Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894)
Author:
Smith, Sherwood
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Scottish novelist, essayist, poet, Stevenson became acquainted with Leaves of Grass while a student in his native Edinburgh. He was soon reading, reciting, and preaching Whitman to his friends, and in 1871 began an essay which appeared as "The Gospel According to Walt Whitman" in the New Quarterly Magazine, London, October 1878, and as "Walt Whitman" in Familiar Studies of Men and Books, 1882. Stevenson presented a curious mixture of praise and censure, toning down much of his rapturous early drafts. In his preface to Familiar Studies, he half apologized for his essay as an effort to explain Whitman "credibly to Mrs. Grundy" (xvii). Though the essay received favorable critical comment, Whitman did not care for it or for Stevenson's public image or his writings. Stevenson, however, remained an ardent admirer of Whitman, praising him in an article, "Books Which Have Influenced Me," as of critical importance in his life and work (The British Weekly, 13 May 1887). He took Leaves of Grass with him to Samoa, where he often read aloud "Song of the Open Road." Stevenson was among the contributors to the fund raised for Whitman by W.M. Rossetti in 1885.

Bibliography

Caldwell, Elsie Nobel. Last Witness for Robert Louis Stevenson. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1960.

Maxiner, Paul, ed. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Familiar Studies of Men and Books. 1882. London: Chatto and Windus, 1924.

Swearingen, Roger G. The Prose Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson: A Guide. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980.


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