Tuesday, November 13, 2012

R.L. Stevenson wrote Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson
It is the birthday of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850), who wrote such classics as Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and The Black Arrow (1888). He also wrote two volumes of poetry, A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) and Underwoods (1887).

Treasure Island was Stevenson's first widely popular novel. Stevenson's tale of pirates and buried treasure on tropical islands gave us many of the conventions of pirate stories known today, including peg-legged sailors with parrots on their shoulders, treasure maps with X marking the spot where the gold is buried, and the perilous Black Spot that indicated a verdict of guilty among pirates.

Stevenson's works have been reissued numerous times. Among the most well known and best regarded are volumes illustrated by artist N.C.Wyeth. Stevenson's most popular writing also has been adapted for film, television, and the theater.

Stevenson was born in Scotland and grew up there, but he also lived in France, England, the United States and the South Pacific. Stevenson was sickly as a child and much of his adult life. He lived for a time on the French Riviera to recuperate. As a young man, he visited a cousin in England and became part of London literary circles.

In 1878, Stevenson went to California to see an American woman whom he had met in France. The trip was arduous for him, and he was near death by the time he got to San Francisco. He finally connected with Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, the American divorcee,  who nursed him back to health. He and Fanny were married in 1880. For seven years, they lived in Scotland and England. These were his most productive years.

In 1888, Stevenson and his family hired yacht and sailed from San Francisco for an extend voyage throughout the South Pacific. They visited the Hawaiian Island, the Gilbert Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, and the Samoan Islands. In 1890, Stevenson bought 300 acres on Upolu, one of the Samoan Islands, and became known among the Samoans as Tusitala (teller of tales). He died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the end of 1894. His Samoan friends carried his body on their shoulders to Mount Vaea and buried him in a place overlooking the sea.

His tombstone carries a line from one of his poems: "Home is the sailor, home from the sea,/ And the hunter home from the hill."

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