Exploring the life and times of author Robert Louis Stevenson, The Proper Pirate takes readers on a psychological journey from the writer's clerical and constricted upbringing to a life of imagination and wonder culminating in the South Seas island of Samoa. Drawing on contemporary theories of identity development, Jefferson A. Singer traces how Stevenson overcame Victorian dualities of piety versus passion in both his personal life and artistic works, gradually edging toward a more Modernist and complicated moral vision.
This first full-length psychobiographical study of Stevenson follows the trajectory of his life, all while highlighting how key memories and conflicts within his personality shaped the narrative structure and themes of some of his most celebrated works, including: Treasure Island, (The) Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Child's Garden of Verses, and Kidnapped. Stevenson's relationships to his parents, his wife Fanny, and circle of intimate friends also play a prominent role in this investigation of his emerging identity and artistic body of work.
Drawing on Stevenson's own treasure trove of personal correspondence, memoirs, essays, novels, stories and poems, as well as historical documents, biographies, and critical studies, Singer utilizes his background as a clinical psychologist and researcher in personality science to provide new and informative insights into the great writer's psychological development. In doing so, he helps to unlock the mystery of how a sickly youth confined to the "land of the counterpane" grew up to become the author of some of the world's most beloved and enduring works of adventure and fantasy.