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· 265




“This is the study where a smiling God

Beholds each day my stage of labour trod,
And smiles and praises, and I hear him say:
‘The day is brief; be diligent in play.'”

R. L. S.


'HE next three years Stevenson was to spend in Eng

land-the only time he was ever resident in this country-and then Europe was to see him no more. At first sight the chronicle of this time would seem to be more full of interest than any other period of his life. Treasure Island, his "first book," had just been given to the world; the year after his return A Child's Garden of Verses and Prince Otto were published, and Jekyll and Hyde and Kidnapped appeared in the following year. To have written almost any one of these brilliant yet widely dissimilar books would be to challenge the attention of the most distinguished contemporary men of letters; and to meet Stevenson at this time was instantly to acknowledge the quality and charm of the man and the strong fascination of his talk. For the whole of the period he made his home at Bournemouth, within easy reach of London visitors; and in London itself Mr. Colvin (who had now become Keeper of Prints at the British Museum) not only had a house always open to him, but delighted to bring together those who by their own powers were best fitted to appreciate his society.

Yet the reality is disappointing. To produce brilliant writings it is not necessary at the time to live an exciting or even a very full life, and Stevenson's health deprived him more and more of the ordinary incidents which happen to most men in their daily course. Looking back on this period in after-days, he cries out: "Remember the pallid brute that lived in Skerryvore like a weevil in a biscuit." Nearly all the time which

a was not devoted to contending with illness was taken up with his work, and as he rarely left home without returning in a more or less disabled condition, he stayed in his own house and led the most retired of lives. Even there it was no uncommon experience for a visitor who had come to Bournemouth specially to see him to find himself put to the door, either on the ground of having a cold, to the contagion of which it was unsafe for Stevenson to be exposed, or because his host was already too ill to receive him.

But this is to anticipate matters. On his return from Royat he was unable to be present at the matinée on July 2nd, at the Prince's Theatre,' when the Deacon was played by Mr. Henley's brother. The play had been given at Bradford eighteen months before, and during the summer of 1883 had been acted by a travelling company some forty times in Scotland and the North of England without any marked success. in the gallery of one of the houses where it was performed that the complaint was heard during the performance of another piece: “A dunna what 's coom to Thayter Royal. Thar 's been na good moorder there for last six months"; and the Deacon's fate may not have

1 Now the Prince of Wales' Theatre.

It was


been up to the usual standard. The play was now received in London with interest, and regarded as full of promise by critics who knew better what to expect of it, but the lack of stage experience told against it, and it has not been revived in this country.

Having passed a few days in a hotel at Richmond, Stevenson and his wife went down to Bournemouth, where Lloyd Osbourne had for some months past been at school. After staying at a hotel, and trying first one and then another set of lodgings on the West Cliff, at the end of October they migrated into a furnished house in Branksome Park. The doctors whom he consulted were equally divided in their opinions, two saying it would be safe for him to stay in this country, while two advised him to go abroad; and in the end he yielded only to the desire to be near his father, who, though still at work, was evidently failing fast.

Meanwhile the first two months at Bournemouth were spent chiefly in the company of Mr. Henley, and were devoted to collaboration over two new plays. The reception of Deacon Brodie had been sufficiently promising to serve as an incentive to write a piece which should be a complete success, and so to grasp some of the rewards which now seemed within reach of the authors. They had never affected to disregard the fact that in this country the prizes of the dramatist are out of all proportion to the payment of the man of letters, and already in 1883 Stevenson had written to his father: "The theatre is the gold-mine; and on that I must keep an eye.” Now that they were again able to meet, and to be constantly together, the friends embarked upon some of the schemes they had projected

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