top of page

Hugh Cummins – Robert Louis Stevenson and the Theme of the Double


THE LETTER 13 (Summer 1998) pages 82-93


‘Ambivalence, ambiguity, duality, dichotomy, bifurcation – these are the kinds of nouns customary when analysing Stevenson’ writes Frank McLynn in a recent biography, noting also that ‘the Stevensonian divided self is overdetermined at a number of levels’. Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850 of strict Calvinist parents, and it is this religious background that offers the first clue to his lifelong preoccupation with duality. Calvinism posits a number of radical oppositions, such as predestination and free will, faith and works, grace and nature. In Calvinist terms, the fall of man is so total he is incapable of mitigating, let alone reversing, its sinful effects. Good works and outward manifestations of righteousness are worse than useless if seen as paths to salvation, serving only to mask corrupt wishes and desires. Calvinism as such, embodies a radical suspicion of human motives and a keen awareness of the possibilities of human duplicity. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that some have seen in psychoanalysis its secular equivalent. However, as I hope to indicate, there are other reasons why Stevenson’s preoccupation with duality and ‘doubles’ is of interest to psychoanalysis.

Robert Louis Stevenson and the Theme of the Double

  • After completing your purchase, you will receive a link to download your digital product(s) as a PDF, along with an emailed link that will last for 30 days. The PDF is for individual use only. 

Recent Articles