Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like all of Stevenson’s writing, “A Lodging for the Night” is notable for a clear, well-crafted style. There is nothing complicated about the construction of the story; it moves in a linear manner from beginning to end. Stevenson made his moralizing dramatic by couching it in the form of a dialogue between Villon and his host, and the argument between them is fairly well balanced, with Villon getting the last word. The genesis of the story can be found in Stevenson’s earlier article about Villon, where he briefly recounted the murder of Thevenin and commented, “If time had only spared us some particulars, might not this last have furnished us with the matter of a grisly winter’s tale?” On further reflection, he fashioned just such a tale out of the incident. The story contains a marvelous evocation of medieval Paris on a wintry night, when people were frozen to death on the streets and wolves were prowling over the snow. Furnas writes, “’A Lodging for the Night’ has a high and valuable flavor of Balzac—the harsh little literary curiosity is still shapelessly cunning, and, for all its didactic dialogue, strangely alive.”

As a novelist, Stevenson was to make his mark with vigorous historical romances, and “A Lodging for the Night” was his first work in that genre.