Robert Louis Stephenson

RLSThe most flamboyant of the people who have influenced me. He’s a complicated mixture: a beautiful stylist and very witty writer, a brilliant story teller, always with a swagger about him, and a fully-fledged Romantic.

“Treasure Island” remains what he is most famous for, so I have made his base the map, and hanging around him is a lei, a reminder of his life in Samoa. He went to live there for his health. (DH Lawrence and Chekhov also travelled to faraway places for their health, and died at the same age of 44.)

The natives called him Tusitala, the teller of tales. He was proud of his Scottish roots and built himself a sort of laird’s home in Samoa, so I have put the map on the Balfour tartan (his mother’s family’s). I feel he put quite a bit of himself into the character of Alan Breck in “Kidnapped”, so I gave him a hat with a feather, a beautiful sword, and the proscribed Stewart tartan. It was much easier to find danglers for RLS than for any of the others because he wrote so vividly and visually. Long John Silver is a figure known to everyone, the brigantine also, and let us not forget ‘The Land of Storybooks’ from his “Child’s Garden of Verses”. The treasure chest could not be left out. “The face of evil” of Mr Hyde has no body, because RLS hardly described his appearance at all. The lighthouse is for the family career he didn’t take up, Modestine is for “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes”. The exotic shell is for his travel writing about the South Seas. “Penny Plain/Twopence Coloured” is a reminder of the Victorian equivalent of comics which RLS bought on Saturdays as a boy, plays and characters in cut-out form.

Stories have always been important to me, I still read children’s books quite often, and RLS is one of the best story-tellers. If he had not written adventure books for children, he would have a better reputation, but it is those books which show what a great writer he was.