Monday, October 10, 2005
I'm going to give a talk about this rather stern-looking person soon. Her name was Alison Cunningham and she was Robert Louis Stevenson's nanny. If her name is familiar perhaps you own(ed) a copy of "A Child's Garden of Verses" and wondered about the dedicatee:
My second Mother, my first Wife,
The angel of my infant life—
RLS was a sick child and Alison Cunningham, or Cummy as he called her, fired up his feverish imagination with blood-curdling stories about ghosts and Covenanters. Somehow, I don't think it's going to be a very funny talk. Here's the abstract:
"In 1863, Alison Cunningham accompanied the Stevenson family on an extended tour of the Continent. This was her first contact with life outside of Scotland and she was, for the most part, decidedly unimpressed. The diary she kept during this period was published in book form much later as « Cummy’s Diary»(1926). It has been described by some as « homely » (Skinner) and dismissed as « extremely boring » by others (Davies). This paper aims to reappraise the diary in the light of more recent work on travel writing, highlighting its documentation of the everyday and examining Alison Cunningham’s marginal position as an unmarried woman, a servant, a Scot and a healthy person surrounded by invalids."