Robert Louis Stevenson writes this dedication for Kidnapped in the form of a letter to his childhood friend, Charles Baxter. He explains that after he reads this story, Baxter will undoubtedly have many questions to ask Stevenson. The story is based on a true historical incident, and Stevenson admits he takes great liberties with the original event in this story. For example, Baxter will undoubtedly wonder how the Appin murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure (also known as the Red Fox) happened to take place in 1751 (not the actual date of the murder), how the Torran rocks moved so close to Earraid, or why there is no mention of any David Balfour in the official records of the murder trial.
If Baxter were to question Stevenson regarding Alan Breck Stewart’s innocence, asking how he can support this conclusion, Stevenson could make a compelling case for the man’s innocence. First of all, the Appin lore and tradition still proclaim Stewart’s innocence. The “other man,” the one who fired the shot (the murderer), still has descendants in Scotland today; however, his name will never be known, for Highlanders value their secrets as well as their ability to keep secrets.
While Stevenson could argue and defend other points of evidence, the author confesses that he is not particularly concerned about historical accuracy in this story. This is not a book for scholars to study but for schoolboys to read on winter evenings by the fire as bedtime approaches. Stewart may have been a “grim old fire-eater” in history, but in this story he is the vehicle by which a young man (the reader) is carried off to the Highlands so Stewart’s adventures can mingle with his own dreams.
Stevenson does not ask his old friend to like this tale; but perhaps, when Baxter’s son is older, he will enjoy it and be pleased to see his father’s name on the flyleaf. Whether or not that happens, Stevenson is pleased to remember the friend of his youth.