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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

VI. Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century

§ 57. Philip Bourke Marston; Robert Louis Stevenson

Philip Bourke Marston, who, from infancy, was threatened, and long before his early death struck, with blindness, had domestic afflictions which aggravated this greatest of personal ones. These, no doubt, influenced the verse of which he wrote not a little; nor, perhaps, in any case, would he have been a poet of great intensity, while his actual production was, in Henley’s phrase as to his own, much “echoed.” But, some of his work, especially of his sonnets, is beautiful; and the frequent wailing of his verse never turns to whining—a too natural and common degeneration. The other, Robert Louis Stevenson—as full, despite some counter-influences, of buoyancy as Marston was lacking in it—found his principal and abiding vocation in prose, not verse; but, in the latter form, did some remarkable work, entirely, or almost entirely, free from that “sedulous aping” which he frankly acknowledged in prose and which does not always improve his more popular and permanent tales and essays. A Child’s Garden of Verses is, perhaps, the most perfectly natural book of the kind. It was supplemented later by other poems for children; and some of his work outside this, culminating in the widely-known epitaph

  • Home is the sailor, home from sea,
  • And the hunter home from the hill,
  • has the rarely combined merits of simplicity, sincerity, music and strength.