Handicapped from youth by delicate health, he struggled all his life against tuberculosis. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1875, but he never practiced. At an early age he had begun to write, and gradually he devoted himself to literature. He published essays and stories in periodicals such as Cornhill Magazine. An Inland Voyage (1878), an account of a canoe trip in Belgium and France, was his first published book.
In 1880 Stevenson married Frances Osbourne, an American divorcée ten years his senior. With W. E. Henley he wrote four plays, only moderately successful. His first popular books were Treasure Island (1883), and the fantasy Prince Otto (1885). A Child’s Garden of Verses appeared in 1885, followed in 1886 by Kidnapped, an adventure tale noted for its Scottish setting, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a science-fiction thriller with moral overtones.
Constantly in search of climates favorable to his health, Stevenson went in 1887 to Saranac Lake in New York, where he began The Master of Ballantrae (1889). In 1889 he and his family set out for the South Seas, settling on the island of Upolu in what is now Western Samoa. There Stevenson gained the affection of the natives, who knew him as Tusitala (teller of tales). At his estate there (“Vailima”) he collaborated with his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, on the novels The Wrong Box (1889), The Wrecker (1892), and The Ebb Tide (1894), and wrote and planned numerous tales and essays. He died in Samoa and, by his own request, was buried high on Mt. Vaea “under the wide and starry sky,” which he described in his famous poem “Requiem.” (From the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.)
There is no distinction on the face of our experiences; one is vivid indeed, and one dull, and one pleasant, and another agonizing to remember; but which of them is what we call true, and which a dream, there is not one hair to prove.
The umbrella has become the very foremost badge of modern civilization.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies.
If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at Amazon.com.
"Patrick Madden is an essayist of verve, passion, wit, and dependable moral compass. Quotidiana drew me in powerfully, from page to page and from pleasure to pleasure." —Ian Frazier
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Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.