Robert Louis Stevenson, A Record, An Estimate, A Memorial, by A.H. Japp

Chapter XXXI

Mr Gosse and Ms. Of Treasure Island

MR EDMUND GOSSE has been so good as to set down, with rather an air of too much authority, that both R. L. Stevenson and I deceived ourselves completely in the matter of my little share in the TREASURE ISLAND business, and that too much credit was sought by me or given to me, for the little service I rendered to R. L. Stevenson, and to the world, say, in helping to secure for it an element of pleasure through many generations. I have not SOUGHT any recognition from the world in this matter, and even the mention of it became so intolerable to me that I eschewed all writing about it, in the face of the most stupid and misleading statements, till Mr Sidney Colvin wrote and asked me to set down my account of the matter in my own words. This I did, as it would have been really rude to refuse a request so graciously made, and the reader has it in the ACADEMY of 10th March 1900. Nevertheless, Mr Gosse’s statements were revived and quoted, and the thing seemed ever to revolve again in a round of controversy.

Now, with regard to the reliability in this matter of Mr Edmund Gosse, let me copy here a little note made at request some time ago, dealing with two points. The first is this:

1. MOST ASSUREDLY I carried away from Braemar in my portmanteau, as R. L. Stevenson says in IDLER’S article and in chapter of MY FIRST BOOK reprinted in EDINBURGH EDITION, several chapters of TREASURE ISLAND. On that point R. L. Stevenson, myself, and Mr James Henderson, to whom I took these, could not all be wrong and co- operating to mislead the public. These chapters, at least vii. or viii., as Mr Henderson remembers, would include the FIRST THREE, that is, FINALLY REVISED VERSIONS FOR PRESS. Mr Gosse could not then HAVE HEARD R. L. STEVENSON READ FROM THESE FINAL VERSIONS BUT FROM FIRST DRAUGHTS ONLY, and I am positively certain that with some of the later chapters R. L. Stevenson wrote them off-hand, and with great ease, and did not revise them to the extent of at all needing to re-write them, as I remember he was proud to tell me, being then fully in the vein, as he put it, and pleased to credit me with a share in this good result, and saying “my enthusiasm over it had set him up steep.” There was then, in my idea, a necessity that Stevenson should fill up a gap by verbal summary to Mr Gosse (which Mr Gosse has forgotten), bringing the incident up to a further point than Mr Gosse now thinks. I am certain of my facts under this head; and as Mr Gosse clearly fancies he heard R. L. Stevenson read all from final versions and is mistaken — COMPLETELY mistaken there — he may be just as wrong and the victim of error or bad memory elsewhere after the lapse of more than twenty years.

2. I gave the pencilled outline of incident and plot to Mr Henderson — a fact he distinctly remembers. This fact completely meets and disposes of Mr Robert Leighton’s quite imaginative BILLY BO’SUN notion, and is absolute as to R. L. Stevenson before he left Braemar on the 21st September 1881, or even before I left it on 26th August 1881, having clear in his mind the whole scheme of the work, though we know very well that the absolute re-writing out finally for press of the concluding part of the book was done at Davos. Mr Henderson has always made it the strictest rule in his editorship that the complete outline of the plot and incident of the latter part of a story must be supplied to him, if the whole story is not submitted to him in MS.; and the agreement, if I am not much mistaken, was entered into days before R. L. Stevenson left Braemar, and when he came up to London some short time after to go to Weybridge, the only arrangement then needed to be made was about the forwarding of proofs to him.

The publication of TREASURE ISLAND in YOUNG FOLKS began on the 1st October 1881, No. 565 and ran on in the following order:

OCTOBER 1, 1881.
THE PROLOGUE

No. 565.

I. The Old Sea Dog at the Admiral Benbow.
II. Black Dog Appears and Disappears.

No. 566.

Dated OCTOBER 8, 1881.

III. The Black Spot.

No. 567.

Dated OCTOBER 15, 1881.

IV. The Sea Chart.
V. The Last of the Blind Man.
VI. The Captain’s Papers.

No. 568.

Dated OCTOBER 22, 1881.

THE STORY

I. I go to Bristol.
II. The Sea-Cook.
Ill. Powder and Arms.

Now, as the numbers of YOUNG FOLKS were printed about a fortnight in advance of the date they bear under the title, it is clear that not only must the contract have been executed days before the middle of September, but that a large proportion of the COPY must have been in Mr Henderson’s hands at that date too, as he must have been entirely satisfied that the story would go on and be finished in a definite time. On no other terms would he have begun the publication of it. He was not in the least likely to have accepted a story from a man who, though known as an essayist, had not yet published anything in the way of a long story, on the ground merely of three chapters of prologue. Mr Gosse left Braemar on 5th September, when he says nine chapters were written, and Mr Henderson had offered terms for the story before the last of these could have reached him. That is on seeing, say six chapters of prologue. But when Mr Gosse speaks about three chapters only written, does he mean three of the prologue or three of the story, in addition to prologue, or what does he mean? The facts are clear. I took away in my portmanteau a large portion of the MS., together with a very full outline of the rest of the story, so that Mr Stevenson was, despite Mr Gosse’s cavillings, SUBSTANTIALLY right when he wrote in MY FIRST BOOK in the IDLER, etc., that “when he (Dr Japp) left us he carried away the manuscript in his portmanteau.” There was nothing of the nature of an abandonment of the story at any point, nor any difficulty whatever arose in this respect in regard to it.

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