Robert Louis Stevenson As An Essayist

Stevenson was a professional writer, in the broadest sense of that term. It is true that, until took the United States by storm in 1887, he could not survive economically without his father’s help.

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It also means that technique and “manner” will be foremost; his work will manifest a certain “finish” or “polish.” In his nonfiction work, this polish means that his serious themes will be very easy to digest.

In his fiction and poetry, it means that his serious themes will hardly be noticed. He survives, but in the popular imagination, not in the critical pantheon.

First published in 1881 (but as a book in 1883), it is a gripping coming-of-age tale for main character Jim Hawkins.

The voyage that transforms Jim takes him away from his calm country life in England, to the high seas aboard the ship Hispanola and to the unknown island where the pirate Captain Flint buried his treasure.

Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17—, and go back to the time when my father kept the “Admiral Benbow” inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut, first took up his lodging under our roof.

A plain beginning, except that the startling phrases “there is still treasure not yet lifted” and “with the sabre cut” provide a brief flash of the vividly colored world into which the reader is about to be seduced.

The novel is narrated in the first person in a seemingly transparent, “artless” manner.

A plain person is trying to record the facts of his experience as precisely and completely as he can: Squire Trelawney, Dr.

Stevenson’s first novel was magazine in the fall and winter of 1881-1882 and first published in book form in 1883.

Evident in this novel are the techniques and themes that dominate Stevenson’s fiction.


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