Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Robert Louis Stevenson's Birthplace

The other morning I went off in search of the house where Robert Louis Stevenson was born. I found it easily, just outside the east gate of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden: 8 Howard Place.

Appropriately enough, I also found a row of second hand bookshops directly across the road. Aurora Books had a particularly good selection of Scottish books and I was thrilled to acquire reasonably priced copies of two of RLS’s essay collections there: Virginibus Puerisque and Memories and Portraits.

Claire Harman’s biography of RLS has challenged many of my preconceptions about the man and his work. Admittedly my acquaintance with his work has until now been rather selective. But I think that given his range (religious essays, travelogues, boy’s adventure stories, gothic tales, Scots poems etc) and the shifts that occurred in his ideas about literature and its aims as he moved from one genre to another, he’s a writer who is particularly vulnerable to misconceptions and misunderstanding.

I’ve resolved to read much of the work that I hadn’t read before, starting with his essays and letters in which he often wrote candidly about his aesthetic philosophy and his writing practice. Thanks to my Aurora Books finds, I'm armed to begin.


Ella said...

How cool! Everywhere I've lived has had a Stevenson connection. I guess maybe my next move should be to Edinburgh? Or Samoa?

Kate S. said...

He certainly did get around. Here's a quotation from his Travels With a Donkey that I copied down in the Writers Museum this morning: "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move..."