ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON (Edimburgh 1850-Samoa 1894)

His life

Robert Louis Stevenson was born November 13, 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland and was the only child of a respectable middle-class family. During his childhood, he suffered chronic health problems that made him stay in bed for long periods. In his youth, his strongest influence was that of his nurse, Allison Cunningham, who often read The pilgrim's progress and The Old Testament to him so he developed a taste for literature at an early age.


In 1867, Stevenson entered Edinburgh University as a science student, and it was tacitly understood that he would continue his father's footsteps and become a civil engineer. However, Robert was at heart a romantic, and while he was working on science degree, he also spent much of his time studying French Literature, Scottish history, and the works of Darwin and Spencer. When he finally told his father that he did not want to become an engineer and wanted to start a career as a writer, his father was quite upset and disappointed. Both, father and son, made an agreement, Robert promised to finish his studies so in case he could not succeed as an artist, he still would have a profession to live on.


To understand the world in which Stevenson was brought up, it is necessary to understand that there were two Edinburghs, both of which took part in forming his personality and vision of life. On the one hand, there was the respectable, conventional, deeply religious, and polite New Town. On the other hand, you could see a much more bohemian Edinburgh, with brothels, sinister characters... The juxtaposition of these totally different parts of town made a deep impression on Stevenson. He always showed his fascination with the duality of human nature.


In the autumn of 1873, Stevenson fell ill, suffering from nervous exhaustion and a severe chest condition. His doctor ordered him to take a long period of rest abroad. For the next six months, he tried to get over in the South of France, and worked on some essays. On his return to Edinburgh, he spent much of his time writing book reviews and articles as well as experimenting with short stories.


In the mid 1870s, Stevenson met an American married woman, Fanny Vandergrift Osbourne, who was ten years younger. She had travelled to Europe trying to escape from her estranged husband's influence. For three years, Stevenson, who was still in ill health, continued his relationship with her and eventually followed her to San Francisco, where she divorced her husband and married Stevenson in May 1880. In August they returned to England, spent the next winter in the South of France and lived in England from 1880 to 1887, when his father died. After this, Stevenson chose to leave England and sailed for America, where he stayed for a year. In May 1888, accompanied by his wife, his son, and mother, he set sail for the South Seas. Stevenson grew so enchanted by the life of the South Seas that in December 1889 he bought a 300-acre property in Apia, Samoa, convinced that he could never again endure the hard winters of his native Scotland or England. Apia was a perfect location because the climate was tropical but not wild and the people were friendly and hard working. 


The Stevensons lived in Vailima, in the hills of Apia until his death in 1894.

One day in the evening Robert was speaking to his wife when he felt a violent pain in his head and lost consciousness. Stevenson had suffered a brain hemorrhage and died a few hours later at the age of forty-four. 

His work

Here you can read The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. or take a challenge with the 142 pages (!) of Treasure Island

Stevenson earned a name for himself in journalism slowly and his pieces began appearing in distinguished journals such as The Fortnightly Review after he had been convalescent in France. It was in 1878 when he first published An Inland Voyage, which recounts a canoeing holiday in Belgium.  The decade of 1880s was a period of time marked by great literary achievement. Stevenson's first novel, Treasure Island, was published in 1883, followed by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and Kidnapped (1886). Stevenson's work was highly popular and he received great critical acclaim.


While he was living in Vailima, Stevenson wrote a great deal, completing two of his finest novels, "The Beach of Falesa" and "The Ebb Tide", two novels, The Wrecker and Catriona, the short stories "The Bottle Imp," "The Isle of voices," and "The Waif Woman." He also published short works under the title Fables. Stevenson left a significant amount of work unfinished, including St. IvesThe Young ChevalierHeathercat, and Weir of Hermiston, which he worked on enthusiastically until the day of his death.