The Ebb-Tide Background

The Ebb-Tide Background

The Ebb-Tide was written by noted author Robert Louis Stevenson in collaborration with Lloyd Osbourne, his step-son. The novel would be published the very same year that Stevenson died, 1894. Had Stevenson lived, it is questionable whether his reputation as one of the best writers of fiction for juveniles would have continued. The Ebb-Tide features a story with a mood, tone and characters distinctly at odds with the adventuresome tales of books like Kidnapped or Treasure Island.

Despite featuring a disgraced ship’s captain, a mysterious island, and a creepy journey over the sea, The Ebb-Tide is really closer to being a mystery or suspense tale than a rousing swashbuckler. Including the aforementioned captain, The Ebb-Tide also features what may well be the one of the most repulsive cast of characters in the history of English literature. The trip aboard the ship is conducted mostly under the influence of alcohol and a desperate search for any land in order in order to avoid starvation. As a plot to kill a man harvesting pearls on a strange island develops, the narrative lurches inexorably toward a climax featuring acid as a weapon and a man gone half-mad with evangelical fervor.

That any of the bad guys in The Ebb-Tide easily managed to make Long John Silver look downright benevolent by comparison is hardly surprising. However, that they manage to make Mr. Hyde look avuncular definitely would have had the potential to impact Stevenson's continued success in writing for younger readers, had he lived past its publication date.

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