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Penguin Classics / 1999 / Paperback
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Originally designed as a story for boys, Stevenson's novel is narrated by the teenage Jim Hawkins, who outwits a gang of murderous pirates led by that unforgettable avatar of amorality, Long John Silver. But Treasure Island has also had a great appeal for adult readers and was admired by Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, and (reluctantly) Henry James. The story has the dreamlike quality of a fairy tale and has worked its way into the collective imagination of more than five generations of readers, gaining the power of myth. Although thoroughly British in setting and characters, Treasure Island, as John Seelye shows, has an American dimension, drawing on the author's experiences living in California, and is in no small debt to Washington Irving's ghost stories and James Fenimore Cooper's tales of adventure. This new Penguin Classics edition also includes Stevenson's own essay about the composition of Treasure Island, written just before his death.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was born in Edinburgh. In the brief span of forty-four years, dogged by poor health, he made an enormous contribution to English literature with his novels, poetry, and essays. The son of upper-middle-class parents, he was the victim of lung trouble from birth, and spent a sheltered childhood surrounded by constant care. The balance of his life was taken up with his unremitting devotion to work, and a search for a cure to his illness that took him all over the world. His travel essays were publihsed widely, and his short fiction was gathered in many volumes. His first full-length work of fiction, Treasure Island, was published in 1883 and brought him great fame, which only increased with the publication of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). He followed with the Scottish romances Kidnapped (1886) and The Master of Ballantrae (1889). In 1888 he set out with his family for the South Seas, traveling to the leper colony at Molokai, and finally settling in Samoa, where he died.
John Seelye is a graduate research professor of American literature at the University of Florida. He is the author of The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain at the Movies, Prophetic Waters: The River in Early American Literature, Beautiful Machine: Rivers and the Early Republic, Memory's Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock, and War Games: Richard Harding Davis and the New Imperialism. He is also the consulting editor for Penguin Classics in American literature.
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