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The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition, Vol. 19, Page 2

Robert Louis Stevenson


  Stevenson and I little knew, when we began our collaboration, that wewere afterwards to raise such a hornets' nest about our ears. Thecritics resented such an unequal partnership, and made it impossible forus to continue it. It may be that they were right; they wantedStevenson's best, and felt pretty sure they would not get it in ourcollaboration. But when they ascribed all the good in our three books toStevenson and all the bad to me, they went a little beyond the mark. Itis a pleasure to me to recall that the early part of both "The Wrecker"and "The Ebb-Tide" was almost entirely my own; so also were the stormscenes of the _Norah Creina_; so also the fight on the _Flying Scud_; soalso the inception of Huish's scheme, the revelation of it to hiscompanions, his landing on the atoll with the bottle of vitriol in hisbreast. On the other hand, the Paris portion of "The Wrecker" was allStevenson's, as well as the concluding chapters of both the South Seabooks.

  It is not possible to disentangle anything else that was wholly mine orhis--the blending was too complete, our method of work too criss-crossedand intimate. For instance, we would begin by outlining the story in ageneral way; this done, we marshalled it into chapters, with a fewexplanatory words to each; then it was for me to write the first draftof Chapter I. This I would read to him, and if satisfactory it was laidto one side; but were it not, I would rewrite it, embodying hiscriticisms. Each chapter in turn was fully discussed in advance before Iput pen to paper; and in this way, though the actual first draft was inmy own hand, the form of the story continually took shape underStevenson's eyes. When my first draft of the entire book was finishedhe would rewrite it again from cover to cover.

  I can remember nothing more delightful than the days we thus passedtogether. If our three books are in no wise great, they preserve, itseems to me, something of the zest and exhilaration that went into theirmaking--the good humour, the eagerness.

  We were both under the glamour of the Islands--and that life, sostrange, so picturesque, so animated, took us both by storm. Kings andbeachcombers, pearl-fishers and princesses, traders, slavers, andschooner-captains, castaways, and runaways--what a world it was! And allthis in a fairyland of palms, and glassy bays, and little lostsettlements nestling at the foot of forest and mountain, with kings tomake brotherhood with us, and a dubious white man or two, in earringsand pyjamas, no less insistent to extend to us the courtesies of the"beach."

  It was amid such people, and amid such scenes, that "The Ebb-Tide" and"The Wrecker" were written.