Robert Louis Stevenson - The Travelling Mind is a concise account of Stevenson’s life – his family background, childhood and adolescence in a Calvinist, hard-working household in Scotland, his travels in three continents, and his final years in the South Seas. It examines his relationships with his parents and his nurse, with English and American friends, particularly the family into which he married, and Samoan islanders among whom he died at the age of 44.
Stevenson’s childhood experiences and Scottish identity fed his fertile imagination wherever he found himself. His legacy includes travel writing, essays and poetry, and novels such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Master of Ballantrae, Strange Case of DrJekyll and Mr Hyde, St Ives and Weir of Hermiston, still read and enjoyed more than a hundred years after his death. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Travelling Mind is an insightful introduction to the life and work of one of the world’s best-loved writers.
Folk takes and beliefs are as important a part of cultural history as novels or organised religion. Robert Burns and the Hellish Legion explores some aspects of life in the world in which Burns lived and wrote, the supernatural beliefs which people held, and how they fitted into their everyday lives. It ends with a detailed discussion of 'Tam o' Shanter'. Burns himself did not believe that the cloven-hoofed Devil appeared in Ayrshire, but he understood that other people did think that Satan walked the earth and witches were real, and that these were genuine beliefs which stemmed from the need to understand the inconsistent world.
This is the world of ordinary men and women who deserve to have their history recorded, whether they are washing clothes in the burn, harvesting corn or sitting at the fireside, telling the story of a witch pursuing a drunken farmer on a grey horse.Devils, witches and evil – this book examines beliefs in these in Burns’s time. Several of his most famous poems deal with the supernatural. In contrast with the insubstantial but terrifying world of the supernatural the book also looks at the lives of country people and the nature of the material world in which they lived. ‘Tamo’ Shanter’ brings all of this together and the book ends with a discussion of the poem.
Tam tint his reason a'thegither,
And roars out, 'Weel done, Cutty-sark!'
And in an instant all was dark!
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied
When out the hellish legion sallied.’
Tam o’ Shanter
Author John Burnett is Principal Curator of Modern Scotland, National Museums Scotland