Robert Louis Stevenson Day will be celebrated for the first time on 13 November (Stevenson’s birthday). As part of the celebrations the Association for Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS) based at the University of Glasgow will be printing copies of Stevenson’s Fables with an Introduction by Professor Bill Gray of Chichester University’s Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy. This special edition of Stevenson’s Fables is for distribution at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association, America’s foremost professional association for the study of language and literature. ASLS will also be making an ebook version of this edition of Stevenson’s Fables available free online from RLS Day.
Stevenson had a life-long interest in fables. His books and correspondence show that the fables of Aesop and La Fontaine were part of his mental furniture. One of his earliest published pieces was about fables, a review of Robert Bulwer-Lytton’s Fables in Song. This probably first prompted the twenty-three year old Stevenson to start writing his own fables. Stevenson worked intermittently throughout his life on his own collection of fables, which was published only posthumously and in an incomplete form. In 1888, five years before his death, Stevenson had signed a contract with Longman for an edition to be called The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with other fables. However, this was left incomplete at Stevenson’s death in 1894, and was posthumously published in 1896. This is the edition of Stevenson’s Fables that ASLS is making freely available as an ebook on RLS Day.
Prof. Bill Gray is currently preparing a new edition of Stevenson’s Fables for publication next year, as part of Edinburgh University Press’s New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Bill commented: ‘This new edition of Stevenson’s works is a hugely ambitious project, which intends to provide the definitive version of Stevenson’s works, and will probably run to around forty volumes. I’m delighted to have secured the editorship of volume 18, Stevenson’s Fables and Fairy Tales. In this volume I’ll be working mostly from original manuscripts, so that the text of my edition will be the most accurate version since 1896. Besides some extra fables, there are quite a few fascinating new readings which shed fresh light on Stevenson’s text.’
He continued: ‘Having said that, the 1896 edition, though by no means complete and perfect, has delighted readers for 117 years, so the free ebook version available on 13 November is certainly worth having. Stevenson’s Fables are irreverent, quirky and pungent. Some of them are very short and pithy; others are longer stories, and appropriately included in a volume with Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. They are haunting, thought-provoking and superbly written.’
He quipped: ‘Until the paperback version of the New Edinburgh Edition version of Stevenson’s Fables and Fairy Tales is available in a year or two, this version is the one to have. Perfect bedtime reading on dark November nights!’
Not only will the free ebook of the Fables be available on 13 November, Robert Louis Stevenson Day will also be celebrated by special project organized by the ASLA:
‘”The first ever Robert Louis Stevenson Day will take place on 13 November, and the Association for Scottish Literary Studies would like to invite you to join the celebrations by snapping some Stevensonia photos and posting them on our Facebook page for everyone to enjoy – use the link below. Anything related to Stevenson is fair game – sights that could be from one of his books, essays, short stories or poems, places you think he might like, or particular items that remind you of his life and work. Stevenson’s literature was international – we welcome photos taken anywhere in the world! Just be sure to describe or tag the photo so we know what your idea is. You can post photos directly from your phone or camera, or via Instagram or other editing apps, and upload as many as you like. The project will run until Stevenson Day on November 13th, so you can start posting any time!”