Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fortnightly Book, November 15

I started reading Robert Louis Stevenson quite early. In fifth grade, my grandparents had given me a single volume set that included Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped, and The Master of Ballantrae. The first three I devoured, but it took me quite a bit longer to get into the last one. It's perhaps not surprising that the deviousness of the Master takes a bit more to grasp. In a letter (noted in the Introduction to the edition below), Robertson tells a friend:

The Master is all I know of the devil. I have known hints of him, in the world, but always cowards; he is as bold as a lion, but with the same deadly, causeless duplicity.

I did eventually get through it, and enjoyed it, but it did take a while to get the hang of the cool-headed and ruthless plots that make up the plot. Spring tales and summer tales, and even autumn tales, are the tales of youth; but the subtitle of the book is A Winter's Tale.

I still have that single-volume book, but I will be re-reading The Master of Ballantrae in a different edition, the 1965 Heritage Press edition, with an introduction by G. B. Stern and color lithographs by Lynd Ward. It is quite a handsome book, with dark blue binding and silver lettering, and a pattern of silver thistles, appropriate to Scotland, stamped on the front and back covers.

How much time I will have in the next two weeks, I am not at all sure, but I notice that the old time radio program This Is My Best had a radio version of it after Orson Welles took it over; the episode stars Orson Welles and Agnes Moorehead, both of whom were among the best radio actors who ever lived. In combination that means it would be a great and unforgivable wrong if I did not at least try to listen to it at some point, so I hope to discuss how they handled the radio adaptation, as well.

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