Robert Louis Stevenson Born Nov. 13, 1850 Died Dec. 3, 1894
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father was a prosperous civil engineer, and the boy showed interest in that profession. Later, however, he decided to study law instead. Stevenson attended the University of Edinburgh and was admitted to the bar in 1875. But he was more interested in writing. and in 1878 he published An Inland Voyage which described a canoe trip through France and Belgium.
In 1876, Stevenson met and fell in love with Mrs. Fanny Osbourne. Three years later, he learned that she was ill in San Francisco, and decided to go see her. He traveled as a steerage passenger and crossed the United States in the immigrant train.
After he arrived in San Francisco, Stevenson married Mrs. Osbourne. After a few months, he returned to Scotland with his wife and his new son, Lloyd. In 1879, Stevenson wrote two stories, The Amateur Emigrant and Across the Plains, which made use of his travel experiences in the U.S. The following years were wandering ones for Stevenson, spent in a long effort to find health. Yet in spite of his poor health, Stevenson wrote two collections of delightful essays between 1880 and 1888. These were Virginibus Puerisque (1881) and Familiar Studies of Men and Books (1882). He also wrote a volume of fanciful and entertaining stories, The New Arabian Nights (1882); the ever-popular Treasure Island (1883); Prince Otto (1885), a lovely romance; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde (1886), a story in which physical change in man symbolizes moral change; Kidnapped (1886) and The Master of Ballantrae (1888), two excellent and widely read stories of Scottish life; and two collections of poems, A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), familiar to many English-speaking children, and Underwoods (1887). Stevenson's works earned him great popularity because of his clear and careful style, and his extraordinary power as a storyteller. His stories are existing, not because of exaggerations, but because they give an accurate picture of the action, and let the reader fill that he/she is seeing everything just as if he were present.
In 1888, Stevenson went with his family to Samoa in the South Seas, in search of better climate for his still declining health. The people there loved him, and looked up to him. They named him tusitala, teller of tales. Stevenson died of apoplexy in 1894, when he was just 44 years old. Sixty Samoans carried his body to the top of Mount Vaea, where he was buried.
Two of Stevenson's many poems.
"About the Sheltered Garden Ground"
About the sheltered garden ground
The trees stand strangely still.
The vale ne'er seemed so deep before,
Nor yet so high the hill.
An awful sense of quietness,
A fulness of repose,
Breathes from the dewy garden-lawns,
The silent garden rows.
As the hoof-beats of a troop of horse
Heard far across a plain,
A nearer knowledge of great thoughts
Thrills vaguely through my brain.
I lean my head upon my arm,
My heart's too full to think;
Like the roar of seas, upon my heart
Doth the morning stillness sink.
"As One Who Having Wanted..."
As in their flight the birds of song
Halt here and there in sweet and sunny dales,
But halt not overlong;
The time one rural song to sing
They pause; then following bounteous gales
Steer forward on the wing:
Sun-servers they, from first to last,
Upon the sun they wait
To ride the sailing blast.
So he awhile in our contested state,
Awhile abode, not longer, for his Sun -
Mother we say, no tenderer name we know -
With whose diviner glow
His early days had shone,
Now to withdraw her radiance had begun.
Or lest a wrong I say, not she withdrew,
But the loud stream of men day after day
And great dust columns of the common way
Between them grew and grew:
And he and she for evermore might yearn,
But to the spring the rivulets not return
Nor to the bosom comes the child again.
And he (O may we fancy so!),
He, feeling time forever flow
And flowing bear him forth and far away
From that dear ingle where his life began
And all his treasure lay -
He, waxing into man,
And ever farther, ever closer wound
In this obstreperous world's ignoble round,
From that poor prospect turned his face away.
Robert Louis Stevenson Poet, Novelist & Essayist (1850-1894)