Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/257

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243
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Silver took piracy. We should see enough of the evictions or of the social state of the clansmen to direct our sympathies. No doubt if Stevenson had insisted upon such things, he would have written a different book. He would have had to digress from the adventures and to introduce characters irrelevant in that sense, who might have been types of the classes of a semi-civilised society. Perhaps the pure story of adventure is a better thing. I only say that it involves the omission of a great many aspects of life which have been the main preoccupation of novelists of a different class. Stevenson once told Mr. Balfour that a novelist might devise a plot and find characters to suit, or he might reverse the process; or finally, he might take a certain atmosphere and get 'both persons and actions to express it.' He wrote The Merry Men as embodying the sentiment caused by a sight of a Scottish island. That, indeed, is an explanation of some of his most skilful pieces of work, and the South Seas as well as his beloved country gave materials for such 'impressionist' pictures. But besides the atmosphere of scenery, there is what may be called the social atmosphere. To reproduce the social atmosphere of a past epoch is the aim—generally missed—of the his-