ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
One of the United Kingdom’s most popular storytellers is Robert Louis Stevenson. For the sake of brevity he shall be alluded to as Stevenson. He was a fabulous raconteur in person and even more vivid on the page.
Stevenson was born in the United Kingdom. He grew up in Edinburgh. His father and grandfather were distinguished civil engineers. There is a famous bridge in Edinburgh which was built under the superintendence of Stevenson’s grandfather. That man also built most of the lighthouses in Scotland.
Materially Stevenson wanted for nothing that a child could reasonably want. However, he was a sickly child. His fragile health meant that he but rarely attended school. When he did go to school he went to Edinburgh Academy which is one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious places of education. But his work was desultory. He was a bookish sort. He liked to play in the garden and composed a poem on the glee of using a swing. Apart from that his nose was seldom out of a book. Therefore he amassed a huge lexis. He was forever experimenting with phraseology. As a teenager he was allowed to travel around France on his own. He bought a donkey to ride and penned a travelogue ‘Travels on a Donkey’.
When Stevenson grew to manhood he enrolled at Edinburgh University. He flirted with radical nostra. As he grew older he became a Tory. That is to say a supporter of the Conservative Party. He did not dislike socialists and considered a youthful dalliance with socialism to be a healthy thing. He was known for going around in a velvet coat as an undergraduate. He acquired the soubriquet velvet coat. After graduation he spent some time in London. He was known as Robert Stevenson but decided he wished to be known by his full name. Thereafter he went by Robert Louis Stevenson. He was a lean and good looking man with dark blond hair. He cultivated a moustache which lent him a devil may care appearance.
Stevenson was a firm Unionist. The Union was at its zenith as was the British Empire. He was fascinated with the sea and travel. Pirate stories were very fashionable at the time. He chose to turn his hand to spinning a sailor’s yarn. He knew a mighty but disabled man named Mr Henley. This inspired R L Stevenson to pen a story about such a man. Stevenson invented the character Long John Silver. Long John Silver is a pirate with only one leg. He appears in the ever popular novel ‘Treasure Island’. Stevenson set it over 100 years earlier. Some of the locations mentioned are real. The Admiral Benbow Inn takes its name from a real 18th century admiral. In Treasure Island a teenage boy has to look out for ‘a seafaring man with one leg’. Squire Trelawny is a character who helps the boy. The locale where the treasure is buried is secret. Treasure Island became a classic of the pirate genre. There have been many iterations of Treasure Island as a film.
Kidnapped is one of the Stevenson’s best known novellas of his oeuvre. This story is set in the 18th century. The action takes place on three continents: Europe, America and Asia. It has been made into a film.
One of Stevenson’s popular novellas is entitled The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It is based on a true story from 18th century Edinburgh. Deacon William Brodie was a respectable man who prospered in his trade. Brodie was elected to the city council. However, in the dead of night he would go out in disguise and rob people. He had made copies of the keys of many houses through his work as a locksmith. This enabled him to steal valuables from the houses of many people. Eventually William Brodie was arrested and convicted for his crimes. He paid the ultimate penalty. Stevenson’s story is about a doctor who is a pillar of the community. Dr Jekyll is industrious, honest and morally upstanding. Even though he is the toast of the town Dr Jekyll has another side to his personality. By night be dons a disguise and is transformed into a completely different character. I will not spoil the ending for you. Stevenson’s mind was teeming with thought and he wrote the tale frenetically.
Stevenson married an American. This American woman was a widow and already had children. However, the couple were not blessed with children of their own. His wife was his literary partner. She read and critiqued early drafts of his work. He moved to an island in the Pacific. The people there could not count so he had to do it for them.
He ended his days in the Pacific Ocean. There he lies buried. His epitaph is taken from one of his poems ‘Home is the sailor home from the sea/ And the hunter home from the hill.’
- In which city was Stevenson born?
- What profession did his father pursue?
- Why did Stevenson not go to school much?
- Which school did he attend?
- Why did he miss a lot of school?
- Which sort of buildings did he grandfather put up?
- Is Edinburgh in Britain?
- What animal did he use to travel around France?
- What book did he write about it?
- Did he ever read?
- Which university did he attend?
- What was his political inclination in his youth?
- What political party did he tend to as he grew older?
- Did he like to travel?
- What did he look like?
- Which character did he create based on Mr Henley?
- Describe Long John Silver?
- What novel did Stevenson write which is of the pirate genre?
- Has Treasure Island been made into a film?
- Where does the action take place in Kidnapped?
- Which real person inspired The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
- What was Dr Jekyll like?
- What coat did Stevenson like to wear as an undergraduate?
- What nationality was his wife?
- Did he sire children?
- Where did he die?
- What does his epitaph say?
- Is Stevenson still alive?
- What was his middle name?
- What is your opinion of him? Five sentences.