Robert Louis Stevenson Additional Biography

Biography

Robert Louis Stevenson is one of those intriguing writers, like Oscar Wilde, whose life often competes with his works for the critics’ attention. He was born Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh. He was the only child of Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Isabella (née Balfour) Stevenson. His father, grandfather, and two uncles were harbor and lighthouse engineers who had hopes that Stevenson would follow in their profession. Stevenson, however, was a sickly child whose interest in lighthouses was of the romantic, rather than the structural, sort. Although he studied engineering, and then law, to please his family, it was apparent early that he was destined to become a writer.

Stevenson chose his companions from among the writers and artists of his day, such as William Ernest Henley, Sidney Colvin, and Charles Baxter. One friend, Leslie Stephen, editor of Cornhill magazine, published some of his early essays. His first book, An Inland Voyage (1878), was not published until he was twenty-eight years old.

While studying art in France, Stevenson fell in love with Fanny Van de Grift Osborne, who returned reluctantly to her San Franciscan husband, Samuel C. Osborne, in 1878. Stevenson pursued her to the United States, and after her divorce in 1880, they were married. Unfortunately, Stevenson’s tubercular condition was a constant difficulty for him; thus, the couple spent the first ten years of their...

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Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The only child of a prosperous civil engineer and his wife, Robert Louis Stevenson was a sickly youth, causing his formal education to be haphazard. He reacted early against his parents’ orthodox Presbyterianism, donning the mask of a liberated Bohemian who abhorred the hypocrisies of bourgeois respectability. As a compromise with his father, Stevenson did study law at Edinburgh University in lieu of the traditional family vocation of lighthouse engineer. In 1873, however, he suffered a severe respiratory illness, and, although he completed his studies and was admitted to the Scottish bar in July, 1875, he never practiced. In May, 1880, Stevenson married Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, a divorcée from San Francisco and ten years his senior. The new couple spent most of the next decade in health resorts for Stevenson’s tuberculosis: Davos in the Swiss Alps, Hyéres on the French Riviera, and Bournemouth in England. After his father’s death, Stevenson felt able to go farther from Scotland and so went to Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, where treatment arrested his disease. In June, 1888, Stevenson, his wife, mother, and stepson sailed for the South Seas. During the next eighteen months they saw the Marquesas, Tahiti, Australia, the Gilberts, Hawaii, and Samoa. In late 1889, Stevenson decided to settle and bought “Vailima,” three miles from the town of Apia, Upolu, Samoa, and his home until his death. His vigorous crusading there against the white exploitation of native Samoans almost led to expulsion by both German and English authorities. Stevenson’s tuberculosis remained quiescent, but he suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage on December 3, 1894, while working on the novel Weir of Hermiston (1896), a fragment which many modern readers think to be his best writing. Known to the natives as “Tusitala,” the Storyteller, Stevenson was buried on the summit of Mount Vaea.

Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The only child of Thomas and Margaret (Balfour) Stevenson, Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was in poor health even as a child, and he suffered throughout his life from a tubercular condition. Thomas, a civil engineer and lighthouse keeper, had hopes that Stevenson would eventually follow in his footsteps, and the youngster was sent to Anstruther and then to Edinburgh University. His fragile health, however, precluded a career in engineering, and he shifted his efforts to the study of law, passing the bar in Edinburgh in 1875.

Even during his preparation for law, Stevenson was more interested in literature, and, reading widely in the essays of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt, he began imitating their styles. Their influence can be seen in the style that Stevenson ultimately developed—a personal, conversational style, marked by an easy familiarity.

Between 1875 and 1879, Stevenson wandered through France, Germany, and Scotland in search of a healthier climate. In 1876, at Fontainebleau, France, he met Fanny Osbourne, an American with whom he fell in love. She returned to California in 1878, and in that same year became seriously ill. Stevenson set out immediately to follow her. Traveling by steerage, he underwent considerable hardships on his journey, hardships that proved detrimental to his already poor health. In 1880, he married Fanny and settled for a few months in a desolate mining camp in California. After a return to Scotland, the couple journeyed to Davos, Switzerland, for the winter.

Again returning to Scotland in the spring, Stevenson worked on his novel Treasure Island. Moving back and forth between Scotland and Switzerland was not conducive to improved health, and Stevenson decided to stay permanently in the south of France. Another attack of illness, however, sent him to Bournemouth, England, a health resort, until 1887, during which time he worked assiduously on his writing. In August of that year he sailed for America, settling at Saranac Lake in New York’s Adirondacks. There he wrote The Master of Ballantrae in 1889. He finally settled in the islands of Samoa in the South Seas, a setting that he used for The Wrecker and The Ebb-Tide. He died there on December 3, 1894, ending a short but productive life.

Biography

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born to Thomas and Margaret Isabella (Balfour) Stevenson in Edinburgh on November 13, 1850, the midpoint of the Victorian era. Thomas Stevenson, destined to be the last of a line of illustrious Scottish engineers, had hopes that his only child would take up that profession. His hopes proved to be unrealized when Stevenson switched from a sporadic study of engineering to a sporadic study of the law at Edinburgh University. Never a strong child, Stevenson spent much of his childhood and, indeed, much of his adulthood, either undergoing or convalescing from long and serious bouts of illness, chiefly respiratory disorders. His early life and education were overshadowed by illness, confinement, and frequent changes of climate. His youthful wanderings after health and sun led to later trips to France, Switzerland, and America, and, finally, in 1888, to the South Seas, where he ultimately built a house, “Vailima,” in Samoa. There he remained until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1894. His recent biographers make much of his turbulent adolescence and hint of his several early love affairs, especially the platonic affair with Fanny Sitwell, whom he met in 1873 when she was newly separated from her husband. The more important woman in his life was the American, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, whom he met at Grez, France, in 1876, and married in California in 1880. From the time of his marriage (which drew him away from such friends as Charles Baxter, Sidney Colvin, and William Ernest Henley) until his death, Stevenson passed his time in constant writing, constant illness, and nearly constant travel. Periodically exiled from Scotland by its harsh climate and finally leaving it forever in 1888, Stevenson often returned there imaginatively to find sources for both his prose and his poetry. He was survived by his mother, his wife, and her children, Lloyd Osbourne, and Isobel Osbourne Strong Field. The latter two wrote reminiscences of him.

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201588-Stevenson.jpg Robert Louis Stevenson. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 13, 1850, the only son of Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Balfour. His mother’s family and ancestors were primarily clergymen and physicians; his father’s family and ancestors were engineers. On both sides of his large extended family (both his mother and father were the youngest of thirteen children) were successful, wealthy, socially prominent professionals. His father’s family, in fact, was famous in Scotland. The family firm designed and built lighthouses that had become famous landmarks, and “Stevenson” was a name to reckon with: Robert Louis’s father, Thomas, and grandfather, Robert, both appear in Scotland’s national portrait gallery. He was born...

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Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Louis Stevenson’s life is a study in contrasts, if not contradictions: His parents were wealthy, but he spent the first half of his adulthood one step ahead of genteel poverty. His ancestors for three generations were pillars of the community, but he was a perpetual tourist. His family was very religious, but he became an iconoclast and an agnostic. His family made its living building lighthouses; he was to make his building imaginary worlds. In these contradictions; he rivaled the best of his complex characters. His life was an attempt to contain, and, in a sense, to live up to his own complexity. In time, however, the craftsman, the iconoclast, and the moralist became reconciled and unified, and Stevenson was still growing as an artist and as a man on the day that he died. The deeply rooted family tree flowered in Stevenson’s short life.

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, born in Edinburgh in 1850, achieved fame because of his romantic life nearly as much as because of his romantic fiction. His life displays the same split between romantic adventure and grim reality that the discerning reader finds in much of his writing. Stevenson’s brief life was a nearly constant journey in search of adventure and relief from the agonies of tuberculosis, with which he was afflicted from early childhood. His father, Thomas Stevenson, a successful Edinburgh lighthouse engineer, hoped for a law career for his only son. Robert did study to be a barrister, but he soon commenced a life of traveling that took him to Switzerland, France, the United States, and, finally, the South Seas....

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Biography

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the only child of Margaret Balfour Stevenson and Thomas...

(The entire section is 573 words.)

Biography

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the only child of a prosperous, middle-class family. His father...

(The entire section is 370 words.)

Biography

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 13, 1850. He was dearly fond of his childhood nurse, Alison Cunningham...

(The entire section is 538 words.)

Biography

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 13, 1850, to Thomas, a civil engineer, and Margaret Isabella (Balfour)...

(The entire section is 549 words.)

Biography

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the only son of a famed engineer and inventor. Stevenson’s grandfather was...

(The entire section is 560 words.)

Biography

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland. A semi-invalid as a child, he suffered from tuberculosis for...

(The entire section is 620 words.)