lunedì 15 novembre 2010


However Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain had many common points starting from the issue of duality. They were both popular and great literary writers. Twain was both Eastern and Western, vernacular and genteel, journalistic and artistic speaking both as an optimistic voice of the people and as an embittered misanthrope; both writer and performer, author and businessman, Clemens and Twain. He wrote in 1898 “The Siamese twins” enlightened by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde.
For Stevenson and Twain the women world looks like an unknown universe that is better not to explore. Both are not interested in female representation. Most of Mark Twain’s female characters are girls, matrons, or “spinsters”, and most of these are seen from the limitations of a boyish perspective. Both were icons of their time, creating themselves myths. Stevenson the myth of the South Seas, Twain the myth of the West but it is interesting to stress that Mark Twain made six long voyages on the Pacific, which he first saw while visiting San Francisco in May 1863. Both dreamt about pirates. Allusions to “pirates”” freebooters” and “robbers” pervade many Mark Twain writings. His Autobiography claims ancestors who were pirates in Queen Elizabeth’s time, adding that he himself had wanted to be a pirate-a boyhood fantasy also recalled in the opening paragraph of “Old times on the Mississippi”. They both dreamt about the Southern Cross, one of the symbols of the Pacific myth.
A place apart is represented by Edinburgh and more generally Scotland. Not only because Robert Louis Stevenson was born there but also because for the irony of faith Mark Twain spent a pleasant time in Edinburgh as well as in region. It was in 1873. On this trip, Mark Twain made a pilgrimage to Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford home and the whole family became friends with Doctor John Brown. They planned to revisit Brown in Scotland at the end of their 1878-1879 trip to Europe, but poor weather and exhaustion encouraged them to go directly home from Liverpool in early September. Symbol of his passion for Scottish’s world was a beautiful and an enormous handcarved mantel purchased in Scotland and featured in the big library at Hartford. When the Twain’s family came to Edinburgh Robert Louis Stevenson was 23 years old. He did not write yet his masterpieces, while collaborating with the Edinburgh University Magazine. He had not chance at that time to meet the already most famous American writer. They ignored the existence of each other. The meeting was only postponed by fate.
Even living in different places and continents, Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain besides knowing each other knew many people related to both lives. For irony of fate some Mark Twain’s works were reviewed by Stevenson’s friend William Hernest Henley. Another friend of both, Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain was Charles Warren Stoddard, a poet and travel writer. In November 1873, he went to England with Mark Twain as his personal secretary (before meeting Stevenson in California), though the American novelist later claimed to have paid his passage merely to have company. His picturesque lodging is commemorated in the Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson. He met him in San Francisco. From him he borrowed the books of Herman Melville, Typee and Omoo, and the South Sea Idylls, which charmed Stevenson alike with their subject and their style.
Both Twain and Stevenson knew Edmund Gosse, Walt Whitman, Charles Fairchild and his wife Elisabeth (who commissioned to Sargent a portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson).And also Sir Henry Irving, Henri Adams, Sidney Colvin, that marched in front of Mark Twain in Oxford, in 1907 and edited the Edinburgh edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s works and Stevenson’s letters.

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