Robert Louis Stevenson

(1850 - 1894), Scottish

Robert Louie Stevenson, most famous for the novel ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,’ was a Scottish 19th-century novelist, travel writer, and a poet. Robert Louis Stevenson (Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson), better known as R.L. Stevenson, is best known among literary enthusiasts as a Victorian novelist, poet, and travel writer. His works, despite being classified as Children’s classics often, are loved by all age groups.

Life Facts

  • R.L. Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 13, 1850.
  • He spent a difficult childhood confined to bed due to his chronic health problems.
  • He was influenced by Allison Cunningham, his nurse at his young age, who would often read the Pilgrim’s Progress and The Old Testament to him.
  • The publication of Treasure Island earned Stevenson recognition among Literary Personalities.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson died at the age of 44 a few hours after suffering a brain hemorrhage on December 3, 1894.

Interesting Facts

  • Stevenson had his first work published at the age of Sixteen in The Pentland Rising in 1866.
  • He gifted his birthday to the 12-year-old daughter of Henry Clay Ide, the US Commissioner to Samoa.
  • Stevenson fell in love and married Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, who was ten years older than him.
  • In 1889, Stevenson bought a 300-acre estate, Vailima, where he lived for the rest of his life and written his most significant works.
  • He invented the sleeping bag 12-day hike through a mountainous region of southern France in 1878.

Famous Books by Elie Wiesel

Treasure Island (1883), without any doubt, is his first major success. It is a tale of piracy, adventure, sea voyage, and buried treasure. It is one of the frequently filmed adventurous novels, which set the ideal model for a pirate’s character. ‘The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses (1883) is a historical novel of adventure and romance. Set during the Wars of the Roses, it presents a miniature version of the war and life in general. ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) explores the contradictory behavior between a person’s private and public selves through the two alter egos of the main character. It plays a vital role in understanding the subconscious mind through the physician (Dr Jekyll), who turns into a psychopathic monster (Mr Hyde) after imbibing a drug meant to separate good from evil in a personality. ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) was one of the first books to present hiking and camping as recreational activities. This travel writing records Stevenson’s invention of the sleeping bag during his 12-day solo hiking in the mountains of Cévennes (south-central France). Kidnapped(1886) is a historical adventurous novel set in Scotland just after the Jacobite rebellions. David Balfour, the novel’s young protagonist, narrates his pursuit of claiming inheritance and his alliance with Alan Breck. ‘The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale’ (1888) is a revenge story that explores moral ambiguity between the two brothers Ballantrae and Henry. Set in Scotland and America, the story is woven around the Jacobite rebellion. ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885), although written for children, is popular among adults equally. Most of the poems in this collection seem to shed a positive reflection on the author’s troubled childhood.

Early Life

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, as an only son to Thomas Stevenson and his wife, Margaret Isabella Balfour. As a young boy, he suffered from poor health, which made regular schooling difficult. Still, he attended Edinburgh Academy and other schools.

At the age of seventeen, he enrolled at Edinburgh University to follow suit with his father. However, he abandoned Engineering and joined law to please his parents. In 1875, he became a lawyer and was called to a Scottish bar, but he did not practice.

Stevenson wanted to be a writer from a very young age. He had a strong influence from his nurse, Alison Cunningham (aka Cummy), who regularly read him religious stories, often from the Old Testament, Catechisms, and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. His isolated childhood caused by his health issues led to his fine imagination.

Literary Career

Stevenson started writing as early as he was a child, but he understood his desire only when he was at the University. His first published work was “Roads”, and his first published volumes were works of travel writing.

His career as a writer developed slowly and steadily. Stevenson was frequently abroad due to his failing health, most often in France. Two of such journeys help him with his works: An Inland Voyage (1878) and Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879).

In 1876 Stevenson met Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, an American lady, and the two fell in love. When she returns to America, he decides to go on a pursuit to have her hand. His arduous journey appeared later in The Amateur Emigrant (1895) and Across the Plains (1892).

Upon returning from America, Stevenson, accompanied by his wife and stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, travels to Davos, Switzerland. It is where he publishes his most celebrated work, ‘Treasure Island’.

In April 1882, he left Davos and stayed in the Scottish Highlands, where he produced two of his finest short stories, “Thrawn Janet” and “The Merry Men.” In the following years, he has published his other notable works: ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ (1885), ‘The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses’ (1888), ‘Kidnapped’ (1886), and ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ (1886).

As a writer, Stevenson has explored all possible forms. He has written many works and is accomplished as a poet, essayist, novelist, and travel writer. Like many literary geniuses, Stevenson also enjoyed more popularity posthumously than in his time.

Later Life and Death

In 1889 Stevenson and his family set out on a journey and relatively settled on the island of Upolu in Samoa. By then, Stevenson had become a significant figure. His South Seas writing included more of the everyday world, exploring the confrontation between European and native ways of life. His later works became more powerful and mature than his earlier works. They also helped to enhance his status among the critics and literary enthusiasts of the late 20th century. His craftsmanship inspired critics as much as his readers. Despite his success, Stevenson became a poor victim of his illness. He is believed to have died of a brain hemorrhage at his home in Vailima, Samoa. On December 3, 1894, at the age of 44, he died and was buried at the top of Mount Vaea, overlooking the sea.

Influence from other Writers

R.L. Stevenson, as a budding author, was inspired by many classic writers. His major source of inspiration comes from Bunyan’s Pilgrims’ Progress and the Old Testament and his friend and critic Sidney Colvin.

Literature by R.L. Stevenson

Explore literature by Robert Louie Stevenson below, created by the team at Book Analysis.