July 20, 2012
To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)
Born to a Scots family of lighthouse builders and the product of a strict Presbyterian upbringing, Stevenson suffered ill health his entire life. After a desultory attempt at an engineering degree, he devoted himself to his art, first as a travel writer and later, a poet. In his early twenties, he moved to the south of France for his health and wrote much of his best known work, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He married an American woman, Fanny Osbourne, and moved to Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. With the financial success of his novels he continued to search for a climate that would improve his health, traveling widely in the South Pacific, befriending the King of Hawaii, and eventually settling in Samoa. He spent much of his few remaining years working against the European missionaries and colonialists who dominated the politics of the islands, taking the name Tusitala (Storyteller). He died of cerebral hemorrhage at 44. During much of the twentieth century he was dismissed by academics as a writer of children’s adventure tales, even though Hemmingway, Kipling, Borges, Nabokov and Chesterton all cite his influence on their work.