A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson now ranks as the 26th most translated author in the world. His works have been admired by many other writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Proust, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Cesare Pavese, Emilio Salgari, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Vladimir Nabokov,J. M. Barrie, and G. K. Chesterton, who said of him that he "seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins"
Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 13 November 1850, to Thomas Stevenson (1818-87), a leading lighthouse engineer, and his wife Margaret Isabella (born Balfour; 1829-97). He was christened Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson. At about age 18, Stevenson was to change the spelling of "Lewis" to "Louis", and in 1873, he dropped "Balfour".
Lighthouse design was the family's profession: Thomas's father (Robert's grandfather) was the famous Robert Stevenson, and both of Thomas's brothers (Robert's uncles) Alan and David, were in the same field. Indeed, even Thomas's maternal grandfather, Thomas Smith, had been in the same profession. However, Robert's mother's family were not of the same profession. Margaret's natal family, the Balfours, were gentry, tracing their lineage back to a certain Alexander Balfour who had held the lands of Inchyra in Fife in the fifteenth century. Margaret's father, Lewis Balfour (1777-1860), was a minister of the Church of Scotland at nearby Colinton, and her siblings included the physician George William Balfour and the marine engineer James Balfour. Stevenson spent the greater part of his boyhood holidays in his maternal grandfather's house. "Now I often wonder," wrote Stevenson, "what I inherited from this old minister. I must suppose, indeed, that he was fond of preaching sermons, and so am I, though I never heard it maintained that either of us loved to hear them."
Lewis Balfour and his daughter both had weak chests, so they often needed to stay in warmer climates for their health. Stevenson inherited a tendency to coughs and fevers, exacerbated when the family moved to a damp, chilly house at 1 Inverleith Terrace in 1851. The family moved again to the sunnier 17 Heriot Row when Stevenson was six years old, but the tendency to extreme sickness in winter remained with him until he was eleven. Illness would be a recurrent feature of his adult life and left him extraordinarily thin. Contemporary views were that he had tuberculosis, but more recent views are that it was bronchiectasis or even sarcoidosis.
Stevenson's parents were both devout and serious Presbyterians, but the household was not strict in its adherence to Calvinist principles. His nurse, Alison Cunningham (known as Cummy),was more fervently religious. Her Calvinism and folk beliefs were an early source of nightmares for the child, and he showed a precocious concern for religion.But she also cared for him tenderly in illness, reading to him from Bunyan and the Bible as he lay sick in bed and telling tales of the Covenanters. Stevenson recalled this time of sickness in "The Land of Counterpane" in A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), dedicating the book to his nurse.An only child, strange-looking and eccentric, Stevenson found it hard to fit in when he was sent to a nearby school at age six, a problem repeated at age eleven when he went on to the Edinburgh Academy; but he mixed well in lively games with his cousins in summer holidays at Colinton......................
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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