Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born on 13 November 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland & died on 3 December 1894 Vailima, Samoa, was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Stevenson was born to Thomas Stevenson, a leading lighthouse engineer, and his wife, the former Margaret Isabella Balfour. Lighthouse design was the family profession: Thomas’s own father was the famous Robert Stevenson, and his maternal grandfather, Thomas Smith, and brothers Alan and David were also among those in the business.
Stevenson has been greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Marcel Schwob, Vladimir Nabokov, J. M. Barrie, and G.K. Chesterton, who said of him that he “seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins.”
An only child, strange-looking and eccentric, Stevenson found it hard to fit in when he was sent to a nearby school at age six, a problem repeated at age eleven when he went on to the Edinburgh Academy; but he mixed well in lively games with his cousins in summer holidays at the Colinton manse. In any case, his frequent illnesses often kept him away from his first school, and he was taught for long stretches by private tutors. He was a late reader, first learning at age seven or eight, but even before this he dictated stories to his mother and nurse. Throughout his childhood, he was compulsively writing stories. His father was proud of this interest: He had himself written stories in his spare time until his own father found them and told him to “give up such nonsense and mind your business.” He paid for the printing of Robert’s first publication at sixteen, an account of the covenanters’ rebellion published on its two hundredth anniversary, The Pentland Rising: a Page of History, 1666 (1866).
It was expected that Stevenson’s writing would remain a sideline, and in November 1867 he entered the University of Edinburgh to study engineering. He showed from the start no enthusiasm for his studies and devoted much energy to avoiding lectures.
A bronze relief memorial to Stevenson, designed by American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1904, is mounted in the Moray Aisle of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. Another memorial in Edinburgh stands in West Princes Street Gardens below Edinburgh Castle; it is a simple upright stone inscribed with “RLS – A Man of Letters 1850 -1894″ by sculptor Iain Hamilton Finlay in 1987.
A garden was designed by the Bournemouth Corporation in 1957 as a memorial to Stevenson, on the site of his Westbourne house “Skerryvore” which he lived in from 1885 to 1887. A statue of the Skerryvore lighthouse is present on the site.
In 1994, to mark the 100th Anniversary of Stevenson’s death, the Royal Bank of Scotland issued a series of commemorative £1 notes which featured a quill pen and Stevenson’s signature on the obverse, and Stevenson’s face on the reverse side. Alongside Stevenson’s portrait are scenes from some of his books and his house in Western Samoa where he died in 1894. Two million notes were issued, each with a serial number beginning “RLS”. The first note to be printed was sent to Samoa in time for their centenary celebrations on 3 December 1994.