Thursday, February 02, 2017

Stylish, heartfelt Stevenson

Stevenson's tomb on Mount Vaea, Western Samoa
Clip from a gorgeous letter by Robert Louis Stevenson: Lastly we come to those vocations which are at once decisive and precise; to the men who are born with the love of pigments, the passion of drawing, the gift of music, or the impulse to create with words, just as other and perhaps the same men are born with the love of hunting, or the sea, or horses, or the turning-lathe. These are predestined; if a man love the labour of any trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him. He may have the general vocation too: he may have a taste for all the arts, and I think he often has; but the mark of his calling is this laborious partiality for one, this inextinguishable zest in its technical successes, and (perhaps above all) a certain candour of mind to take his very trifling enterprise with a gravity that would befit the cares of empire, and to think the smallest improvement worth accomplishing at any expense of time and industry. The book, the statue, the sonata, must be gone upon with the unreasoning good faith and the unflagging spirit of children at their play. IS IT WORTH DOING?—when it shall have occurred to any artist to ask himself that question, it is implicitly answered in the negative. It does not occur to the child as he plays at being a pirate on the dining-room sofa, nor to the hunter as he pursues his quarry; and the candour of the one and the ardour of the other should be united in the bosom of the artist. Read the rest HERE.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks so much Marly, for this excerpt and link to Stevenson's essay; the book from which is was taken; and the Literary Hub site I've been wandering for the last half hour!

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    1. Hi, Dave-

      Grand essay, isn't it? Stevenson is such a wonderful writer. I do often find something I want to read at LitHub, too. Glad you came by--

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  2. I had no idea Stevenson had written anything like this. My reading of his work is limited to Jekyll & Hyde. Perhaps I should read more. Tell me, kind lady, what are your Stevenson favorites and/or recommendations?

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    1. I like lots of Stevenson but if there's still some boy in you, read "Kidnapped." The life-and-death flight in the heather is wonderful, as is the dangerous bond between David Balfour and his vain, prickly, bold friend, Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart. I reread the book last year and loved it as much as the first time I read it. Stevenson has a long list of devoted admirers among writers--Borges talks about him a great deal, and James and Kipling and Hemingway are among his fans.

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    2. If there's still some boy in me? Peter Pan got nothing on me! I will visit _Kidnapped_! Thanks.

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    3. I think the book hard to resist--so well done, such brilliant use of action in the battle of the round house and the flight in the heather. And I dearly love the back and forth between Davey and Alan.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.