Scottish Genealogy

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Happy Birthday to...Robert Louis Stevenson

Photograph of RL Stevenson
Sometimes I remember that it is the birthday of someone famous - now that I have this blog I can remind all of you too when the person is both famous and Scottish!

Today, Robert Louis Stevenson would have been 161 years old!  Actually, he died in 1894 at the age of 44, but he packed quite a lot into his short life.

Robert Louis [Lewis] Balfour Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Scotland, on 13 November 1850, to Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), and Margaret Isabella Balfour (1829–1897). The Stevensons were a 'lighthouse' family: Robert Louis's father was a lighthouse engineer and his grandfather was the famous Robert Stevenson (famed designed and builder of lighthouses).

Although Robert started to study engineering at Edinburgh University, he soon found that his heart was not really in it, in one of his poems he wrote:

Say not of me that weakly I declined
The labours of my sires, and fled the sea,
The towers we founded and the lamps we lit,
But rather say: In the afternoon of time
A strenuous family dusted from its hands
The sand of granite, and beholding far
Along the sounding coast its pyramids
And tall memorials catch the dying sun,
Smiled well content, and to this childish task
Around the fire addressed its evening hours

As well as his well known writing career, Stevenson travelled widely and just before his death purchased a tract of about 400 acres of land on Upolu, an island in Samoa, where he lived under the name of Tusitala (Samoan for Story-teller). He died there in 1894, leaving behind a rich body of work which has inspired generations.

I found Robert Louis Stevenson through his Kidnapped and the Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and later found his other novels, novellas and his poetry.  His own epigraph comes from one of my favourite collections of his poetry: Underwoods:

XXI - REQUIEM


Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
HERE HE LIES WHERE HE LONGED TO BE;
HOME IS THE SAILOR, HOME FROM SEA,
AND THE HUNTER HOME FROM THE HILL.
 
 
Happy birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson 

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