1 January 2020 Susannah

R.L. Stevenson & ‘Kidnapped’

My mother read Kidnapped to me when I was a child. I loved the story and adventure but, being utterly ignorant of Jacobite history, I was extremely hazy about why Alan’s life was in danger and what cause he was supporting. As an adult living in Scotland, with far more knowledge of the background to the novel, I re-read the book and was blown away by it. Since then I have listened to audio versions (a fabulous way to experience this book!), learned more about Stevenson and visited many of the places associated with his life and his novel, and the book has come to hold a very special place in my heart.

Few writers have equalled Stevenson in a gift for storytelling, but his brilliant narrative abilities were matched by his acute psychological perception and his passion for history. I’d have so loved to meet Stevenson and have loved following him around the world, seeing his homes in Edinburgh, France and Samoa, walking in his footsteps with a donkey in the Cevennes and being lucky enough to dine in his childhood home in Scotland. He’s one of my most loved writers ever, and I feel so sad that he did not live for longer.

Once I thought of Kidnapped as an exciting adventure story for children, now I rank it as one of the greatest novels ever written for children and for adults. It is up there amazingly close to the novels of Jane Austen in my esteem – what higher compliment can I pay this novel? What do you think of it?

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Featured image credit- Peter O’Toole and Peter Finch in R.L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped (1960), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053994

Comments (2)

  1. Hi Susannah

    Yes, I too am a huge fan of Kidnapped (and also of it’s sequel “Catriona”, a rather under-rated book in my view.)

    You may be surprised to learn that you can pick up first English editions of “Kidnapped” (Cassell, 1886) for well under $500, where a first edition of “Treasure Island” (Cassell, 1883) will cost generally between $10,000 and $25,000 depending on condition! The price difference is a combination of relative scarcity (RLS was much less well known in 1883 and so the edition of Treasure Island is much smaller than that of Kidnapped three years later), and the greater popularity and hence desirability of Treasure Island.

    Both books were published with fold-out maps in their first editions (the map for Kidnapped is very impressive showing the voyage of The Covenant of Dysart and the wanderings of David Balfour and Alan Breck) but no illustrations. I can also recommend the first illustrated editions of both books which were published by Cassell, in 1885 for TI and 1887 for K. Catriona followed in 1893 with an illustrated edition in about 1900.

    I also strongly recommend the 1913 Cassell editions of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Black Arrow, which all come with splendid coloured illustrations by the American N C Wyeth.

    Another attractive more recent edition of Kidnapped is the Oxford edition of 1974, with illustrations by Victor Ambrus (of Time Team fame). I am pleased to possess examples of all of the editions I mention here.

    Finally, just imagine the earnings of Cassells, who had published and owned the copyrights for Treasure Island in 1883, HRH’s King Solomon’s Mines in 1885 and Kidnapped in 1886.

    Cheers and Happy New Year


    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much for all that interesting information, Chris. I would love to have a first edition of Kidnapped and Treasure Island! Both such wonderful books.
      Wow, yes Cassells must have been a very happy group of publishers with such big bestsellers on their hands.
      I hope that 2020 is full of fabulous reading, great book finds, and plenty of time to read!

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