Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Wrong Box with his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne. This is the same kid whose drawing had inspired Treasure Island seven years earlier. Interestingly, it was published while Stephenson (age 39), and Osbourne (age 21), were traveling in Polynesia. Here is an 1888 photograph of Lloyd Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson in Tahiti (Osbourne is standing, Stevenson is seated):
Of The Wrong Box, Rudyard Kipling wrote:
“I have got R.L. Stevenson’s [The Wrong Box] and laughed over it dementedly when I read it. That man has only one lung but he makes you laugh with all your whole inside.”
Indeed, as the RLS website describes The Wrong Box as “a humorous tale of misunderstandings, drunkenness, attempted fraud, false identities and other mishaps.” After having watched a scratchy old VHS copy of the movie I discovered this audiobook on LibriVox! I am enjoying it immensely. This enjoyment is assisted by its wonderful narrator. Andy Minter has a very appropriate accent for both the text and the telling.
The Wrong Box
By Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne; Read by Andy Minter
1 |M4B|, 16 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 6 Hours 20 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: September 14, 2008 The Wrong Box is a comedy about the ending of a tontine (a tontine is an arrangement whereby a number of young people subscribe to a fund which is then closed and invested until all but one of the subscribers have died. That last subscriber then receives the whole of the proceeds). The story involves the last two such survivors and their relations, a train crash, missing uncles, surplus dead bodies and innocent bystanders. A farce really.
I’m not much for poetry. Perhaps that’s because, as a published poet myself, I know just how crappy most poetry really is. Still, there are a few poems that do speak to me. Here’s one, a popular one, from 100 years ago, that I revisited recently.
By Rudyard Kipling; Read by Chip
1 |MP3| – Approx. 2 Minutes [POEM]
Published: January 29, 2006 Described as “a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism” and the poetic crystalization of the British virtue of keeping a “stiff upper lip.” First published in 1910.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man my son!
Here’s a fun, and approximately antipodean, compliment to Jack London’s stupendous novel The Call Of The Wild. Set in 1880s South Africa, it is a set of semi-fictional stories about an English Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Jock. According to a book called National Character In South African Children’s Literature it was none other than Rudyard Kipling who persuaded James Percy Fitzpatrick to collect his Jock tales in book form. Now that is quite a provenance!
Jock Of The Bushveld
By Sir Percy Fitzpatrick; Read by various 28 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 12 Hours 46 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: March 19, 2010 Jock of the Bushveld is a true story by South African author Sir Percy Fitzpatrick when he worked as a storeman, prospector’s assistant, journalist and ox-wagon transport-rider. The book tells of Fitzpatrick’s travels with his dog, Jock, during the 1880s. Jock was saved by Fitzpatrick from being drowned in a bucket for being the runt of the litter. Jock was very loyal towards Percy, and brave. Jock was an English Staffordshire Bull Terrier.