Stevenson died on 3 December 1894 on the island of Upolu, in his study, where he had been working that morning on his novel Weir of Hermiston. After writing the words, ‘It seemed unprovoked, a wilful convulsion of brute nature,’ he put down his pen, and he collapsed later that day. The death that had long threatened him arrived without notice. James was inconsolable and remained that way for a long time. ‘I was haunted indeed with a sense that I should never again see him,’ he wrote, ‘but it was one of the best things in life that he was there, or that one had him ... He lighted up one whole side of the globe, and was in himself a whole province of one’s imagination.’ James was among those of us who are greatly affected by the deaths of others. He never forgot his cousin Minnie Temple, or his brother Wilky, or Alice, who ‘died in London at the age of 43, regretting only that she would not have the pleasure of knowing and reporting herself dead’.†
James had 22 years to live. He would look back at Bournemouth as a time of special dreaming, a time when his sister and his friend – ailing at opposite ends of the town – drew him out and tested his love and gave him matter to dwell on. In just a few years, Robert Louis Stevenson, the singular R.L.S, would become a thing of publicity and history. For his own part, James could reach back into the vanished evenings of that time, and speak about literary vision, about the way ‘the rarest works pop out of the dusk of the inscrutable, the untracked.’ In 1916, close to his own death in Carlyle Mansions, he dictated a series of not quite coherent letters to his secretary, Miss Bosanquet. He spoke in the voice of Napoleon, addressed his late brother and sister, and ‘wandered off’, Edel writes, ‘to allude to ... the great R.L.S. of those days’. There was a surge of words, a stream of consciousness, the shards of broken plates lapping up on the shore.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor