Robert Louis Stevenson by Walter Raleigh. 1906 edition.
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 was 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
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