STEVENSON, Robert Louis (1850-1894). Two autograph letters signed ("Robert Louis Stevenson" and "R.L. Stevenson") TO H. RIDER HAGGARD, both Skerryvore, Bournemouth, n.d. [mid-October 1885 and late January 1886]. 1 page, 4to, two punch holes at top of sheet; 2 pages, 8vo, two punch holes in first page, catching three letters text.
STEVENSON TO HAGGARD ON JEKYLL AND HYDE AND KING SOLOMON'S MINES.
Two highly important letters in which Stevenson offers perceptive comments on Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, and responds to Haggard's remarks on his own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, including a detail of the plotting. Haggard had begun King Solomon's Mines when, during a discussion of Treasure Island, his brother bet him that he could not equal Stevenson's novel. Six weeks later, he had completed the ms. and shown it to Andrew Lang and W.E. Henley, who recommended it to Cassell's, publishers of Stevenson's Treasure Island, who issued Haggard's novel in a volume designed to match Treasure Island. Apparently Henley had sent a copy of the newly published tale to Stevenson, who, in his first, slightly formal letter to Haggard (signed "Your obliged reader") writes that "You should be more careful; you do quite well enough to take more trouble, and some parts of your book are definitely beneath you. But I find there flashes of a fine weird imagination and a fine poetic use and command of the savage way of talking: things which both thrilled me. The reflections of your hero before the battle are singularly fine." He admonishes: "But how, in the name of literature, could you mistake some lines from Scott's Marmion...for the slack-sided, clerical-cob effusions of the Rev. Ingoldsby? Barham is very good, but Walter Scott is vastly better." In the second letter, Stevenson asks for news of Haggard's writing: "What are you about? I am again at a boy's story [Kidnapped]; but I've been a year at it already and may be longer." The letter is mainly concerned with Haggard's criticism of Jekyll and Hyde, in response to a letter of Haggard dated 26 January 1886, which pointed out "a blot upon an attractive story." The blot was an element of the plot: Jekyll's will stipulated that, provided he disappeared for a period exceeding three months, his possessions were to pass to Hyde; according to Haggard, a trained attorney, this would never have been admitted to probate. Stevenson suggests instead "is it not possible to make a gratuitous donation inter vivos? Could not that be done in a separate instrument?..." In a lengthy postscript, he returns to his King Solomon's Mines, perceptively observing that Haggard is "one who gets up steam slowly...My case is the reverse: I always begin well, and often finish languidly or hurriedly." Then he reverts to the issue of Jekyll's will: "How about a deed of partnership?" Together 2 items.
Both published in H. Rider Haggard, The Days of My Life, (1926), I, 235-6; The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, eds. Booth and Mehew (1994), 1470 and 1531. (2)