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During his life Robert Louis Stevenson was celebrated as an author in many different fields of literature. His books - most famously "Treasure Island", and "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" - continue to be read throughout the world. After his death he gained an added reputation as one of our finest letter-writers and in 1994-5, to critical acclaim, Yale University Press published the eight-volume collected edition of letters edited by Ernest Mehew and Bradford A. Booth. Now Ernest Mehew has made selection from a total of nearly 2800 letters to give the flavour of Stevenson's life and character in one volume. This selection prints, in whole or in part, 317 letters that are representative of each period of Stevenson's mature life. we can follow him through his Edinburgh youth and troubled relationship with his parents, his love for a beautiful, married older woman, trips to the Continent in a search for better health and a reckless journey to North America in pursuit of the woman who would become his wife. Always the spirited adventurer, Stevenson's travels eventually took him to the islands of the South Seas where he settled in Samoa, entering into tropical life and the local political scene (at the time verging on civil war) with characteristic fervour. Of the many biographies of Stevenson that exist, none tells the story of his life better than Stevenson's own correspondence. The letters show his zest for life (in the face of atrocious ill-health), his literary tastes, struggles with his own writing and, above all, his love for and relations with his friends. Letters to his mentor Sidney Colvin, fellow writers Henry James and J.M. Barrie, and to his acquantainces kept up from student days show the meaning such friendships held for Stevenson. The correspondence displays his many different sides - at times joking and playful with letters full of world-play, at others emotional and serious.
Yale University Press
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