Robert L. Stevenson, 1850-1894



Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh as the son of Thomas Stevenson, a prosperous joint-engineer to the Northern Lighthouses. He invented, among others, the marine dynamometer, which measures the force of waves. Stevenson's grandfather was Britain's greatest builder of lighthouses. Since his childhood Stevenson suffered from tuberculosis. He spent much of his time in bed during his early years, composing stories before he can read. In 1867 he entered Edinburgh University to study engineering, but due to his ill health he had to abandon his plans to follow in his father's footsteps. So he changed to law and in 1875 he was called to the Scottish bar. Instead of practicing law, Stevenson devoted himself into writing travel sketches, essays, and short stories for magazines. In 1878, while in France, he met Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, a married woman with two children, who returned to the United States to get a divorce. They married in 1880 and from then on they lived in the South Seas, in Vailima, Samoa, where he finally died on December 3, 1894.

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"Kidnapped" tells the story of David Balfour, a young man of the Lowlands, the southern part of Scotland. David's father, Alexander Balfour, has recently died, and his mother died some time before, so he is now an orphan. Since he is now seventeen years old, he has decided it is time to go and seek his fortune. Before he leaves for the city of Edinburgh, he meets with his guardian, Mr. Campbell. Campbell reveals that David has an uncle, Ebenezer Balfour, of the House of Shaws—meaning that David is, to his surprise, from a wealthy family. David decides to go to Cramond, where his uncle lives, and meet his wealthy relatives.

This novel was based on a dream and written and printed in 10 weeks. It's Stevenson's best-known work of horror and has since his death inspired several sequels by other hands. The mystery of Jekyll and Hyde is gradually revealed through the narratives of Mr Enfield, Mr Utterson, Dr Lanyon and Jekyll's butler Poole. Utterson, Jekyll's lawyer, discovers that the nasty Mr. Hyde is the heir of Dr. Jekyll's fortune. Hyde is suspected of a murder. Utterson and Poole break into Jekyll's laboratory and found the lifeless Hyde. Two documents explain the mystery: Jekyll's old friend, the late Dr. Lanyon, tells that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. In his own account Jekyll tells that to separate the good and evil aspects of his nature, he invented a transforming drug. His evil self takes the form of the repulsive Mr Hyde. Jekyll's supplies of drugs run out and he finds himself slipping involuntarily into being Hyde. Jekyll kills himself, but the last words of the confession are written by Hyde: "Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Dr. Jekyll to an end". The story has been considered a criticism of Victorian double morality.

Juvenile literature
In 1883 Stevenson gained his first fame with this romantic adventure story. The central character is Jim Hawkins, whose mother keeps an inn near the coast in the West Country. Jim meets an old pirate, Billy Bones, who has in his possession a map showing the location of Captain Flint's treasure. Bones dies after a second visit of his enemies. Jim, his mother, and a blind man named Pew open Bones's sea chest and finds an oilskin packet, which contains the map. Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, Jim, and a small crew with Captain Smollett sail for Treasure Island. Jim discovers that the crew of the Hispaniola includes pirates, led by a personable one-legged man named Long John Silver, who is the cook of the ship. On a journey to the island interior, Jim encounters Ben Gunn, former shipmate of the pirates. After several adventures the pirates are defeated, Jim befriends with Long John, and the treasure is found. Jim and his friends sail back to England. Long John Silver manages to escape, taking as much gold as he can carry.

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