Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson 1886
RLS sure could write adventure! Treasure Island was the favorite book of my youth, and I continue to read it every few years. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde two years ago as well, so I once again turned to RLS for some distraction from the latest impeachment ordeal, and I was not disappointed. In a 72 hour rush, I read Kidnapped from page 1 with its wonderful Howard Pyle print of the swordfight in the roundhouse on The Covenant and the map of David Balfour’s journey through Scotland, to the final page where David presents himself to the Bank. It’s a rousing tale of adventure and intrigue.
The story begins with young David Balfour, newly orphaned at 16 or so, traveling to The Shaws, the ancestral home of his family to seek his uncle Ebenezer and begin a new life. Uncle Eb turns out to be a blackguard, and David finds himself kidnapped on a ship, The Covenant, sailing to America where he is to be sold into slavery. When the ship runs down another boat in a storm, David is joined on board by the one survivor, a Jacobite scoundrel/hero named Alan Breck Stewart, and the tale begins. Shipwreck, murder, flight from the red-coats, and finally salvation await, and in the meantime, we learn much about the Jacobite rebellion, the Highland clans, and 18th C. Scotland.
Stevenson who died at 44 in Samoa where he had lived for some years after abandoning industrial England, is one of England’s finest writers. One of the joys of this reading experience was that the volume I read is one of a set of 27 volumes of the ‘Novels and Tales of RLS’ published in 1902 by Scribners. This volume is dedicated to Charles Baxter, a friend of Stevenson’s from university days. The dedication reads, in part: “This is no furniture for the scholar’s library, but a book for the winter evening school-room when the tasks are over and the hour for bed draws near….(and no other) purpose than to steal some young gentleman’s attention from his Ovid, carry him awhile into the Highlands and the last century, and pack him to bed with some engaging images to mingle with his dreams.” RLS succeeded admirably in this ambition!
I have no idea of the value of this set bought years ago in a long-forgotten used book store, but it was a treat to finally read this book in this way.