The day I said “hello” to the works of Robert Louis Stevenson was like an overdue mid-winter respite to the South Seas that morphed into my own treasure hunt for the truth about his writings, his lifestyle, and his impact on the world.
The life of Robert Louis Stevenson is one that provides intrigue nearly 106 years following his departure from this life. To this day he is making his mark on modern art and literature and in spite of his many collections of Christian prayers, some of which outwardly mention the name of Jesus, various works of his continue to spark debate and raise eyebrows with regard to his own personal beliefs.
My study of this man’s life recently took me through an analysis of some modern works of art that were influenced by RLS’s writings dating back to the 1880s, including a look into the 1997 Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde and an original musical How I Became a Pirate, a local endeavor that recently held the Southwest Premier at the Dallas Children’s Theatre Rosewood Center for Family Arts. The latter work is based upon notable children’s author Melinda Long’s pirate stories that are said to be lovingly evocative of RLS’s Treasure Island.
Up until these recent days, some of the only seaside adventures around my home had been that of the Spongebob Squarepants collection, to put it plainly. I tried and tried, but somehow I was unable to prove that RLS had any bearing upon day-to-day operations of Bikini Bottom. Rather, I think the anthropomorphic animation can be more readily portrayed as a violation of the laws of physics widely influenced by the likes of Baywatch in the mind of creator, marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg.
Nevertheless, I investigated further. RLS’s boyhood was plagued with tuberculosis. Ample rest time on warm summer days, most likely spurred on by fear of hemorrhage, spawned fruitful works such as the nursery rhyme Bed in Summer. His rhetoric never attempted to cloak the “Romans 7” flesh struggle that haunted him, represented within such works as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Perhaps due to a religious primary education steeped in duty and legalism and his inevitable failure guaranteed by the demands of the “law”, he continues to be depicted at times as one who was “so near, yet so far”, creating a sense that he knew the battle all too well yet departed this life prior to publicly resolving whether he ever personally succumbed to grace.
So RLS leaves the rest of the world hanging by a thread when he CONTINUES to compel us toward answering questions to original riddles like the “only difference between a long life and a good dinner”. This quote I found to be most appropriate in February, the time of year when red roses, Italian dinners by candlelight, and dark chocolate abound.
Before you know it, the probability increases that both the American Heart Association and your lifegroup leaders are applauding as RLS has once again posthumously managed to suck us into a discussion of both the physiological and philosophical nature of 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 with the answer to his silly riddle. One thing leads to the next and all of a sudden a group of postmenopausal women called something like “Chicks for Chocolate” find themselves debating the existence of stress-induced cardiomyopathy, hoping for Tom Cruise to walk in and declare, “You complete me!”
So will I ever know the real truth about RLS or even Shakespeare for that matter? What man writes Sonnets like number 116 so as to inspire the Jane Austens of the literary community, reinforcing the truth: The greatest of all virtues IS love! I believe the only thing I can say with certainty is that RLS is one who understood the battle. It is not my place to issue his final verdict, but I do know that he lived to tell about it and his works live on to challenge and delight humankind.