Book Shelf THE STACKS

Treasure

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some Scottish shortbread
for the birthday of an swash-buckling adventure writer.
** Linger to consider the lingering rhymes of beloved verses.
** Savor a last ½ cup over a story about finding a novel within a child’s treasure map.
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STT-57

First Sip:

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

– from The Swing
by
Robert Louis Stevenson

Elle at age 5
Nashville, Tennessee

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Slice of Cake:

When he was young, his parents took him on tours of lighthouses.
As an adult, he created the characters Long John Silver, Billy Bones,
Dr Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde
.
At the end of his life, he reportedly owned the only fireplace on the island of Samoa…

Here are a few things I learned this week
about Robert Louis Stevenson.


Parental Expectations

The stone, with the white and the yellow and grey,
we discovered I cannot tell HOW far away;
And I carried it back although weary and cold,
for though father denies it, I’m sure it is gold.

– from My Treasures
by
Robert Louis Stevenson

The family business revolved around lighthouses.
His father, two uncles, plus his great grandfather all worked as civil engineers who designed lighthouses.

But from a very young age, Stevenson knew what he wanted to be—and it wasn’t an engineer.
He wanted to be a writer.

All through my boyhood and youth,
I was known and pointed out for the pattern of an idler;
and yet I was always busy on my own private end,
which was to learn to write…

Robert Louis Stevenson1

His formal education was sporadic. Throughout childhood, Robert Louis Stevenson was prone to coughs and fevers and he spent many winters extremely sick.

And he was often uninterested in his classes. He said that while at university he devised “an extensive and highly rational system of truantry.” 1

…I kept always two books in my pocket,
one to read, one to write in.
As I walked, my mind was busy
fitting what I saw with appropriate words;
when I sat by the roadside, I would either read,
or a pencil and a penny version-book would be in my hand,
to note down the features of the scene
or commemorate some halting stanzas.

Robert Louis Stevenson1

But his father wanted him to join the family business—
Be an engineer. Design lighthouses.
His mother worked out a compromise:
Become a lawyer.

So, in 1875, Louis earned a law degree from the University of Edinburgh and he was even called to the bar (“passed advocate” as it was called). 2

Robert Louis Stevenson
as barrister

Robert Louis Stevenson became a lawyer.
But he never practiced law.


Travel

And I was going to sea myself; to sea in a schooner,
with a piping boatswain, and pig-tailed singing seamen;
to sea, bound for an unknown island, and to
seek for buried treasure.

– from Treasure Island
by
Robert Louis Stevenson
chapter 7

Robert Louis Stevenson travelled extensively as an adult—
partly for the adventure of it,
and partly to find a warmer climate for his health.
He often wrote about the places he visited.

He took a canoe trip from Antwerp to Northern France—and then wrote An Inland Voyage (1878);
He took a walking tour around the south of France—and then wrote Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879);
He sailed to America, took a train trip from New York to San Francisco, and spent a summer at an abandoned mining camp in Napa Valley—and then wrote The Silverado Squatters (1883).

Robert Louis Stevenson
National Portrait Gallery, London

Success

When Robert Louis Stevenson returned to Scotland, he brought home a new wife named Fanny and her two children, Belle and Lloyd.

Once there, he began writing what would became his most famous works:
Treasure Island (1883)
A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and
Kidnapped (1886).

These books were immediately successful, profitable, and praised by critics.

He set a mold for adventure writing
which still lasts today…
There are few popular representations of pirates
that do not carry shadows of Long John Silver
and Treasure Island.

Patricia Monahan 6

Buoyed by this success, Stevenson and Fanny began to travel again. They sailed to the South Pacific and fell in love with the islands there.

A drawing of
Robert Louis Stevenson
for a Guinness Beer ad
in The Illustrated London News
20 August 1955

After spending time on many islands, they chose to settle down in Samoa.
Samoa had the perfect climate for Robert’s health, they got along well with the Samoan people, and, because the island had an excellent postal service, Robert was able to continue to publish his work back in England—including three novels he co-wrote with his stepson, Lloyd.

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** Happy 170th Birthday **
Robert Louis Stevenson

– born on November 13, 1850
in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Linger Awhile:

Rhyme… adds a musical element to the poem,
and creates a feeling… of pieces fitting together…
The rhyme echoes in the reader’s mind afterward,

like a melody.
– William Victor7

I’ve been thinking this week about poetry
especially older poetry—and how rhyming a poem
makes it easier to memorize,
and how memorizing a poem makes it easier to treasure.

If you possess a poem by memory
then it begins to possess you…
You learn how to be alone with it,
you learn it more and more deeply.
It alters you.

– Harold Bloom

Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry is full of rhyming lines that people have treasured and memorized
for over a century.

I asked some friends for their favorite poems from
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
Here’s what they said:

Katherine:
The first verse I learned to recite when I was three years old was Bed in Summer.

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Jeff:
My dad used to recite poems to me at bedtime from A Child’s Garden of Verse.
One of his favorites was A Time to Rise.

A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped upon my window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said:
“Ain’t you ‘shamed, you sleepy-head!”

Kelly:
I love that one, too!
Whenever anyone claims that ain’t
is not a proper English word, I always think:
“Are you going to argue with Robert Louis Stevenson?”

Patricia:
Stevenson captures a child’s voice so well.
“The sailor sings of ropes and things” or
“And does it not seem hard to you…”

That’s the genius of it: a child’s cadences and a child’s turn of phrase,
with an adults wisdom woven through.

A big favorite at our preschool was Windy Nights.
The kids called it “The Scary One.”

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?

Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,

By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.

Katherine:
Another of my favorites is My Bed is a Boat,
especially the line about ‘prudent sailors’ and ‘wedding cake’

At night I go on board and say
Good-night to all my friends on shore;
I shut my eyes and sail away
And see and hear no more.

And sometimes things to bed I take,
As prudent sailors have to do;
Perhaps a slice of wedding-cake,
Perhaps a toy or two.


All night across the dark we steer;
But when the day returns at last,
Safe in my room beside the pier,
I find my vessel fast.

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“Half Cup More”

Fannie and Louis
drawn by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Only amusements are drawing and fishing.”

Robert Louis Stevenson was famous for writing about adventures and going on adventures.

But his first truly successful book started on a rainy day at home in Scotland.

Drawing was a common pastime in Stevenson’s family, and one day his 12-year-old stepson, Lloyd, brought him a map he’d drawn.  Stevenson pointed to a spot and asked Lloyd if he thought treasure might be buried there? Lloyd immediately asked for a story to go with his map.3

What Stevenson came up with became Treasure Island, which was first serialized in the children’s magazine Young Folks from October 1881 to January 1882, before being published in book form in 1883.4

Lloyd grew up to be a writer and co-wrote three novels with his step-father, Robert:
The Ebb-Tide (1894);
The Wrecker (1892), which was used as the basis of a 1957 tv episode of James Garner’s Maverick; and
The Wrong Box (1889), which was turned into a movie in 1966 starring Michael Caine and Peter Sellers.

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Take-Away Box

A walking tour should be gone upon alone,

because freedom is of the essence;
because you should be able to stop and go on,

and follow this way or that,
as the freak takes you…


And then you must be open to all impressions,
and let your thoughts take colour
from what you see.

You should be as a pipe

for any wind to play upon.

– from Walking Tours
an essay by
Robert Louis Stevenson5

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Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…

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———————————-
notes & footnotes

1.
Robert Louis Stevenson:
a review by Bradford Torrey
The Atlantic Monthly
June 1902 (!)
https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/classrev/rlsteve.htm

2.
The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
1490 Library Lane
St. Helena, CA

https://stevensonmuseum.org/robert-louis-stevenson/the-life/

3.
Treasure Island: The Untold Story
by John Amrhein
2011
https://www.treasureislandtheuntoldstory.com/robert-louis-stevenson.htm

4
Editors of Biography.com
Original article: Nov 24, 2014
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
A&E Television Networks
https://www.biography.com/writer/robert-louis-stevenson#:~:text=The%20idea%20for%20Treasure%20Island,October%201881%20to%20January%201882.

5.
I read the essay
“Walking Tours” by Robert Louis Stevenson
in a slip-in-your-pocket size hardback book
called
‘Joys of the Road’
copyright 1923
(I don’t remember where this book came from
but it’s been on my poetry shelf for decades.)

6.
Talking History: Searching for Buried Treasure
November 16, 2013
broadcast on Newstalk Radio, Dublin, Ireland
https://www.newstalk.com/talking-history/searching-for-buried-treasure-715300

7.
Rhyme Schemes
by William Victor, S.L.
2009-2020
https://www.creative-writing-now.com/

STT-57

Please note:
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If you’d rather they stay between us, just let me know.

sky-t-tray.us
© Kelly J Hardesty 2022

1 thought on “Treasure”

  1. Oh! I totally expected this to have a little section on the discovery by Kelly & Patricia in August of 2019 that our Uncle Pat (married to our mom’s sister Jean and father/co-parent to numerous lovely cousins) is descended from a line of lighthouse keepers. We had the privilege of enjoying a private tour of the historic lighthouse at Eagle Harbor, Michigan, which included a wall of portraits of lighthouse keepers past, several of whom were relatives-in-law, multiple generations removed.

    Also, the Windy Nights poem, the hands-down favorite of two generations of San Francisco Little Bears, is commonly known as “The Scary One”, and includes child-participation (sound effects mimicking the winds “crying aloud” — “wooo -oo-ooh!”, and the ships which are “tossed as sea” — “shhh-sh, shhh-sh, shhh-sh!!”. But the most dramatic sound effect is done by the teacher, while reciting the poem in a hushed and intensely vibrant tone, when we arrive at the penultimate line “by at the gallop he goes, and then …”, at which point the teacher loudly “gallops” their fingers over a table/cabinet/wall, or any close-by hard surface that affords a thundering, gallop-worthy sound. Then a pregnant pause, before delivering, in a chilling tone: “Byyyyy he comes BACK … at the gallop … again”.

    This is *always* followed by cries of “Read it again! Again!”

    With love,
    Patricia

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