Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s the birthday, in 1850, of Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the boldest, bravest men to ever grace the English language with his pen.  You know his work:  Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Bottle Imp.  But you may not know his wide-ranging Essays, which detail his travels, his love of the natural world, and his thoughts on writing.  You also may not know of his endless struggle against lung disease, the condition which ultimately claimed his life far too early, 1n 1894.

I quote below a passage from his essay “Aes Triplex,” the title of which refers to the soldier’s triple brass plating of armor and, implicitly, that soldier’s courage.  If anyone fears it is too late to begin a worthy project, these are some words to reflect upon:

““It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. It is better to live and be done with it, than to die daily in the sickroom. By all means begin your folio; even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week.  It is not only in finished undertakings that we ought to honour useful labour.  A spirit goes out of the man who means execution, which outlives the most untimely ending. All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done good work, although they may die before they have the time to sign it. Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.”

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