Robert Louis Stevenson

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When one reads the nonfiction work of Robert Louis Stevenson along with the novels and short stories, a more complete portrait emerges of the author than that of the romantic vagabond one usually associates with his best-known fiction. The Stevenson of the nonfiction prose is a writer involved in the issues of his craft, his milieu, and his soul. Moreover, one can see the record of his maturation in critical essays, political tracts, biographies, and letters to family and friends. What Stevenson lacks, especially for the tastes of this age, is specificity and expertise: he has not the depth of such writers as John Ruskin, Walter Pater, or William Morris. But he was a shrewd observer of humankind, and his essays reveal his lively and…show more content…
He pretends to analyze marriage in "Virginibus Puerisque" and the relationship between old and young in "Crabbed Age and Youth"; he mounts a pseudophilosophical defense of sloth in "An Apology for Idlers" and humorously advocates the old method of illuminating cities in "A Plea for Gas Lamps." In "Child's Play," "El Dorado," and "Pan's Pipes," the author seems more entranced with the flight of his own rhetoric than he does with the topic at hand. There is a more serious side to the collection as well: in "Aes Triplex" and "Ordered South" Stevenson deals with his physical frailty and the trips away from Scotland's rugged winters he had taken for his health. As a boy, Stevenson had been to the Continent several times, and he grew up to love purposeless, rambling tours across Europe. In An Inland Voyage (1878), written from a journal he had kept of a trip down the French river Oisé with his friend Walter Simpson, Stevenson glories in the slow pace of his vagabond life traveling through France. The young author expresses pleasure at having been suspected of being a Prussian spy by the French gendarmes and pride at having endured hunger, cold, and misery on a journey that, from Stevenson's account, sounds like one of the oddest and most aimless ever undertaken. The publication of An Inland Voyage was significant: it was his first full-length book and was reviewed kindly by the
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