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TOPIC: Re:All Aboard the Devonia
#131
Jeremy Hodges (User)
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All Aboard the Devonia 2 Years, 10 Months ago  
Since posting Chapter 22, taking Louis to America, I have been indulging in the addictive online pursuit of scrutinising the passenger lists of 19th-century ocean liners. Among them I came across the list for the SS Devonia, aboard which Louis arrived in New York in August 1879. The list, signed by Captain Hugh Young, includes 'Robert Stephenson' in a second-class cabin. Apart from spelling Louis's surname incorrectly, the list also gives his age as 29 when he was nearly three months short of his 29th birthday, and describes his occupation as 'clerk'.

Among the 256 passengers, all of whose names Captain Young was legally obliged to declare, would have been the stowaways Louis describes in the Amateur Emigrant. One of them, 'Alick', was perhaps the only Alexander on the list - an 18-year-old miner from Scotland called Alex Allan, listed as a steerage passenger. Likewise the three-year-old boy Louis describes was in all likelihood Robert Sellars, emigrating with his Scottish miner father and his mother, both aged 40, plus his seven brothers and sisters aged from 17 down to 18 months. Robert was the only three-year-old on board, and he impressed Louis: 'To meet him, crowing with laughter and beating an accompaniment to his own mirth with a tin spoon upon a tin cup, was to meet a little triumph of the human species. Even when his mother and the rest of his family lay sick and prostrate around him, he sat upright in their midst and sang aloud in the pleasant heartlessness of infancy.'

Another passenger named by Louis as a kindred spirit was 'my excellent friend Mr Jones. It would be difficult to say whether I was his right-hand man, or he mine, during the voyage. Thus at table I carved, while he only scooped gravy; but at our concerts, of which more anon, he was the president who called up performers to sing, and I but his messenger who ran his errands and pleaded privately with the over-modest. I knew I liked Mr. Jones from the moment I saw him.' But it seems this convivial character was not on first-name times with anyone - the list describes him simply as 'Mr Jones', a 30-year-old 'clerk', although he told Louis he had once been a blacksmith. He was travelling saloon class, but was not, presumably, like those who so disgusted Louis with their patronising attitude to the masses languishing in steerage. To guess who those might have been, and to see the full list, visit http://www.immigrantships.net/v8/1800v8/devonia18790818.html
 
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#144
Steve (User)
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Re:All Aboard the Devonia 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Jeremy Hodges wrote:
QUOTE:
Apart from spelling Louis's surname incorrectly, the list also gives his age as 29 when he was nearly three months short of his 29th birthday, and describes his occupation as 'clerk'.



Hi Jeremy
I note on your link http://www.immigrantships.net/v8/1800v8/devonia18790818.html that Roger Swearingen has put a footnote
http://www.immigrantships.net/v8/1800v8/devonia18790818.html#Stephenson
that Passenger #11, recorded as Robert Stephenson, is actually the well-known author R.L. Stevenson author of such classics as "Treasure Island", "Kidnapped", and "A Child's
Garden of Verses". He slightly misspelled his hame so that his travels wouldn't be known


This gives a different light to the spelling. Accidental or premeditated? What do you think?

Steve
 
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#146
Jeremy Hodges (User)
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Re:All Aboard the Devonia 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Roger Swearingen is a world authority on Stevenson and I'm very much looking forward to reading his RLS biography when Fabers finally publish it, so I was delighted when he followed up my post with his comments on the online record of the Devonia's passenger list. Certainly Louis did not want to give his parents advance warning of his plans to go to California and he devised some pretty elaborate arrangements for having his mail forwarded so those back in Scotland would not know his exact whereabouts. From London, shortly before the Devonia sailed from Greenock, he wrote to his friend and lawyer Charles Baxter, asking him to forward all mail to 'Mr Robert Stephenson, Passenger per Devonia, c/o Henderson Brothers, 49 Union Street, Glasgow'. Presumably that's how the ship's captain got the thinly-disguised spelling. Once Louis was safely on the high seas, and his parents were aware he was generally bound for America, there would be no need to continue the deception - unless there was the risk of being pursued by someone else. As I mention in Chapter 23 of my book, Louis wrote to Baxter from the emigrant train across the States: 'Remember, Charles, you give my address to no one, not even the Queen; it is no part of my programme to bestrew America with my brains'. His parents certainly would not wish him harm, and the main candidate to carry out a revenge killing - Fanny Osbourne's husband Sam - was happily fornicating with someone else in San Francisco and would soon release Fanny from her marriage vows. If Sam was unlikely to gun his wife's lover down, that leaves the vague possibility of Louis being pursued by someone from his past in Scotland. All I can say is that in happier times Louis was most indignant about anyone getting his surname wrong and apparently binned all fan mail, unopened, that failed to spell the name with a 'v' on the envelope.
 
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#147
Steve (User)
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Re:All Aboard the Devonia 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Thanks for your reply Jeremy. Can I ask, how many chapters does your book have?
 
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#148
Jeremy Hodges (User)
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Re:All Aboard the Devonia 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Lamplit, Vicious Fairy Land is in 26 chapters and runs to some 198,000 words - the same length as Claire Harman's RLS biography, which HarperCollins found perfectly publishable. I'm still waiting for a publisher to follow suit with mine. Meanwhile, it's all downloadable free of charge from this website and I still harbour hopes that someone out there will read it all. Any feedback, positive or negative, is always welcome!
 
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#149
Steve (User)
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Re:All Aboard the Devonia 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Thank you for your reply Jeremy. I have read a few chapters of your book and will finish it off soon: I also have sitting on my desk, JP Hennessy and P Callow to read (after I have finished 'In the South seas'. :-)
 
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