Monday, October 13, 2008


Stevenson by John Singer Sargent

Philip Hensher, in the Spectator, reviewing 'Robert Louis Stevenson' by Claire Harman wrote:

"Most of his best books barely contain a woman at all; you can tell the effort the ones in Weir of Hermiston ... cost him; and most of the ones which are there are completely conventional and flat...

"Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ... a thousand sinister touches ... Hyde smaller and younger than Jekyll... What is it really about? Homosexuality?

"...the question of Stevenson’s sexual relations with his wife; we know that they had decided not to have children."


Richard Mansfield in Jekyl and Hyde, 1895.

From the Review by Dr Noreen Doody in the Sunday Business Post:

( )

"In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde...the darkness and homoerotic overtones in the book are associated by Harman with Freud's work on dreams and illicit desire.

"She offers some interesting reflections on possible ambivalence in Stevenson's own sexual orientation."

Stevenson by Girolamo Nerli

A review in The Age points out that Stevenson's wife, Fanny, was 10 years older than Stevenson and had been previously married, bearing two children, Samuel and Isobel

Samuel apparently inspired Stevenson to write Treasure Island and he collaborated with Stevenson on The Wrecker and The Wrong Box.

Stevenson's contemporary, Andrew Lang, wrote that Stevenson ‘possessed, more than any man I ever met, the power of making other men fall in love with him’.

Many of Stevenson's closest male friends were homosexual.

Harman refers to Elaine Showalter's account of Jekyll and Hyde as a novella-without-women about "homosexual panic".

From The Economist (

"Treasure Island" began as a map he painted for his stepson one rainy day, followed within days by chapters serialised in a children's paper, Young Folk.

Stevenson on Samoa

Jane Stevenson, in the Observer, wrote:,6121,1396312,00.html :

"In his time, Stevenson was a writer's writer, who fascinated and infuriated friends such as Henry James by his stylistic brilliance, his charm and his waste of his talents on boys' books and thrillers...

"He has been most keenly appreciated by masters of English who have come to that language from another, notably Borges and Nabokov...

"(From Harman) we hear plenty about his oddly effeminate self-presentation and his attractiveness to homosexuals...

"Harman is particularly hard on Fanny Stevenson, who is described as fat, greying, coarse, loudmouthed and unbalanced... It's interesting that the sort of Americans who came to the Old World to hob-nob with literati thought Fanny the equivalent of trailer trash."


John Carey's review of Harman's book in the Sunday Times:

"Fanny answered Louis’s need to be mothered and protected."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is rather all insubstantial conjecture the author is unable to prove with any real evidence, as to claims of Stevenson's sexuality, he was married. It is not uncommon for artists to be found among friends of varying sexuality. Stephenson has authored many timesless classics. How his writings strike us is another matter altogether. Let not social mores and petty stereotyping, and bad-mouthing populate any area where artists tread. They exist to teach us more about ourselves, than about themselves.

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