Sunday, 24 December 2017

Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson + Free Book

Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson
First published in the UK by Unwin in 1885.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Read a free online version at East Of The Web

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Markheim" is a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, originally prepared for the "Pall Mall Gazette" in 1884, but published in 1885 in "The Broken Shaft: Tales of Mid-Ocean" as part of "Unwin's Christmas Annual". The story was later published in Stevenson's collection "The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables" (1887).

London, Christmas 1884. The story opens in an antique store, with Markheim wishing to buy a present for a woman he will soon marry. The dealer presents him with a mirror. Markheim is strangely reluctant to end the transaction, but when the dealer insists that he must buy or leave, he consents to stop tarrying and review more goods. The dealer turns his back to replace the mirror, and Markheim pulls out a knife...

Markheim is set on Christmas Day although, other than the lack of custom to the antique dealer's shop, we only really know this because we are told so. A regular customer has been let in to the closed shop. He usually takes items to sell, and we are given to understand that these are stolen goods, yet for Christmas Day he wishes to buy a gift for a lady friend. The dealer doesn't completely believe him, but is trusting enough to turn his back ...

Stevenson's story is very much of its time with most of the sixteen pages taken up by overwrought dialogue that is far too deep for natural conversation in the situation described. However, accepting that this is the case stops the melodrama from detracting from the tale. Markheim has led a poverty-stricken life, believing his thieving and worse to be the result of his circumstances. Now that perhaps he has sunk as low, morally, as it is possible to go, should he heed the words of a devil and profit from his crime or should he stand tall for once and Do The Right Thing?

I liked this tense story and would have preferred it actually to have been a little longer. The claustrophobic shop setting is wonderfully described and I found it easy to imagine the situation. It would be a good story to read out loud or to act out on Christmas Eve and, of course, has a strong moral message of what disaster may ensue if Christmas shopping is left until the very last minute!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Robert Louis Stevenson / Short stories / Books from Scotland


  1. It sounds like a lovely Christmas themed short story that left you wanting more. Personally, I don't think it is something for me, but I am glad you enjoyed reading this one.

    1. It is certainly very much of its time, but a diverting tale nonetheless

  2. This is perfect! I'm adding it to my Holiday TBR!