Robert Louis Stevenson | 1850-1894

Though he found no pirates in Belgium and France and was the target of no murderous plots in his native Edinburgh, Robert Louis Stevenson's first published works were a travel journal of a canoe trip and "picturesque notes" on Scotland's capital. Even if these locations lack the exoticism of Treasure Island and the intrigue of Kidnapped, Stevenson's eye was still trained on the local details which he gathered into colorful narratives of people and places. Born into a line of engineers, schooled to be a lawyer but making his living as a writer, Stevenson first serialized Treasure Island in Young Folks Magazine in 1882. The story was an immediate success, and it was published as a book the following year. Like G.A. Henty, another adventure writer, Stevenson presented his boy readers with a boy-hero whom they could admire for his pluck. But unlike Henty, Stevenson did not endow his boy-hero with a heavily Christian moralism. The light touch which made Treasure Island so popular was also present in A Child's Garden of Verses, a book of poetry for children published in 1884, and in Kidnapped, published in 1886. A rousing adventure set in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Kidnapped allowed Stevenson to indulge his interest in Scottish history; whether his readers were as interested in Scottish history as in ripping good adventure is unclear. The same year saw the publication of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a story of corruption and hypocrisy which indicted Victorian moralism. Stevenson was, in fact, at odds with much Victorian convention. He traveled extensively in the United States and the South Pacific (which was not odd for a man of his class); and he married an American divorcée and settled in Samoa (which was). Although he is now best known for his writing for young readers, in his abbreviated lifetime he wrote for adults as well. His travels in the South Sea Islands led him to write about the loss of island culture which resulted from American and European domination as akin to the loss of Highland culture in Scotland. But in spite of this serious view of 19th-century life, Stevenson would return to the romance and adventure of the past: Catriona, the sequel to Kidnapped, was published in 1893, a year before his death.