Weir of Hermiston

Weir of Hermiston (1896) is an unfinished novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is markedly different from his previous works in style and has often been praised as a potential masterpiece.[1][2] It was cut short by Stevenson's sudden death in 1894 from a cerebral haemorrhage. The novel is set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

Weir of Hermiston
AuthorRobert Louis Stevenson
PublisherChatto & Windus
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
TextWeir of Hermiston at Wikisource

Plot summaryEdit

The novel tells the story of Archie Weir, a youth born into an upper-class Edinburgh family. Because of his Romantic sensibilities and sensitivity, Archie is estranged from his father, who is depicted as the coarse and cruel judge of a criminal court. By mutual consent, Archie is banished from his family of origin and sent to live as the local laird on a family property in the vicinity of the Borders hamlet Hermiston.

While serving as the laird, Archie meets and falls in love with Kirstie (Christina). As the two are deepening their relationship, the book breaks off. Confusingly, there are two characters in the novel called Christina, the younger of whom is Archie's sweetheart.


According to Sir Sidney Colvin,[3] quoting Stevenson's stepdaughter, Stevenson intended the story to continue with the seduction of (young) Kirstie by Archie's dissolute friend Frank Innes. Kirstie's four brothers believe that Archie is the culprit and vow revenge on him. However, Archie has meanwhile confronted Frank and killed him, and is arrested for murder. He is tried for his life before his father (this is legally implausible as Weir Snr. could have excused himself from presiding) and condemned to death. But the older Kirstie discovers the truth and tells the brothers, who break the jail and release Archie. Archie and his beloved Kirstie flee to America, presumably to live happily ever after.

Cultural allusionsEdit

  • The 1969 Jack Bruce song Weird of Hermiston gets its name from the book, although the lyrics make no reference to the story.
  • In the movie version of Fahrenheit 451, one of the characters has memorized the book, and is teaching it to his nephew before he dies.
  • The Robert Louis Stevenson website maintains a complete list of derivative works.[4]
  • The city of Hermiston, Oregon takes its name from the book.[5]
  • The BBC made a 4-part television series of the story in 1973,[6] a radio play in 1992,[7] and a 2-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation in 2020.[8]
  • The FX television show Archer makes humorous reference to the book in Season 9, Episode 5: "Danger Island: Strange Doings in the Taboo Groves."


  1. ^ Tomaiuolo, Saverio (6 July 2012). Victorian Unfinished Novels: The Imperfect Page. ISBN 9781137008176.
  2. ^ Gray, William Forbes (2005). Some Old Scots Judges: Anecdotes and Impressions. ISBN 9781584774969.
  3. ^ Stevenson, Robert Louis. Weir of Hermiston (Editorial Note to). Wordsworth.
  4. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson Derivative Works
  5. ^ Project, Federal Writers' (31 October 2013). The WPA Guide to Oregon: The Beaver State. ISBN 9781595342355.
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