It Is Perhaps a More Fortunate Destiny To Have a Taste for Collecting Shells Than To Be Born a Millionaire

Robert Louis Stevenson? Florence Davies? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson is best known for his famous novels, e.g., “Treasure Island” and “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. He believed that an individual should be invigorated by desires, interests, and aspirations otherwise he or she will lead a blank life. Stevenson gave shell collecting as an example of a worthy interest. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In the spring of 1879 Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a few draft chapters for a projected treatise on ethics; however, he never completed the treatise. Stevenson died in 1894, and a multi-volume set containing “The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson” was published during the ensuing years. The unrevised draft chapters appeared in volume four in 1896 under the title “Lay Morals”. The following excerpt criticized idle rich people and complimented shell collecting. Emphasis added the excerpts by QI: 1

But money is only a means; it presupposes a man to use it. The rich can go where he pleases, but perhaps please himself nowhere. He can buy a library or visit the whole world, but perhaps has neither patience to read nor intelligence to see. The table may be loaded and the appetite wanting ; the purse may be full, and the heart empty. He may have gained the world and lost himself; and with all his wealth around him, in a great house and spacious and beautiful demesne, he may live as blank a life as any tattered ditcher.

Without an appetite, without an aspiration, void of appreciation, bankrupt of desire and hope, there, in his great house, let him sit and look upon his fingers. It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire. Although neither is to be despised, it is always better policy to learn an interest than to make a thousand pounds; for the money will soon be spent, or perhaps you may feel no joy in spending it; but the interest remains imperishable and ever new.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1896, The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Miscellanies, Volume 4, Lay Morals, Start Page 313, Quote Page 360, Printed by T. and A. Constable for Longmans Green and Company, Sold by Chatto and Windus, London. (Google Books Full View) link