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Record 21521

Reading Experience:

'The best trumpet that I can suggest is to read Thomas Carlyle’s Essay on Burns. Sick as I am of reading anything in which so much as Burns’s name appears, I was really electrified (beg pardon for such a "Daily Telegraphism") by this. It is full of very fine criticism, expressed here and there in rather an old-fashioned academical style, full of beautiful humanity − see the noble passage about Burns having refused money for his songs − and full of wonderful wisdom. The whole conclusion is indeed admirable; as where he says that all fame, riches, fortune of all sorts is to true peace no more than “mounting to the house top to reach the stars”; and again about Byron: “the fire that was in him, was the mad fire of a volcano; and now we look sadly into the ashes of a crater which erelong[sic] will fill itself with snow.”. I subscribe to that essay. My own is quite unnecessary. Do read it; it will do you good; it would do the dead good. It has reminded me once again of the great mistake of my life − and of everybody else’s; that we are all trying to gain the whole world if you will, except what alone is worth keeping; our own soul. God bless T.Carlyle, say I. […] Read that essay, it is in volume two, […]'
Century: 1850-1899
Date: Until: Oct 1875
Country: Probably Scotland
Time: n/a
Place: n/a
Type of Experience (Reader):
silent aloud unknown
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown
Type of Experience (Listener):
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown

Reader/Listener/Reading Group:

Reader:Robert Louis Stevenson
Age Adult (18-100+)
Gender Male
Date of Birth 13 Nov 1850
Socio-economic group: Professional / academic / merchant / farmer
Occupation: Writer
Religion: Uncommitted
Country of origin: Scotland
Country of experience: Probably Scotland
Listeners present if any:
(e.g. family, servants, friends, workmates)
Additional comments: n/a


Text Being Read:

Author: Thomas Carlyle
Title: Essay on Burns
Genre: Essays / Criticism, Biography
Form of Text: Print: Book
Publication details: RLS’s reading experience was from an unspecified edition (of Carlyle’s works?) consisting of at least 2 vols.
Provenance: unknown


Source Information:

Record ID: 21521  
Source - Print  
  Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
  Editor: Bradford A. Booth
  Title: The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, April 1874-July 1879
  Place of Publication: New Haven and London
  Date of Publication: 1994
  Vol: 2
  Page: 161-2
  Additional comments: Letter 420, To Frances Sitwell, [4 October 1875], [17 Heriot Row]. Co-editor Ernest Mehew. The material in square brackets has been added by the editors.

Citation: Robert Louis Stevenson, Bradford A. Booth (ed.), The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, April 1874-July 1879 (New Haven and London, 1994), 2, p. 161-2,, accessed: 20 February 2024

Additional comments:

Carlyle (1795-1881)’s essay on Burns first appeared as the leading article in the Edinburgh Review, no. 96, in 1828, as a review of The Life of Robert Burns by J.G. Lockhart, Edinburgh, 1828.



Reading Experience Database version 2.0.  Page updated: 27th Apr 2016  3:15pm (GMT)