Robert Louis Stevenson’s Toy Soldiers

Image source: Robert Louis Stevenson Museum / Nancy Horan / Pinterest

Reading again Robert Louis Stevenson’s toy soldier poem The Land of Counterpane on the Duchy of Tradgardland blog made me look again at some blog posts I had written about RLS’ toy soldier poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses.

I came across a link to these “old leaded soldiers” belonging to Robert Louis Stevenson at the RLS museum in California (currently closed due to Coronavirus):

https://stevensonmuseum.org/the-museum/collections/personal-objects/

Sounds a museum well worth a visit if you live nearby.

I wondered if there were pictures of these soldiers on their RLS Museum website or on the web of RLS’ “old leaded Soldiers”, RLS being a pioneer of early wargaming with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne, their battle or game reports written up stylishly in their “Yallobelly Times”.

I found this picture from the museum of these 19th Century (European? German manufactured?) tin flat toy soldiers with which RLS might have played these pioneer games.

Close up : Image source: Robert Louis Stevenson Museum / Nancy Horan / Pinterest

Famous as the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson was also an early war gamer.

His role as ” grandfather” or “great uncle” in the history of wargaming (depending where you place H G Wells) was acknowledged by “father of the modern wargame” Donald Featherstone in his book War Games (1962), a book that began the hobby careers of so many of us.

RLS mention from Donald Featherstone, War Games (1962)

Stevenson at Play, a magazine article describes a complex strategic wargame that the author and his 12 year old stepson, Samuel Lloyd Osbourne, played in the early 1880s which you can read reprinted here:

http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.com/2009/11/robert-louis-stevenson.html

Stevenson’s complex game does not seem to have had the attention that H G Wells‘ Little Wars has had, even though despite the popgun driven firing system, there are many surprisingly modern features: four man units, concealed movement, ammunition logistics … well worth rereading.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 2 October 2020

Blog Post Script – some RLS and others toy soldier poems that I have featured on my blog over the years

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/block-city-rls-and-

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/more-dumb-soldiers-in-the-garden/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/rls-martial-elegy-for-some-lead-soldiers/

9 thoughts on “Robert Louis Stevenson’s Toy Soldiers”

  1. A lovely find. When I visited the Churchill War Room in London, there was a small display of flats very similar to these, though I don’t think they were from his own childhood collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always hope that one day Stevenson’s notebook containing his rules turns up in a dusty corner of a library or archive. If such a thing ever existed.
    The H G Wells photos did make me wonder if I should field the odd broken figure in homage to his games…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always wondered how RLS managed to control his troops on his ‘counterpane’, (which I envisaged as the old fashioned feather filled bedspread in pre-duvet times), as they wouldn’t stay upright for long. At least, not when I tried it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Both you and I and Donald Featherstone found the same “At first glance beds , with their blanket-covered hummocks, hills and valleys, might seem pretty reasonable places upon which to fight a wargame, but experiment soon proves that this is not so. In the first place, the figures will not stand up and even the most judicious positioning of the legs under the bedclothes so as to make the hills less steep will eventually be defeated by cramp if nothing else …”

      This excerpt is from Chapter 20, “Wargaming in Bed” in Solo Wargaming by Donald Featherstone (1973 /2009 reprint p. 139), an excellent chapter full of suitably simple rules for skirmishes with jousting knights or duellists.
      https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/the-land-of-counterpane/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another most interesting post about wargaming heritage, thanks. Beautiful figures in the museum too. It’s good that more and more museums seem to be putting up reasonable virtual rooms for us to enjoy from afar.
    Regards, James

    Liked by 1 person

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