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Robert Louis Stevenson Dies - History
The Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson is most known for his novel “Treasure Island”, and for the gothic novella “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, which our upcoming London StoryTour is based on. Here are ten quick facts to get to know him better!
- Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850 and his family’s profession was lighthouse design. A career he would later turn down to pursue writing instead.
- As a child, Robert Louis Stevenson often suffered from respiratory illnesses. This followed him through life and resulted in him being extraordinary thin. Due to being chronically ill, he was privately tutored at home during long periods of time. This is when he began writing stories. His father was immensely proud of his writing and paid for Robert’s first publication at 16, entitled “The Pentland Rising: A Page of History, 1666”.
- Stevenson had a temporary falling out with his parents after his father had found a pamphlet in his room. It contained the constitution of the Liberty, Justice and Reverence Club, of which Stevenson and his cousin Bob were members. The constitution began: “Disregard everything our parents have taught us”.
Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne
- He met his American future wife, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, in France in 1876 when he was 26 years old. Three years later he left Europe on a steamship to join Fanny and her children in San Francisco. But his poor health almost killed him before he got there. He had to stop in Monterey in California, where some local ranchers nursed him back to health. It was not until almost six months after his journey had started that he once again met Fanny in San Francisco. He later wrote about the experience in “The Amateur Emigrant”. It seems like a great experience for his writing, but it took a great toll on him physically.
- The couple married and spent their honeymoon in an abandoned mining camp in Napa Valley. The place was later turned into a park and named after Robert Louis Stevenson. This trip is described in Stevenson’s “The Silverado Squatters”.
- Stevenson wrote “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” while spending the summer in Bournemouth with his family. Fanny later told Stevenson’s biographer that the story had come to her husband in the shape of a nightmare. She’d woken him up when he cried out in horror. But when he woke, he was annoyed: “Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale!”. Robert wrote the first draft of the short story in three days. And after having received notes from Fanny, he burned it and rewrote it in three to six days.
The years abroad
- He was always on the hunt for a climate that suited his poor health. In 1888 he and his family boarded a ship headed for the eastern and central pacific. They spent three years travelling around and during their time at the Hawaii islands, he became good friends with King Kalākaua and the king’s niece Princess Victoria Kaiulani. The family also spent time at the Gilbert Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand and the Samoan Islands. During this period, Stevenson completed “The Master of Ballantrae”, composed two ballads based on the legends of the islanders, and wrote “The Bottle Imp”.
- In 1890, Stevenson purchased a piece of land of about 1.6 km² on Upolu, an island in Samoa. He took the native name Tusitala, which is Samoan for “Teller of Tales”.
- Robert Louis Stevenson died at the age of 44 in 1894. He was talking to his wife while opening a bottle of wine when he suddenly collapsed. It is believed that he died from a cerebral hemorrhage. Stevenson is buried on Mount Vaea on Upolu, close to the family home – which today is a museum dedicated to the author.
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The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson
My principal qualification for writing about Robert Louis Stevenson is affection. He is the only author of whom I can say that I have been reading him all my life. Kidnapped was the first book I read that had chapters, and I can still recall the maroon binding and the weight of the book in my hand. At that time I lived with my parents in the valley of Glenalmond, at the edge of the Scottish Highlands. Perhaps Stevenson knew of that place, for Lord Glenalmond plays a role in his last work, Weir of Hermiston. I had only to look out the windows of our house to see the stark hills, the heather, and the bracken, the landscape so bare of hiding places, over which David Balfour and Alan Breck made their way. And in those years of genderless reading it never occurred to me that I could not go with them.
Besides being the first full-length book I read, Kidnapped was the first book whose author's name I knew. Indeed. I hadn't previously known there was such a thing as an author. Books had fallen from the bookshelves like leaves from the trees. I did not question their origins they were absolute in themselves. But in the case of the maroon book the music of Stevenson's name impressed me. I also owned a copy of A Child's Garden of Verses. "My Shadow." with its mixture of observation and mystery, was one of my favorite poems.
Such early recognition might seem like a good thing for an author's reputation, but it is in fact part of the long process by which Stevenson's work has been devalued. That I and so many others came to his work so young has made us consider him a children's author from whom we have little to learn as adults. This opinion is one that his contemporaries would not have shared, either in his particular case or as a general rule. Victorian adults felt free to embrace so-called children's books without apology. Stevenson's father often reread The Parent's Assistant, a volume of children's stories, and Virginia Woolf records being taken to Peter Pan on her twenty-third birthday with no signs that this was a childish treat.
Like the shadow in his poem, Stevenson's reputation has waxed and waned at an alarming rate. The blaze of hagiography in which he died seems to have incited critics to special fury. F. R. Leavis, in The Great Tradition, dismissed Stevenson as a romantic writer guilty of fine writing, and the critical community in general has designated him a minor author not worthy of the serious admiration that we accord his friend Henry James. People comment with amazement that Borges and Nabokov liked his work. This year marks the centenary of Stevenson's death, and I am not alone in believing that it is time to reconsider his reputation.
Two obvious factors in Stevenson's fall from grace are quantity and fashion. The list of his publications is much longer than most people realize, but the few works by which we remember him do not constitute a recognizable oeuvre. And literary taste has swung in a direction that Stevenson disliked and did his best to avoid-namely, pessimism. While admiring the early Hardy, for instance, he hated Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and he took James to task for The Portrait of a Lady. John Galsworthy commented memorably on this when he said that the superiority of Stevenson over Hardy was that Stevenson was all life, while Hardy was all death.
There are, of course, more-crucial reasons why Stevenson's shadow has dwindled. He often falls short of our expectations of a serious novelist his plots tend to be too simple in psychological terms and too fantastic in terms of events. The former problem stemmed partly from his theory of fiction the latter he knew to be a fault and blamed on the tales of his childhood. Typically he worked on several projects at once, a sign of his natural prolixity but also of the difficulty he had in reaching conclusions. History, which gave him so many of his plots, was not so generous with endings, and in trying to invent them, Stevenson often either overreached the bounds of credibility, as in The Master of Ballantrae, or fell into flatness, as in Kidnapped.
The most complete account we have of his theory of fiction is contained in "A Humble Remonstrance," the essay he wrote in reply to James's "The Art of Fiction." Here we see him rebutting James's view that art should compete with life:
In fact many of his critics have brought just this charge against Stevenson: that in the pursuit of significance he departed too far from life.
I would argue that in his best work—most notably Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Weir of Hermiston—Stevenson, perhaps in spite of himself, failed to emasculate his art. He opens his eyes, and ours, to the confusion of reality, and what he shows us is something that the modern reader is vitally concerned with: the inescapable duality of our existence.
Shortly before his death Stevenson wrote,
He dramatized this spectacle with lyrical specificity and, as his work matured, increasing subtlety. And no one has ever described better what I saw from the window of my first bedroom.
HOW Stevenson grew to be preoccupied with duality can be seen in even a brief examination of his life. He was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh. His father, Thomas, came from a line of lighthouse engineers. His mother, Margaret, was the youngest of the thirteen children of the Reverend Lewis Balfour. Louis, as the boy was called, had a formidable Scottish nanny, Cummy, who he later claimed was a major influence. By the time he was seven, the family had moved to 17 Heriot Row in the New Town of Edinburgh, a highly respectable address from which Stevenson later ventured forth to explore the more salacious neighborhoods of the city.
He began writing at an early age, dictating "A History of Moses" to his mother when he was six. Unlike me, he knew about authors and referred to himself as one. He read widely, not least history, and grew up vividly aware that Scotland was divided by both politics and temperament. The natural enmity between the cold, proper Lowland Scots and the fiery Highlanders informs much of his work.
His parents were proud of his precocious literary endeavors, but it never occurred to them that their son would be a writer, he was destined to be a lighthouse engineer. To this end Louis studied engineering at Edinburgh University—very lackadaisically, by all accounts—and accompanied his father to remote lighthouses, trips he later made use of in his work, especially Kidnapped. His parents seem to have tolerated his lack of studiousness, but in 1873 there was a terrible crisis when they discovered that Louis had lost his faith. Fortunately, they do not seem to have been aware that he also was involved with prostitutes. Partly as a result of these quarrels Louis collapsed and was sent to recuperate in the south of France. There, in a determined effort to improve his writing, he continued to play "the sedulous ape," as he described it, imitating Wordsworth, Defoe, Hawthorne, and Baudelaire, among others.
Over the next few years he wrote a number of essays, including a highly controversial one in which he took Robert Burns to task for philandering, and reached a modus vivendi with his parents. They gave him an allowance of about £80 a year, and he gave up engineering in favor of law. In 1875 he was admitted to the Scottish bar his total earnings as a solicitor are recorded as four guineas.
The rapprochement between parents and son weathered even the scandal of Louis's marriage. In 1876, while visiting a cousin in Grez, France, Stevenson met Fanny Osbourne. She was an American, ten years older than he, and estranged from her husband. She had come to Grez with her two children, Lloyd and Belle, to recover from the death of her third child. Later Osbourne claimed that Stevenson fell in love with her at first sight. This seems to have been pure fabrication, but not long after this he visited her in Paris. Osbourne gave an odd picture of her volatile suitor "I do wish Louis wouldn't burst into tears in such an unexpected way," she wrote. He also suffered from cataracts of laughter the only cure for which, he claimed, was to have someone bend back his fingers. Osbourne and Stevenson almost certainly became lovers around this time.
In 1878 Osbourne returned to America and Stevenson, briefly, to Scotland. That autumn he was back in France, where he bought a donkey for sixty-five francs. He named her Modestine, and during their twelve-day journey in the Cévennes he reduced her value by nearly half. Later he immortalized her in Travels With a Donkey. We do not know on exactly what terms he and Osbourne had parted, but in July of 1879 she sent him a telegram. In the most romantic gesture of his life he set sail secretly for America. His account of the voyage and the subsequent train journey to San Francisco was so grim that his father persuaded him not to publish The Amateur Emigrant. By the time he reached Osbourne, in Monterey, Stevenson needed a nurse more than a wife. Their marriage, the following year, was described by both parties as taking place in extremis.
Fanny is a major battleground for Stevenson biographers, as two recent books—Robert Louis Stevenson, by Frank McLynn, and Dreams of Exile, by Ian Bell—demonstrate. Whatever came later, it seems clear that the unlikely couple were initially in love. For Stevenson, Fanny was the apogee of several significant relationships with older women. As for her, surely love was the only argument for marrying a sickly, impoverished writer. Later Fanny advertised herself as Stevenson's muse, collaborator, and nursemaid, claims that are vigorously, and often convincingly, challenged by Frank McLynn. Still, I find myself reluctant to apportion blame. Who can say who are the criminals in love? Stevenson lived with Fanny for fourteen years, and during that time wrote the works by which we know him.
For the first few years of their marriage the Stevensons shuttled back and forth between Scotland and the Continent, finally settling in 1884 in the English seaside town of Bournemouth. Louis spent much of the next three years in bed, and later described himself as having lived there "like a weevil in a biscuit." During this time he became better acquainted with Henry James, who came to Bournemouth to visit another invalid: his sister, Alice. The two passed from admiration into a friendship that survived a number of aesthetic disagreements. Why not write about women? James suggested. What about action? Stevenson urged. How different the work of each might have been if he had heeded the other.
In spite of ill health Stevenson was wonderfully productive. In rapid succession he published A Child's Garden of Verses, Jekyll and Hyde, and Kidnapped. By the time he and Fanny left Britain, in 1887, he was a well-known writer. Thomas Stevenson had died in May of that year, and with his death Louis felt free to go abroad. In August be and Fanfly sailed to America, and for a time they led an extreme version of the itinerant life that used to be common for writers. Eventually they made their way to the South Seas and Samoa, where in 1889 they bought an estate called Vailima. To the public this was the realization of the myth: the author of Treasure Island was now living on his own island.
Life at Vailima, however, was far from idyllic. Fanny, who had long suffered from nervous illnesses, became increasingly difficult, and Stevenson, though he was earning more than ever before, was worried about money. These anxieties go some way toward explaining why, in spite of his better health, so little of the work by which we remember him comes from this period. Not that he was idle—he wrote constantly, but mostly travel books and a history of Samoa, all of which provoked James to urge him not to squander his gifts.
Perhaps James was prescient. On December 3, 1894, Stevenson wrote fiction in the morning, wrote letters in the afternoon, and died in the evening. He was helping Fanny to make mayonnaise dressing, adding the oil drop by drop, when he collapsed. By dawn the following day the Samoans were at work cutting a road up the slopes of Mount Vaca with knives and axes. That afternoon his coffin was carried in relays to the summit.
TO map Stevenson's life is to produce a complex diagram in which we can see, I think, why dualism was such a central concern for him. As the bohemian child of conventional parents, as a Lowland Scot, as an invalid, as an exile, he was always living a double life, trying to be in two places, or two postures, at the same time, and nowhere more so than in his difficult relationship with his father. This relationship was for Stevenson the central dualism: his father was the prim face, he was the orgiastic foundations, and the resulting quarrel between them was simultaneously a great force and a great barrier in his work. In Treasure Island and Kidnapped he offered a preliminary solution to the quarrel by killing off the narrator's father—in the opening chapters of the former, before the novel begins in the latter. Until after Thomas's death Stevenson had trouble keeping fictional fathers alive.
Like many great writers, Stevenson was slow to discover his true subjects. "I sit for a long while silent on my eggs," he wrote. He was thirty when he began what would be his first success, Treasure Island. The genesis of the novel is revealing. The family was staying in the small Scottish town of Braemar. One rainy afternoon Stevenson drew a map of an island and began to make up a story to go with it to entertain his stepson, Lloyd. Thomas Stevenson was visiting at the time and enthusiastically contributed suggestions to his son's project. Early chapters were read aloud to the appreciative family. The novel went on to be serialized in a boys' magazine and was published as a book in 1883. It is surely no accident that Stevenson found narrative luck on the first occasion for which we have any record of his father's approval.
Stevenson's avowed aim in Treasure Island was to write a story for boys—“No need of psychology or fine writing," he said. Many readers, including James, praised the novel. Probably no one at the time, including Stevenson himself, recognized his most significant accomplishment. With the tap of Pew's cane and a few choruses of yo-ho-ho, he liberated children's writing from the heavy chains of Victorian didacticism.
One of the great pleasures of reconsidering Stevenson was rereading Kidnapped I came back to it hesitantly, nervously, expecting to take my seven-year-old self to task, and found from the beautiful, stately opening pages, wherein David Balfour leaves his home for the last time, that 1 was captivated. Alan Breck remains a wonderfully jaunty character, and I was struck afresh by Stevenson's gift for describing landscapes that both shape and reveal the actions of the characters.
Only after I closed the book did it occur to me that the story was set almost a century before Stevenson's birth. I attribute this oversight not to my obtuseness but to his genius. As he liberated children's literature from didacticism, so he liberated the historical novel from creaking obeisance toward the past. He presented the characters in a prose that is lively and lucid and, best of all, unstrained by nostalgia.
Jekyll and Hyde, the quintessential novel of a double life, was written "in a white heat" around the same time as Kidnapped, and had a long hatching period—Stevenson had known about Deacon Brodic, the eighteenth-century Edinburgh cabinetmaker on whom he based Jekyll and Hyde, since childhood. The novel, published in 1886, achieved something even better than good reviews it became the subject of numerous sermons. Forty thousand copies were sold within the first six months, and since then the phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" has entered the culture.
To go back and read what Stevenson actually wrote is disorienting for several reasons. The novel is firmly in the romantic tradition wherein amazing events are reported by a dry-as-dust narrator. We tend to overlook the cold, silent lawyer Utterson who guides us through the story and who, precisely because of his reserve, is the best possible witness to the horror of Hyde. Part of our disorientation is not merely forgetfulness but the result of Stevenson's cunning design. The labyrinthine streets through which we pursue Hyde increasingly depart from the map of the known city. Slowly but inexorably we are being led into a strange country, where the relationship between Jekyll's prim white hand and Hyde's orgiastic hairy paw will be revealed. The two are not merely opposites, or alter egos. In Nabokov's helpful analogy Hyde is a precipitate of Jekyll. We might also think of him as Jekyll's son.
Critics have speculated that both Jekyll and Hyde are guilty of sexual misdemeanors. But I read the novel as essentially Scottish the sins I attribute to Jekyll are the Edinburgh ones of secrecy and puritanism that governed Stevenson's youth and my own. Whatever the author had in mind, vagueness has served the novel well. Sin dates, and modern readers, although frustrated, we left free to imagine their own version of horror.
Between Jekyll and Hyde and Weir, Stevenson wrote several more novels, among them The Master of Ballantrae and David Balfour. The former is commonly regarded as his greatest full-length work, although the plot, about a life-long duel between two brothers, one of whom turns out to be an incubus, defeated even as staunch an admirer as André Gide. What is notable in terms of Stevenson's development as a writer is that the father remains alive through the first half of the novel and that the characters include a strong-minded, intelligent woman.
Both these promises are fulfilled in the unfinished Weir of Hermiston. Here Stevenson at last explored the quarrel between father and son and created two superb female characters. Lord Braxfleld, the notorious Scots hanging judge, was, like Deacon Brodie, a famous Edinburgh character. Stevenson became convinced that Braxfleld was his great subject, the one that would allow him to achieve the epic qualities his work to that point had lacked.
The plot combines the dazzle of reality with the, significance of art. Archie, the only son of ill-matched parents, is raised at Hermiston by his religious mother, who unthinkingly teaches him to criticize his father. After her death he moves to Edinburgh to live with his father, the judge. The crisis between them comes when Archie, now a law student, watches his father sentence a man to death.
Archie denounces the hanging as murder, and his father banishes him to Hermiston. There the older Kirstie, his housekeeper, falls in love with him, while he falls in love with her niece, the younger Kirstie. The idyllic pursuit of the latter, secret relationship is interrupted by the arrival of Frank, an lago-like figure. Frank discovers the relationship and, with the worst intentions, warns Archie against it. His advice is seconded by the older Kirstie, for very different reasons. In chapter nine we see Archie attempting to act on it.
From letters and notes we have an idea of how Stevenson imagined the remainder of the book. Frank was going to seduce the younger Kirstie. Archie would shoot Frank and be arrested. He would come to trial, and in some way—Stevenson was desperate to make this work—he would be tried by his father and condemned to death.
All this, whatever its credibility, does have the resonance of an epic. It is also Stevenson's profoundest exploration of duality. Finally he laid aside the subterfuges of the supernatural and created characters who are both in opposition to each other and at war within themselves. In his single person the judge upholds the polite face of society while remaining firmly rooted in the orgiastic foundations, and it is crucial to the tragedy that Axvhie is his father's son as well as his mother's. Here we see him describing his tangled feelings:
And yet, Archie goes on, he has asked his father's pardon and placed himself wholly in his hands. The two Kirsties also show us terrific vitality and subtlety of motivation.
That Stevenson died in the midst of this story is tragic that he lived to write it at all is a marvel. The canon has taught us to value a body of work over a single work, but at this late date in the twentieth century, drowning in books, surely we can afford to esteem quality even when it comes without quantity. If Stevenson deserves a place in our adult lives, his reputation must, like a number of authors', rest on only a few works. As we love Shelley for Frankenstein, Di Lampedusa for The Leopard, Fournier for The Lost Domain, so we can love Stevenson for his vaulted ambition and because in those last days of his life, at least, he wrote pages worthy of that ambition and of our admiration. He worked on Weir of Hermiston intermittently from 1892 onward. The last words were dictated the morning of his death.
Robert Louis Stevenson
In September 1857, Stevenson went to Mr Henderson’s School in India Street, Edinburgh, however due to poor well being stayed just a few weeks and didn’t return till October 1859. During his many absences, he was taught by personal tutors. In October 1861, he went to Edinburgh Academy, an impartial college for boys, and stayed there sporadically for about fifteen months. In the autumn of 1863, he spent one time period at an English boarding college at Spring Grove in Isleworth in Middlesex (now an city space of West London). In October 1864, following an enchancment to his well being, he was despatched to Robert Thomson’s personal college in Frederick Street, Edinburgh, the place he remained till he went to college.  In November 1867, Stevenson entered the University of Edinburgh to check engineering. He confirmed from the beginning no enthusiasm for his research and devoted a lot power to avoiding lectures. This time was extra necessary for the friendships he made with different college students in The Speculative Society (an unique debating membership), significantly with Charles Baxter, who would turn into Stevenson’s monetary agent, and with a professor, Fleeming Jenkin, whose home staged novice drama during which Stevenson took half, and whose biography he would later write.  Perhaps most necessary at this level in his life was a cousin, Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (often called “Bob”), a energetic and light-hearted younger man who, as a substitute of the household occupation, had chosen to check artwork. 
Stevenson was an solely little one, each strange-looking and eccentric, and he discovered it onerous to slot in when he was despatched to a close-by college at age 6, an issue repeated at age 11 when he went on to the Edinburgh Academy however he blended effectively in energetic video games together with his cousins in summer time holidays at Colinton.  His frequent sicknesses typically saved him away from his first college, so he was taught for lengthy stretches by personal tutors. He was a late reader, studying at age 7 or 8, however even earlier than this he dictated tales to his mom and nurse,  and he compulsively wrote tales all through his childhood. His father was pleased with this curiosity he had additionally written tales in his spare time till his personal father discovered them and instructed him to “quit such nonsense and thoughts what you are promoting.”  He paid for the printing of Robert’s first publication at 16, entitled The Pentland Rising: A Page of History, 1666. It was an account of the Covenanters’ revolt which was printed in 1866, the 2 hundredth anniversary of the occasion. 
Stevenson’s dad and mom had been each religious Presbyterians, however the family was not strict in its adherence to Calvinist ideas. His nurse Alison Cunningham (often called Cummy)  was extra fervently spiritual. Her mixture of Calvinism and folks beliefs had been an early supply of nightmares for the kid, and he confirmed a precocious concern for faith.  But she additionally cared for him tenderly in sickness, studying to him from John Bunyan and the Bible as he lay sick in mattress and telling tales of the Covenanters. Stevenson recalled this time of illness in “The Land of Counterpane” in A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885),  dedicating the ebook to his nurse. 
Lewis Balfour and his daughter each had weak chests, in order that they typically wanted to remain in hotter climates for his or her well being. Stevenson inherited an inclination to coughs and fevers, exacerbated when the household moved to a moist, chilly home at 1 Inverleith Terrace in 1851.  The household moved once more to the sunnier 17 Heriot Row when Stevenson was six years outdated, however the tendency to excessive illness in winter remained with him till he was 11. Illness was a recurrent function of his grownup life and left him terribly skinny.  Contemporaneous views had been that he had tuberculosis, however more moderen views are that it was bronchiectasis  and even sarcoidosis. 
Lighthouse design was the household’s occupation Thomas’s father (Robert’s grandfather) was civil engineer Robert Stevenson, and Thomas’s brothers (Robert’s uncles) Alan and David had been in the identical subject.  Thomas’s maternal grandfather Thomas Smith had been in the identical occupation. However, Robert’s mom’s household had been gentry, tracing their lineage again to Alexander Balfour who had held the lands of Inchyra in Fife within the fifteenth century. His mom’s father Lewis Balfour (1777–1860) was a minister of the Church of Scotland at close by Colinton,  and her siblings included doctor George William Balfour and marine engineer James Balfour. Stevenson spent the higher a part of his boyhood holidays in his maternal grandfather’s home. “Now I typically surprise what I inherited from this outdated minister,” Stevenson wrote. “I have to suppose, certainly, that he was keen on preaching sermons, and so am I, although I by no means heard it maintained that both of us cherished to listen to them.” 
Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 13 November 1850 to Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), a number one lighthouse engineer, and his spouse, Margaret Isabella (born Balfour, 1829–1897). He was christened Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson. At about age 18, he modified the spelling of “Lewis” to “Louis”, and he dropped “Balfour” in 1873.  
A star in his lifetime, Stevenson’s essential popularity has fluctuated since his demise, although at the moment his works are held normally acclaim. In 2018 he was ranked, simply behind Charles Dickens, because the Twenty sixth-most-translated writer on the earth. 
Born and educated in Edinburgh, Stevenson suffered from critical bronchial hassle for a lot of his life, however continued to write down prolifically and journey broadly in defiance of his poor well being. As a younger man, he blended in London literary circles, receiving encouragement from Andrew Lang, Edmund Gosse, Leslie Stephen and W. E. Henley, the final of whom could have supplied the mannequin for Long John Silver in Treasure Island. In 1890, he settled in Samoa the place, alarmed at growing European and American affect within the South Sea islands, his writing turned away from romance and journey towards a darker realism. He died in his island house in 1894. 
Robert Louis Stevenson (born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson 13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet and journey author, most famous for writing Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.
When Stevenson was twenty-one years old, he openly declared his intention of becoming a writer, against the strong opposition of his father. Agreeing to study law as a compromise, in 1875 Stevenson was admitted to the Scottish bar, an organization for lawyers. Having traveled to the European mainland several times for health and pleasure, he now swung back and forth between Scotland and a growing circle of artistic and literary friends in London, England, and Paris, France. Stevenson's first book, An Inland Voyage (1878), related his adventures during a canoe trip on Belgium and France's canals.
In France in 1876 Stevenson met an American woman named Fanny Osbourne. Separated from her husband, she was eleven years older than Stevenson and had two children. Three years later Stevenson and Osbourne were married. After accompanying his wife to America, Stevenson stayed in an abandoned mining camp, later recounted in The Silverado Squatters (1883). A year after setting out for the United States, Stevenson was back in Scotland. But the climate there proved to be a severe hardship on his health, and for the next four years he and his wife lived in Switzerland and in the south of France. Despite his health, these years proved to be productive. The stories Stevenson collected in The New Arabian Nights (1883) and The Merry Men (1887) range from detective stories to Scottish dialect tales, or tales of the region.
Songs of Travel and other Verses
Weir of Hermiston (an unfinished novel)
In the South Seas
1897 – May 14, Margaret Stevenson dies in Edinburgh.
St. Ives: Being The Adventures of a French Prisoner in England
1914 – February 19, Fanny Stevenson dies in Santa Barbara, California.
1915 – June, Fanny buried with Stevenson on the summit of Mount Vaea, Samoa.
Robert Louis Stevenson
The author and poet is best known for his novels Treasure Island (1881), Kidnapped (1886), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and The Master of Ballantrae (1889).
Born in Edinburgh, Stevenson began writing as a teenager, a passion that eclipsed any desire to become part of the family profession of lighthouse engineering, or the law career he chose and studied but never practised.
Despite frail health due to tuberculosis, Stevenson, who enjoyed a bohemian lifestyle, travelled abroad often, and many of his books were produced during those journeys. He married American Fanny Vandegrift in 1880 and they lived, broke, in California before sailing to Scotland.
Stevenson split his time between Switzerland and Scotland - on medical advice for his ongoing problems with tuberculosis - and during this time began work on his famous novel, Treasure Island, as well as many other published works.
In 1887, by then living in the south of England where he wrote Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it became clear Stevenson&rsquos health could not cope with the climate. He left for New York&rsquos Adirondack Mountains with his wife, mother and stepson where he continued to write and found editors and publishers were willing to offer lucrative contracts.
The following year, Stevenson chartered a yacht for a holiday on the seas from which he would never return and which would result in the publication of in-depth insights about the South Seas.
Arrival in Samoa
After visiting a number of islands for extended stays, where Stevenson found a great interest in immersing himself in the local lifestyle, they reached Samoa in 1889 for a six-week stay. After a stint in Sydney, he returned to Samoa and set up life in the Vailima house in what is today the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum.
Stevenson became a popular and well-respected member of the community and continued to write, the climate suiting his health, until his death at age 44 - not from tuberculosis, but a cerebral haemorrhage. He was buried on top of Mount Vaea, overlooking the sea.
Today, the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum includes excerpts from his work and family memorabilia.
Robert Louis Stevenson Dies - History
Robert Lewis (later: “Louis”) Balfour Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on 13 November 1850. His father Thomas belonged to a family of engineers who had built many of the deep-sea lighthouses around the rocky coast of Scotland. His mother, Margaret Isabella Balfour, came from a family of lawyers and church ministers. In 1857 the family moved to 17 Heriot Row, a solid, respectable house in Edinburgh’s New Town.
At the age of seventeen he enrolled at Edinburgh University to study engineering, with the aim – his father hoped – of following him in the family firm. However, he abandoned this course of studies and made the compromise of studying law. He “passed advocate” in 1875 but did not practice since by now he knew he wanted to be a writer. In the university’s summer vacations he went to France to be in the company of other young artists, both writers and painters. His first published work was an essay called “Roads”, and his first published volumes were works of travel writing.
Early Published Works
His first published volume, An Inland Voyage (1878), is an account of the journey he made by canoe from Antwerp to northern France, in which prominence is given to the author and his thoughts. A companion work, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879), gives us more of his thoughts on life and human society and continues in consolidating the image of the debonair narrator that we also find in his essays and letters (which can be classed among his best works).
Meeting with Fanny, Journey to California, Marriage
The meeting with his future wife, Fanny, was to change the rest of his life. They met immediately after his “inland voyage”, in September 1876 at Grez, a riverside village south-east of Paris he was twenty-five, and she was thirty-six, an independent American “New Woman”, separated from her husband and with two children. Two years later she returned to California and a year after that, in August 1879, RLS set out on the long journey to join her. This experience was to be the subject of his next large-scale work The Amateur Emigrant (written 1879-80, published in part in 1892 and in full in 1895), an account of this journey to California, which Noble (1985: 14) considers his finest work. In this work of perceptive reportage and open-minded and humane observation the voice is less buoyant and does not avoid observation of hardship and suffering. (The light-hearted paradoxes and confidential address to the reader of the essays written a few years before (1876-77) and then published as Virginibus Puerisque (1881) continue in the creation of that original debonair authorial persona.) After Fanny obtained a divorce, she and RLS were married in San Francisco in May 1880. Concluding this first period of writing based closely on his own direct experiences is The Silverado Squatters (1883), an account of their three week honeymoon at an abandoned silver mine in California.
Stevenson has an important place in the history of the short story in the British Isles: the form had been elaborated and developed in America, France and Russia from the mid-19th century, but it was Stevenson who initiated the British tradition. His first published fictional narrative was “A Lodging for the Night” (1877), a short story originally published in a magazine, like other early narrative works, such as “The Sire De Malétroit’s Door” (1877), “Providence and the Guitar” (1878), and “The Pavilion on the Links” (1880, considered by Conan Doyle in 1890 as “the high-water mark of [Stevenson’s] genius” and “the first short story in the world” (Menikoff 1990, p. 342). These four tales were collected in a volume entitled New Arabian Nights in 1882, preceded by the seven linked stories originally called “Latter-Day Arabian Nights” when published in a magazine in 1878. This collection is seen as the starting point for the history of the English short story by Barry Menikoff (1987, p. 126). The Arabian stories were described by critics of the time as “fantastic stories of adventure”, “grotesque romances” “in which the analytic mind loses itself” (Maixner, pp. 117, 120), and are seen by Chesterton as “unequalled” and “the most unique of his works”(p. 169). They have an affinity with the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in their setting in the labyrinthine modern city, and the subject matter of crimes and guilty secrets involving respectable members of society. Stevenson continued to write short stories all his life, and notable titles include: “Thrawn Janet” (1881), “The Merry Men” (1882), “The Treasure of Franchard” (1883), “Markheim” (1885), which, being a narrative of the Double, has certain affinities with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. “Olalla” (1885), which like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde originated in a dream also deals with the possibility of degeneration. The above short narratives were all collected in The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables in 1887.
“Olalla” was written in the period of just over two years (1885-87) when Stevenson and Fanny were living in Bournemouth. Despite problems of health and finances, this was a period of meetings with Henry James, W.E. Henley and other literary figures, and when he wrote the long short-story (published as a single volume), his “breakthrough book” Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886).
Another collection Island Nights’ Entertainments, tales with a South Sea setting, was published in 1893, including “The Bottle Imp” (1891), “The Beach of Falesà” (1892, a long short story of the same length as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), and “The Isle of Voices”(1893).
Novels and Romances
Prince Otto (1885), his second full-length narrative, is defined by as “a philosophical-humouristical-psychological fantasy” (Maixner, p. 181). The action is provocatively set in the imaginary state of Grünewald, an unusual choice for Stevenson, and it was to historical Scotland (which had already provided the setting for Kidnapped and Catriona) that he turned for his next full-length “adult” story, The Master of Ballantrae (1889). This is a Doubles narrative in which the brothers James and Henry have similarities with Jekyll and Hyde, not only in their initials, but also because of the mixed personality of the “good” character, the constant return of the persecuting Double, and the simultaneous death of the two antagonists. Both Calvino and Brecht consider it to be the best of Stevenson’s works, and it is highly praised by writers as diverse as Henry James, Walter Benjamin and André Gide. The novel that he was working on when he died, Weir of Hermiston (published incomplete and posthumously in 1896), is also set in Scotland in the not-too-distant past and has also been often praised and seen as Stevenson’s masterpiece. The centre of the story is the difficult relationship of an authoritarian father and a son who has to assert his own identity (a theme present in many of Stevenson’s works – and we may remember that Hyde is presented in some ways as Jekyll’s son – clearly a way for Stevenson to explore and come to terms with his difficult relationship with his own father).
In the South Seas
Weir of Hermiston, Stevenson’s very Scottish romance, was written when Stevenson was far away on the other side of the world. His decision to sail around the Pacific in 1888, living on various islands for short periods, then setting off again (all the time collecting material for an anthropological and historical work on the South Seas which was never fully completed), was another turning point in his life. In 1889 he and his extended family arrived at the port of Apia in the Samoan islands and they decided to build a house and settle. This choice brought him health, distance from the distractions of literary circles, and went towards the creation of his mature literary persona: the traveller, the exile, very aware of the harsh sides of life but also celebrating the joy in his own skill as a weaver of words and teller of tales. It also acted as a new stimulus to his imagination. He wrote about the Pacific islands in several of his later works: Island Nights’ Entertainments already referred to In the South Seas (published 1896), essays that would have gone towards the large work on the area that he planned and two other narratives with a South Sea setting: The Wrecker (1892), and The Ebb-Tide (1894). The former is a mystery adventure set in various places over the globe but centred in the South Seas (indeed at Midway Island, Latitude 0°) with some dark tones, especially in the fruitless search for treasure and the massacre of a ship’s crew (for quite understandable reasons!). The Ebb-Tide (like “The Beach of Falesà”) gives a realistic picture of the degenerate European traders and riffraff who inhabited the ports of the Pacific islands. These South Sea narratives mark a definite move towards a more harsh and grim realism (Stevenson himself acknowledges affinities of The Ebb-Tide with the work of Zola (Maixner, p. 452)).
The authorial persona had changed from the debonair flâneur of the early works, but retained a joy in his craft and a consciousness in the shaping of his own life. He died in December 1894 and even shaped the manner of his burial: as he had wished, he was buried at the top of Mount Vaea above his home on Samoa. Appropriately it was a part of his own short poem, “Requiem” (from an 1887 collection), that was written on his tomb: “Under the wide and starry sky, / Dig the grave and let me lie…”
Stevenson’s establishes a personal relationship with the reader, and creates a sense of wonder through his brilliant style and his adoption and manipulation of a variety of genres. Writing when the period of the three-volume novel (dominant from about 1840 to 1880) was coming to an end, he seems to have written everything except a traditional Victorian novel: plays, poems, essays, literary criticism, literary theory, biography, travelogue, reportage, romances, boys’ adventure stories, fantasies, fables, and short stories. Like the other writers who were asserting the serious artistic nature of the novel at this time he writes in a careful, almost poetic style – yet he provocatively combines this with an interest in popular genres. His popularity with critics continued to the First World War. He then had the misfortune to be followed by the Modernists who needed to cut themselves off from any tradition Stevenson was felt to be one of the most constraining of immediately-preceding authors for his sheer ability, and one of the most insidious for his play with popular genres and for his preference for “romance” over the serious novel. Condemned by Virginia and especially Leonard Woolf (not unconnected, perhaps, with the fact that one of Stevenson’s great supporters had been Virginia’s father), ignored by F.R.Leavis, he was gradually excluded from the “canon” of regularly taught and written-about works of literature. The nadir comes in 1973 when Frank Kermode and John Hollander published their Oxford Anthology of English Literature. With over two thousand pages at their disposal in which to exemplify and comment on the notable poetry and prose produced in the British Isles from to the Present”, not one page is devoted to Stevenson – in the whole closely-printed two thousand pages, Stevenson is not even mentioned once! Critical interest has been increasing slowly since then, in some countries more than others, though there have been few single-volume studies when compared with the large numbers of books published every year on his contemporaries James and Conrad. Stevenson, some might say, has been fortunate to escape such attention. Reading this Mozartian and mercurial writer remains for many as for Borges, despite critical neglect, quite simply “a form of happiness”.
Ambrosini, Sonia, “La fortuna critica di Robert Louis Stevenson in Italia, con riferimento ad Italo Calvino”, Laurea (M.A.) dissertation, (Università di Bergamo, 1991)
Borges, Jorge Luis, “Prefazione :Robert Louis Stevenson”, L’isola delle voci (Parma: Ricci, 1979) [‘fin dall’infanzia Robert Louis Stevenson è stato per me una delle forme della felicità’]
G.K. Chesterton, Robert Louis Stevenson (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927)
Menikoff, Barry (1987), “Class and Culture in the English Short Story”, Journal of the Short Story in English 8 (1987), pp. 125-39.
– – -, “New Arabian Nights: Stevenson’s experiment in Fiction”, Nineteenth-Century Literature 43 (iii 1990), pp. 339-62.
Noble, Andrew, From the Clyde to California. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Emigrant Journey (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1985)
Woolf, Leonard, “The Fall of Stevenson”, Essays on Literature, History, Politics etc.. (London: Hogarth Press, 1927)
Robert Louis Stevenson: the Critical Heritage, ed by Paul Maixner (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981)
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson has written some of the most popular works of literature to appear in the last two centuries. Robert Louis Stevenson’s most famous books are Treasure Island and Kidnapped, two of the most famous and best written adventure books to ever appear. However, the life of Robert Louis Stevenson is just about as interesting as any of his books, though there aren’t any terrifying encounters with pirates in his life story.
Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was the son of Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Isabella Balfour. He was born a sickly infant, and was sickly throughout his entire life. His nurse’s name was Alison Cunningham, who was called Cummy within the family. From Alison Cunningham, Robert Louis Stevenson received his introduction to literature, and all of the many different forms of literature. Alison Cunningham told Robert Louis Stevenson particularly dark and morbid stories about the Scottish Presbyterian martyrs, known as the Covenantors. She also read him penny-series novels, the Psalms, and Bible stories. Thus Robert Louis Stevenson grew up very knowledgeable about religion, and also was surrounded by stories and storytellers during his entire childhood. Both religious issues and Scottish history would play a large part in Robert Louis Stevenson’s literature, beginning with the first two stories that he wrote as a child: “A History of Moses” and “The Book of Joseph.” Then when Robert Louis Stevenson was sixteen years old, his parents published a pamphlet that he had written about the murder of Nonconformist Scots Presbyterians. The title of the pamphlet is The Pentland Rising.
In November 1867, at the age of seventeen, Robert Louis Stevenson started studying at Edinburgh University. However, he didn’t really study all that much, and instead just practiced writing. He copied the style of very famous writers, including Sir Thomas Browne, Daniel Defoe (the author of Robinson Crusoe), Charles Lamp, William Hazlitt, and Michel de Montaigne. Robert Louis Stevenson published several papers in the Edinburgh University Magazine by the time that he was twenty one years old. The funniest paper was a farce which was entitled “The Philosophy of Umbrellas.”
While he was at Edinburgh University, Robert Louis Stevenson was called Velvet Jacket, because he wore a hat with a wide brim, a boy’s coat, and a cravat. Even though he wanted to drop out of school, Stevenson’s father insisted that he at least get a law degree, which Stevenson did. However, Stevenson had a huge row with his father when his father discovered that Stevenson appeared to be an atheist. The two did eventually make up.
Stevenson discovered a love for travel, and his journeys became fodder for his stories. He took a trip across America and almost died as he was pursuing an American woman with whom he had fallen in love. He turned his trip into “The Story of a Lie” and “The Amateur Emigrant.” Eventually Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne were married, in 1880, after she received a divorce from her husband. Unfortunately, Robert Louis Stevenson’s health became increasingly worse, and from 1880 to 1887, he suffered from hemorrhaging lungs. However, during this time, he wrote his most famous books: Treasure Island, written in 1883 Kidnapped, written in 1886 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde written in 1886, and The Black Arrow, written in 1888.
Throughout his entire life, Robert Louis Stevenson had an incredible literary output. He traveled often, and eventually went to the South Seas, where he lived on various islands, including Hawaii and Samoa. He grew increasingly sick, and also increasingly homesick for Scotland, because even though he loved Samoa, he missed Scotland. He eventually died in Samoa after having written much about it, and was buried there. Robert Louis Stevenson died on December 3, 1894, of a stroke. His death was a blow to the entire literary world, and it was felt keenly, since Stevenson had become a legend both for his literature and for his love of adventure.
A Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 13 November 1850. It has been more than 100 years since his death. Stevenson was a writer who caused conflicting opinions about his works. On one hand, he was often highly praised for his expert prose and style by many English-language critics. On the other hand, others criticised the religious themes in his works, often misunderstanding Stevenson’s own religious beliefs. Since his death a century before, critics and biographers have disagreed on the legacy of Stevenson’s writing. Two biographers, KF and CP , wrote a biography about Stevenson with a clear focus. They chose not to criticise aspects of Stevenson’s personal life. Instead, they focused on his writing, and gave high praise to his writing style and skill.
The literary pendulum has swung these days. Different critics have different opinions towards Robert Louis Stevenson’s works. Though today, Stevenson is one of the most translated authors in the world, his works have sustained a wide variety of negative criticism throughout his life. It was like a complete reversal of polarity—from highly positive to slightly less positive to clearly negative after being highly praised as a great writer, he became an example of an author with corrupt ethics and lack of moral. Many literary critics passed his works off as children’s stories or horror stories, and thought to have little social value in an educational setting. Stevenson’s works were often excluded from literature curriculum because of its controversial nature. These debates remain, and many critics still assert that despite his skill, his literary works still lack moral value.
One of the main reasons why Stevenson’s literary works attracted so much criticism was due to the genre of his writing. Stevenson mainly wrote adventure stories, which was part of a popular and entertaining writing fad at the time. Many of us believe adventure stories are exciting, offers engaging characters, action, and mystery but ultimately can’t teach moral principles. The plot points are one-dimensional and rarely offer a deeper moral meaning, instead focusing on exciting and shocking plot twists and thrilling events. His works were even criticised by fellow authors. Though Stevenson’s works have deeply influenced Oscar Wilde, Wilde often joked that Stevenson would have written better works if he wasn’t born in Scotland. Other authors came to Stevenson’s defence, including Galsworthy who claimed that Stevenson is a greater writer than Thomas Hardy.
Despite Wilde’s criticism, Stevenson’s Scottish identity was an integral part of his written works. Although Stevenson’s works were not popular in Scotland when he was alive, many modern Scottish literary critics claim that Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson are the most influential writers in the history of Scotland. While many critics exalt Sir Walter Scott as a literary genius because of his technical ability, others argue that Stevenson deserves the same recognition for his natural ability to capture stories and characters in words. Many of Scott’s works were taken more seriously as literature for their depth due to their tragic themes, but fans of Stevenson praise his unique style of story-telling and capture of human nature. Stevenson’s works, unlike other British authors, captured the unique day to day life of average Scottish people. Many literary critics point to this as a flaw of his works. According to the critics, truly important literature should transcend local culture and stories. However, many critics praise the local taste of his literature. To this day, Stevenson’s works provide valuable insight to life in Scotland during the 19th century.
Despite much debate of Stevenson’s writing topics, his writing was not the only source of attention for critics. Stevenson’s personal life often attracted a lot of attention from his fans and critics alike. Some even argue that his personal life eventually outshone his writing. Stevenson had been plagued with health problems his whole life, and often had to live in much warmer climates than the cold, dreary weather of Scotland in order to recover. So he took his family to a south pacific island Samoa, which was a controversial decision at that time. However, Stevenson did not regret the decision. The sea air and thrill of adventure complimented the themes of his writing, and for a time restored his health. From there, Stevenson gained a love of travelling, and for nearly three years he wandered the eastern and central Pacific. Much of his works reflected this love of travel and adventure that Stevenson experienced in the Pacific islands. It was as a result of this biographical attention that the feeling grew that interest in Stevenson’s life had taken the place of interest in his works. Whether critics focus on his writing subjects, his religious beliefs, or his eccentric lifestyle of travel and adventure, people from the past and present have different opinions about Stevenson as an author. Today, he remains a controversial yet widely popular figure in Western literature.
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write the correct letter in boxes 27-31 on your answer sheet.
27 Stevenson’s biographers KF and CP
A underestimated the role of family played in Stevenson’s life.
B overestimated the writer’s works in the literature history.
C exaggerated Stevenson’s religious belief in his works.
D elevated Stevenson’s role as a writer.
28 The main point of the second paragraph is
A the public give a more fair criticism to Stevenson’s works.
B recent criticism has been justified.
C the style of Stevenson’s works overweigh his faults in his life.
D Stevenson’s works’ drawback is lack of ethical nature.
29 According to the author, adventure stories
A do not provide plot twists well.
B cannot be used by writers to show moral values.
C are more fashionable art form.
D can be found in other’s works but not in Stevenson’s.
30 What does the author say about Stevenson’s works?
A They describe the life of people in Scotland.
B They are commonly regarded as real literature.
C They were popular during Stevenson’s life.
D They transcend the local culture and stories.
31 The lifestyle of Stevenson
A made his family envy him so much.
B should be responsible for his death.
C gained more attention from the public than his works.
D didn’t well prepare his life in Samoa.
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3?
In boxes 32-35 on you answer sheet, write
TRUE if the statement is true
FALSE if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN if the information is not given in the passage
32 Although Oscar Wilde admired Robert Louis Stevenson very much, he believed Stevenson could have written greater works.
33 Robert Louis Stevenson encouraged Oscar Wilde to start writing at first.
34 Galsworthy thought Hardy is greater writer than Stevenson is.
35 Critics only paid attention to Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing topics.
Complete the notes using the list of words, A-I, below.
Write the correct letter, A-I, in boxes 36-40 on your answer sheet.
Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson
A lot of people believe that Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson are the most influential writer in the history of Scotland, but Sir Walter Scott is more proficient in 36 ……………………………….. , while Stevenson has better 7……………………… . Scott’s books illustrate 38………………………………. especially in terms of tragedy, but a lot of readers prefer Stevenson’s 39……………………………… . What’s more, Stevenson’s understanding of 40………………………………