1st Edition

Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific Travel, Empire, and the Author's Profession

By Roslyn Jolly Copyright 2009

    Robert Louis Stevenson's departure from Europe in 1887 coincided with a vocational crisis prompted by his father's death. Impatient with his established identity as a writer, Stevenson was eager to explore different ways of writing, at the same time that living in the Pacific stimulated a range of latent intellectual and political interests. Roslyn Jolly examines the crucial period from 1887 to 1894, focusing on the self-transformation wrought in Stevenson's Pacific travel-writing and political texts. Jolly shows how Stevenson's desire to understand unfamiliar Polynesian and Micronesian cultures, and to record and intervene in the politics of Samoa, gave him opportunities to use his legal education, pursue his interest in historiography, and experiment with anthropology and journalism. Thus as his geographical and cultural horizons expanded, Stevenson's professional sphere enlarged as well, stretching the category of authorship in which his successes as a novelist had placed him. Rather than enhancing his stature as a popular writer, however, Stevenson's experiments with new styles and genres, and the Pacific subject matter of his later works, were resisted by his readers. Jolly's analysis of contemporary responses to Stevenson's writing, gleaned from an extensive collection of reviews, many of which are not readily available, provides fascinating insights into the interests, obsessions, and resistances of Victorian readers. As Stevenson sought to escape the vocational straightjacket that confined him, his readers just as strenuously expressed their loyalty to outmoded images of Stevenson the author, and their distrust of the new guises in which he presented himself.

    Contents: Preface; 1887: the turning point; The travel-writer as anthropologist: In the South Seas; Our man in Samoa: A Footnote to History; The novelist as lawyer: the Times letters and Catriona; 1894: repossession; Works cited; Index.


    Roslyn Jolly is a senior lecturer in the School of English at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

    Prize: Shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier's Prize for Literary Scholarship 2010 'We all sensed that another Stevenson was there all along, hidden in his texts, his letters, and his biographies, clouded over by the romantic legend he had himself spun out of his life and especially out of his final years in the South Seas. With the appearance of Roslyn Jolly’s Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific, this other Stevenson finally begins to emerge, which is why her book represents the most important breakthrough in Stevenson studies since the 1994 publication of the author’s Collected Letters.' Richard Ambrosini, Università di Roma Tre, Italy ’In its total effect, Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific presents an important contribution to the ongoing scholarly reappraisal of an extraordinarily diverse oeuvre, and, as a compelling account of Stevenson's overlooked political dynamism and interdisciplinary fluency, adheres in spirit to its subject's own idea of "writing as action in the world".’ Times Literary Supplement ’Handsomely produced, this book marks a major new turn in Stevenson studies.’ New Books on Literature ’This carefully argued, well-supported, thesis-driven study examines in detail the biographical facts and limited but far-ranging writing Stevenson (1850-94) produced from 1887 to 1894, his South Seas days... Including a splendid, useful works cited, this book will be especially valuable to those interested in travel and empire... Highly recommended.’ Choice ’Roslyn Jolly’s Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific is an important achievement in the practice of reconstructing a comprehensive identity of Stevenson, not only as a novelist, but as an intellectual deeply involved in his social and historical life contexts.’ Rivista di Studi Vittoriani 'Jolly’s well-argued and provocative study of Stevenson in the Pacific is essential reading for all critics of Stevenson’s varied output and for those seeking a better und