In July 1879, Stevenson received word that his future American wife's divorce was almost complete, but that she was seriously ill. He left Scotland right away and travelled to meet her in Monterey, California, (his trip detailed in The Amateur Emigrant (1894) and Across the Plains (1892)). Broken financially, suffering from a lifelong fibrinous bronchitis condition, and with his writing career at a dead end, he was nursed back to health by his doctor, his nurse, and his future wife, while living briefly in Monterey, San Francisco, and Oakland. His father having provided money to help, on May 19, 1880, he married the San Francisco native, whom he had first met in France in 1875, soon after the events of An Inland Voyage. Still too weak to undertake the journey back to Scotland, friends suggested Calistoga, in the upper Napa Valley, with its healthy mountain air.
They first went to the Hot Springs Hotel in Calistoga, but unable to afford the 10 dollars a week, they spent an unconventional honeymoon in an abandoned three-story bunkhouse at a derelict mining camp called "Silverado" on the shoulder of Mount Saint Helena in the Mayacamas Mountains. There they managed to "squat" for two months during a pleasant California summer, putting up makeshift cloth windows and hauling water in by hand from a nearby stream while dodging rattlesnakes and the occasional fog banks so detrimental to Stevenson's health.
The Silverado Squatters provides some interesting views of California during the late 19th century. Stevenson uses the first telephone of his life. He meets a number of wine growers in Napa Valley, an enterprise he deemed "experimental", with growers sometimes even mislabelling the bottles as originating from Spain in order to sell their product to sceptical Americans. He visits the oldest wine grower in the valley, Jacob Schram, who had been experimenting for 18 years at his Schramsberg Winery, and had recently expanded the wine cellar in his backyard. Stevenson also visits a petrified forest owned by an old Swedish ex-sailor who had stumbled upon it while clearing farmland-the precise nature of the petrified forest remained for everyone a source of curiosity. Stevenson also details his encounters with a local Jewish merchant, whom he compares to a character in a Charles Dickens novel (probably Fagin from Oliver Twist), and portrays as happy-go-lucky but always scheming to earn a dollar. Like Dickens in American Notes (1842), Stevenson found the American habit of spitting on the floor hard to get used to.
His experiences at Silverado were recorded in a journal he called "Silverado Sketches", parts of which he incorporated into Silverado Squatters in 1883 while living in Bournemouth, England, with other tales appearing in "Essays of Travel" and "Across the Plains". Many of his notes on the scenery around him later provided much of the descriptive detail for Treasure Island (1883).
The Robert Louis Stevenson State Park now encompasses the area where the Stevensons stayed. The entrance to the park is at the summit of State Route 29. A new trail has been constructed in recent years. The "Silverado Museum" in St. Helena, California, is dedicated to Stevenson....
Joseph Dwight Strong, Jr. (1853-1899) was an artist from the United States....
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (13 November 1850 - 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child's Garden of Verses....
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About the Author
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), a Scottish author of novels, poems, and essays, is best known for the classic books Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson remains popular for his celebrated contributions to the adventure and horror genres.
Date of Birth:November 13, 1850
Date of Death:December 3, 1894
Place of Birth:Edinburgh, Scotland
Place of Death:Vailima, Samoa
Education:Edinburgh University, 1875