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Robert Louis Stevenson
- Favourite Briton.

Born in Edinburgh, Edinburgh and the Lothians
Born on 13rd of October 1850
Died on 3rd of December 1894

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1850 - 1894. In an argument which seems almost symmetrical to that of the present – that children’s novels and crime fiction should be overlooked for the most esteemed prizes in literature – Robert Louis Stevenson’s superlative works were often overlooked by his critics and peers.
Take his friend Henry James, a man who took umbrage that Stevenson should be frittering his talents away on children’s novels. Perhaps in this respect, parallels could be drawn with J M Barrie, writer of Peter Pan. The Kirriemuir man could not have failed to be both influenced and emboldened by this kindred spirit.
Stevenson’s work constructs an impression of a man with a bountiful imagination, who, in achieving celebrity status in his lifetime, attracted snipers who could not bear to see him with both critical and commercial success. In the cat-fight of the literary world, his detractors could draw blood; but in this Edinburgh boy’s creative sphere he was untouchable.
A poorly child, with respiratory problems, Stevenson saw the world through books. And while the more austere Covenanter publications proffered by his grandfather Lewis Balfour were seemed rather dowdy in comparison with Stevenson’s 'Treasure Island', it nonetheless afforded him a grounding in the English language. Until his health got better, he would spend summers in his garden, wherein confinement appeared to goad his imagination.
His passion for travel, for adventure, for something more than his Edinburgh garden, was not just owing the inclement Leith climate: his father, the lighthouse engineer, inspired the young writer. So too fellow Edinburgh denizen, Sir Walter Scott – another writer whose health was terrible as a child. Stevenson may have physically been in Edinburgh but his mind was somewhere else entirely.
It was in the jungle, on the road, on the high seas – it was anywhere. After qualifying as a lawyer he set off to make himself the man that he wanted to be. If this was the plan that he had hatched while spending long summers in his garden, then it was about to be realised. Visiting France, he billeted himself among artists. He met his wife, Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne in 1876, and followed her back to San Francisco. Seven years later he released ‘Treasure Island’ and his literary star was born.
Stevenson’s worldview was in stark contrast to his religious upbringing. His proclivity as a youth for Edinburgh’s prostitutes may be one reference point for his moral compass; but rather, on the whole, he was unfettered by the shackles of 19th Century Scottish Calvinism. This polarised cross-section of his puritanical upbringing and this more hedonistic reveals something of the man himself, and could be a metaphor for his most famous character. Or should be characters?
‘Kidnapped: The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll And Mr Hyde’ brought Stevenson huge success, with the novella commuting to stage and screen through the years. It has burrowed its way into the every patios of the English speaking world. Dr Jekyll was Stevenson’s maverick creation, the doctor whose drug could bring about huge personality changes, resulting in the evil Mr Hyde.
After seeing out his last days on the Pacific island of Samoa, Stevenson finished his life much as he started it. His health was never as robust as his grammatical poise, and at the age of 44 he collapsed and died. His relationship with his home country, with Edinburgh, was extended from the other side of the world. In dying in an exotic bolt-hole, in a land of palm trees, coconuts and tropical sun; he completed a journey which began with his father’s stories, and long summer nights, playing in the garden.

Links:
http://robert-louis-stevenson.classic-literature.co.uk/ Profile
http://www.enlightened-traveller.co.uk/pages/Package_Pages.aspx?pkId=d679adcf-a05b-4136-b404-7a841334cfe3&pgId=1001 The Enlightened Traveller

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1 Response to Robert Louis Stevenson

From Enlightened Traveller on 25th January 2010
Stevenson wrote Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes in 1879. Not only was it much admired by John Steinbeck, but it is considered a pioneering classic of outdoor literature, setting the standard for the whole travelogue genre. By presenting hiking and camping outdoors as a recreational activity, Stevenson's hiking was in many respects the catalyst for the whole back-to-nature and modern hiking movement. The trail Stevenson took is now considered a classic, and is rated by Forbes Traveler as a World’s Most Famous Travel Adventure. See: http://www.forbestraveler.com/adventure/most-famous-adventures-slide-9.html?thisSpeed=25000

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