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Celebrating #RLSDay2021 with a little poetry from the great man!

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Robert Louis Stevenson Day is celebrated annually on the great author’s birthday, 13th November, and I always try to remember to take part in this. For 2021, I had intended to read a recent acquisition about RLS and his relationship with his cousin, Katharine de Mattos (thanks to the influence of Lizzy!)

However, time has been against me, and I’ve failed to get to the book; so instead I though I would share a poem that RLS wrote to his cousin. It’s a moving verse, and from what I’ve picked up to far, the two were close during their lives until Stevenson’s wife caused an estrangement and literary theft got in the way. Such a shame…

Lovely RLS things brought back from Edinburgh…

Here is the verse, anyway, which I read from my lovely “Selected Poems”, picked up in Edinburgh four years ago, Happy RLS Day! 😀

To Katharine de Mattos

With a copy of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde’

Bells upon the city are ringing in the night;
High above the gardens are the houses full of light;
On the heathy Pentlands is the curlew flying free,
And the broom is blowing bonnie in the north countrie.

It’s ill to break the bonds that God decreed to bind,
Still we’ll be the children of the heather and the wind.
Far away from home, O, it’s still for you and me
That the broom is blowing bonnie in the north countrie!

Thrilling tales of derring-do for #RLSDay :D

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As I think I’ve mentioned before on the Ramblings, 13th November is designated as an annual Robert Louis Stevenson day, in celebration of the great author on his birthday. I do love RLS’s writing, and I try to mark the day if I can – although I do have a tendency to often leave it a little late… However, this year I’ve been slightly more organised than usual, and I’ve been dipping into some of the stories in “New Arabian Nights”; it’s a collection of shorter works I picked up moons ago, and it makes wonderful reading!

November being a bit packed with challenges and the like, I’ve only managed to read the suite of stories collected under the titles of “The Suicide Club” and “The Raja’s Diamond”. This consists of six linked tales, joined with commentary by a storyteller (much in the way of the original Arabian Nights, apparently), and they focus on the lively, dramatic and picaresque adventures of Prince Florizel of Bohemia and his faithful sidekick, Colonel Geraldine. Interestingly, the publication of these stories pre-dates slightly the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, and yet the relationship between the two men is very much in the mould of Holmes and Watson! RLS and Conan Doyle were friends and contemporaries – intriguing…

The first three stories feature dark deeds by the proprietor of the club of the title; it’s an unpleasant organisation, designed to help troubled people end their lives. After an initial adventure in the first story, where Florizel and Geraldine encounter the villain in question, they then pursue him through the other two stories with lively and exciting adventures . The second suite of stories sees Florizel and Geraldine solving the mysteries associated with the theft of a fabulous diamond, as well as observing the effect that the jewel has on people’s morality.

The stories are wonderfully entertaining, and of course RLS writes so marvellously; I really enjoyed following the tales of derring-do, and Florizel and Geraldine make a wonderful pairing of heroes. It’s interesting how Bohemia threw up so many fictional characters in the past… However, what struck me too was Stevenson’s mastery of the form; each tale ends with a little bit of narration, leading into the next one, and then the focus changes with the following story introducing us to a character who’s either new or hasn’t taken the main stage previously. All the threads eventually link together, and it’s an ingenious way of telling a tale and keeping the reader interested and on their toes. What a really great author RLS was!

So I loved reading these short works by RLS to celebrate his day this year; and I still have treats to come in the book, including a story reckoned by no less than Arthur Conan Doyle as being the first short story ever written! As you can see from the image above, I do have a few of Stevenson’s titles lurking on my shelves, and could happily spend many a winter night engrossed in them. Every time I revisit RLS I find more to love and admire in his books, and if you’ve never read him you could do no better than to give his works a look; certainly, these short stories would be a great introduction to a really great author!

*****

For further information about RLS Day, there is a lovely site here which gets updated annually:

https://rlsday.wordpress.com/

There’s also an excellent website all about Stevenson here:

http://robert-louis-stevenson.org/

‘To become what we are capable of becoming is the only end in life’ – #RLSDay 2017!

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I discovered recently – lord knows where, but I think it had something to do with moustaches…. Anyway, as I was saying, I discovered recently that there is a rather wonderful Robert Louis Stevenson Day, celebrated every year on his birthday which happens to be today, 13th November. So I thought I would join in a little, as RLS is an author who I’m keen to explore more of, having loved what I’ve read so far!

On my recent jaunt to Edinburgh (his home city) I was keen to look for traces, as I mentioned, and fortunately the very lovely Writers’ Museum had a whole room dedicated to him. The Museum itself was a beautifully atmospheric place, and I really felt the presence of RLS in the room – here are a few pictures from the visit:

The lovely Writers’ Museum

Way into the RLS room

One of the exhibits

Another exhibit!

I also discovered that the walk down the long hill from Henderson’s Salad Table to our holiday rental took me past Heriot Row, and it was at number 17 that Stevenson grew up. On my last night in Edinburgh I had a quick peep at the place (which is apparently a family home, but used for RLS events).

Heriot Row picture c. Scotiana

You can read more about the place here:

http://www.cityofliterature.com/a-to-z/17-heriot-row-stevenson-house/

Finally, I have been dipping randomly into the book of Selected Poems by RLS which I picked up at the Writer’s Museum and I wanted to share one rather poignant verse which really struck me:

I SAW RED EVENING THROUGH THE RAIN

I saw red evening through the rain
Lower above the steaming plain;
I heard the hour strike small and still,
From the black belfry on the hill.

Thought is driven out of doors tonight
By bitter memory of delight;
The sharp constraint of finger tips,
Or the shuddering touch of lips.

I heard the hour strike small and still,
From the black belfry on the hill.
Behind me I could still look down
On the outspread monstrous town.

The sharp constraint of finger tips,
Or the shuddering touch of lips,
And all old memories of delight
Crowd upon my soul tonight.

Behind me I could still look down
On the outspread feverish town;
But before me, still and grey,
And lonely was the forward way.

If you want to read more about the RLS Day, there is a site devoted to it here:

https://rlsday.wordpress.com

and of course there is masses more online. I’m just wondering to myself why it’s taken me quite so long to explore the work of this great Scottish writer more deeply! Happy RLS Day! 🙂

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