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Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLR, Printers to Her Majesty THE GREATER PART OF THIS ESSAY WAS GIVEN AS A LECTURE AT THE ROYAL INSTITUTION ON THE 17TH OF MAY

1895

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

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WHEN a popular writer dies, the question it has become the fashion with a nervous generation to ask is the question,' Will he live ?' There is no idler question, none more hopelessly impossible and unprofitable to answer.

It is one of the many vanities of criticism to promise immortality to the authors that it praises, to patronise a writer with the assurance that our great-grandchildren, whose time and tastes are thus frivolously mortgaged, will read his works with delight. But there is no antidote against the opium of time, which temporally considereth all things : our fathers find their graves in our short.

memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our survivors. Let us make sure that our sons will care for Homer before we pledge a more distant generation to a newer cult.

Nevertheless, without handling the prickly question of literary immortality, it is easy to recognise that the literary reputation of Robert Louis Stevenson is made of good stuff. His fame has spread, as lasting fame is wont to do, from the few to the many. Fifteen years ago

his

essays and fanciful books of travel were treasured by a small and discerning company of admirers; long before he chanced to fell the British public with Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde he had shown himself a delicate marksman. And v although large editions are nothing, standard editions, richly furnished and

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