Robert Louis Stevenson has written some of the most popular works of literature to appear in the last two centuries. Robert Louis Stevenson’s most famous books are Treasure Island and Kidnapped, two of the most famous and best written adventure books to ever appear. However, the life of Robert Louis Stevenson is just about as interesting as any of his books, though there aren’t any terrifying encounters with pirates in his life story.
Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was the son of Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Isabella Balfour. He was born a sickly infant, and was sickly throughout his entire life. His nurse’s name was Alison Cunningham, who was called Cummy within the family. From Alison Cunningham, Robert Louis Stevenson received his introduction to literature, and all of the many different forms of literature. Alison Cunningham told Robert Louis Stevenson particularly dark and morbid stories about the Scottish Presbyterian martyrs, known as the Covenantors. She also read him penny-series novels, the Psalms, and Bible stories. Thus Robert Louis Stevenson grew up very knowledgeable about religion, and also was surrounded by stories and storytellers during his entire childhood. Both religious issues and Scottish history would play a large part in Robert Louis Stevenson’s literature, beginning with the first two stories that he wrote as a child: “A History of Moses” and “The Book of Joseph.” Then when Robert Louis Stevenson was sixteen years old, his parents published a pamphlet that he had written about the murder of Nonconformist Scots Presbyterians. The title of the pamphlet is The Pentland Rising.
In November 1867, at the age of seventeen, Robert Louis Stevenson started studying at Edinburgh University. However, he didn’t really study all that much, and instead just practiced writing. He copied the style of very famous writers, including Sir Thomas Browne, Daniel Defoe (the author of Robinson Crusoe), Charles Lamp, William Hazlitt, and Michel de Montaigne. Robert Louis Stevenson published several papers in the Edinburgh University Magazine by the time that he was twenty one years old. The funniest paper was a farce which was entitled “The Philosophy of Umbrellas.”
While he was at Edinburgh University, Robert Louis Stevenson was called Velvet Jacket, because he wore a hat with a wide brim, a boy’s coat, and a cravat. Even though he wanted to drop out of school, Stevenson’s father insisted that he at least get a law degree, which Stevenson did. However, Stevenson had a huge row with his father when his father discovered that Stevenson appeared to be an atheist. The two did eventually make up.
Stevenson discovered a love for travel, and his journeys became fodder for his stories. He took a trip across America and almost died as he was pursuing an American woman with whom he had fallen in love. He turned his trip into “The Story of a Lie” and “The Amateur Emigrant.” Eventually Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne were married, in 1880, after she received a divorce from her husband. Unfortunately, Robert Louis Stevenson’s health became increasingly worse, and from 1880 to 1887, he suffered from hemorrhaging lungs. However, during this time, he wrote his most famous books: Treasure Island, written in 1883; Kidnapped, written in 1886; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde written in 1886, and The Black Arrow, written in 1888.
Throughout his entire life, Robert Louis Stevenson had an incredible literary output. He traveled often, and eventually went to the South Seas, where he lived on various islands, including Hawaii and Samoa. He grew increasingly sick, and also increasingly homesick for Scotland, because even though he loved Samoa, he missed Scotland. He eventually died in Samoa after having written much about it, and was buried there. Robert Louis Stevenson died on December 3, 1894, of a stroke. His death was a blow to the entire literary world, and it was felt keenly, since Stevenson had become a legend both for his literature and for his love of adventure.
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