Fun Facts Friday: Robert Louis Stevenson

November 13, 2020

Robert Louis Stevenson (13 November, 1850 – 3 December, 1894) has been one of my favorite authors since I learned how to read. He is known for such works as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

Fun Facts Friday: Robert Louis StevensonBooks by Robert Louis Stevenson*

  1. Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born at Edinburgh, Scotland. His father was a lighthouse engineer. In fact, lighthouse design was sort of a family occupation and many of men in the Stevenson family enjoyed that occupation.
  2. Each year around the holidays, Stevenson traveled with his father on an official tours to to inspect lighthouses. He enjoyed the travels more for the material they gave for his writing than that for engineering lighthouses.
  3. Somewhere around age 18, he dropped the Balfour and changed the spelling of his middle name from “Lewis” to “Louis” – however he kept pronouncing it Lewis. Later he would use the surname Balfour for the protagonist of his 1886 novel, Kidnapped.
  4. Mr. Stevenson started his career as a travel writer with such works as An Inland Voyage and  Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, published in 1878 and 1879, respectively. The latter book he writes about traveling through France with his stubborn donkey Modestine.
  5. The author enjoyed sleeping outdoors and designed a “green waterproof cart-cloth without and blue sheep’s fur within”, better known as the sleeping bag.
  6. Mr. Stevenson battled tuberculosis most of his life, however it was contracting malaria in California in 1880, a short time before his marriage to Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, that almost killed him. The author wrote several of his most known novels during that time. Nancy Horan fictionalized the account of this time, as well as the author’s relationship with his new wife and her son in her novel Under the Wide and Starry Sky.
  7. Fanny Osbourne was 10 years older than Stevenson. She was a pistol carrying, cigarette rolling divorcee and a single mother to a teenage son who lived with her previous husband in mining camps before divorcing him for adultery. Needless to say Stevenson’s parents weren’t happy with the match, but the author loved the beautiful, adventurous and determined woman. They spent their honeymoon in an abandoned mining shack on Mt. St. Helena in Napa. There is still a museum dedicated to the author in town.
  8. While living in the South Seas (where he also passed away) Mr. Stevenson discovered that the daughter of the US Commissioner to Samoa was born on Christmas Day. He thought it unfair since she only gets one day of presents instead of two, so he signed away the “rights” for his birthday to her, saying: “I … Have transferred, and do hereby transfer to the said A. H. Ide, All and Whole of my rights and privileges in the 13th day of November, formerly my birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the birthday of the said A. H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats and receipt of gifts, compliments and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors.”
  9. Mr. Stevenson was a superstar writer while still alive, however he wrote over 120 musical compositions which were not as enthusiastically received as his writins, only three though were ever published.
  10. The manuscripts of his original works were sold to his descendant’s in the early part of the 1900s. At the time, however, his star fell and over half of them are currently missing, including the manuscript for Treasure Island.

Books by Robert Louis Stevenson*

Zohar – Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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