I remember when I first bought this one in a used paperback store in the 1970’s in Utica, N.Y., where my mother would take me after a visit to the allergy specialist. The book was originally published in 1949 and has been reissued periodically, but tends to go out of print. This appears to be the 1966 Ace Books version, priced at 75 cents (as the poem on the back attests). Silverlock is shipwrecked and find himself on an island where heroic tales have come alive (if I recall, he seems quite unaware of the stories, or he would have figured out what to do in a few cases). I reread it dozens of times as a teenager. Somehow it survived years of culling of my books. I have no memory of the quality of the prose, but I’m pretty sure it was a pleasing adventure yarn. I am hesitant to ruin the good but fading memories by cracking it again. For years, the book and its author were a mystery to me, for I would have gobbled up more, but could never find anything. Now, through the miracle of Wikipedia, some of my questions are answered. There was apparently a sequel in 1981, but I had moved on.
This belonged to my father. The copyright page lists the copyright date as 1918, but it may have been a type of textbook series (“The Modern Student’s Library”) that my father bought in the 1940’s, while he was in graduate school at Columbia after the war, courtesy of the G.I. bill. He penciled his name in the cover, along with a notation about some other literature. Most people remember Stevenson as the author of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Treasure Island,” if they remember him at all. These 24 essays on Thoreau, Pepys, Whitman, idlers, marriage, reading in general and other topics were written before his fame, and some are quite fine. My father scribbled notes in the margins of some, notably “Crabbed Age and Youth” (1878) and here is Stevenson’s humbling wisdom, a shout 130 years into the future:
“In short, if youth is not quite right in in its opinions, there is a strong probability that age is not much more so. Undying hope is co-ruler of the human bosom with infallible credulity. A man finds he has been wrong at every preceding stage of his career, only to deduce the astonishing conclusing that he is at last entirely right.”