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Thinking Through StyleNon-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Michael D. Hurley and Marcus Waithe

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198737827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198737827.001.0001

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Touch-and-go with Robert Louis Stevenson

Touch-and-go with Robert Louis Stevenson

(p.248) 15 Touch-and-go with Robert Louis Stevenson
Thinking Through Style

Adrian Poole

Oxford University Press

Stevenson himself declared that ‘style is of the essence of thinking’, but detractors thought him all style and no substance, a brilliant but vacuous mimic, while even admirers worried about his ‘lightness of touch’, about his ‘buoyant, staccato, touch-and-go elasticity’ and ‘perfect mental athleticism’. This chapter argues that Stevenson thinks through a style that challenges readers by its deliberately abrupt transitions, its combination of gravity and levity, its juxtaposition of the learned and the popular, its glancing literary allusions and provocative use of Latin and Latinate diction. It notes the difference between the avowedly vagrant temper of Stevenson’s essays and the more apparently purposive movement of his travel writings, shadowed by their epic and allegorical forebears. It concludes with a reading of ‘Pastoral’, at the heart of Stevenson’s most accomplished single volume of essays, Memories and Portraits (1887).

Keywords:   R. L. Stevenson, style, thinking, lightness, travel, Shakespeare, Latin, epical, pastoral, memory

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