ACT Reading Jun. 2017 74C - Passage II

Questions 11-20 are based on the following passage.

SOCIAL SCIENCE: This passage is adapted from the article "Travels with R.L.S." by James' Campbell (©2000 by The New York Times Company).

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) preferred to
circumnavigate civilization, with its increasing reliance
on contraptions, and steer toward the rougher fringes.
He self-consciously turned his back on the Victorian
5 idol, progress. In similar spirit, he chose the past more
often than the present as a setting for fiction. His most
popular novels - Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The
Master of Ballantrae - are set in a semimythical realm,
where the fire of adventure catches on every page.
10 Stevenson loved the sound of clashing swords; he
didn't want them getting tangled up in. telephone wires
overhead.

Stevenson, though, was destined to be a modern
man. He was born into a Scottish family of civil engi-
15 neers, esteemed for its technological genius. His grand­-
father, also Robert, was Britain's greatest builder of
lighthouses, and his graceful towers continue to guide
sailors today. Three of Robert's sons followed him into
the profession, including Robert Louis Stevenson' s
20 father, Thomas, who made his own mark in the field of
optics - his louvre - boarded screens for .the protection of
thermometers are still in use today.

It was expected that Robert Louis would enter the
family business in turn, and a great wringing of hands
25 greeted his announcement to the contrary. He told his
father that he wanted to be a writer, which Thomas
Stevenson regarded as no profession at all. We can
imagine the consternation when Stevenson's letters
arrived bearing pleas such as "Take me as I am . . . I
30 must be a bit of a vagabond." And a vagabond was pre­-
cisely what he set out to be: longhaired, careless about
food, walking through France or planning an epic ocean
voyage, a far cry from the offices of D.&T. Stevenson,
Engineers. He was forging the template for generations
35 of college-educated adventurers to come. "I travel not
to go anywhere, but to go," he wrote in Travels With a
Donkey (1879). "I travel for travel's sake. The great
affair is to move."

Stevenson would not be an engineer, but he left his
40 own lights, in Scotland and across the world, by which
it is possible to trace his unceasing movement. No other
writer, surely, is as much memorialized by the words
"lived here" as he is. There are five houses with
Stevenson associations in Edinburgh alone, not to men-
45 tion the little schoolhouse he attended as a child and the
lavish gardens opposite the family home in Heriot Row,
where he played and, the fanciful will have you believe,
first acted out the quest for Treasure Island. I have
shadowed Stevenson up to the northeast of Scotland,
50 where he tried his hand at being an apprentice engineer,
back down to the Hawes Inn at South Queensferry,
where David Balfour is tricked into going to sea in Kid­-
napped. There are landmarks in Switzerland, France
and on the Pacific Islands where the adventure of his
55 final years took place.

Recently, I stumbled across Abernethy House
where Stevenson lived briefly in London when he was
23. It stands in a secluded corner of Hampstead, high
up on a hill, and separated from foggy London by farms
60 and heath. It was while standing on Hampstead Hill one
night that he gazed down on London and imagined a
technological miracle of the future, "when in a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye, the design of the monstrous
city flashes into vision-a glittering hieroglyph." He is
65 anticipating the effects of electricity and a time when
the streetlamps would be lighted "not one by one" by
the faithful old lamplighter, but all at once, by the touch
of a button. Not for him improvements in optics;
give him the flickering gas lamp and the "skirts of
70 civilization" any day.

Lamps occur frequently in Stevenson's writing.
There are the essays "A Plea for Gas Lamps" and "The
Lantern Bearers," and his poem for children, "The
Lamplighter," which celebrates an old custom: "For we
75 are very lucky, with a lamp before the door, / And
Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more."
Then there is his memoir in which he describes how,
when a child and sick, his nurse would take him to the
window, "whence I might look forth into the blue night
80 starred with street lamps, and see where the gas still
burned behind the windows of other sickrooms." And
the lights shine again, with a subdued glow, in the obit­-
uary he wrote of his father. Thomas Stevenson's name
may not have been widely known, yet "all the time, his
85 lights were in every part of the world, guiding
the mariner."

A year later, Stevenson chartered a schooner and
became a mariner himself, sailing circuitously through
the South Seas. He had, in a sense, entered the family
90 business at last.

 
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