Previously unseen Robert Louis Stevenson letter to go on show

Actor and writer Nigel Planer with the previously unseen letter. Picture: Neil Hanna
Actor and writer Nigel Planer with the previously unseen letter. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A PREVIOUSLY unseen letter in which Robert Louis Stevenson admitted to being “jiggered” is to go on show.

Bearing the address 17 Heriot Row – the Stevenson family home – the letter sees him use the word while lamenting his health woes.

Written to his friend WE Henley, it was pasted inside a copy of an early edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses. 
Actor and writer Nigel Planer was at Edinburgh Napier University yesterday to examine a treasure trove of material about the life and work of Stevenson on the anniversary of the 19th century author’s birth.

Planer – a Stevenson enthusiast who played Neil in 1980s cult BBC comedy The Young Ones – got a sneak preview of the Mehew Collection, which will be open to the public in the new year.

Ernest James Mehew was a leading Stevenson scholar who edited his collected letters and also built up a formidable collection of books on and by the author, and memorabilia relating to him. The collection, assembled over 60 years, includes rare early editions and previously unseen images of the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Following Mehew’s death in 2011, the university’s Centre for Literature and Writing acquired the collection from the executor of his estate.

Almost 4000 items within it have been catalogued and the collection has been given A dedicated room at the Merchiston campus.

Planer – who is Robert Louis Stevenson Day patron and who took part in a forum at the Faculty of Advocates last night on the challenges of adapting the author for stage and screen – was delighted to have a preview of the collection.

It includes first editions of Stevenson’s works, literary magazines and first editions of works by Robert Harborough Sherard, on Oscar Wilde, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He said: “Having been fascinated by Stevenson for more than 30 years, I relish the opportunity to see the collection of one of the 20th century’s foremost Stevenson scholars.

“This wonderful collection is of vital importance in the current reassessment of Stevenson as a great figure of 19th-century literature, covering all aspects of Stevenson’s life and literary career from his youth in Edinburgh to his final years in Samoa. The breadth of the collection shows clearly the exciting and varied life Stevenson lived.”