Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894  Kidnapped map

A brief introduction to 'Kidnapped'

Robert Louis Stevenson's novel 'Kidnapped' is a classic of Scottish fiction. First published in 1886, it has remained in print ever since, and been adapted many times for film and television.

How it began
Stevenson wrote that 'Kidnapped' began 'partly as a lark, partly as a pot-boiler'. But the main characters, David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart, soon deeply captured his imagination:

'the characters took the bit between their teeth; all at once they became detached from the flat paper, they turned their backs on me bodily … it was they who spoke, it was they who wrote the remainder of the story.'

Years previously, Stevenson had planned a history of the Highlands, and a series on murder trials including the Appin Murder. 'Kidnapped' is both a gripping adventure story and a book filled with ideas and historical details about Scotland after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 drawn from his earlier research.

What happened next
The abrupt end of 'Kidnapped' was forced on Stevenson by the need to wrap up the serial and by the strain on his health of writing. In 1892 he took up the story again, producing the sequel which in Britain was published as 'Catriona' and in America as 'David Balfour'. Confusingly, a book containing both 'Kidnapped' and 'Catriona' was also published as 'David Balfour'.

The digitised edition
The digitised 'Kidnapped' is a copy of the first published English edition, taken from the Hugh Sharp collection (National Library reference: H.S.843).

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