Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Robert Louis Stevenson vs. Henry James on childhood

Signifying, and standing for it

There are those authors who mean a lot to me because of how much they mean. I mean, how much they represent, signify, stand for, as separate from what they wrote. And they go on representing, signifying, and standing for it just as well when left on the shelf, unread. Pope. Flaubert. Henry James. Unamuno. It takes only a sentence, a paragraph, a page of James to evoke, as if by incantation, the atmosphere of the cathedral.

But "favorite" would demand a degree of warmth, a personal attraction, an ap-proachability without feelings of inadequacy. For me, that seems to require somebody whom Edmund Wilson would decline to recognize as quite "first-rate," somebody who would apply the utmost artfulness, utmost refinement, utmost elegance to subject-matter most people would consider not worth the bother.

Somebody like Stevenson. Not — or not mainly — the Stevenson who most appealed to children's illustrators and to Hollywood. Not even the one who, with Jekyll and Hyde, achieved that supremely elusive and unwillable goal: created a myth. But the Stevenson of Prince Otto, The Wrecker, The New Arabian Nights, The Dynamiter, The Master of Ballantrae, Will o' the Mill, and the essays "A Humble Remonstrance," "A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured," "The Lantern-Bearers," "Child's Play."

Nobody had a firmer grasp on the childishness of the artist, the artisticness of the child. Nobody believed more devoutly in make-believe. (When Henry James explained his alienation from Treasure Island in the terms, "I have been a child, but I have never been on a quest for buried treasure," Stevenson responded, "If he has never been on a quest for buried treasure, it can be demonstrated that he has never been a child." And from that standpoint, Stevenson's sickliness is a more illuminating biographical fact than his globe-trotting.) Nobody, for all his apparent neglect of sex and psychology and other adult currencies, had a stronger sense of the hidden and the unknown. Nobody, for all his reputation as a teller of simple tales, told them in so exquisite a style. Nobody, to me, represents, signifies, or stands for so much so underbearingly.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Cigarette smokers across the border take a hit

Duty-free stores help
Next Article

Loco Lopez takes brunch over the top

Cheese-wrapped burrito and donut grilled cheese at OB pop-up

There are those authors who mean a lot to me because of how much they mean. I mean, how much they represent, signify, stand for, as separate from what they wrote. And they go on representing, signifying, and standing for it just as well when left on the shelf, unread. Pope. Flaubert. Henry James. Unamuno. It takes only a sentence, a paragraph, a page of James to evoke, as if by incantation, the atmosphere of the cathedral.

But "favorite" would demand a degree of warmth, a personal attraction, an ap-proachability without feelings of inadequacy. For me, that seems to require somebody whom Edmund Wilson would decline to recognize as quite "first-rate," somebody who would apply the utmost artfulness, utmost refinement, utmost elegance to subject-matter most people would consider not worth the bother.

Somebody like Stevenson. Not — or not mainly — the Stevenson who most appealed to children's illustrators and to Hollywood. Not even the one who, with Jekyll and Hyde, achieved that supremely elusive and unwillable goal: created a myth. But the Stevenson of Prince Otto, The Wrecker, The New Arabian Nights, The Dynamiter, The Master of Ballantrae, Will o' the Mill, and the essays "A Humble Remonstrance," "A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured," "The Lantern-Bearers," "Child's Play."

Nobody had a firmer grasp on the childishness of the artist, the artisticness of the child. Nobody believed more devoutly in make-believe. (When Henry James explained his alienation from Treasure Island in the terms, "I have been a child, but I have never been on a quest for buried treasure," Stevenson responded, "If he has never been on a quest for buried treasure, it can be demonstrated that he has never been a child." And from that standpoint, Stevenson's sickliness is a more illuminating biographical fact than his globe-trotting.) Nobody, for all his apparent neglect of sex and psychology and other adult currencies, had a stronger sense of the hidden and the unknown. Nobody, for all his reputation as a teller of simple tales, told them in so exquisite a style. Nobody, to me, represents, signifies, or stands for so much so underbearingly.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

San Diego inside sports

El Cajon Speedway, dark side of NFL, pick-up b-ball, Lakeside's Jarrod Boswell, start of Padres, SDSU football scandal
Next Article

Covid-19 casts a pall over San Diego political money

Barbara Bry's daughter lends $5000
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close