ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON would have delighted in the deep irony of his own idle words, penned in a letter to William Archer in October 1887. His early death in Samoa, itself a symbolic reflection of an incredibly romantic life, short but full of incident and perfectly constructed for journalistic highlighting, inspired a spate of fulsomely admiring biographical studies which at one time threatened to obscure his true talent. Essay upon essay, book after book, some merely appreciative, some approaching adulation, poured from the presses until literary criticism proper was engulfed in a myth of quite extraordinary dimensions.
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