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I would rather agree with Mr Chesterton than with Mr Zangwill here:
"Stevenson's enormous capacity for joy flowed directly out of his profoundly religious temperament. He conceived himself as an unimportant guest at one eternal and uproarious banquet, and instead of grumbling at the soup, he accepted it with careless gratitude. . . . His gaiety was neither the gaiety of the pagan, nor the gaiety of the BON VIVANT. It was the greater gaiety of the mystic. He could enjoy trifles because there was to him no such thing as a trifle. He was a child who respected his dolls because they were the images of the image of God, portraits at only two removes."
Here, then, we have the child crossed by the dreamer and the mystic, bred of Calvinism and speculation on human fate and chance, and on the mystery of temperament and inheritance, and all that flows from these - reprobation, with its dire shadows, assured Election with its joys, etc., etc.
3. If such a combination is in favour of the story-teller up to a certain point, it is not favourable to the highest flights, and it is alien to dramatic presentation pure and simple. This implies detachment from moods and characters, high as well as low, that complete justice in presentation may be done to all alike, and the one balance that obtains in life grasped and repeated with emphasis. But towards his leading characters Stevenson is unconsciously biassed, because they are more or less shadowy projections of himself, or images through which he would reveal one or other side or aspect of his own personality. Attwater is a confessed failure, because it, more than any other, testifies this: he is but a mouth-piece for one side or tendency in Stevenson. If the same thing is not more decisively felt in some other cases, it is because Stevenson there showed the better art o' hidin', and not because he was any more truly detached or dramatic. "Of Hamlet most of all," wrote Henley in his sonnet. The Hamlet in Stevenson - the self-questioning, egotistic, moralising Hamlet - was, and to the end remained, a something alien to bold, dramatic, creative freedom. He is great as an artist, as a man bent on giving to all that he did the best and most distinguished form possible, but not great as a free creator of dramatic power. "Mother," he said as a mere child, "I've drawed a man. Now, will I draw his soul?" He was to the end all too fond to essay a picture of the soul, separate and peculiar. All the Jekyll and Hyde and even Ballantrae conceptions came out of that - and what is more, he always mixed his own soul with the other soul, and could not help doing so.
4. When; therefore, I find Mr Pinero, in lecturing at Edinburgh, deciding in favour of Stevenson as possessed of rare dramatic power, and wondering why he did not more effectively employ it, I can't agree with him; and this because of the presence of a certain atmosphere in the novels, alien to free play of the individualities presented. Like Hawthorne's, like the works of our great symbolists, they are restricted by a sense of some obtaining conception, some weird metaphysical WEIRD or preconception. This is the ground "Ian MacLaren" has for saying that "his kinship is not with Boccaccio and Rabelais, but with Dante and Spenser" - the ground for many remarks by critics to the effect that they still crave from him "less symbol and more individuality" - the ground for the Rev. W. J. Dawson's remark that "he has a powerful and persistent sense of the spiritual forces which move behind the painted shows of life; that he writes not only as a realist but as a prophet, his meanest stage being set with eternity as a background."
Such expressions are fullest justification for what we have here said: it adds, and can only add, to our admiration of Stevenson, as a thinker, seer, or mystic, but the asserting sense of such power can only end in lessening the height to which he could attain as a dramatic artist; and there is much indeed against Mr Pinero's own view that, in the dramas, he finds that "fine speeches" are ruinous to them as acting plays. In the strict sense overfine speeches are yet almost everywhere. David Balfour could never have writ some speeches attributed to him - they are just R. L. Stevenson with a very superficial difference that, when once detected, renders them curious and quaint and interesting, but not dramatic.
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Robert Louis Stevenson, A Record, An Estimate, A Memorial -by- A. H. JappBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.