Throughout his life, Robert Louis Stevenson was tormented by poor health. Yet, despite frequent physical collapses, mainly due to constant respiratory illness, he was an indefatigable writer of novels, poems, essays, travel books, and children's' books. He was born on November 13th, 1850, in Edinburgh, of a prosperous family of lighthouse engineers. Though he was expected to enter the family profession he studied instead for the Scottish bar. By the time he was called to the bar, however, he had already begun writing seriously, and he never actually practiced law. He published his first novel at the age of 28. In 1880, against his family's wishes, he married an American divorcee, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, who was ten years his senior, but the family reconciled to the match, and the marriage proved to be a happy one.
All of his life, Stevenson was traveling, often in a desperate quest for an improvement on his health. He and Fanny spent their honeymoon in California and then traveled back to Scotland and onward to Switzerland, then to the south of France, to the American Adirondacks, and finally to the South Seas. As a novelist, he was intrigued with the genius of settings: his famous novel Treasure Island started as an idea from a map as a boy. All of his most noted works have a profound appreciation of landscape and atmosphere.
In 1889, Steven's deteriorating health exiled him to the tropics, and he settled in Samoa, where he was given patriarchal status by the natives. His health improved, yet he remained homesick for Scotland, and it was to the "cold old huddle of grey hills" of the Lowlands that he returned to finish his last novel: Weir Hermiston (1896).
Stevenson died suddenly on December 3rd, 1894. He had tuberculosis for a very long time, but what finally killed him was a cerebral hemorrhage. He died at age 44, at the height of his creative powers.
Most Noted Works:
Do some research about the following topics, and compile your information on the back of your author question sheet. Note relevant and important information to the time period, such as notable figures, culture, and society.
- Victorian London 1800-1900
- Victorian medicine practices
- Victorian detective novels