Robert Lewis Stevenson

Biography

(1850-1894)

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.)

Essays by Robert Lewis Stevenson

An apology for idlers

Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity.

A chapter on dreams

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.

Crabbed age and youth

To have a catchword in your mouth is not the same thing as to hold an opinion.

On the enjoyment of unpleasant places

Things looked at patiently from one side after another generally end by showing a side that is beautiful.

Father Damien

The truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the enemy.

The philosophy of umbrellas

The umbrella has become the very foremost badge of modern civilization.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana by Patrick Madden

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

2011 Symposium on the Essay
Welcome Table Press Symposium on the Essay

Friend of Quotidiana Kim Dana Kupperman's Welcome Table Press is hosting a one-day symposium at Fordham University on Saturday, October 15th, 2011. In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form will feature talks and discussions by Phillip Lopate, Robin Hemley, Barbara Hurd, and more.

Search

Join Us on Facebook
facebook logo

Changes are happening beneath the hood of Quotidiana. Sign up for our Facebook group to stay up to date on site and essay news.

Essayists
Essays