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Writings of literary great published

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Writings of literary great published for the first time

Three previously unpublished works are included in a new book of writing by the Scottish novelist, poet and travel-writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

Sophia Scarlet and Other Pacific Writings, edited by Associate Professor Robert Hoskins of the New Zealand School of Music, focuses on the work Stevenson wrote while living in Samoa.

Dr Hoskins, a lecturer in music, found and edited the works in his spare time.

He says his love of Stevenson’s work dates back to his childhood when he bought comics of Stevenson’s most famous works such as The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.

“But the idea behind making this collection of new works is to allow the reader to appreciate for the first time the extent of his longing for a restored Pacific society, one that transcends the racial divide.”

Stevenson lived in Samoa for the final four years of his life and is buried there. He was made a chief by the Samoan people and given the title Tusitala, which means writer of tales.

Dr Hoskins says much of Stevenson’s Pacific writings have been ignored in previous anthologies because the themes are not relevant to European readers.

“But the works have themes similar to those in his celebrated novels, of having to accept one’s own sins before reconciliation can be obtained.”

Many of the stories, which urged Samoans to be wary of imperialists hoping to colonise the islands at the end of the 19th century, were unpopular.

“At the time Stevenson thought he could well have been charged with sedition. He understood the island culture and appreciated it, telling Samoans to keep their land,” Dr Hoskins says.

Three of the ten works in the collection have never previously been published and others have not been published in volume form.

The title work of the collection, Sophia Scarlet, is the outline of a novel about a woman alienated from her family and her surroundings.

“Readers of Stevenson’s more famous works will recognise this work’s potential as a study of the differences between and within people, of loneliness and the craving for love, and man’s earthly anguish and longing for redemption.”


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