Treasure Island
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Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson, John Sutherland, John Sutherland

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eBook - ePub

Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson, John Sutherland, John Sutherland

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About This Book

The adventure story told in Treasure Island has become a part of popular folklore. John Sutherland discusses the novel's place in Stevenson's biography and oeuvre in his learned and lively critical introduction to this new edition. Exploring the novel's genesis in Stevenson's "plundering" of other writers, his writer's block, and the surprisingly disturbing and complex nature of what was meant to be a children's story, Sutherland argues for the enduring vitality and appeal of Stevenson's first novel.

Appendices include Stevenson's writing about the novel, contemporary reviews, and sources on which Stevenson drew (or from which he borrowed) when writing Treasure Island.

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If sailor tales to sailor tunes,
Storm and adventure, heat and cold,
If schooners, islands, and maroons2
And Buccaneers3 and buried Gold,4
And all the old romance, retold
Exactly in the ancient way,
Can please, as me they pleased of old,
The wiser youngsters of to-day:5
— So be it, and fall on! If not,
If studious youth no longer crave,
His ancient appetites forgot,
Kingston,6 or Ballantyne the brave,7
Or Cooper of the wood and wave:8
So be it, also! And may I
And all my pirates share the grave
Where these and their creations lie!


S. L. O.,9

1 These verses were written for the 1883 Cassell book edition and may have been designed to allay the fear of the juvenile reader being unwilling to part with the sum of five shillings. The previous serialized version came in a magazine costing only a half-penny.
2 See the Oxford English Dictionary (hereafter OED): “A member of a community of black slaves who had escaped from their captivity or (subsequently) of their descendants, esp. those who settled in the mountains and forests of Suriname and the West Indies.” It later came to be applied to anyone left on a desert island. As a punishment (according to folklore), pirates would abandon transgressors (of a less than capital kind) among their crew on a desert island with a gun, some water, and some food to take their chances.
3 It is often noted that Stevenson uses buccaneer and pirate indifferently, without observing their different meanings. Buccaneer strictly applies to pirates who plied their trade in the Caribbean, not on the high seas. The name derives from bakan, the Arawak word for what we know as a “barbecue,” or a spit used for smoking the flesh of manatees, or “sea cows.” Silver, whose nickname is “Barbecue,” describes himself as a “sea-calf” (see p. 89, n. 1). The word buccaneer came into English usage via the French boucan. Historically the buccaneers located themselves in strength in the seventeenth century in Tortuga and Hispaniola, two places that figure prominently in Silver’s bloody curriculum vitae. It has been noted that Stevenson tends to use the term “buccaneer” in the first half of his narrative and “pirate” in the second half, after he received a copy of Johnson’s History of the Pyrates, a book which provided him with much source material. See p. 97, n. 2, and Appendix E7.
4 The famous pirate Captain William Kidd (1645-1701) was supposed to have buried a vast cache of gold on some island off the eastern coast of America. It inspired innumerable digs, typically as a result of spurious “maps.” Kidd was captured at sea by Lord Bellomont, tried, and hanged. The circumstances of his execution at Execution Dock in Wapping (on the present site of the Captain Kidd Thameside public house) were dramatic. On the first drop the rope broke. Kidd was taken up the scaffold the second time, accompanied by a parson urging him to repent while there were still a few seconds to do so. Kidd declined. The second time the rope held. His body was “gibbeted” (i.e., left to rot in an iron cage) at Tilbury Point (at the mouth of the Thames) for three years (continued) as a gruesome warning to any would-be pirates. Kidd’s corpse is referred to in a number of places in Treasure Island.
5 I.e., those who have had the benefit of the 1870 universal Education Act—a measure that palpably raised the quality of the juvenile reader. See the section Composition, Publication, and Reception in the Introduction (pp. 21-24).
6 W. H. G. Kingston (1814-80), one of the two or three greatest authors of fiction for boys in the Victorian period. Kingston’s books (of which he wrote close to 200) had a strong nautical flavour. His most popular work, throughout the nineteenth century and after, was Peter theWhaler (1851).
7 R. M. Ballantyne (1825-94), author of The Coral Island (1858), one of Treasure Island’s source texts and a favourite story of Stevenson’s from boyhood. The epithet “Brave” alludes to Ballantyne’s shameless exploitation of his own mystique. He specialized in lectures (typically for the young), which he would open by stalking on stage in buckskin and shooting a stuffed eagle.
8 I.e., James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), the American novelist. “Wood” alludes to Cooper’s “Leatherstocking” novels; “wave” alludes to works such as The Pilot (1823), which Cooper (who was a sea-going man) wrote specifically to correct land-lubberly errors in Walter Scott’s The Pirate (1821). Cooper’s posthumously published The Sea Lions (1856) has been noted as having strong narrative similarities to Treasure Island— particularly in the early chapters.
9 I.e., Samuel Lloyd Osbourne (1868-1947), Stevenson’s stepson (and, later in life, collaborator) by his American wife, Fanny Osbourne. Known at this period as “Sam,” in later life he was referred to as “Lloyd.”


Chapter I
The Old Sea-Dog at the “Admiral Benbow”

Squire Trelawney,1 Dr Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17—, and go back to the time when my father kept the “Admiral Benbow” inn,2 and the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut, first took up his lodging under our roof.
I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow; a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man; his tarry pigtail3 falling over the shoulders of his soiled blue coat; his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails; and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. I remember him looking round the cove and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sang so often afterwards: —
“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest— Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”
in the high, old tottering voice that seemed to have been tuned and broken at the capstan bars. Then he rapped on the door with a bit of stick like a handspike4 that he carried, and when my father appeared, called roughly for a glass of rum. This, when it was brought to him, he drank slowly, like a connoisseur, lingering on the taste, and still looking about him at the cliffs and up at our signboard.
“This is a handy cove,” says he, at length; “and a pleasant sittyated grog-shop.5 Much company, mate?”
My father told him no, very little company, the more was the pity.
“Well, then,” said he, “this is the berth for me. Here you, matey,” he cried to the man who trundled the barrow; “bring up alongside and help up my chest. I’ll stay here a bit,” he continued. “I’m a plain man; rum and bacon and eggs is what I want, and that head up there for to watch ships off. What you mought6 call me? You mought call me captain. Oh, I see what you’re at—there;” and he threw down three or four gold pieces on the threshold. “You can tell me when I’ve worked through that,” says he, looking as fierce as a commander.
And, indeed, bad as his clothes were, and coarsely as he spoke, he had none of the appearance of a man who sailed before the mast;7 but seemed like a mate or skipper, accustomed to be obeyed or to strike. The man who came with the barrow tol...

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Citation styles for Treasure Island
APA 6 Citation
Stevenson, R. L. (2011). Treasure Island ([edition unavailable]). Broadview Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2011)
Chicago Citation
Stevenson, Robert Louis. (2011) 2011. Treasure Island. [Edition unavailable]. Broadview Press.
Harvard Citation
Stevenson, R. L. (2011) Treasure Island. [edition unavailable]. Broadview Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. [edition unavailable]. Broadview Press, 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.