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Set at the time of the Jacobite uprising, The Master of Ballantrae tells of a family divided. James Durie, Master of Ballantrae, abandons his ancestral home to support the Scottish rebellion - leaving his younger brother Henry, who is faithful to the English crown, to inherit the title of Lord Durrisdeer. But he is to return years later, embittered by battles and a savage life of piracy on the high seas, to demand his inheritance. Turning the people against the Lord, he begins a savage feud with his brother that will lead the pair from the Scottish Highlands to the American Wilderness. Satanic and seductive, the Master was regarded by Stevenson as all I know of the devil'; his darkly manipulative schemes dominate this subtle and compelling tragedy. This edition takes as its text the Edinburgh Edition of the novel, the last approved by the author. The introduction considers the novel's inspiration and its place as one of Stevenson's greatest studies in cruelty.
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850. The son of a prosperous civil engineer, he was expected to follow the family profession, but was allowed to study law at Edinburgh University. Stevenson reacted strongly against the Presbyterian respectability of the city's professional classes and this led to painful clashes with his parents. In his early twenties he became afflicted with a severe respiratory illness from which he was to suffer for the rest of his life; it was at this time that he determined to become a professional writer. The effects of the often harsh Scottish climate on his poor health forced him to spend long periods abroad. After a great deal of travelling he eventually settled in Samoa, where he died on 3 December 1894.
Stevenson's Calvinistic upbringing gave him a preoccupation with pre-destination and a fascination with the presence of evil. In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde he explores the darker side of the human psyche, and the character of the Master in The Master of Ballantrae (1889) was intended to be 'all I know of the Devil'. Stevenson is well known for his novels of historical adventure, including Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886) and Catriona (1893). As Walter Allen comments in The English Novel, 'His rediscovery of the art of narrative, of conscious and cunning calculation in telling a s