OBITUARY: Professor Michael Balfour

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The Independent Online
In his obituary of Professor Michael Balfour [28 September] Leonard Miall rightly gives prominence to his distinguished career as an historian and public servant. Can I add a footnote on his lifelong interest in Robert Louis Stevenson? writes Ernest Mehew.

Michael's father Sir Graham Balfour lived at Vailima and became a close friend of Stevenson in the last years of his life; he wrote the authorised biography of his famous cousin in 1901. In 1960, drawing on a mass of unpublished material, Michael published two authoritative articles in the Times Literary Supplement on how his father came to write the biography and he followed it up 20 years later by a lecture in Edinburgh. He gave to the National Library of Scotland all his father's papers connected with the writing of the biography, including not only letters by RLS himself but letters by Henry James and other contemporaries; when one bears in mind the high prices such literary documents now command it was a generous gift indeed. He later gave to the library his father's journals and letters written from the South Seas. This material is a treasure trove for the Stevenson scholar and I used it extensively in my edition of Stevenson's Letters.

Michael Balfour derived great pleasure from his family link with Stevenson. He and I corresponded for over 30 years about RLS; he lent me original letters and elucidated family references in a way that no one else could have done. In the last 18 months of his life when his failing health meant that he was not able to carry out any original work he generously read the galley proofs of the eight volumes of the Letters and sent many corrections and lively comments.

He was the last link with those who knew Stevenson well; I salute his memory.