Before Treasure Island

Nearly 135 years after it was begun, the abandoned first novel by Robert Louis Stevenson has been discovered. The incomplete book, titled The Hair Trunk or The Ideal Commonwealth, was discovered by literary sleuth and Stevenson scholar Michel Le Bris.

Long before Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson embarked on the utopian novel, which was rooted in his experiences at an artists colony in France. But The Hair Trunk has been nearly unknown since then, with only a few scholars aware of its existence.

The story of the book’s rediscovery began more than twenty years ago when Le Bris found a reference to the novel in a Stevenson letter to a friend. Further investigation revealled that an eight page draft of The Hair Trunk was housed in Yale’s Beinecke Library. At Yale, Le Bris discovered that an original 140 page manuscript of the novel had been purchased by a book collector in 1915. The manuscript was eventually sold to the Huntington Library in California where Le Bris found it safe and intact.

Building on the original 140 pages and on his two decades of further research, Le Bris has completed the novel, adding seven more chapters. The book will be available in France next month, where it is being published by Gallimard.

This entry was posted in Books, Europe, Libraries, Travel Writing, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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