Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Weir Of Hermiston: R.L. Stevenson

Weir of Hermiston is the book Stevenson was writing when he died. Friends and contemporaries- like Sidney Colvin and Lloyd Osbourne- thought of it as his masterpiece; more recently it has rather dropped out of sight. We have about a third of the text Stevenson envisaged- rather too little, I think, to pass judgement. Had Stevenson lived to write more we might have considered it transitional. It is an adventure story, a romance- in the vein of The Master of Ballantrae and Kidnapped-  but one that is moving- though still at a considerable distance- in the direction of Henry James- that is to say into psychological complexity. It is also the first of his books to treat female characters from the inside. But here doubts arise: is the manner not a little too heavy for the matter? Do we really need to know so much about the inner lives of these romantic puppets? Is the action not progressing rather too slowly?  When is the fighting and killing and escaping going to start? What remains is some gorgeous writing, a clutch of intriguing character sketches and a deeply encrusted sense of Scottishness...
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