A Biography of Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson (he would later change the Lewis to Louis) was born in Edinburgh on 13 November 1850. His father called Thomas belonged to a family of engineers who had built many of the deep-sea lighthouses around Scotland. His mother was called Margret Isabella Balfour came from a family of church ministers and lawyers. In 1857 the family moved to 17 Heriot Row, a solid respectable house in Edinburgh. At seventeen he enrolled at Edinburgh University to study engineering with the aim of following his father in the family firm. However, he abandoned engineering and made the compromise of studying law. He 'passed advocate' in 1875, but he knew he wanted to be a writer. His first published work was an essay called 'Roads', and his first published volumes were works of travel writing. In the university's summer vacations he travelled to France to be in the company of other young artists, both writers and painters and from this he published 'An inland voyage, 1877' and 'Travels with a donkey in the Cevennes, 1879'.

His meeting with his future wife, Fanny, was at a riverside village south-east of Paris; he was twenty-five, and she was thirty-six, separated from her husband and with two children. Two years later she decided to obtain a divorce and Stevenson set out for California from which he wrote his book 'The Amateur Emigrant, 1879'. In 1882 he published 'New Arabian Nights'. In 1883 he published 'Treasure Island', while on holiday with his family, which was his turning point as a writer. In the Christmas of 1885 another horror story 'Olalla' was published. In 1886 he published the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, this was extremely popular and established him as a respected author. In 1888 the...