Page last updated at 00:39 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Website to showcase author's work

Pauline McLean
Arts correspondent, BBC Scotland

Thanks to Hollywood, Robert Louis Stevenson is reduced to three works - Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Stevenson photographs and documents will go online as part of the project

Countless versions of those novels reinforce the image of Stevenson as a boys' adventure story writer.

Yet he was so much more, with a back catalogue in a career, tragically cut short by illness, which included poetry, children's books, travel writing, historical novels and literary essays.

Now, thanks to a grant of 34,500 from the Carnegie Trust, a project led by Napier University hopes to boost the writer's reputation at home and abroad.

Work on the website will begin next year and the project is expected to be live online in early 2010.

Dr Linda Dryden, a senior lecturer at the university, said: "He was a hugely important writer, and he was a close friend of Henry James and W E Henley.

"He influenced some of the foremost writers of our time and yet, in comparison to Conrad, Hardy or Kipling, his reputation has suffered and he's often reduced to this adventure story writer.

"We think this website will go some way towards reviving his reputation."

I think the website is going to be enormously important.
Dr Alan Marchbank
Robert Louis Stevenson Club

The new website has the backing of the Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature - which used two Stevenson books for their city-wide reading projects.

It is also supported by the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Scottish Book Trust, Publishing Scotland, and the Robert Louis Stevenson Club.

Dr Alan Marchbank is a member of the club.

He said: "I think the website is going to be enormously important.

"The room in the Writers' Museum in Edinburgh, devoted to Robert Louis Stevenson, is the only repository of Stevenson material in Europe and this allows it to link up with other collections in America."

Stevenson was born at the same time as early photography, hence his well-documented life.

The Writers' Museum has a whole wall devoted to Stevenson in almost every year of his childhood.

Long overdue

They depict his short time in law - his parents offered him a payment to complete the training - and the more familiar portraits of him at his desk towards the end of his life.

Many of the photographs and documents will go online as part of the project, as well as linking up with famous Stevenson sites like Vailima on Samoa, where Stevenson is buried, to Monterey and Lake Saranac in the States, to where Stevenson's American wife returned with much of his writing.

For Professor Andrew Miller, secretary of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, which made the grant, it is long overdue.

"Stevenson's reputation has been denigrated over the years, by other writers mainly, but I recall looking in an Oxford Anthology of English Literature as recently as 1973 and finding no mention of Stevenson whatsoever," he said.

"That has changed and in no small part because of scholars like Linda Dryden which is why we're so pleased to fund her project."

Print Sponsor

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