on board and is useless as an officer. He disappears over the side before they get to the island and his position is filled by Job Anderson.
  • Tom: A sailor who does not defect to mutiny. He hears the dying scream of Alan, and decides to stay honest. He starts to walk away from Long John Silver and the mutineer throws his crutch, breaking Tom's back. Silver then kills Tom by stabbing him twice.
  • Alan: A sailor who does not defect to mutiny. He is killed by the mutineers for his loyalty and his dying scream is heard by several of the others.
  • Additionally, there are minor characters whose names are not revealed. Some of those are the four pirates who were killed at the attack on the stockade along with Job Anderson, the pirate who was killed by the honest men minus Jim Hawkins before the attack on the stockade, the pirate who was shot by Squire Trelawney (who was aiming at Israel Hands) and later died of his injuries, and the pirate who was marooned on the island along with Tom Morgan and Dick.

Themes and conflicts

One of the principal conflicts in Treasure Island is between middle class virtue versus proletarian indiscipline. Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, and Captain Smollett, among the principal heroes, stand for virtues such as loyalty, truthfulness, thrift, discipline, religious faith, and temperance (especially with alcohol). The pirates suffer from drunkenness, impiety, and mutual betrayal, and tend to seize immediate gratification on the premise that life is short and uncertain. Long John Silver occupies a middle ground in this conflict: he shares the middle class heroes' virtues of temperance, thrift, and deferred gratification, but is willing to lie, betray, and murder to achieve his ends.

Truthfulness and loyalty

The novel can be seen as a bildungsroman, dealing, as it does, with the development and coming-of-age of its narrator, Jim Hawkins. Jim's moral development culminates when he promises Silver not to attempt an escape, and then meets with Dr. Livesey at the edge of the stockade. Jim, fearing that he may divulge the Hispaniola's location under torture, tells Livesey where the ship is so that the doctor can move it away before the pirates can find it. Moved by the prospect of a youngster facing torture, Livesey tells Jim to escape with him. Jim refuses, saying "I passed my word," adhering to the middle class heroes' ethic of truthfulness even at the risk of an excruciating death. Livesey counters by offering to make Jim's moral standing dependent on his own: "I'll take it on my shoulders, holus bolus, blame and shame, my boy." Jim refuses this dependency, choosing to act as an independent adult like Livesey and his comrades: "'No,' I replied, 'you know right well you wouldn't do the thing yourself--neither you, nor squire nor captain; and no more will I.'"

Several of the other heroes are remarkable for standing by their word, notably Dr. Livesey who, loyal to the Hippocratic Oath, keeps his word to render assistance to the sick, even those he despises such as Billy Bones and the pirates who have captured the stockade. It is mainly lack of loyalty and truthfulness that distinguish Long John Silver from the heroes, who otherwise share many values with him. Silver is not only a chronic liar, but an extremely skilled and convincing one. He pretends so convincingly not to know Black Dog that Jim Hawkins admits that "I would have gone bail for the innocence of Long John Silver." His tales to his fellow mutineers about his early career under Captains England and Flint are probably at least partly fanciful (see historical time frame below). When Jim Hawkins falls into his hands, Silver readily promises to abandon his crew and return to Captain Smollett's orders in exchange for Jim's intervention to spare Silver's life. Then, when he believes Flint's treasure is in his reach, Silver plans (at least according to Jim's perception) to go back on his word, kill Jim, and seize the Hispaniola for himself. Finally, when he finds the treasure gone, Silver again changes sides and betrays his crew. As his last ruse, Silver escapes his captivity with a bag of guineas and disappears.

Temperance versus drunkenness

One More Step, Mr. Hands by N. C. Wyeth, 1911, for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A strong contrast is constantly drawn between the drunkenness of the pirates (except Silver) and the temperance of the heroes, especially Dr. Livesey. Alcohol undoes many of the villains in Treasure Island. Captain Flint dies from excessive rum drinking. Dr. Livesey warns Billy Bones against drinking further after his first stroke; Bones ignores this warning, suffers a relapse, and dies. Drunkenness leads to the fatal fight between Israel Hands and O'Brien, enabling Jim Hawkins to recapture the Hispaniola. It is strongly implied that the drunken state of the pirates on the island leads to a lack of vigilance, enabling Ben Gunn to kill some of them in their sleep. It is Silver himself who most strongly warns Israel Hands against the consequences of overindulgence in alcohol: "But you're never happy till you're drunk. Split my sides, I've a sick heart to sail with the likes of you! ... You'll have your mouthful of rum tomorrow, and go hang."

Religion versus irreligion

The conflict of piety versus irreligion is mainly developed between Jim Hawkins and Israel Hands on the Hispaniola. Hands is feigning mortal illness, and Jim says that he should pray like a Christian man if he is nearing death. When Hands asks him why, Jim answers heatedly, "For God's mercy, Mr. Hands, that's why." Hands answers at uncharacteristic length, "I never seen good come o' goodness yet. Him as strikes first is my fancy; dead men don't bite; them's my views—Amen, so be it." Also, Jim's faith contrasts with Hands' scepticism regarding an afterlife. When discussing O'Brien, the pirate and mutineer that Hands has murdered, Jim says, "You can kill the body, Mr. Hands, but not the spirit; you must know that already ... O'Brien there is in another world, and maybe watching us." Hands replies, "Well, that's unfort'nate--appears as if killing parties was a waste of time. Howsomever, sperrits don't reckon for much, by what I've seen. I'll chance it with the sperrits, Jim."

Silver's place in the religious conflict is ambiguous. He utters dire imprecations against his shipmates for defacing a Bible, and warns that Dick, the man who yielded his Bible to be defaced, will suffer bad luck for the rest of his life. However, he says this in the context of his men trying to depose him as captain, and his religious threats may be merely tactical, intended to intimidate his opponents. Aside from the Bible incident, Silver shows no obvious inclination toward religion. Many of Silver's men, in turn, take the stigma of defacing the Bible quite seriously, indicating that they have religious feelings and fears of their own. But for both Silver and his men, the idea of inflicting physical damage to the Bible is more frightening than violating the Bible's precepts, suggesting a more ritual than spiritual outlook on religion.

Thrift versus profligacy

The conflict of thrift versus profligacy runs through much of the book. Most of the pirates are unable to hold on to their money; Silver relates that Pew "spends twelve hundred pound in a year, like a lord in Parliament. Where is he now? Well, he's dead now and under hatches, but for two year before that, shiver my timbers! the man was starving. He begged, and he stole, and he cut throats, and starved at that, by the powers!" Ben Gunn exceeds even Pew's lack of foresight; given a thousand pounds of Flint's treasure, he spends and gambles it all away in nineteen days.

According to Silver, these two are wholly typical of pirates: "[W]hen a cruise is done, why, it's hundreds of pounds instead of hundreds of farthings in their pockets. Now the most goes for rum and a good fling, and to sea again in their shirts." Silver himself, again, adheres to the middle class value of thrift. Billy Bones manages to hang on to much of his money through the simple expedient of not paying his innkeeper. The heroes are largely thrifty: Jim Hawkins' mother will risk facing pirates rather than let Bones's debt to her go uncollected, Captain Smollett uses his share of the treasure to retire from the sea, and the loyal crewman Gray saves enough money to become a master's mate and raise a family.

Allusions and references

Actual geography

Deadchest island as viewed from Deadman's Bay, Peter Island
Map of Unst Island

There are a number of islands which could be the real-life inspiration for Treasure Island. One story goes that a mariner uncle had told the young Stevenson tales of his travels to Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands, thus this could mean Norman Island was an indirect inspiration for the book.[9] Nearby Norman Island is a Dead Man's Chest Island, which Stevenson found in a book by Charles Kingsley.

Stevenson said "Treasure Island came out of Kingsley's At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies (1871); where I got the 'Dead Man's Chest' - that was the seed".[10][11] If it was "the seed" for Skeleton Island, the phrase "dead man's chest", the novel in general, or all, remains unclear. Other contenders are the small islands in Queen Street Gardens in Edinburgh, as "Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Heriot Row and it is thought that the wee pond he could see from his bedroom window in Queen Street Gardens provided the inspiration for Treasure Island".[12]

There are a number of Inns which claim to have been the inspiration for places in the book. In Bristol, the Llandoger Trow is claimed to be the inspiration for the Admiral Benbow whilst the Hole in the Wall is claimed to be the Spyglass Tavern. The Pirate's House in Savannah, Georgia is where Captain Flint is supposed to have spent his last days,[13] and his ghost is claimed to haunt the property.[14]

In 1883 Stevenson had also published The Silverado Squatters, a travel narrative of his honeymoon in 1880 in Napa Valley, California. His experiences at Silverado were kept in a journal called "Silverado Sketches", and many of his notes of the scenery around him in Napa Valley provided much of the descriptive detail for Treasure Island.

In May 1888 Stevenson spent about a month in Brielle, New Jersey along the Manasquan River. On the river is a small wooded island, then commonly known as "Osborn Island". One day Stevenson visited the island and was so impressed he whimsically re-christened it "Treasure Island" and carved his initials into a bulkhead. This took place five years after he had completed the novel. To this day, many still refer to the island as such. It is now officially named Nienstedt Island, honoring the family who donated it to the borough.[15][16]

The map of the island bears a vague resemblance to that of the island of Unst in Shetland[citation needed]. The Unst island website claims that Stevenson wrote Treasure Island following a visit to Unst.

Actual history

Allusions to historical pirates and piracies

  • Five real-life pirates mentioned are William Kidd (active 1696-1699), Blackbeard (1716–1718), Edward England (1717–1720), Howell Davis (1718–1719), and Bartholomew Roberts (1718–1722).
  • The name "Israel Hands" was taken from that of a real pirate in Blackbeard's crew, whom Blackbeard maimed (by shooting him in the knee) simply to assure that his crew remained in terror of him. Allegedly Hands was taken ashore to be treated for his injury and was not at Blackbeard's last fight (the incident is depicted in Tim Powers' novel On Stranger Tides); this alone saved him from the gallows; supposedly he later became a beggar in England.
  • Silver refers to a ship's surgeon from Roberts' crew who amputated his leg and was later hanged at Cape Corso Castle, a British fortification on the Gold Coast of Africa. The records of the trial of Roberts' men list one Peter Scudamore as the chief surgeon of Roberts' ship Royal Fortune. Scudamore was found guilty of willingly serving with Roberts' pirates and various related criminal acts, as well as attempting to lead a rebellion to escape once he had been apprehended. He was, as Silver relates, hanged.
  • Stevenson refers to the Viceroy of the Indies, a ship sailing from Goa, India (then a Portuguese colony), which was taken by Edward England off Malabar while John Silver was serving aboard England's ship the Cassandra. No such exploit of England's is known, nor any ship by the name of the Viceroy of the Indies. However, in April 1721 the captain of the Cassandra, John Taylor (originally England's second in command who had marooned him for being insufficiently ruthless), together with his pirate partner [17] did capture the vessel Nostra Senhora do Cabo near Réunion island in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese galleon was returning from Goa to Lisbon with the Conde da Ericeira, the recently retired Viceroy of Portuguese India, aboard. The viceroy had much of his treasure with him, making this capture one of the richest pirate hauls ever. This is likely the event that Stevenson referred to, though his (or Silver's) memory of the event seems to be slightly confused. The Cassandra is last heard of in 1723 at Portobelo, Panama, a place that also briefly figures in Treasure Island as "Portobello".
  • The preceding two references are inconsistent, as the Cassandra (and presumably Silver) was in the Indian Ocean during the entire time that Scudamore was surgeon on board the Royal Fortune, in the Gulf of Guinea.
  • One actual pirate who buried treasure on an island was William Kidd on Gardiners Island. The booty was recovered by authorities soon afterwards.[18]

Other allusions

  • 1689: A pirate whistles "Lillibullero" (1689).
  • 1702: The Admiral Benbow inn where Jim and his mother live is named after the real life Admiral John Benbow (1653–1702).
  • 1733: Captain Flint, who may or may not have been fictional, died in the town of Savannah, Georgia, founded in 1733.
  • 1745: Doctor Livesey was at the Battle of Fontenoy (1745).
  • 1747: Squire Trelawney and Long John Silver both mention "Admiral Hawke", i.e. Edward Hawke, 1st Baron Hawke (1705–1781), promoted to Rear Admiral in 1747.
  • 1749: The novel refers to the Bow Street Runners (1749).

Possible influences

  • Squire Trelawney may have been named for Edward Trelawney, Governor of Jamaica 1738-1752.
  • Dr. Livesey may have been named for Joseph Livesey (1794–1884), a famous 19th-century temperance advocate, founder of the tee-total "Preston Pledge". In the novel, Dr. Livesey warns the drunkard Billy Bones that "the name of rum for you is death."[19][20]

Historical time frame

Stevenson deliberately leaves the exact date of the novel obscure, Hawkins writing that he takes up his pen "in the year of grace 17--." However, some of the action can be connected with dates, although it is unclear if Stevenson had an exact chronology in mind. The first date is 1745, as established both by Dr. Livesey's service at Fontenoy and a date appearing in Billy Bones's log. Admiral Hawke is a household name, implying a date later than 1747, when Hawke gained fame at the Battle of Cape Finisterre and was promoted to Admiral, but prior to Hawke's death in 1781.

Another hint, though obscure, as to the date is provided by Squire Trelawney's letter from Bristol in Chapter VII, where he indicates his wish to acquire a sufficient number of sailors to deal with "natives, buccaneers, or the odious French". This expression suggests that Great Britain was, at that time, at war with France; e.g., during the War of the Austrian Succession from 1740 to 1748, or the Seven Years' War from 1756 to 1763.

Stevenson's map of Treasure Island includes the annotations Treasure Island Aug 1 1750 J.F. and Given by above J.F. to Mr W. Bones Maste of ye Walrus Savannah this twenty July 1754 W B. The first of these two dates is likely the date at which Flint left his treasure at the island; the second, just prior to Flint's death. As Flint is reliably reported to have died at least three years before the events of the novel (the length of time that Ben Gunn was marooned), it cannot take place earlier than 1757 and still be consistent with the map. The events of Treasure Island would therefore seem to have taken place no earlier than 1757. As the schooner Hispaniola docks peacefully at a port in Spanish America — where it even finds a British man-of-war — at the end of the story, it must also take place before 1762, when Spain joined the Seven Years' War against Great Britain. The evidence above therefore implies a date between 1757 and 1762.

This range of dates, however, contradicts Long John Silver's account of himself, as given to Dick while Jim Hawkins listened in the apple barrel. Silver claims to be fifty years old, which would place his birth no earlier than 1707; and both Silver and Israel Hands, who had been in Flint's crew together, claim to have had experience on the sea (presumably as pirates) for thirty years prior to their arrival at Treasure Island, i.e. since about 1727. However, Silver claims to have sailed "First with England, then with Flint", which pushes the beginning of his career to some time before 1720, the date of Captain Edward England's death, implying a longer career at sea than thirty years. Silver also says that the surgeon who amputated his leg was hanged with Roberts's crew at Corso Castle: this would mean he has been disabled at least since 1722, at an age no greater than 15—-an age incompatible with his holding as significant an office as quartermaster under Captain Flint, or with being a crewman under England who was senior enough, and served long enough, to have "laid by nine hundred [pounds] safe".

As noted under Actual history, some of the people and events Silver claims to have witnessed were on opposite sides of Africa at the same time, and Silver's assignments of names and places are not entirely accurate. Silver's stories, then, may be no more reliable than his claim to have lost his leg while serving under Admiral Hawke, and containing inconsistencies which his audience were too ignorant to notice. Silver must either be closer to sixty than fifty, or his stories of the pirates England and Roberts are fabrications, retellings of stories he had heard from other pirates, into which he has inserted himself-—which would account for their inconsistencies.

Sequels and prequels

  • In the novel Peter Pan (1911) by J. M. Barrie, it is said that Captain Hook is the only man the old Sea-Cook ever feared. Captain Flint and the Walrus are also referenced.
  • Author A. D. Howden Smith wrote a prequel, Porto Bello Gold (1924), that tells the origin of the buried treasure, recasts many of Stevenson's pirates in their younger years, and gives the hidden treasure some Jacobite antecedents not mentioned in the original.
  • Author H. A. Calahan wrote a sequel Back to Treasure Island (1935). Calahan argued in his introduction that Robert Lewis Stevenson wanted to write a continuation of the story.
  • Author R. F. Delderfield wrote The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1956) which follows Ben Gunn from parson's son to pirate and is narrated by Jim Hawkins in Gunn's words.
  • Author Leonard Wibberley wrote a sequel, Flint's Island (1972).
  • Author Denis Judd wrote a sequel, Return to Treasure Island (1978).
  • Author Bjorn Larsson wrote a sequel, Long John Silver (1999).
  • Author Frank Delaney wrote a sequel, The Curse of Treasure Island (2001) using the pseudonym "Francis Bryan".
  • Author Roger L. Johnson wrote Dead Man's Chest:The Sequel to Treasure Island (2001).
  • Author John Drake wrote a prequel, Flint & Silver (2008)[21] Another volume is expected (Pieces of Eight).

References in other works

  • German metal band Running Wild, who are known for their lyrics on piracy, wrote an 11 minute epic on the story on their 1992 album Pile of Skulls.
  • Long John Silver and Treasure Island make an appearance in the 1994 film, The Pagemaster.
  • Spike Milligan wrote a parody, Treasure Island According to Spike Milligan (2000).
  • Avi, author of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, wrote the foreword to the 2000 edition of Treasure Island from Alladin Classics.
  • In LucasArts' The Curse of Monkey Island, the main character Guybrush Threepwood sings a commercial jingle about "Silver's Long Johns" (they breathe!) in an attempt to be the fourth member of a barbershop quartet.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Hector Barbossa names his pet monkey after Jack Sparrow, a captain he mutinied against. This may have been inspired by Silver naming his parrot Captain Flint.
  • According to the screenwriters' commentary on the DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the captain killed by an East India Trading Company official early in the movie is Jim Hawkins' lost father. This is, however, contrary to the original book: Jim Hawkins' father died at the Admiral Benbow Inn, in the company of Jim and his mother, in chapter three. Dead Man's Chest also makes use of a "black spot".
  • In Dutch author Reggie Naus' children's novel De schat van Inktvis Eiland ("The treasure of Squid Island") (2008), the main character's last name is Stevenson. Though the plot is unrelated to Stevenson's novel, the pirates in this book brush shoulders with characters from Treasure Island. Another character in the novel, the quartermaster Walter Gunn, is Ben Gunn's older brother. The song "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest" features frequently in the book. The writer is a big fan of Stevenson's book and included these references in tribute.
  • In the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome the Amazons' (Blacketts') Uncle Jim has the nickname of Captain Flint and a parrot.
  • Alan Coren wrote an article in Punch, entitled "A Life on the Rolling Mane", parodying Treasure Island to adapt it to the National Hairdressers' Association's campaign to stamp out "pirate barbers". Notable lines are Bald Pew's "Remember the days of the old clippers?" and Hawkins' memories of the "boom of the scurf".
  • The seafood restaurant chain "Long John Silver's" was named after the main villain.
  • In the Zoobilee Zoo episode "Is There a Doctor in the House?", three of the Zoobles play three of the characters in Treasure Island, with Bravo Fox playing the main villain.


Film and TV

There have been over 50 movie and TV versions made.[22] Some of the notable ones include:


Orson Welles (above) as Long John Silver in the film Treasure Island


There are also a number of Return to Treasure Island sequels produced, including a 1986 Disney mini-series, a 1992 animation version, and a 1996 and 1998 TV version.

Theatre and radio

There have been over 24 major stage and radio adaptations made.[23] The number of minor adaptations remains countless.


  • The Ben Gunn Society album released in 2003 presents the story centered around the character of Ben Gunn, based primarily on Chapter XV "Man of the Island" and other relevant parts of the book.
  • Treasure Island song from Running Wild's album named Pile of Skulls (1992). The pirate power metal thematic of the band is well placed in this song, telling the novel's story.


A computer game based loosely on the novel was issued by Commodore in the mid 1980s for the Plus/4 home computer, written by Greg Duddle. A graphical adventure game, the player takes the part of Jim Hawkins travelling around the island despatching pirates with cutlasses before getting the treasure and being chased back to the ship by Long John Silver. A catchy tune is included.


  1. ^ Porterfield, Jason, Treasure Island and the Pirates of the 18th Century, pp. 7 et seq., 
  2. ^ Cordingly, David (1995) Under the Black Flag New York: Random House, p. 3
  3. ^ Letley, pp.vii - viii (Stevenson, however, claims it was his map, not Lloyd's, that prompted the book)
  4. ^ Yardley, Jonathan, Stevenson's 'Treasure Island': Still Avast Delight, Washington Post, April 17, 2006
  5. ^ Guga Books at Octavia & Co. Press
  6. ^ Paine, Ralph Delahaye (1911) The book of buried treasure; being a true history of the gold, jewels, and plate of pirates, galleons, etc., which are sought for to this day. New York: Macmillan. via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ Cordingly, David (1995). Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates. Page 6-7.
  8. ^ Cordingly, David (1995) Under the Black Flag: the romance and reality of life among the pirates; p. 7
  9. ^ "Where's Where" (1974) (Eyre Methuen, London) ISBN 0-413-32290-4
  10. ^ David Cordingly. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. ISBN 0-679-42560-8.
  11. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson. "To Sidney Colvin. Late May 1884", in Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Page 263.
  12. ^ "Brilliance of 'World's Child' will come alive at storytelling event", (Scotsman, 20 October 2005).
  13. ^ The Pirates House history
  14. ^ Ghost of Captain Flint
  15. ^ Richard Harding Davis (1916). Adventures and Letters of Richard Harding Davis. See page 5 from Project Gutenberg.
  16. ^ [1] History of Brielle
  17. ^ Olivier Levasseur
  18. ^ Adams, Cecil The Straight Dope: Did pirates bury their treasure? Did pirates really make maps where "X marks the spot"? October 5, 2007
  19. ^ Reed, Thomas L. (2006). The Transforming Draught: Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Victorian Alcohol Debate. Pages 71-73.
  20. ^ Hothersall, Barbara. "Joseph Livesey". Retrieved 24 December 2009. 
  21. ^ Greene & Heaton. John Drake's Flint & Silver.
  22. ^ Dury, Richard. Film adaptations of Treasure Island.
  23. ^ Dury, Richard. Stage and Radio adaptations of Treasure Island.


  • Cordingly, David (1995). Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates. ISBN 0-679-42560-8
  • Letley, Emma, ed. (1998). Treasure Island (Oxford World's Classics). ISBN 0-19-283380-4
  • Reed, Thomas L. (2006). The Transforming Draught: Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Victorian Alcohol Debate. ISBN 0-7864-2648-9
  • Watson, Harold (1969). Coasts of Treasure Island;: A study of the backgrounds and sources for Robert Louis Stevenson's romance of the sea. ISBN 0-8111-0282-3

External links



Robert Louis Stevenson
Born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson
13 November 1850(1850-11-13)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 3 December 1894 (aged 44)
Vailima, Samoa
Occupation Novelist, poet, travel writer
Nationality Scottish
Period Victorian era
Notable work(s) Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Spouse(s) Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne
Children stepson: Lloyd Osbourne
Relative(s) father: Thomas Stevenson
mother: Margaret Isabella Balfour

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His most well known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Stevenson has been greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Marcel Schwob, Vladimir Nabokov,[1] J. M. Barrie,[2] 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".[3]




File:Robert Louis Stevenson daguerreotype portrait as a
Daguerreotype portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson as a young child

Stevenson was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson[4] at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 13 November 1850, to Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), a leading lighthouse engineer, and his wife, the former Margaret Isabella Balfour (1829–1897).[5] Lighthouse design was the family profession: Thomas's own father was the famous Robert Stevenson, and his maternal grandfather, Thomas Smith, and brothers Alan and David were also among those in the business.[6] On Margaret's side, the family were gentry, tracing their name back to an Alexander Balfour, who held the lands of Inchrye in Fife in the fifteenth century. Her father, Lewis Balfour (1777–1860), was a minister of the Church of Scotland at nearby Colinton,[7] and Stevenson spent the greater part of his boyhood holidays in his house. "Now I often wonder", says Stevenson, "what I inherited from this old minister. I must suppose, indeed, that he was fond of preaching sermons, and so am I, though I never heard it maintained that either of us loved to hear them."[8]

Both Balfour and his daughter had a "weak chest" and often needed to stay in warmer climates for their health. Stevenson inherited a tendency to coughs and fevers, exacerbated when the family moved to a damp and chilly house at 1 Inverleith Terrace in 1853. The family moved again to the sunnier 17 Heriot Row when Stevenson was six, but the tendency to extreme sickness in winter remained with him until he was eleven. Illness would be a recurrent feature of his adult life, and left him extraordinarily thin.[9] Contemporary views were that he had tuberculosis, but more recent views are that it was bronchiectasis[10] or even sarcoidosis.[11]

Stevenson's parents were both devout and serious Presbyterians, but the household was not incredibly strict. His nurse, Alison Cunningham (known as Cummy),[12] was more fervently religious. Her Calvinism and folk beliefs were an early source of nightmares for the child; and he showed a precocious concern for religion.[13] But she also cared for him tenderly in illness, reading to him from Bunyan and the Bible as he lay sick in bed, and telling tales of the Covenanters. Stevenson recalled this time of sickness in the poem "The Land of Counterpane" in A Child's Garden of Verses (1885)[14] and dedicated the book to his nurse.[15]

File:Robert Louis Stevenson mit 7
Robert Louis Stevenson at the age of seven

An only child, strange-looking and eccentric, Stevenson found it hard to fit in when he was sent to a nearby school at six, a pattern repeated at eleven, when he went on to the Edinburgh Academy; but he mixed well in lively games with his cousins in summer holidays at the Colinton manse.[16] In any case, his frequent illnesses often kept him away from his first school, and he was taught for long stretches by private tutors. He was a late reader, first learning at seven or eight; but even before this he dictated stories to his mother and nurse.[17] Throughout his childhood he was compulsively writing stories. His father was proud of this interest: he had himself written stories in his spare time until his own father found them and told him to "give up such nonsense and mind your business".[6] He paid for the printing of Robert's first publication at sixteen, an account of the covenanters' rebellion, published on its two hundredth anniversary, The Pentland Rising: a Page of History, 1666 (1866).[18]


It was expected that Stevenson's writing would remain a sideline; and in November 1867 he entered the University of Edinburgh to study engineering. He showed from the start no enthusiasm for his studies and devoted much energy to avoiding lectures. This time was more important for the friendships he made: with other students in the Speculative Society (an exclusive debating club), particularly with Charles Baxter, who would become Stevenson's financial agent; and with one professor, Fleeming Jenkin, whose house staged amateur drama in which Stevenson took part, and whose biography he would later write.[19] Perhaps most important at this point in his life was a cousin, Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (known as "Bob"), a lively and light-hearted young man, who instead of the family profession had chosen to study art.[20] Each year during vacations, Stevenson travelled to inspect the family's engineering works – to Anstruther and Wick in 1868, with his father on his official tour of Orkney and Shetland islands lighthouses in 1869, for three weeks to the island of Earraid in 1870. He enjoyed the travels, but more for the material they gave for his writing than for any engineering interest: the voyage with his father pleased him because a similar journey of Walter Scott with Robert Stevenson had provided the inspiration for The Pirate.[21] In April 1871, he announced to his father his decision to pursue a life of letters. Though the elder Stevenson was naturally disappointed, the surprise cannot have been great, and Stevenson's mother reported that he was "wonderfully resigned" to his son's choice. To provide some security, it was agreed that Stevenson should read Law (again at Edinburgh University) and be called to the Scottish bar.[22] Years later, in his poetry collection Underwoods (1887), he looked back on how he turned away from the family profession:[23]

Say not of me that weakly I declined
The labours of my sires, and fled the sea,
The towers we founded and the lamps we lit,
But rather say: In the afternoon of time
A strenuous family dusted from its hands
The sand of granite, and beholding far
Along the sounding coast its pyramids
And tall memorials catch the dying sun,
Smiled well content, and to this childish task
Around the fire addressed its evening hours.

In other respects too, Stevenson was moving away from his upbringing. His dress became more Bohemian: he already wore his hair long, but he now took to wearing a velveteen jacket and rarely attended parties in conventional evening dress.[24] Within the limits of a strict allowance, he visited cheap pubs and brothels.[25] More importantly, he had come to reject Christianity. In January 1873, his father came across the constitution of the LJR (Liberty, Justice, Reverence) club of which Stevenson with his cousin Bob was a member, which began "Disregard everything our parents have taught us". Questioning his son about his beliefs, he discovered the truth, leading to a long period of dissension with both parents:[26]

What a damned curse I am to my parents! as my father said "You have rendered my whole life a failure". As my mother said "This is the heaviest affliction that has ever befallen me". O Lord, what a pleasant thing it is to have damned the happiness of (probably) the only two people who care a damn about you in the world.

Early writing and travels

In late 1873, on a visit to a cousin in England, Stevenson made two new friendships that were to be of great importance to him, Sidney Colvin and Fanny (Frances Jane) Sitwell. Sitwell was a woman of thirty four, with a young son, separated from her husband. She attracted the devotion of many who met her, including Colvin, who eventually married her in 1901. Stevenson was another of those drawn to her, and over several years they kept up a heated correspondence, in which Stevenson wavered between the role of a suitor and a son (he came to address her as "Madonna").[27] Colvin became Stevenson's literary adviser, and after his death was the first editor of his letters. Soon after their first meeting he had placed Stevenson's first paid contribution, an essay, "Roads", in The Portfolio.[28] Stevenson was soon active in London literary life, becoming acquainted with many of the writers of the time, including Andrew Lang, Edmund Gosse,[29] and Leslie Stephen, the editor of the Cornhill Magazine, who took an interest in Stevenson's work. Stephen in turn would introduce him to a more important friend: visiting Edinburgh in 1875, he took Stevenson with him to visit a patient at the Edinburgh Infirmary, William Henley. Henley, an energetic and talkative man with a wooden leg, became a close friend and occasional literary collaborator for many years, until in 1888 a quarrel broke up the friendship. He is often seen as providing a partial model for the character of Long John Silver in Treasure Island.[30]

In November 1873, Stevenson had a physical collapse and was sent for his health to Menton on the French Riviera. He returned in better health in April 1874, and settled down to his studies, but he would often return to France in the coming years.[31] He made long and frequent trips to the neighbourhood of the Forest of Fontainebleau, staying at Barbizon, Grez-sur-Loing and Nemours, becoming a member of the artists' colonies there, as well as to Paris to visit galleries and the theatres.[32] He did qualify for the Scottish bar in July 1875; and his father added a brass plate with "R. L. Stevenson, Advocate" to the Heriot Row house. But although his law studies would influence his books, he never practised law.[33] All his energies were now in travel and writing. One of his journeys, a canoe voyage in Belgium and France with Sir Walter Simpson, a friend from the Speculative Society and frequent travel companion, was the basis of his first real book, An Inland Voyage (1878).[34]


Much like his father, Stevenson remained a staunch Tory for most of his life. His cousin and biographer, Sir Graham Balfour, said that "he probably throughout life would, if compelled to vote, have always supported the Conservative candidate".[35] During his college years, he briefly identified as a "red-hot Socialist." However, by the year 1877, at only twenty-seven years of age and before having written most of his major fictional works, Stevenson reflected: "For my part, I look back to the time when I was a Socialist with something like regret. I have convinced myself (for the moment) that we had better leave these great changes to what we call great blind forces: their blindness being so much more perspicacious than the little, peering, partial eyesight of men [...] Now I know that in thus turning Conservative with years, I am going through the normal cycle of change and travelling in the common orbit of men's opinions. I submit to this, as I would submit to gout or gray hair, as a concomitant of growing age or else of failing animal heat; but I do not acknowledge that it is necessarily a change for the better—I dare say it is deplorably for the worse."[36]


The canoe voyage with Simpson brought Stevenson to Grez in September 1876; and here he first met Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne (1840–1914). Born in Indianapolis, she had married at the age of seventeen and soon moved with her husband, Samuel Osbourne, to California. She had three children by the marriage, Isobel, the eldest, Lloyd and Hervey (who died in 1875); but anger over infidelities by her husband led to a number of separations and in 1875 she had taken her children to France, where she and Isobel studied art.[37] Although Stevenson returned to Britain shortly after this first meeting, Fanny apparently remained in his thoughts, and he wrote an essay "On falling in love" for the Cornhill Magazine.[38] They met again early in 1877 and became lovers. Stevenson spent much of the following years with her and her children in France.[39] Then, in August 1878, Fanny returned to her home in San Francisco, California. Stevenson at first remained in Europe, making the walking trip that would form the basis for Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879); but in August 1879, he set off to join her, against the advice of his friends and without notifying his parents. He took second class passage on the steamship Devonia, in part to save money, but also to learn how others travelled and to increase the adventure of the journey.[40] From New York City he travelled overland by train to California. He later wrote about the experience in The Amateur Emigrant. Although it was good experience for his literature, it broke his health, and he was near death when he arrived in Monterey. He was nursed back to health by some ranchers there.

By December 1879 he had recovered his health enough to continue to San Francisco, where for several months he struggled "all alone on forty-five cents a day, and sometimes less, with quantities of hard work and many heavy thoughts,"[41] in an effort to support himself through his writing, but by the end of the winter his health was broken again, and he found himself at death's door. Vandegrift — now divorced and recovered from her own illness — came to Stevenson's bedside and nursed him to recovery. "After a while," he wrote, "my spirit got up again in a divine frenzy, and has since kicked and spurred my vile body forward with great emphasis and success."[42] When his father heard of his condition he cabled him money to help him through this period.

In May 1880, Stevenson married Fanny although, as he said, he was "a mere complication of cough and bones, much fitter for an emblem of mortality than a bridegroom."[43] With his new wife and her son, Lloyd, he travelled north of San Francisco to Napa Valley, and spent a summer honeymoon at an abandoned mining camp on Mount Saint Helena. He wrote about this experience in The Silverado Squatters. He met Charles Warren Stoddard, co-editor of the Overland Monthly and author of South Sea Idylls, who urged Stevenson to travel to the south Pacific, an idea which would return to him many years later. In August 1880 he sailed with his family from New York back to Britain, and found his parents and his friend Sidney Colvin on the wharf at Liverpool, happy to see him return home. Gradually his new wife was able to patch up differences between father and son and make herself a part of the new family through her charm and wit.

Attempted settlement in Europe and the U.S.

" in Saranac Lake]] For the next seven years, between 1880 and 1887, Stevenson searched in vain for a place of residence suitable to his state of health. He spent his summers at various places in Scotland and England, including Westbourne, Dorset, a residential area in Bournemouth. There he lived in a dwelling he renamed Skerryvore after a lighthouse, the tallest in Scotland, built by his uncle Alan Stevenson many years earlier. For his winters, he escaped to sunny France, and lived at Davos-Platz [44] and the Chalet de Solitude at Hyeres, where, for a time, he enjoyed almost complete happiness. "I have so many things to make life sweet for me," he wrote, "it seems a pity I cannot have that other one thing — health. But though you will be angry to hear it, I believe, for myself at least, what is is best. I believed it all through my worst days, and I am not ashamed to profess it now."[45] In spite of his ill health he produced the bulk of his best known work during these years: Treasure Island, his first widely popular book; Kidnapped; Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story which established his wider reputation; The Black Arrow; and two volumes of verse, A Child's Garden of Verses and Underwoods. At Skerryvore he gave a copy of Kidnapped to his dear friend and frequent visitor, Henry James.[46]

On the death of his father in 1887, Stevenson felt free to follow the advice of his physician to try a complete change of climate. He started with his mother and family for Colorado; but after landing in New York they decided to spend the winter at Saranac Lake, in the Adirondacks at a cure cottage now known as Stevenson Cottage. During the intensely cold winter Stevenson wrote a number of his best essays, including Pulvis et Umbra, he began The Master of Ballantrae, and lightheartedly planned, for the following summer, a cruise to the southern Pacific Ocean. "The proudest moments of my life," he wrote, "have been passed in the stern-sheets of a boat with that romantic garment over my shoulders."[47]

Journey to the Pacific

, Hawaii, 1889]] In June 1888, Stevenson chartered the yacht Casco and set sail with his family from San Francisco. The vessel "plowed her path of snow across the empty deep, far from all track of commerce, far from any hand of help."[48] The salt sea air and thrill of adventure for a time restored his health; and for nearly three years he wandered the eastern and central Pacific, visiting important island groups, stopping for extended stays at the Hawaiian Islands where he became a good friend of King Kalākaua, with whom Stevenson spent much time. Furthermore, Stevenson befriended the king's niece, Princess Victoria Kaiulani, who was of Scottish heritage. He also spent time at the Gilbert Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand and the Samoan Islands. During this period he completed The Master of Ballantrae, composed two ballads based on the legends of the islanders, and wrote The Bottle Imp. He also witnessed the Samoan crisis. The experience of these years is preserved in his various letters and in The South Seas. A second voyage on the Equator followed in 1889 with Lloyd Osbourne accompanying them.

It was also from this period that one particular open letter stands as testimony to his activism and indignation at the pettiness of such 'powers that be' as a Presbyterian minister in Honolulu named Rev. Dr. Hyde. During his time in the Hawaiian Islands, Stevenson had visited Molokai and the leper colony there, shortly after the demise of Father Damien. When Dr. Hyde wrote a letter to a fellow clergyman speaking ill of Father Damien, Stevenson wrote a scathing open letter of rebuke to Dr. Hyde. Soon afterwards in April 1890 Stevenson left Sydney on the Janet Nicoll and went on his third and final voyage among the South Seas islands.[49]

Last years

, c. 1890]]

File:Robert Louis Stevenson birthday fete, Samoa
Stevenson's birthday fete at Vailima
File:Grave of Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson's tomb on Mt. Vaea c.1909

In 1890 he purchased four hundred acres (about 1.6 square kilometres) of land in Upolu, one of the Samoan islands. Here, after two aborted attempts to visit Scotland, he established himself, after much work, upon his estate in the village of Vailima. Stevenson himself adopted the native name Tusitala (Samoan for "Teller of Tales", i.e. a storyteller). His influence spread to the Samoans, who consulted him for advice, and he soon became involved in local politics. He was convinced the European officials appointed to rule the Samoans were incompetent, and after many futile attempts to resolve the matter, he published A Footnote to History. This was such a stinging protest against existing conditions that it resulted in the recall of two officials, and Stevenson feared for a time it would result in his own deportation. When things had finally blown over he wrote to Colvin, who came from a family of distinguished colonial administrators, "I used to think meanly of the plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!"[50]

He was friends with some of the politicians and their families. At one point he formally donated, by deed of gift, his birthday to the daughter of the American Land Commissioner Henry Clay Ide, since she was born on Christmas Day and had no birthday celebration separate from the family's Christmas celebrations. This led to a strong bond between the Stevenson and Ide families.[51][52]

In addition to building his house and clearing his land and helping the Samoans in many ways, he found time to work at his writing. He felt that "there was never any man had so many irons in the fire."[53] He wrote The Beach of Falesa, Catriona (titled David Balfour in the USA),[54] The Ebb-Tide, and the Vailima Letters, during this period.

For a time during 1894 Stevenson felt depressed; he wondered if he had exhausted his creative vein and completely worked himself out. He wrote that he had "overworked bitterly".[55] He felt more clearly that, with each fresh attempt, the best he could write was "ditch-water".[56] He even feared that he might again become a helpless invalid. He rebelled against this idea: "I wish to die in my boots; no more Land of Counterpane for me. To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse — ay, to be hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution."[57] He then suddenly had a return of his old energy and he began work on Weir of Hermiston. "It's so good that it frightens me," he is reported to have exclaimed[citation needed]. He felt that this was the best work he had done. He was convinced, "sick and well, I have had splendid life of it, grudge nothing, regret very little ... take it all over, damnation and all, would hardly change with any man of my time."[58]

Without knowing it, he was to have his wish fulfilled. During the morning of 3 December 1894, he had worked hard as usual on Weir of Hermiston. During the evening, while conversing with his wife and straining to open a bottle of wine, he suddenly exclaimed, "What's that!" He then asked his wife, "Does my face look strange?" and collapsed beside her.[59] He died within a few hours, probably of a cerebral haemorrhage, at the age of 44. The Samoans insisted on surrounding his body with a watch-guard during the night and on bearing their Tusitala upon their shoulders to nearby Mount Vaea, where they buried him on a spot overlooking the sea.[60] Stevenson had always wanted his 'Requiem' inscribed on his tomb.

Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

However, the piece is widely misquoted, including the inscription on his tomb, which closes:

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

Stevenson was loved by the Samoans and the engraving on his tombstone was translated to a Samoan song of grief[61] which is well known and still sung in Samoa.

Monuments and commemoration

A bronze relief memorial to Stevenson, designed by American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1904, is mounted in the Moray Aisle of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.[62] Another memorial in Edinburgh stands in West Princes Street Gardens below Edinburgh Castle; it is a simple upright stone inscribed with "RLS - A Man of Letters 1850 -1894" by sculptor Iain Hamilton Finlay in 1987.[63]

A garden was designed by the Bournemouth Corporation in 1957 as a memorial to Stevenson, on the site of his Westbourne house "Skerryvore" which he lived in from 1885 to 1887. A statue of the Skerryvore lighthouse is present on the site.

In 1994, to mark the 100th Anniversary of Stevenson's death, the Royal Bank of Scotland issued a series of commemorative £1 notes which featured a quill pen and Stevenson's signature on the obverse, and Stevenson's face on the reverse side. Alongside Stevenson's portrait are scenes from some of his books and his house in Western Samoa where he died in 1894.[64] Two million notes were issued, each with a serial number beginning "RLS". The first note to be printed was sent to Samoa in time for their centenary celebrations on 3 December 1994.[65]

Modern reception

Stevenson was a celebrity in his own time, but with the rise of modern literature after World War I, he was seen for much of the 20th century as a writer of the second class, relegated to children's literature and horror genres.[66] Condemned by literary figures such as Virginia Woolf (daughter of his early mentor Leslie Stephen) and her husband Leonard, he was gradually excluded from the canon of literature taught in schools.[66] His exclusion reached a height when in the 1973 2,000-page Oxford Anthology of English Literature Stevenson was entirely unmentioned; and the Norton Anthology of English Literature excluded him from 1968 to 2000 (1st–7th editions), including him only in the 8th edition (2006).[66] The late 20th century saw the start of a re-evaluation of Stevenson as an artist of great range and insight, a literary theorist, an essayist and social critic, a witness to the colonial history of the Pacific Islands, and a humanist.[66] Even as early as 1965 the pendulum had begun to swing: he was praised by Roger Lancelyn Green, one of the Oxford Inklings, as a writer of a consistently high level of "literary skill or sheer imaginative power" and a co-originator with H. Rider Haggard of the Age of the Story Tellers.[67] He is now being re-evaluated as a peer of authors such as Joseph Conrad (whom Stevenson influenced with his South Seas fiction) and Henry James, with new scholarly studies and organisations devoted to Stevenson.[66] No matter what the scholarly reception, Stevenson remains very popular around the world. According to the Index Translationum, Stevenson is ranked the 25th most translated author in the world, ahead of fellow nineteenth-century writers Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe.[68]



For a detailed Bibliography see The Robert Louis Stevenson website.[1] The website also maintains a complete list of thousands of derivative works in film, music, stage, audio, comics, etc.[2]


Short story collections

Short stories

List of short stories sorted chronologically. Note: does not include collaborations with Fanny found in More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter.

Title Date Collection Notes
"A Lodging for the Night" 1877 New Arabian Nights Stevenson's first published fiction when he was 27 years old.
"The Sire De Malétroits Door" 1877 New Arabian Nights
"An Old Song" 1877 Uncollected
"Edifying Letters of the Rutherford Family" 1877 Uncollected
"Later-day Arabian Nights" 1878 New Arabian Nights Seven interconnected stories in two cycles: The Suicide Club (3 stories) and The Rajah's Diamond (4 stories).
"Providence and the Guitar" 1878 New Arabian Nights
"The Pavilion on the Links" 1880 New Arabian Nights Told in 9 mini-chapters. Conan Doyle in 1890 called it the first English short story.
"The Story of a Lie" 1882 Uncollected
"The Merry Men" 1882 The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables
"The Body Snatcher" 1884 Uncollected First published in the Christmas 1884 edition of the Pall Mall Gazette.
"Markheim" 1885 The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1886 Uncollected Variably referred to as a short story or novella, or more rarely, a short novel.[3]
"Will O' the Mill" 1887 The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables
"Thrawn Janet" 1887 The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables
"Olalla" 1887 The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables
"The Treasure of Franchard" 1887 The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables
"The Misadventures of John Nicholson: A Christmas Story" 1887 Uncollected
"The Bottle Imp" 1891 Island Nights' Entertainments
"The Beach of Falesá" 1892 Island Nights' Entertainments First published in the Illustrated London News in 1892
"The Isle of Voices" 1893 Island Nights' Entertainments

Other works

  • "Béranger, Pierre Jean de", article for the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1875–89)
  • Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes (1879)
  • Virginibus Puerisque, and Other Papers (1881)
  • Familiar Studies of Men and Books (1882)
  • Memories and Portraits (1887), a collection of essays.
  • Aes Triplex (1887)
  • Father Damien: an Open Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hyde of Honolulu (1890)
  • Vailima Letters (1895)
  • The New Lighthouse on the Dhu Heartach Rock, Argyllshire (1995). Based on an 1872 manuscript edited by R. G. Swearingen. California. Silverado Museum.
  • Sophia Scarlet (2008). Based on 1892 manuscript edited by Robert Hoskins. AUT Media (AUT University).


  • A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), written for children but also popular with their parents. Includes such favourites as "My Shadow" and "The Lamplighter". Often thought to represent a positive reflection of the author's sickly childhood.
  • Underwoods (1887), a collection of poetry written in both English and Scots.
  • Ticonderoga: A Legend of the West Highlands (1887). Based on a famous Scottish ghost story.
  • Ballads (1891)
  • Songs of Travel and Other Verses (1896)

Travel writing

  • An Inland Voyage (1878), travels with a friend in a "Rob Roy" canoe from Antwerp (Belgium) to Pontoise, just north of Paris.
  • Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879), two weeks' solo ramble (with Modestine as his beast of burden) in the mountains of Cévennes (south-central France), one of the first books to present hiking and camping as recreational activities. It tells of commissioning one of the first sleeping bags.
  • The Silverado Squatters (1883). An unconventional honeymoon trip to an abandoned mining camp in Napa Valley with his new wife Fanny and her son Lloyd. He presciently identifies the California wine industry as one to be reckoned with.
  • Across the Plains (written in 1879–80, published in 1892). Second leg of his journey, by train from New York to California (then picks up with The Silverado Squatters). Also includes other travel essays.
  • The Amateur Emigrant (written 1879–80, published 1895). An account of the first leg of his journey to California, by ship from Europe to New York. Andrew Noble (From the Clyde to California: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Emigrant Journey, 1985) considers it to be his finest work.
  • The Old and New Pacific Capitals (1882). An account of his stay in Monterey, California in August to December 1879. Never published separately. See, for example, James D. Hart, ed., From Scotland to Silverado, 1966.
  • Essays of Travel (London: Chatto & Windus, 1905)

Island literature

Although not well known, his island fiction and non-fiction is among the most valuable and collected of the 19th century body of work that addresses the Pacific area.

Non-fiction works on the Pacific

  • In the South Seas. A collection of Stevenson's articles and essays on his travels in the Pacific.
  • A Footnote to History, Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa (1892).

Musical compositions

Stevenson was an amateur composer who wrote songs typical of California in the 1880s, salon-type music, entertaining rather than serious. A flageolet player, Stevenson had studied harmony and simple counterpoint and knew such basic instrumental techniques as transposition. Some song titles include "Fanfare", "Tune for Flageolet", "Habanera", and "Quadrille". Robert Hughes in 1968 arranged a number of Stevenson's songs for chamber orchestra, which went on a tour of the Pacific Northwest in that year.

See also


  1. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson Bibliography
  2. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson Derivative Works
  3. ^ Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales, Robert Louis Stevenson. Oxford World's Classics.

Secondary literature

External links





Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Robert Louis Stevenson article)

From Wikiquote

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.

Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson (1850-11-131894-12-03) was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of Neo-romanticism in English literature.



Every man is his own doctor of divinity, in the last resort.
  • This is still the strangest thing in all man's travelling, that he should carry about with him incongruous memories.
  • There is no foreign land; it is the traveller [sic] only that is foreign, and now and again, by a flash of recollection, lights up the contrasts of the ear.
  • Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.
  • Every man is his own doctor of divinity, in the last resort.
    • An Inland Voyage (1878)
  • In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images, incapable of sleep or of continuous thought. The words, if the book be eloquent, should run thenceforward in our ears like the noise of breakers, and the story, if it be a story, repeat itself in a thousand coloured pictures to the eye.
In every part and corner of our life, to lose oneself is to be a gainer; to forget oneself is to be happy.
  • I am in the habit of looking not so much to the nature of a gift as to the spirit in which it is offered.
  • In every part and corner of our life, to lose oneself is to be a gainer; to forget oneself is to be happy.
    • Old Mortality (1884)
  • Am I no a bonny fighter?
Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits.
  • I have thus played the sedulous ape to Hazlitt, to Lamb, to Wordsworth, to Sir Thomas Browne, to Defoe, to Hawthorne, to Montaigne, to Baudelaire and to Obermann.
  • Not every man is so great a coward as he thinks he is — nor yet so good a Christian.
  • Nothing like a little judicious levity.
  • Do you know what the Governor of South Carolina said to the Governor of North Carolina? It's a long time between drinks, observed that powerful thinker.
    • The Wrong Box, ch. 8
  • So long as we love we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend.
  • Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind, spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.
    • Prayer, inscribed on the bronze memorial to Stevenson in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits.
    • Complete Works, vol. 26, Reflections and Remarks on Human Life, section 4

Aes Triplex (1878)

Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.
The Oxford Book of Essays ed. by John Gross (New York: Oxford, 1998) [Title is Latin for "triple brass," used by Horace]
  • Already and old man, he [Samuel Johnson] ventured on his Highland tour; and his heart, bound with triple brass, did not recoil before twenty-seven individual cups of tea.
    • 314
  • We do not go to cowards for tender dealing; there is nothing so cruel as panic; the man who has least fear for his own carcase, has most time to consider others.
    • 314
  • To be overwise is to ossify; and the scruple-monger ends by standing stockstill.
    • 314
  • It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste is like a miser. It is better to live and be done with it, then to die daily in the sick-room.
    • 315
  • By all means begin your folio; even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week.
    • 316
  • All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done good work, although they may die before they have the time to sign it. Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind. And even if death catch people, like an open pitfall, and in mid-career, laying out vast projects, and planning monstrous foundations, flushed with hope, and their mouths full of boastful language, they should be at once tripped up and silenced: is there not something brave and spirited in such a termination? and does not life go down with a better grace, foaming in full body over a precipice, than miserably straggling to an end in sandy deltas?
    • 316

Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers (1881)

Full text online
Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but principally by catchwords; and the little rift between the sexes is astonishingly widened by simply teaching one set of catchwords to the girls and another to the boys.
  • It seems as if marriage were the royal road through life, and realised, on the instant, what we have all dreamed on summer Sundays when the bells ring, or at night when we cannot sleep for the desire of living. They think it will sober and change them. Like those who join a brotherhood, they fancy it needs but an act to be out of the coil and clamour for ever. But this is a wile of the devil's. To the end, spring winds will sow disquietude, passing faces leave a regret behind them, and the whole world keep calling and calling in their ears. For marriage is like life in this — that it is a field of battle, and not a bed of roses.
    • Virginibus Puerisque, Ch. 1
Idleness, which is often becoming and even wise in the bachelor, begins to wear a different aspect when you have a wife to support.
  • Hope is the boy, a blind, headlong, pleasant fellow, good to chase swallows with the salt; Faith is the grave, experienced, yet smiling man. Hope lives on ignorance; open-eyed Faith is built upon a knowledge of our life, of the tyranny of circumstance and the frailty of human resolution. Hope looks for unqualified success; but Faith counts certainly on failure, and takes honourable defeat to be a form of victory. Hope is a kind old pagan; but Faith grew up in Christian days, and early learnt humility. In the one temper, a man is indignant that he cannot spring up in a clap to heights of elegance and virtue; in the other, out of a sense of his infirmities, he is filled with confidence because a year has come and gone, and he has still preserved some rags of honour. In the first, he expects an angel for a wife; in the last, he knows that she is like himself - erring, thoughtless, and untrue; but like himself also, filled with a struggling radiancy of better things, and adorned with ineffective qualities. You may safely go to school with hope; but ere you marry, should have learned the mingled lesson of the world: that dolls are stuffed with sawdust, and yet are excellent play-things; that hope and love address themselves to a perfection never realised, and yet, firmly held, become the salt and staff of life; that you yourself are compacted of infirmities, perfect, you might say, in imperfection, and yet you have a something in you lovable and worth preserving; and that, while the mass of mankind lies under this scurvy condemnation, you will scarce find one but, by some generous reading, will become to you a lesson, a model, and a noble spouse through life.
    • Virginibus Puerisque, Ch. 2
  • Times are changed with him who marries; there are no more by-path meadows, where you may innocently linger, but the road lies long and straight and dusty to the grave. Idleness, which is often becoming and even wise in the bachelor, begins to wear a different aspect when you have a wife to support.
    • Virginibus Puerisque, Ch. 2
  • Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but principally by catchwords; and the little rift between the sexes is astonishingly widened by simply teaching one set of catchwords to the girls and another to the boys.
    • Virginibus Puerisque, Ch. 2
Falling in love is the one illogical adventure, the one thing of which we are tempted to think as supernatural, in our trite and reasonable world.
  • Falling in love is the one illogical adventure, the one thing of which we are tempted to think as supernatural, in our trite and reasonable world. The effect is out of all proportion with the cause. Two persons, neither of them, it may be, very amiable or very beautiful, meet, speak a little, and look a little into each other's eyes. That has been done a dozen or so of times in the experience of either with no great result. But on this occasion all is different. They fall at once into that state in which another person becomes to us the very gist and centrepoint of God's creation, and demolishes our laborious theories with a smile; in which our ideas are so bound up with the one master-thought that even the trivial cares of our own person become so many acts of devotion, and the love of life itself is translated into a wish to remain in the same world with so precious and desirable a fellow-creature.
    • Virginibus Puerisque, Ch. 3
Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.
  • The cruelest lies are often told in silence. A man may have sat in a room for hours and not opened his teeth, and yet come out of that room a disloyal friend or a vile calumniator. And how many loves have perished because, from pride, or spite, or diffidence, or that unmanly shame which withholds a man from daring to betray emotion, a lover, at the critical point of the relation, has but hung his head and held his tongue?
    • Truth of Intercourse
  • There is a strong feeling in favour of cowardly and prudential proverbs. The sentiments of a man while he is full of ardour and hope are to be received, it is supposed, with some qualification. But when the same person has ignominiously failed and begins to eat up his words, he should be listened to like an oracle. Most of our pocket wisdom is conceived for the use of mediocre people, to discourage them from ambitious attempts, and generally console them in their mediocrity. And since mediocre people constitute the bulk of humanity, this is no doubt very properly so. But it does not follow that the one sort of proposition is any less true than the other, or that Icarus is not to be more praised, and perhaps more envied, than Mr. Samuel Budgett the Successful Merchant. The one is dead, to be sure, while the other is still in his counting-house counting out his money; and doubtless this is a consideration. But we have, on the other hand, some bold and magnanimous sayings common to high races and natures, which set forth the advantage of the losing side, and proclaim it better to be a dead lion than a living dog. It is difficult to fancy how the mediocrities reconcile such sayings with their proverbs. According to the latter, every lad who goes to sea is an egregious ass; never to forget your umbrella through a long life would seem a higher and wiser flight of achievement than to go smiling to the stake; and so long as you are a bit of a coward and inflexible in money matters, you fulfil the whole duty of man.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
  • The time would fail me if I were to recite all the big names in history whose exploits are perfectly irrational and even shocking to the business mind. The incongruity is speaking; and I imagine it must engender among the mediocrities a very peculiar attitude, towards the nobler and showier sides of national life.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
The true wisdom is to be always seasonable, and to change with a good grace in changing circumstances.
  • I shall doubtless outlive some troublesome desires; but I am in no hurry about that; nor, when the time comes, shall I plume myself on the immunity just in the same way, I do not greatly pride myself on having outlived my belief in the fairy tales of Socialism. Old people have faults of their own; they tend to become cowardly, niggardly, and suspicious. Whether from the growth of experience or the decline of animal heat, I see that age leads to these and certain other faults; and it follows, of course, that while in one sense I hope I am journeying towards the truth, in another I am indubitably posting towards these forms and sources of error.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
  • To hold the same views at forty as we held at twenty is to have been stupefied for a score of years, and take rank, not as a prophet, but as an unteachable brat, well birched and none the wiser. It is as if a ship captain should sail to India from the Port of London; and having brought a chart of the Thames on deck at his first setting out, should obstinately use no other for the whole voyage.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
  • Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
  • The true wisdom is to be always seasonable, and to change with a good grace in changing circumstances. To love playthings well as a child, to lead an adventurous and honourable youth, and to settle when the time arrives, into a green and smiling age, is to be a good artist in life and deserve well of yourself and your neighbour.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
For God’s sake give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself!
  • All error, not merely verbal, is a strong way of stating that the current truth is incomplete. The follies of youth have a basis in sound reason, just as much as the embarrassing questions put by babes and sucklings. Their most antisocial acts indicate the defects of our society. When the torrent sweeps the man against a boulder, you must expect him to scream, and you need not be surprised if the scream is sometimes a theory. Shelley, chafing at the Church of England, discovered the cure of all evils in universal atheism. Generous lads irritated at the injustices of society, see nothing for it but the abolishment of everything and Kingdom Come of anarchy. Shelley was a young fool; so are these cocksparrow revolutionaries. But it is better to be a fool than to be dead. It is better to emit a scream in the shape of a theory than to be entirely insensible to the jars and incongruities of life and take everything as it comes in a forlorn stupidity. Some people swallow the universe like a pill; they travel on through the world, like smiling images pushed from behind. For God’s sake give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself! As for the others, the irony of facts shall take it out of their hands, and make fools of them in downright earnest, ere the farce be over. There shall be such a mopping and a mowing at the last day, and such blushing and confusion of countenance for all those who have been wise in their own esteem, and have not learnt the rough lessons that youth hands on to age. If we are indeed here to perfect and complete our own natures, and grow larger, stronger, and more sympathetic against some nobler career in the future, we had all best bestir ourselves to the utmost while we have the time. To equip a dull, respectable person with wings would be but to make a parody of an angel.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.
  • Age may have one side, but assuredly Youth has the other. There is nothing more certain than that both are right, except perhaps that both are wrong. Let them agree to differ; for who knows but what agreeing to differ may not be a form of agreement rather than a form of difference?
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
  • It is as natural and as right for a young man to be imprudent and exaggerated, to live in swoops and circles, and beat about his cage like any other wild thing newly captured, as it is for old men to turn gray, or mothers to love their offspring, or heroes to die for something worthier than their lives.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
  • I suppose it is written that any one who sets up for a bit of a philosopher, must contradict himself to his very face. For here have I fairly talked myself into thinking that we have the whole thing before us at last; that there is no answer to the mystery, except that there are as many as you please; that there is no centre to the maze because, like the famous sphere, its centre is everywhere; and that agreeing to differ with every ceremony of politeness, is the only “one undisturbed song of pure concent” to which we are ever likely to lend our musical voices.
    • Crabbed Age and Youth
  • It is a sore thing to have laboured along and scaled the arduous hilltops, and when all is done, find humanity indifferent to your achievement. Hence physicists condemn the unphysical; financiers have only a superficial toleration for those who know little of stocks; literary persons despise the unlettered; and people of all pursuits combine to disparage those who have none.
    But though this is one difficulty of the subject, it is not the greatest. You could not be put in prison for speaking against industry, but you can be sent to Coventry for speaking like a fool. The greatest difficulty with most subjects is to do them well; therefore, please to remember this is an apology. It is certain that much may be judiciously argued in favour of diligence; only there is something to be said against it, and that is what, on the present occasion, I have to say.
    • An Apology for Idlers
  • Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.
    • An Apology for Idlers
There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.
  • Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.
    • An Apology for Idlers
  • There is certainly some chill and arid knowledge to be found upon the summits of formal and laborious science; but it is all round about you, and for the trouble of looking, that you will acquire the warm and palpitating facts of life.
    • An Apology for Idlers
  • There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.
    • An Apology for Idlers
  • A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a five-pound note. He or she is a radiating focus of goodwill; and their entrance into a room is as though another candle had been lighted. We need not care whether they could prove the forty-seventh proposition; they do a better thing than that, they practically demonstrate the great Theorem of the Liveableness of Life.
    • An Apology for Idlers
  • A faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity.
    • An Apology for Idlers
  • To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.
    • El Dorado

Treasure Island (1883)

That's a summons, mate.
  • Fifteen men on the dead man's chest —
    Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

    Drink and the devil had done for the rest —
    Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
    • Ch. 1, The Old Sea-dog at the Admiral Benbow
  • Doctors is all swabs...and that doctor there, why, what do he know about seafaring men? I been in places hot as pitch, and mates dropping round with Yellow Jack, and the blessed land a-heaving like the sea with earthquakes — what do the doctor know of lands like that? — and I lived on rum, I tell you.
    • Ch. 3, The Black Spot
  • "What is the Black Spot, Captain?" "That's a summons, mate."
    • Ch. 3
  • Pieces of eight, pieces of eight, pieces of eight!
    • Ch. 10, The Voyage
  • Many's a long night I've dreamed of cheese — toasted mostly.
    • Ch. 15, The Man of the Island
  • Them that die will be the lucky ones!
    • Ch. 20, Silver's Embassy

A Child's Garden of Verses (1885)

  • In winter I get up at night
    And dress by yellow candle-light.
    In summer quite the other way,
    I have to go to bed by day.
    • Bed in Summer, st. 1
  • A child should always say what's true
    And speak when he is spoken to,
    And behave mannerly at table;
    At least as far as he is able.
    • Whole Duty of Children
  • Whenever the moon and stars are set,
    Whenever the wind is high,
    All night long in the dark and wet,
    A man goes riding by.
    Late in the night when the fires are out,
    Why does he gallop and gallop about?
    • Windy Nights, st. 1
  • I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
    And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
    He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
    And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
    • My Shadow, st. 1
  • The friendly cow all red and white,
    I love with all my heart:
    She gives me cream with all her might,
    To eat with apple-tart.
    • The Cow, st. 1
  • The world is so full of a number of things,
    I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.
    • Happy Thought
  • Children, you are very little,
    And your bones are very brittle.
    • Good and Bad Children, st. 1

Underwoods (1887)

Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
  • Of all my verse, like not a single line;
    But like my title, for it is not mine.
    That title from a better man I stole:
    Ah, how much better, had I stol'n the whole!
    • Title page poem
  • Let first the onion flourish there,
    Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,
    Wine-scented and poetic soul
    Of the capacious salad bowl.
    • Bk. I, To a Gardener
  • Dear Andrew, with the brindled hair
    Who glory to have thrown in air,
    High over arm, the trembling reed,
    By Ale and Kail, by Till and Tweed.
    • Bk. I, To Andrew Lang
  • Under the wide and starry sky,
    Dig the grave and let me lie.
    Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.

    This be the verse you grave for me:
    Here he lies where he longed to be;
    Home is the sailor, home from sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.
    • Bk. I, Requiem (the final sentence was used on Stevenson's Gravestone)
  • My body which my dungeon is,
    And yet my parks and palaces: —
    Which is so great that there I go
    All the day long to and fro.
    • Pt. I, My Body Which My Dungeon Is
  • There's just ae thing I cannae bear,
    An' that's my conscience.
    • Bk. II, In Scots, My Conscience

Songs of Travel and Other Verses (1896)

The untented Kosmos my abode,
I pass, a wilful stranger:
My mistress still the open road
And the bright eyes of danger.
Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them.
  • Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
    Nor a friend to know me;
    All I ask, the heaven above
    And the road below me.
    • No. I, The Vagabond, st. 4
  • The untented Kosmos my abode,
    I pass, a wilful stranger:
    My mistress still the open road
    And the bright eyes of danger.
    • No. II, Youth and Love - I, st. 3
  • I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
    Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
    • No. XI, Romance, st. 1
  • Bright is the ring of words
    When the right man rings them.
    • No. XIV
  • In the highlands, in the country places,
    Where the old plain men have rosy faces,
    And the young fair maidens
    Quiet eyes.
    • No. XV
  • God, if this were enough,
    That I see things bare to the buff.
    • No. XXV, If This Were Faith
  • Trusty, dusky, vivid, true,
    With eyes of gold and bramble-dew,
    Steel-true and blade-straight,
    The great artificer
    Made my mate.
    • No. XXVI, My Wife
  • Be it granted me to behold you again in dying,
    Hills of home!
    • No. XLV, S.R. Crockett

Across the Plains (1892)

The true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets: to find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.
If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong. I do not say "give them up," for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.
  • The observer (poor soul, with his documents!) is all abroad. For to look at the man is but to court deception. We shall see the trunk from which he draws his nourishment; but he himself is above and abroad in the green dome of foliage, hummed through by winds and nested in by nightingales. And the true realism were that of the poets, to climb up after him like a squirrel, and catch some glimpse of the heaven for which he lives. And, the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets: to find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all. In the joy of the actors lies the sense of any action.
    • Ch. VII, The Lantern-Bearers
  • We should wipe two words from our vocabulary: gratitude and charity. In real life, help is given out of friendship, or it is not valued; it is received from the hand of friendship, or it is resented.
    • Ch. IX, Beggars
  • To be honest, to be kind — to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends, but these without capitulation — above all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with himself — here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy. He has an ambitious soul who would ask more; he has a hopeful spirit who should look in such an enterprise to be successful. There is indeed one element in human destiny that not blindness itself can controvert: whatever else we are intended to do, we are not intended to succeed; failure is the fate allotted.
    • Ch. XII, A Christmas Sermon
  • Gentleness and cheerfulness, these come before all morality; they are the perfect duties.
    • Ch. XII, A Christmas Sermon
  • If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong. I do not say "give them up," for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.
    • Ch. XII, A Christmas Sermon
  • Here lies one who meant well, tried a little, failed much: — surely that may be his epitaph of which he need not be ashamed.
    • Ch. XII, A Christmas Sermon

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

←Indexes: Pirates
Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island is an adventure novel narrating a tale of "buccaneers and buried gold". First published as a book in 1883, it was originally serialised in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881-82 under the title "The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island".

Traditionally considered a coming of age story, it is an adventure tale of superb atmosphere, character and action, and also a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality—as seen in Long John Silver—unusual for children's literature then and now. It is one of the most frequently dramatised of all novels, and its influence on popular lore about pirates can not be overestimated.Excerpted from Treasure Island on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

1911 book cover

Table of Contents


Gallery of Full Illustrations

Gallery of N.C. Wyeth illustrations

Simple English

edition of Treasure Island.]]

Treasure Island is an 1883 novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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