Treasure Island
Treasure Island, first edition.png
First edition
AuthorRobert Louis Stevenson
Original titleThe Sea Cook: A Story for Boys
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
SubjectsPirates, coming-of-age
GenreAdventure fiction
Young adult literature
PublisherCassell and Company
Publication date
14 November 1883
Pages292 (first edition)
OCLC610014604
TextTreasure Island at Wikisource

Treasure Island (originally titled The Sea Cook: A Story for Boys[1]) is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, telling a story of "buccaneers and buried gold". It is considered a coming-of-age story and is noted for its atmosphere, characters, and action.

The novel was originally serialised from 1881 to 1882 in the children's magazine Young Folks, under the title Treasure Island or the Mutiny of the Hispaniola, credited to the pseudonym "Captain George North". It was first published as a book on 14 November 1883 by Cassell & Co. It has since become one of the most often dramatized and adapted of all novels, in numerous media.

Since its publication, Treasure Island has had significant influence on depictions of pirates in popular culture, including elements such as deserted tropical islands, treasure maps marked with an "X", and one-legged seamen with parrots perched on their shoulders.[2]

Plot

Stevenson's map of Treasure Island
Stevenson's map of Treasure Island
Jim Hawkins hiding in the apple-barrel, listening to the pirates
Jim Hawkins hiding in the apple-barrel, listening to the pirates

The plot is set in the mid-18th century, when an old sailor who identifies himself as "The Captain" starts to lodge at the rural Admiral Benbow Inn on England's Bristol Channel. He tells the innkeeper's son, Jim Hawkins, to keep a lookout for "a one-legged seafaring man". A former shipmate named Black Dog confronts The Captain about a chart. They get into a violent fight, causing Black Dog to flee. The Captain, proper name Billy Bones, suffers a stroke. That night, Jim's father dies suddenly. A few days later, a blind beggar named Pew visits the inn, delivering a summons to Bones called "the black spot". Shortly thereafter, Bones suffers another stroke and dies. Pew and his accomplices attack the inn, but are routed by excise officers, and Pew is trampled to death. Jim and his mother escape with a mysterious packet from Bones' sea chest, which is found to contain a map of the island on which the infamous pirate Captain Flint hid his treasure. Jim shows the map to the local physician Dr. Livesey and the squire John Trelawney, and they decide to make an expedition to the island, with Jim serving as a cabin boy.

They set sail on Trelawney's schooner, the Hispaniola, under Captain Smollett and Jim forms a strong bond with the ship's one-legged cook, Long John Silver. The crew suffers tragedy when first mate Mr. Arrow, a drunkard, is washed overboard during a storm. While hidden in an apple-barrel, Jim overhears a conversation among the Hispaniola's crew which reveals that many of them are pirates who had served on Captain Flint's ship, the Walrus, with Silver leading them. They plan to mutiny after the salvage of the treasure, and to murder the captain and the few remaining loyal crew.

Arriving at the island, Jim joins the shore party and they begin to explore. He meets a marooned pirate named Ben Gunn, who is also a former member of Flint's crew. The mutineers arm themselves and take the ship while Smollett's loyal men take refuge in an abandoned stockade on the island. After a brief truce, the mutineers attack them, with casualties on both sides of the battle. Jim makes his way to the Hispaniola and cuts the ship from its anchor, drifting it along the ebb tide. He boards the ship and encounters the pirate Israel Hands, who had been injured in a drunken dispute with one of his companions. Hands helps Jim beach the schooner in the northern bay, then attempts to kill Jim with a knife, but Jim shoots him dead with two pistols.

Jim goes ashore and returns to the stockade, where he is horrified to find only Silver and the pirates. Silver tells Jim that when everyone found the ship was gone, Captain Flint's party had agreed to a truce whereby they take the map and allow the besieged party to leave. In the morning, Livesey arrives to treat the wounded and sick pirates and tells Silver to look out for trouble once he's found the site of the treasure. After a dispute over leadership, Silver and the others set out with the map, taking Jim along as a hostage. They find a skeleton with its arms oriented toward the treasure, unnerving the party. Scaring the crew, Ben Gunn shouts Captain Flint's last words from the forest, making the pirates believe that Flint's ghost is haunting the island. They eventually find the treasure cache, but it is empty. The pirates prepare to kill Silver and Jim, but they are ambushed by the officers along with Gunn. Livesey explains that Gunn had already found the treasure and taken it to his cave long ago. The expedition members load a portion of the treasure onto the Hispaniola and depart the island, with Silver as a prisoner. At their first port, in Spanish America, Silver steals a bag of money and escapes. The rest of them sail back to Bristol and divide up the treasure. Still, Jim says that there is more left on the island, but he will not undertake another voyage to claim it.

Background

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Treasure Island, illustrated by George Wylie Hutchinson (1894)
Treasure Island, illustrated by George Wylie Hutchinson (1894)
1934 edition
1934 edition

Stevenson conceived the idea for the novel based on a map of an imaginary, romantic island which he drew with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne, during a holiday in Braemar, Scotland in the summer of 1881. He had clearly started work by 25 August, writing to a friend, "If this don't fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day. Will you be surprised to learn that it is about Buccaneers, that it begins in the Admiral Benbow public house on the Devon coast, that it's all about a map and a treasure and a mutiny and a derelict ship... It's quite silly and horrid fun – and what I want is the best book about Buccaneers that can be had".[3]

Stevenson originally gave the book the title The Sea Cook. One month after conceiving of the book, chapters began to appear in the pages of the Young Folks magazine. After completing fifteen or nineteen chapters rapidly, Stevenson was interrupted by illness; he left Scotland and continued working on the first draft near London, where he and his father discussed points of the tale, and his father suggested elements that he included. The novel eventually ran in seventeen weekly instalments from October 1, 1881, to January 28, 1882. The book was later republished as the novel Treasure Island and proved to be Stevenson's first financial and critical success. The Liberal politician William Ewart Gladstone, who served four terms as British Prime Minister between 1868 and 1894, was one of the book's biggest fans.

Two general types of sea novels were popular during the 19th century: the navy yarn, which places a capable officer in adventurous situations amid realistic settings and historical events, and the desert island romance, which features shipwrecked or marooned characters confronted by treasure-seeking pirates or angry natives. Around 1815, the latter genre became one of the most popular fictional styles in Great Britain, perhaps because of the philosophical interest in Rousseau and Chateaubriand's "noble savage". Treasure Island was a climax of this development. The growth of the desert island genre can be traced back to 1719 when Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was published. A century later, novels such as S. H. Burney's The Shipwreck (1816), and Sir Walter Scott's The Pirate (1822) continued to expand upon Defoe's classic. Other authors, in the mid-19th century, continued this trend, with works including James Fenimore Cooper's The Pilot (1823). During the same period, Edgar Allan Poe wrote "MS Found in a Bottle" (1833) and "The Gold-Bug" (1843). All of these works influenced Stevenson's end product.[citation needed]

Stevenson also consciously borrowed material from previous authors. In a July 1884 letter to Sidney Colvin, he wrote that "Treasure Island came out of Kingsley's At Last, where I got the Dead Man's Chest—and that was the seed—and out of the great Captain Johnson's History of the Notorious Pirates". Stevenson also admits that he took the idea of Captain Flint's pointing skeleton from Poe's The Gold-Bug and he constructed Billy Bones' history from the "Money-Diggers" section ("Golden Dreams" in particular[4]) of Tales of a Traveller by Washington Irving, one of his favorite writers.[5]

Half of Stevenson's manuscripts are lost, including those of Treasure Island, The Black Arrow, and The Master of Ballantrae. Stevenson's heirs sold his papers during World War I; many of his documents were auctioned off in 1918.[6]

Characters

Main

Minor

Among other minor characters whose names are not revealed are the four pirates who were killed in an attack on the stockade along with Job Anderson; the pirate killed by the honest men minus Jim Hawkins before the attack on the stockade; the pirate killed by Ben the night before the attack on the stockade; the pirate shot by Squire Trelawney when aiming at Israel Hands, who later died of his injuries; and the pirate marooned on the island along with Tom Morgan and Dick.

Historical allusions

Real pirates and piracy

Historian Luis Junco suggests that Treasure Island is a combination of the story of the murder of Captain George Glas on board the Earl of Sandwich in 1765 and the taking of the ship Walrus off the island of La Graciosa near Tenerife. The pirates of La Graciosa buried their treasure there, and were subsequently all killed in a bloody battle with the British navy; the treasure was never recovered.

In his book Pirates of the Carraigin, David Kelly deals with the piracy and murder of Captain Glas and others on board a ship travelling from Tenerife to London by the Ship's Cook and his gang. The perpetrators of this crime also buried the considerable treasure they had stolen but most of it was later recovered. They were all executed in Dublin in 1766. In his research, Kelly showed that Stevenson was a neighbour of the named victim in Edinburgh, and so was aware from an early age of these events, which had been a scandal at the time. Stevenson and his family were members of a church congregation set up by the victim's father. Although he never visited Ireland, Stevenson based at least two other books, Kidnapped and Catriona on real crimes that were perpetrated in Dublin; these crimes were all reported in detail in The Gentleman's Magazine, published in Dublin and Edinburgh.[8]

Other allusions to real piracy include:

Other allusions

Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson

Possible allusions

Characters

Treasure Island

Norman island
Norman island
Dead Chest Island as viewed from Deadman's Bay, Peter Island
Dead Chest Island as viewed from Deadman's Bay, Peter Island
View of Fidra from Yellowcraigs
View of Fidra from Yellowcraigs

Various claims have been made that one island or another inspired Treasure Island:

Claimed links to the towns of Birkenhead and Wallasey near Liverpool

In August 2022 the British Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, Mick Whitley, supported the findings of local historian John Lamb, that Robert Louis Stevenson had set his classic novel Treasure Island in the towns of Birkenhead and Wallasey on the Wirral Peninsula lying opposite Liverpool. This followed a previous announcement by Alan Evans of Wirral Borough Council that the French science fiction writer Jules Verne had also set his 1874 novel The Mysterious Island in Birkenhead. Their Letters of support for Mr Lamb's claims were posted on the Jules Verne and the Heroes of Birkenhead website in August 2022. [26][27][28]

Other places

The Admiral Benbow in Penzance, reportedly an inspiration for Stevenson's Inn
The Admiral Benbow in Penzance, reportedly an inspiration for Stevenson's Inn

Sequels, prequels, and worldbuilding

Literature

Stevenson's Treasure Island spawned an enormous amount of literature based one way or another upon his original novel:

Film and television

A number of sequels have also been produced in film and television, including:

Worldbuilding

In worldbuilding, there are:

Adaptations

There have been over 50 film and TV adaptations of Treasure Island.

Poster for the 1934 film version, the first talkie adaptation of the novel
Poster for the 1934 film version, the first talkie adaptation of the novel

Film

Film adaptations include:[41]

English-language

Foreign-language

TV films

Television

Theatre

There have been over 24 major stage adaptations made, though the number of minor adaptations remains countless.[47] The story is also a popular plot and setting for a traditional pantomime wherein Mrs. Hawkins, Jim's mother is the dame.

Audio

Radio

Other audio recordings

Books and comics

Music

Video games

Main article: Treasure Island (1984 video game)

References in popular culture

References

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  2. ^ Cordingly, David (1995) Under the Black Flag: the romance and reality of life among the pirates; p. 7
  3. ^ Bradford A. Booth; Ernest Mehew. The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. p. p.iii. 225.
  4. ^ Sergeant, D.R.C. "Capitalism and the Romance in R. L. Stevenson's Treasure Island". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 29 July 2021.
  5. ^ Louis, Stevenson, Robert (1986). "My First Book – Treasure Island". The Courier.
  6. ^ "Bid to trace lost Robert Louis Stevenson manuscripts". BBC News. 9 July 2010.
  7. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 16: "I was not new to violent death—I have served his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and got a wound myself at Fontenoy—but I know my pulse went dot and carry one."
  8. ^ "The murder of Captain Geoge Glas – the original inspiration for Treasure Island?". History Scotland. 20 August 2018. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  9. ^ Adams, Cecil The Straight Dope: Did pirates bury their treasure? Did pirates really make maps where "X marks the spot"? Archived 4 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine 5 October 2007
  10. ^ a b Gainey, Tom (10 December 2017). "Cornwall's smuggling past - a look at six pubs at the heart of a 'golden age' of criminality". The Cornishman.
  11. ^ Brantlinger, Patrick (2009), Victorian Literature and Postcolonial Studies, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 978-0-7486-3304-3, p. 33
  12. ^ "The Coral Island", Children's Literature Review, January 2009, retrieved 4 May 2012. via HighBeam (subscription required)
  13. ^ Reed, Thomas L. 2006. The Transforming Draught: Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Victorian Alcohol Debate mustache. pp. 71–73.
  14. ^ Hothersall, Barbara. "Joseph Livesey". Archived from the original on 22 July 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
  15. ^ Boobbyer, Claire (29 November 2013). "Cuba's hidden treasure: La Isla de la Juventud". Retrieved 22 August 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
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  17. ^ "Where's Where" (1974) (Eyre Methuen, London) ISBN 0-413-32290-4
  18. ^ "At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies". 1871.
  19. ^ David Cordingly. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. ISBN 0-679-42560-8.
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  27. ^ "Teacher makes 'one of the great discoveries of world literature'". 9 August 2022.
  28. ^ https://julesverneandtheheroesofbirkenhead.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/6.-Jules-Verne-Sets-His-Classic-Novel-The-Mysterious-Island-in-Birkenhead.pdf[bare URL PDF]
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Sources