Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson (November 13, 1850-December 3, 1894), was a novelist, poet, and travel writer.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was the son of Thomas Stevenson, a successful engineer, and Margaret Balfour. They were both very religious. Robert gave up the religion of his parents while in his university years, but the teaching that he received as a child continued to influence him.
Although ill with tuberculosis from childhood, Stevenson had a full life. He began his education as an engineer (and his lighthouse designs were much praised), but turned to law because his health was poor, though he never practiced. He ended as a tribal leader (called by his tribe Tusitala) and plantation owner in Samoa, all this in addition to his literary career.
Stevenson's novels of adventure, romance, and horror are of considerable psychological depth and have continued in popularity long after his death, both as books and as films.
His wife Fanny (née Osbourne) was a great support in his adventurous and arduous life.
Stevenson died of a brain haemorrhage in Vailima in Samoa, aged 44.
- Treasure Island (1882) His first major success, a tale of piracy, buried treasure, and adventure, has been filmed frequently. It was originally called The Sea-Cook.
- Kidnapped (1887) is an historical novel that tells of the boy David Balfour's pursuit of his inheritance and his alliance with Alan Breck in the intrigues of Jacobite troubles between England and Scotland. Catriona (1893) is a sequel, telling of Balfour's further adventures.
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), a short novel about a dual personality much depicted in plays and films, also influential in the growth of understanding of the subconscious mind through its treatment of a kind and intelligent physician who turns into a psychotic monster after imbibing a drug intended to separate good from evil in a personality.
- The New Arabian Nights (1882), a collection of tales.
- The Body Snatcher (1885), another influential horror novel.
- The Wrong Box, (1892), with Lloyd Osbourne, a comic novel of a tontine, also filmed (1966). A tontine is a group life-insurance policy in which the last survivor gets all the insurance. Both in the novel and in real life, it is an incentive to murder, and no longer legal in most countries.
- The Master of Ballantrae (1888), a masterful tale of revenge, set in Scotland and America.
- Wier of Hermiston (1896), novel, unfinished at his death, considered to have promised great artistic growth.
- A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), written for children but also popular with their parents. Includes such favorites as "My Shadow" and "The Lamplighter". Often thought to represent a positive reflection of the author's sickly childhood.
Although not well known, his island fiction and non-fiction is among the most valuable and collected of the 19th century body of work that addresses the Pacific area.
Non-fiction works on the Pacific
- In the South Seas. A collection of Stevenson's articles and essays on his travels in the Pacific.
- A Footnote to History, Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa
- The Beach at Falesa, one of his most mature works, it explores the relationship between white traders and islanders in a way that anticipates Conrad and Maugham.
- An Island Nights' Entertainment. Three great stories: The Bottle Imp, The Beach at Falesá and The Isle of Voices.
- The Wrecker with Lloyd Osbourne
- The Ebb Tide with Lloyd Osbourne