January 15th, 2011
After finishing Ivanhoe last weekend, I read two whole pages of Milton before gravitating towards a copy of Treasure Island. This was my first foray into the world of Robert Louis Stevenson, unless you count a badly abridged version of The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that I found in my parents’ Everyman Library.
It was definitely the kind of story, and told in such a fashion, to appeal most strongly to a small boy. I must admit that many of the nautical terms soared as far over my head as the main mast (or is it the boom) of the Hispanolia did over Jim’s. And the constancy of the action was a bit wearing as well. Always getting captured, breaking free, shooting muskets, etc. No time to catch one’s breath at all.
I did enjoy the sense that I was reading doubly historical fiction, since Stevenson was writing an 18th century story in the later part of the 19th century. I question his accuracy on a number of points though; Margaret Mitchell got quite a few things wrong when she was writing Gone With the Wind over half a century after the Civil War, for example.
Overall, it was an enjoyable tale and easy to read. In addition, Treasure Island is the source of most pirate conventions and many well-worn characters: “Barbeque,” “Long John Silver,” “pieces-of-eight,” etc. I believe J. M. Barrie must owe a great deal of his inspiration for Peter Pan’s adventures among the pirates to Treasure Island. I am always on the look-out for the books that inspired my pet authors. It makes the later works even more enjoyable, to know from where their bits and pieces came.
Milton lays accusingly on my desk. My gaze shifts uneasily to a bookshelf on the other side of the room, hoping for yet another postponement…