Robert Louis Stevenson: A Memorial HTML version

Lapses And Errors In Criticism
NOTHING could perhaps be more wearisome than to travel o'er the wide sandy area of
Stevenson criticism and commentary, and expose the many and sad and grotesque errors
that meet one there. Mr Baildon's slip is innocent, compared with many when he says (p.
nothing of the kind; it is on plain record in print, even in the pages of the EDINBURGH
EDITION, that Mr James Henderson would not have the title THE SEA-COOK, as he
did not like it, and insisted on its being TREASURE ISLAND. To him, therefore, the
vastly better title is due. Mr Henley was in doubt if Mr Henderson was still alive when he
wrote the brilliant and elevated article on "Some Novels" in the NORTH AMERICAN,
and as a certain dark bird killed Cock Robin, so he killed off Dr Japp, and not to be
outdone, got in an ideal "Colonel" JACK; so Mr Baildon there follows Henley, unaware
that Mr Henderson did not like THE SEA-COOK, and was still alive, and that a certain
Jack in the fatal NORTH AMERICAN has Japp's credit.
Mr Baildon's words are:
"This was the famous book of adventure, TREASURE ISLAND, appearing first as THE
SEA-COOK in a boy's paper, where it made no great stir. But, on its publication in
volume form, with the vastly better title, the book at once 'boomed,' as the phrase goes, to
an extent then, in 1882, almost unprecedented. The secret of its immense success may
almost be expressed in a phrase by saying that it is a book like GULLIVER'S TRAVELS,
THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, and ROBINSON CRUSOE itself for all ages - boys, men,
and women."
Which just shows how far lapse as to a fact may lead to critical misreadings also.
Mr Hammerton sometimes lets good folks say in his pages, without correction, what is
certainly not correct. Thus at one place we are told that Stevenson was only known as
Louis in print, whereas that was the only name by which he was known in his own
family. Then Mr Gosse, at p. 34, is allowed to write:
"Professor Blackie was among them on the steamer from the Hebrides, a famous figure
that calls for no description, and a voluble shaggy man, clad in homespun, with
spectacles forward upon his nose, who it was whispered to us, was Mr Sam Bough, the
Scottish Academician, A WATER-COLOUR PAINTER OF SOME REPUTE, who was
to die in 1878."
Mr Sam Bough WAS "a water-colour painter of some repute," but a painter in oils of yet
greater repute - a man of rare strength, resource, and facility - never, perhaps, wholly
escaping from some traces of his early experiences in scene-painting, but a true genius in
his art. Ah, well I remember him, though an older man, yet youthful in the band of young
Scotch artists among whom as a youngster I was privileged to move in Edinburgh -
Pettie, Chalmers, M'Whirter, Peter Graham, MacTaggart, MacDonald, John Burr, and