Weir of Hermiston

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An unfinished novel by R. L. Stevenson, published 1896.

Archie Weir is the only child of Adam Weir, Lord Hermiston, the lord justice clerk, a formidable ‘hanging judge’, based on the character of Robert Macqueen, Lord Braxfield (1722–99), known as ‘the Jeffrey of Scotland’. His mother, a pale, ineffectual, religious woman, dies young, leaving Archie to the care of a father he dreads and dislikes. The conflict between the two comes to a head when Archie witnesses his father hounding a wretched criminal to death at a trial with sadistic glee; he publicly confronts his father, speaking out against capital punishment, and is banished to Hermiston, a remote Lowland village. There he lives as a recluse with Kirstie, his devoted housekeeper and distant relative, who is aunt to four notable brothers, the ‘Black Elliotts’, famed for hunting down their father's murderer. Archie falls in love with their sister, and Kirstie's niece, Christina. The novel ends as Archie, warned by the jealous Kirstie, tells Christina that their secret meetings must end. We know from Stevenson's notes that the novel was to end with another confrontation between father and son, in which Archie is on trial for his life for the alleged murder of Christina's seducer, Frank Innes. Archie and Christina escape to America, but the old man dies of shock. Critics agree that it promised to be the most ambitious and profound of his works.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850—1894) writer

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