The short stories of Robert Louis Stevenson
The thesis provides a scholarly introduction to most of Robert Louis Stevenson's short stories: New Arabian Nights, More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter, The Merry Men and Other Tales, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Island Nights' Entertainments, 'When the Devil was Well,' 'The Body-Snatcher,' 'The Misadventures of John Nicholson' and 'The Tale of Tod Lapraik' from the novel Catriona. The approach here is contextual: the discussions of each story draw on Stevenson's essays and other writings, and remark on some of the more significant literary or historical sources of which Stevenson had made use. The earlier versions (including manuscripts or manuscript fragments) of certain stories are also remarked on, in order to provide a fuller understanding of that story's development over a period of time. Five appendices are included, tabulating in detail the differences between the earlier versions and the final published versions of these stories. These introductory remarks are also directed towards providing a particular reading of the short stories. This reading begins by drawing attention to the neglected 'new' Arabian Nights, French and South Pacific stories, and refers to them as 'romantically comic.' It then suggests that, with endings characterised by reconciliation and resolution, these stories present an essentially 'restorative' or 'remedial' process: it is this process that allows these stories to be defined as 'romantically comic.' The term 'remedial' has significant implications: in these stories a character may literally be 'healed' or 'restored,' and the setting itself (for example, the forest of Fontainebleau in 'The Treasure of Franchard') may possess 'healing' properties. The thesis examines the implications of this comic 'remedial' process, and shows how it operates in and controls the outcome of these stories. By contrast, a number of these stories are not at all 'romantically comic.' Stories such as 'The Body-Snatcher' or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde present a process that is by no means 'remedial' or 'restorative': instead, an opposite process of decline or 'deterioration' is traced where, now, a character may literally lose his health. These gloomier and more tragic stories examine the 'symptoms' of such a 'deteriorated' condition: premature ageing, the sleepless night, the nightmare or the feverish dream, the dependance upon and enslavement to drugs or 'powders,' and so on. The thesis thus classifies two essentially opposite kinds of short story: the 'romantically comic,' with its 'restorative' ending and its 'remedial' process, perhaps literally representing the recovery of a character's health; and the gloomier 'tales for winter nights' which, by contrast, present a process of 'deterioration' where, for various reasons, a character's health is lost and is never finally recovered. The thesis implies a connection between these two processes, operating throughout the short stories, and Stevenson's own condition as an invalid (with its connotations of 'deteriorating' health) and a convalescent (with its opposite connotations of recovery). Indeed, for Stevenson, the act of writing stories is itself significant in this context.