venerdì 12 novembre 2010


Over his life Mark Twain appreciated Robert Louis Stevenson work
In 1888 Twain wrote him to express the desire “to see you & thank you for writing Kidnapped & Treasure Island…Those two great books! How we bathed in them, last summer & refreshed our spirits” .
Stevenson’s “The strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” naturally interested Mark Twain, a writer fascinated by doubleness and twin identity. Angelo and Luigi of his “Those extraordinary Twins” (1894) were two of his best-known creations in this vein. Twain went on to object to Jekyll’s and Hyde’s knowing each other: “Stevenson was wrong, for the two persons in a man are wholly unknown to each other & can never in this world communicate with each other in any way”. Following Olivia Clemens’s death, his wife, in 1904, Twain reflected in Notebook 47: “God, so atrocious in the Old Testament, so attractive in the New-the Jekyll & Hyde of sacred fiction romance. Stevenson plagiarized it? “
In “Following the equator” Mark Twain quoted Stevenson’s directions to Arthur Conan Doyle and J.M. Barrie for finding Samoa: “You go to America, cross the continent to San Francisco, and then it’s the second turning to the left”. Carlyle Smythe remarked in 1898 that Clemens “is a thorough admirer of Stevenson” “Louis Stevenson Submerged Fame” Twain wrote in Notebook 48. “Prince Otto, by author of Kidnapped” Twain wrote as entry in his notebook, on September 88. “Stephenson (sic) (Kidnapped)” he noted in March 1888, listing authors and his opinions of them; the reference seems favourable. In a letter of 15-17 April 1888 inviting Stevenson to visit Hartford, Twain expressed his willingness to travel to St. Stephens Hotel “to see you & thank you for writing Kidnapped & Treasure Island…Those two great books! How we bathed in them, last summer & refreshed our spirits”. In the notebook 26 he wrote “Prince Otto by the author of Kidnapped”. In the Indian Ocean on 8 January 1896, Twain recorded “On this voyage I have read a number of novels. Prince Otto-full of brilliances, of course-plenty of exquisite phrasing-an easy-flowing tale, but-well my sympathies were not with any of the people in it. I did not care whether any of them prospered or not. There was a fault somewhere;it could have been in me”. Mark Twain visited a Trappist monastery in Natal in April 1896; subsequently he noted: “For the Trappists draw on Louis Stephenson’s (sic) Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes”. Another reference is mentioned in “Mark Twain: a Talk about His Books”.

(…) Then, as regards Robert Louis Stevenson’s books, Mr Clemens says that is a very great favorite in America. He had read The Wrecker- which depicts the commercial and social life of San Francisco in such daring colors-but so long ago that he had almost forgotten it, but he remembered that part especially. Did he not think the picture overdrawn in some respects, especially in the portion about the boys’ stock-brokering gambling academy? “Well, Stevenson was a great, great writer. But”, said Mr Clemens in effect, “a man often oversteps the limits of probability in describing national characteristics, and yet somehow his exaggerated pictures are accepted by sensible people of other countries, who don’t know that too often these pictures have no more solid basis than that the man who draws them knows a little about the characteristics of the people he had described.”

(23)(Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction. by Alan Gribben, 2 vols, Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980.
(24) Louis Becke “Mark Twain: a Talk about His Books” Evening News (Sidney), supplement, 21 september 1895

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