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Lost Stevenson Novel Uncovered

Just five days before RLS Day, an annual celebration of Robert Louis Stevenson held in his home town of Edinburgh on his birthday, 13th November, a lost story by Stevenson has been made available.


by: Ali Bowden – 8 November 2014

On Saturday 8th November The Scotsman published an extract from The Hair Trunk, or The Ideal Commonwealth: An Extravaganza, an unfinished comic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and published by Scottish publishing imprint Humming Earth.

Having only written short stories, he began the novel in 1877 in his 20s, and it draws on his experiences in artists’ colonies in France, but he later abandoned it after 30,000 words, while Stevenson went on to write Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

A lost novel rediscovered

The unfinished manuscript has lain quietly in the Huntington Library, California. Scholars knew of The Hair Trunk’s existence as Stevenson did refer to it in his letters to a friend, but it took until 1990 when a French author and Stevenson scholar Michel Le Bris started to research Stevenson’s life that it fully came to light.

Le Bris added seven chapters to the nine penned by Stevenson and published the completed story in French in 2011.

The original now published in English

COVER-The Hair Trunk by Robert Louis Stevenson (Full)This year sees the original manuscript’s first publication in English by Humming Earth, an imprint of the Scottish publisher Zeticula, Ltd. It includes an introduction and notes by Roger G Swearingen, the American academic who has worked to transcribe and annotate Stevenson’s original hand-written notebooks.

The Hair Trunk is the story of former Cambridge students and follows their adventures as they set off on the trail of a trunk of gold and jewels.

Read an extract

The Scotsman has made an extract of the book available online.

The Hair Trunk is available from Humming Earth, an imprint of Zeticula. Or order it at your local bookshop or library (ISBN 1846220505).

Find out more

Read more about RLS Day and the event line-up.


RLSDay2014-Robert Louis Stevenson in boat below Forth Railway Bridge (Detail)