Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was a Scottish writer of tremendous skill. He was unparalleled as a storyteller, masterfully crafting exotic tales of adventure impossible to put down.
As a child in Scotland, Stevenson was sickly and prone to bouts of fever and chest infections. Sickness plagued him in adult life as well; he was extremely thin, and often in failing health. In childhood, this weakness meant Stevenson spent a lot of time indoors reading and writing stories, and probably contributed greatly to his love of the written word and passion for exciting tales. Never expecting his writing to be anything more than a hobby, Stevenson entered the engineering program at the University of Edinburgh, but immediately showed disinterest in his classes, and after a few years announced that he would pursue a career as a writer.
Despite his often failing health (and sometimes because of it - the cold and damp often triggered episodes, so he sought warmer climates), Stevenson travelled as much as possible - around Scotland and England, to France and Belgium, to New York, Hawaii and San Francisco, Tahiti and New Zealand, and anywhere else he could find warm weather and inspiration. His journeys excited him as much for the wealth of story ideas they provided as for the experiences themselves, and many of his works involve descriptive and detailed passages dedicated to exhilarating voyages .
His travels led him to meet and marry an American woman named Fanny, and together they moved to the island of Samoa in the South Pacific. There, Stevenson and Fanny purchased 400 acres of land and became a welcome part of the community. The locals called Stevenson ‘Tusitala’ (Teller of Tales), and for four years he wrote productively in Samoa.
In December 1894, with his wife by his side, Stevenson′s poor health caught up to him at last and he died of a stroke at age 44.
He is best remembered for Treasure Island, the swashbuckling tale of pirates, treasure and adventure on the high seas, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde about a mild-mannered doctor who undergoes a strange and monstrous transformation. He wrote 12 novels in all, and four collections of short stories. Signed copies are rare and fetch a pretty penny (the man did die over a century ago), but there are collectible and quite affordable first editions of his works available.