Victorian culture

1879-1880: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Early Transatlantic Network

In the eighth of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).

In previous posts I have discussed Stevenson’s early years of professional authorship, demonstrating his initial reliance on Sidney Colvin before his growing knowledge, confidence and connections in the literary industry enabled him to secure many of his own publishing deals. Once in America, with the vastness of the Atlantic separating him from the literary world of London, he once again became reliant on a few core members of his network. (more…)

‘The Clyde to California’: Robert Louis Stevenson in America

In the seventh of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).

In 1879, Stevenson boarded a steamship to New York in pursuit of a married woman, who, less than a year later, would become his wife. Despite spanning little more than a year, this period of Stevenson’s life has been seen by many commentators as a watershed moment, for both his literary career and his sense of himself in the world. This life-altering journey began on 6 August 1879 in St Pancras Station. From here, Stevenson took a night train to Glasgow, and the next day left the Clyde for New York on the steamship the Devonia. He was following Fanny Osbourne, who had returned to California and her husband a year before. (more…)

‘Out of my country and myself I go’: Stevenson and Literary Geography

In the sixth of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).

Edward Said writes that ‘none of us is outside or beyond geography; none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography’. The life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson is, perhaps more than most, intimately bound up with his geography. From the ambivalent relationship with his home town of Edinburgh, to his exploration of the conditions and effects of emigration in the New World, to his depictions of transculturation in the contact zones of the Pacific, issues of place and space, and their relation to identity, permeate both his biography and his writing. (more…)

Stevenson, the Savile Club and its Social Network

In the fifth of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a first-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).

In June 1874, Robert Louis Stevenson was elected as a member of the Savile Club, a prestigious gentleman’s club that welcomed promising young authors, as well as many members already firmly established in the London literary circle. Among these were Sidney Colvin (who proposed Stevenson’s election) and Andrew Lang, as well as editors like Leslie Stephen, John Morely and Charles Appleton. His acceptance into the Savile Club was the apex of the first few years of Stevenson’s literary career, immersing him in a literary milieu that presented new and exciting opportunities. (more…)

‘Like continuing another man’s book’: Transitory Identity in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Early Writing

In the fourth of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a first-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).

In my most recent post on this blog I explored Robert Louis Stevenson’s complex relationship with his mentor and literary advisor Sidney Colvin, focusing on the impact he had on the young author’s early career. Although only five years Stevenson’s senior, Colvin was already well established within the literary environment of London when the two men met, and put his contacts and connections at Stevenson’s disposal. Yet it was not simply literary contacts that Colvin supplied: he also offered his encouragement, enthusiasm, and, at times, stern expectations at this crucial moment of the author’s life. Stevenson acknowledges the impact of these less quantifiable acts of assistance, even claiming that Colvin, along with Frances Sitwell, has the ability to alter his own personality. Shortly after his stay at Cockfield Rectory and his first meeting with Colvin, Stevenson writes to Sitwell from Edinburgh that

the stimulus of your approval and Colvin’s has died a good deal off, and I find myself face to face with the weak, inefficacious personality that I knew before (Letters 1, 307)

(more…)