Robert Louis Stevenson and David Kalakaua

Robert Louis Stevenson – Writing Vagabond

Robert Louis Stevenson was an explorer, writer, poet, essayist and speaker. Stevenson was one of the great literary geniuses the world has produced, and everyone knows him because of his most famous works Kidnapped and Treasure Island. Of course, who can forget two of the strangest characters ever, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, who were created by R L Stevenson.

Robert Louis StevensonThose three examples would suffice to introduce the creative genius that Stevenson was. He was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson on 13 November, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland, to parents Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Isabella Balfour. His father was a lighthouse engineer, which was their traditional family profession as well.

Stevenson was the only child in the family. He was considered to be a bit odd by his friends and schoolmates because his behavior was eccentric, to say the least. In his younger years he made only a few good friends. As a result, he turned to writing, publishing his first ever work at a young age of sixteen with help from his father, who himself was fond of writing. Stevenson’s writing genius was recognized right away and his work found an audience of all ages. However, rather than writing, Stevenson was more interested in traveling, and he visited a cousin in England in 1873 and subsequently he settled there for a while.



Further Reading on Grandma Gatewood

A Life: Bigoraphy of Robert Louis Stevenson
Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson
Travels in Hawaii
An Inland Voyage and Travels with a Donkey
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde
A Tale of Two Roses
Treasure Island
Kidnapped
Travel to Samoa, Hawaii, San Francisco, or the UK

Stevenson met his soon-to-be wife, Fanny Sitwell while in London and she shared his enthusiasm towards the fine art of writing. Stevenson visited his parents back in Edinburgh from time to time, and meanwhile he became more and more popular in London academic circles. In 1875, Stevenson visited France to take medical treatment because of weak health. He liked the French environment very well, and visited France several more times during his life. In 1879, he went to San Francisco and he also stayed there for a couple of years, all the time writing accounts of his travels and creating new stories.

Stevenson’s family suffered from a long history of weak health, and for this reason he searched for a suitable place to stay that would suit his weak constitution. He traveled to many places in Scotland, England and the US, but the environment didn’t suit him in any of these places.He needed a warm tropical climate, and he found it in the Pacific. Not only did he go to Hawaii and Samoa but also to Tahiti and many of the smaller islands of the pacific islands.

Robert Louis Stevenson and David Kalakaua

Stevenson hosting King Kalakaua in his home

Stevenson resided in the Kingdom of Hawaii for a time and became great friends with King David Kalakaua and his sister Lilioukalani (who subsequently became the last monarch of Hawaii before she was overthrown by a consortium of U.S. businessmen and missionaries.) There were rumors of a romantic affair with the beautiful Hawaiian Princess Victoria Kaiulani but one thing for certain is that they became great friends and had a wonderful friendship. He penned this poem for her before he left.

[Written in April to Kaiulani in the April of her age; and at Waikiki, within easy walk of Kaiulani's banyan! When she comes to my land and her father's, and the rain beats upon the window (as I fear it will), let her look at this page; it will be like a weed gathered and pressed at home; and she will remember her own islands, and the shadow of the mighty tree; and she will hear the peacocks screaming in the dusk and the wind blowing in the palms; and she will think of her father sitting there alone. - R. L. S.]

FORTH from her land to mine she goes,
The island maid, the island rose,
Light of heart and bright of face:
The daughter of a double race.

Her islands here, in Southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.

But our Scots islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by
To smile in Kaiulani’s eye.

As the ship left King Kalakaua brought the Royal Hawaiian Band to play farewell to his good friend Stevenson.

death of Robert Louis StevensonStevenson finally settled on the island of Samoa, where he also breathed his last, on December 3, 1894. Though he lived for just 44 years, Stevenson has become immortal through his works which have inspired travelers, vagabonds, and adventurers .

2 thoughts on “Robert Louis Stevenson – Writing Vagabond”

  1. Interesting post on a fascinating author. We visited Vailima, his home in Samoa, a few years ago. He still seems to be revered there.

  2. In Hawaii too. I love the images that come to mind when I think about him and King David Kalakaua fishing together. By the way, did you guys know Kalakaua was the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe? He made treaties with over 170 nations (including the USA which later helped to overthrow his sister and then annexed his kingdom.) Kalakaua is my favorite monarch of all time, a renaissance man who loved surfing, symphonies, and fishing for ahi.

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