Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson, photograph by Henry Walter Barnett, 1893
Signature Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (born November 13, 1850 in Edinburgh , † December 3, 1894 in Vailima near Apia , Samoa ) was a Scottish writer of the Victorian era . Stevenson suffered from tuberculosis and was only 44 years old; however, he left behind an extensive body of travel stories , adventure literature and historical novels as well as poetry and essays. The classic books for young people, The Treasure Island, and the novella The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , which is devoted to the phenomenon of split personality and can be read as a psychological horror novel . Some novels are still popular today and have served as templates for numerous film adaptations.



Panorama of Edinburgh published by Illustrated London News in 1868

Robert Louis Stevenson was the only son of the engineer and lighthouse builder Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Isabella Stevenson, née Balfour (1829-1897), at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh. Originally his baptismal name was Robert Lewis Balfour; At the age of 18, his father had "Lewis" changed to the French form "Louis" in order to prevent the association with a political radical of the same name. His grandfather Robert Stevenson , his uncles Alan Stevenson and David Stevenson , his cousins David Alan Stevenson and Charles Alexander Stevenson and his great cousin Alan Stevenson (1891-1971) were all engineers and lighthouse builders. His mother's family took their name from an Alexander Balfour who owned land near Fife in the 15th century. Margaret's father, Lewis Balfour (1777-1860), had been pastor of the Church of Scotland in nearby Colinton, where Stevenson often spent his childhood vacations. The writer Graham Greene was in the maternal line a grand-nephew of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Daguerreotype of Robert Louis Stevenson as an infant

Stevenson's parents were also religiously bound as Presbyterians in the Church of Scotland . Margaret Stevenson had a weakened health constitution, she suffered from respiratory diseases, a weakness from which Stevenson also suffered all his life. The Scottish climate, with cool summers and rainy, misty winters, was extremely unfavorable for mother and son, and on the advice of the family doctor, they spent many mornings in bed. To relieve the mother, the nanny Alison Cunningham (1822–1910), called "Cummy", was hired in 1852, who impressed little Louis with her strict Calvinism and nightly horror stories that he had nightmares. The family moved to 1 Inverleith Terrace in 1853. Since the apartment was in an even less convenient location, another move to 17 Heriot Row was necessary in 1857.

At the age of two, little Louis was taken to church service and there he heard the sermons with stories, for example, about Cain and Abel , Daniel in the lions' den and about the flood . There were also "Cummy's" horror stories about the dark Scottish church history, which frightened the little boy, but also fascinated him. His work was heavily influenced by early childhood experience. “Cummy” took care of him when he was sick in bed and read from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible , for example . In the popular UK today book A Child's Garden of Verses (In Versgarten) , which appeared in 1885, the 35-year-old Stevenson recalled this time and provided it with a dedication for his nanny .

His first favorite activity of "church play", where he built a pulpit out of a chair and table and recited and sang as a pastor, was followed by rhyming and inventing stories. He wrote the first five-liner when he was just five years old in September 1855, as his mother reported in her diary. Margaret Stevenson kept a diary up to the age of 39 about her son, called "Lou" or "Smout" (Scottish: annual salmon) in the family circle, through which Stevenson's early years are well documented.

School and study

Robert Louis Stevenson at the age of seven

From September 1857 Stevenson attended "Henderson's Preparatory School", but could only attend classes for two hours a day for health reasons. After a few weeks, bronchitis ended regular school attendance and he received private tuition for two years. After four years, he moved to the Edinburgh Academy, a secondary school, which he left at the age of 13, and after a short stay in a boarding school in Spring Grove near London, from 1864 on, he went back to a private school in his hometown.

During his childhood, Stevenson wrote essays and stories constantly; his father understood this, as he had written himself in his spare time until his own father told him to give up this nonsense and get on with business. The young Stevenson's first historical book, Pentland Rising , which he wrote in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott's novels , was published in 1866 by Andrew Elliot, Edinburgh. It was not a risk for the publisher, as Father Stevenson had had to undertake, as was customary at the time, to buy the copies that had not been sold on a fixed date. This is the case. The novel was of little literary value, but fetched "fancy prices" twenty years later when the author was famous.

Swanston Cottage, painting by Robert Hope, circa 1913

In 1867 Thomas Stevenson bought a summer residence, Swanston Cottage, near Edinburgh at the foot of the Pentland Hills , which over the years often became the future writer's refuge from March to October.

In the same year Stevenson enrolled at the University of Edinburgh , initially studying technology and, due to his unstable state of health, switched to law studies in 1871 . His father only accepted his son's desire to become a writer on condition that he had completed his education.

Because of his well-known ancestors, he was elected a member of the illustrious debating club “Speculative Society”, or “Spec” for short, whose evening sessions he liked to attend and through whom he made many friends, such as Charles Baxter and his professor, Fleeming Jenkin . With his cousin, Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (1847–1900), called "Bob", Stevenson went to the bars, drank with him and unsettled the decent citizens. They secretly smoked hash and hooked up with the ladies of the entertainment district. In late 1871 he joined Skene, Edwards & Garson to acquire legal practice. He stayed there until mid-1873. In the same year he met Sidney Colvin , lecturer at Trinity College , Cambridge ; he became his friend and correspondent and later editor of an edition of Stevenson's works. Stevenson fell in love with his partner Fanny Sitwell, but she knew how to keep his crush on him within limits.

Robert Louis Stevenson as an advocate

In 1874 he was accepted into the "Savile Club" in London , a literary society. The tall, narrow-shouldered Louis presented himself as a bohemian , wore a blue velvet jacket, shoulder-length hair and a mustache and caused a stir in his hometown with his demeanor. Its appearance was reminiscent of the romantic-religious painters of the Nazarenes . His enthusiasm for discussions, the turn to atheism and the rebellion against the social conditions in the Victorian kingdom alienated him from his conservative parents.

On November 9, 1872, Stevenson passed the entrance exam for the "Scottish Bar" (Scottish bar) and on July 14, 1875 the final examination, so that he was admitted as an advocate (lawyer before the higher courts) on July 15 with the "Faculty of Advocates" has been. The promise made to the father had been kept, but he still refused the cases brought before him, although the new status as a lawyer made him proud. He hardly earned anything from writing, so he remained dependent on his parents' money.


Stevenson at the age of 26 , etching by Charles Wirgman after a drawing by Fanny Osbourne

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. "

“For my part, I don't travel to go anywhere, but to drive. I travel for the sake of travel. The big thing is to move. "

- Robert Louis Stevenson in Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879).

Through Leslie Stephen , later the father of Virginia Woolf , editor of Cornhill Magazine , Stevenson met William Ernest Henley in 1875 , who had lost a foot as a result of bone tuberculosis . He later wrote plays such as Deacon Brodie with Henley . Stephens Cornhill Magazine published, among other things, Stevenson's collection of essays Virginibus Puerisque in 1876 (published as a book in 1881).

Stevenson's life during this period consisted of traveling in the summer, studying literature, and writing essays in the winter. The start of the summer trip was a stay in 1872 with his law fellow student and friend Walter Grindlay Simpson in Frankfurt am Main . In 1875 Stevenson met his cousin "Bob", who was a painter, during a trip to France in Barbizon , where he studied painting in the manner of Corot and Millet . In the summer of 1876 Stevenson wandered through Ayrshire and Galloway and went canoeing with Simpson from Antwerp to the Oise ; the travelogue about it appeared in 1878 under the title An Inland Voyage . He met Bob again in the Grez-sur-Loing artists' colony , where he met the American amateur painter Fanny Osbourne, née Vandegrift, who was with her children, eighteen-year-old Isobel, called "Belle" (1858-1953), and their eight-year-old son Lloyd Osbourne , stayed there.

Marriage to Fanny Osbourne

Fanny Osbourne, around 1876

The ten years older American Fanny Osbourne (1840-1914) was married, but lived separately from her husband Sam Osbourne, because he had constantly cheated on her and led an unsteady wandering life. Fanny had left America with her three children to perfect her painting. After a stay in Antwerp, she moved to Paris , where the youngest son, Harvey, died of tuberculosis due to the restricted living conditions . She then decided to move to Grez with Belle and Lloyd.

She and Stevenson fell in love, but he returned home in late autumn. Stevenson traveled to France again in the spring of 1877, and the couple lived together in Paris for a while. He wanted to get married, but Fanny Osbourne could not make up her mind on a divorce. She returned to San Francisco in August 1878 to make a decision. Stevenson worked with Henley on the London: The Conservative Weekly Journal in Paris that summer and began a hike in the south of France that fall. He hired a donkey that he called Modestine to carry the luggage. The description of their stubborn escapades and the barren, yet charming landscape formed the basis for his report Journey with the donkey through the Cevennes , which was published in 1879. This Stevensonweg is now a marked hiking trail.

In August 1879, Stevenson - he had received a telegram that Fanny was ill - traveled on the Devonia to New York and then took the train across America to Monterey , California for eleven days . The parents were only informed by a short farewell letter. Fanny received him with subdued joy, she still hadn't made up her mind to break up. Stevenson left to camp but was so exhausted from the trip that he collapsed and was tended by ranchers. A report on this trip was titled The Amateur Emigrant (Emigrant's Tale) , which was published posthumously in the year 1896th

Robert Louis Stevenson with his wife Fanny , painting by John Singer Sargent , 1885

Fanny Osbourne was divorced, and on May 19, 1880, the couple were married by a Presbyterian Scottish clergyman at his home in San Francisco. A few days before the wedding, Stevenson had received a telegram from home with conciliatory words: "250 pounds a year for you". The couple went on their honeymoon with Lloyd for two months in an abandoned, not very romantic mining settlement called Juan Silverado in Napa County , north of San Francisco. Stevenson summarized his experiences there in the report The Silverado Squatters , which was published in 1884. After their return to civilization, the couple booked for themselves and Lloyd - Belle had married the painter Joseph Strong shortly before her mother's second wedding - a passage to England in August to bring about the final reconciliation with Stevenson's parents and to introduce the wife. Stevenson's parents were waiting for them in Liverpool when the "City of Chester" docked there on August 7, 1880. Stevenson had been in the United States for over a year . Contrary to expectations, the strictly conservative Calvinist Thomas Stevenson and the divorced, cigarette-smoking daughter-in-law got along very well. The parents realized that Fanny was able to provide her son with the necessary care in the event of illness and that she was an intellectual partner to him. Under the guidance of her husband, Fanny was to become a writer.

"Treasure Island" is created

Map of Treasure Island as a frontispiece, 1883

Soon after his return and reconciliation with his parents, Stevenson's health deteriorated dramatically. The doctors called in confirmed an outbreak of tuberculosis . In November 1880, the Stevensons and Lloyd moved to the Belvedere spa hotel in Davos . Stevenson recovered a little, but Fanny couldn't stand the climate in the high Alps. Added to this was the desolate sight of the mountains, and the exclusive contact with fellow sufferers had an adverse effect on the patient's condition. Therefore, the family returned to Scotland in April 1881 and rented a cottage in Braemar , a small highland village in Scotland about six miles west of the royal summer palace, Balmoral Castle .

Lloyd Osbourne, 1880

During a period of bad weather, Stevenson caught a bad cold, had to give up hiking and devoted himself to his stepson Lloyd. He helped him paint: “On this occasion I made a map of an island. [...] The shape of this island stimulated my imagination enormously. There were docks that delighted me like sonnets, and conscious of a destiny I called my product 'Treasure Island' ”. This is how Stevenson's first novel, Treasure Island, was inspired. (Treasure Island). which was written for and dedicated to his stepson. The protagonist, Jim Hawkins, was supposed to be Lloyd's age; William Ernest Henley , Stevenson's co-editor of the London Journal , was the model for the pirate Long John Silver as a foot amputee, a hard-drinking Scot .

After the first few chapters, however, Stevenson suffered from writing inhibitions . Another stay in Davos was necessary for health reasons; in autumn he was able to write a chapter there every day. The Treasure Island appeared in several sequels from the end of 1881 in the youth magazine Young Folks under the pseudonym Captain George North and the title The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island , but received little attention. When the novel with the title Treasure Island was published in book form by Cassel & Company in London in 1883 , with numerous woodcuts by George Roux and the treasure map as a frontispiece , it became a bestseller; After just a few years, 75,000 copies had been sold.

Stay in France and Bournemouth

Henry James , painting by John Singer Sargent, 1913

In April 1882 his health improved and Stevenson and his family left Davos for Scotland. He suffered a hemorrhage and moved to France on the advice of the doctor. After a short stay near Marseille, the Stevensons had to move to Hyères because of a typhus epidemic , where they rented the house "La Solitude". After two years they returned to Great Britain because of another epidemic - this time it was cholera - and in September 1884 they moved into the house "Skerryvore" - named after the Skerryvore lighthouse , built by his uncle Alan Stevenson - in Bournemouth , where they lived until Lived July 1887. It was there that Stevenson met the American writer Henry James , who was one of the first critics to seriously, at the same time enthusiastically, deal with his work. A lively correspondence ensued, and Stevenson received inspiration for his work from him. Most of the years in Bournemouth were spent in sickbed.

Robert Louis Stevenson , painting by John Singer Sargent, 1887

In 1886, Stevenson wrote The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , a horror novella based on an authentic case that Stevenson and Henley had already dramatized with the play Deacon Brodie in 1880. Deacon William Brodie was an 18th century Edinburgh cabinet maker who was a respected craftsman by day but a criminal by night. Allegedly there was a cabinet made by Brodie in Stevenson's nursery.

The amendment had not yet appeared, as Stevenson already prepared another novel, Kidnapped , ( Kidnapped ), an adventure story from the Scotland of the 18th century, in which the experiences of the 17-year-old David Balfour were described. The background to the plot was the murder of the royal governor Colin Campbell of Glenure by the Stuart clan. Kidnapped first appeared again as a serial in the magazine Young Folk in July 1886 and shortly thereafter as a book by Cassell in London and Scribner's, New York.

Departure from Europe

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1885

Thomas Stevenson died in Edinburgh on May 8, 1887. Robert Louis Stevenson, who had wanted to be close to his family and had therefore chosen Bournemouth as his place of residence, decided on medical advice to leave the harsh British climate and the family moved with the widowed mother to Saranac in the Adirondack Mountains , where it was there was a sanatorium for lung patients. During a visit to New York in 1888, Stevenson met Mark Twain , whose Huckleberry Finn had inspired him; in Washington Square Park both sat long on a bench discussing. An exchange of letters then followed.

From left: Lloyd Osbourne, Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson, King Kalākaua and Stevenson's mother Margaret in Hawaii , photograph 1889

The beginning of the novel The Master of Ballantrae ( The Junker of Ballantrae ) (published 1889) and the work The Wrong Box (The Wrong Box) written by Lloyd Osbourne and edited by Stevenson originated in Saranac . Fanny Stevenson had written a short story called The Nixie (1888) , among other things . Another text, which she had taken over from Bob Stevenson's sister and completed with her consent, resulted in a violent plagiarism charge by Henley, which severely impaired the friendship between him and Stevenson. The proceeds from the publications were intended for a long-planned South Sea voyage, which the family embarked on June 28, 1888 on the schooner "Casco" in San Francisco. The journey led across the Marquesas Islands to Tahiti and Honolulu on Oʻahu , one of the eight main islands of the Hawaiʻi Archipelago, where they made friends with King Kalākaua and his niece, Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani. Stevenson spent five months there and through the king gained insight into the complicated social and political conditions in this region. When he returned to the islands for a few weeks in 1893, the last Queen Liliʻuokalani had been overthrown and the country was under American influence.

In June 1889 the Stevensons traveled to the Gilbert Islands on the merchant schooner "Equator" . In December of that year, Stevenson visited Samoa for the first time , where he bought a property at the foot of Mount Vaea, not far from Apia on the island of Upolu . In February 1890 the Stevensons traveled to Sydney , made a third cruise in the South Seas from April to August, returned to Sydney and finally moved to Samoa in October.

Last years in Samoa

The house in Vailima. Stevenson can be seen up on the porch. Photography around 1893
The "Stevenson Clan" with its servants. Sitting in the center back: Robert Louis with Fanny Stevenson, on the left Lloyd Osbourne with Margaret Stevenson, in front of Fanny Belle Strong with son Austin, far left Joe Strong, photograph around 1893

The plantation, which Stevenson had bought for 400 pounds, and the house, which was built from January 1891 in two years of construction, he gave the name " Vailima " ("water from the hand"). The translation "five rivers", which often appears in biographies, is based on a misunderstanding. The costs incurred for the two-story wooden building in the colonial style came from the sale of the “Skerryvore” residence. Lloyd Osbourne had gone to Bournemouth, handled the sale of the property, liquidated the household and brought furniture, household effects and pictures to Samoa. At Stevenson's request, Belle and Joseph Strong and son Austin moved to Vailima, mother Margaret followed from Sydney. Stevenson picked her up from there, but suffered a breakdown that delayed the return trip. In May 1891 they reached Samoa; the "Stevenson Clan" was complete. In the same year his short story appeared in The Bottle Imp ( The bottle imp ) , whose plot is tailored already Polynesian conditions.

Belle separated from her husband, who had been unfaithful to her, ran Stevenson's household and wrote his manuscripts such as the adventure novel Catriona (1893), the sequel to Kidnapped , to clean. Fanny took care of the plantings and the garden. Twelve Samoan servants were employed and, like family members, accepted into the "Stevenson" clan. On holidays the servants wore Stuart- colored loincloths. Stevenson was extremely productive during this period; He wrote enthusiastically to his friend Colvin: "Nobody has had so many irons in the fire." Besides Catriona , he wrote The Beach of Falesá ( The Beach of Falesa ) , along with Lloyd The Ebb-Tide (The Shipwreck) and the Vailima Letters to Colvin. If Stevenson did not feel like writing - he often worked on several works at the same time - he passed the time playing the flageolet , often from the bedside, which was not always a great listening pleasure for his roommates.

The islanders named Stevenson Tusitala , the storyteller. They sought his advice, and he dealt with the difficult conflict over Samoa , which was marked by the conflict between the United States , Great Britain and Germany , represented by the consul Wilhelm Knappe and his successor. Stevenson described the European officials as incompetent, and after many unsuccessful proposals to improve local politics, he wrote the publication A Footnote to History on the events . Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa (1892).

Stevenson stood on the side of the Samoan chief Mataafa , who turned against the rival Laupepa in June 1893 and thus started a civil war. The British Foreign Office let him know that he should concentrate solely on writing novellas and ignore politics. Germany openly threatened arrest and deportation. When Mataafa was defeated and exiled to the Marshall Islands controlled by Germany, the Stevensons provided him and other inmates with food, medicine and tobacco. After the release in September 1894, the followers of Mataafas thanked them with the construction of a connecting road (called "Road of Loving Hearts") through the jungle to Vailima to Stevenson's house, which was completed in January 1893. Vailima has been converted into a Robert Louis Stevenson Museum since 1994.

Stevenson's grave on the summit of Mount Vaea

Stevenson began in 1893 with another historical novel, St. Ives , but he was not satisfied with the work and take breaks in October 1894 in favor of the novel Weir of Hermiston ( The Lords of Hermiston ) from which, though unfinished, his most mature Works is counted. On the evening of December 3, 1894, he grabbed his head on the veranda at Vailima and shouted: “What is that! - Don't I look strange? ”And collapsed unconscious. Called doctors could no longer help. In the presence of his family, servants and clergymen, Stevenson died at the age of 44 without regaining consciousness. Intracerebral hemorrhage was recorded as the cause of death . The news spread like wildfire across the island; the locals marched past Tusitala's deathbed and kept the wake. Stevenson was buried on the summit of Mount Vaea as he had wished: “It's wonderful here, here is my house and it will be my grave; but that neither is in Scotland hurts. I will never be able to get over that. "


→ Main articles: Treasure Island , Kidnapped , The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , The Bottle Goblin , The Lords of Hermiston

Total expenses, safekeeping of the estate

Robert Louis Stevenson has left an extensive body of works of novels, short stories, travelogues, plays, poems, essays and letters, which comprise 10 to 35 volumes in nine different editions. The first complete edition, edited by his friend Sidney Colvin , the "Edinburgh Edition" (1894–1898), for example, comprises 28 volumes, the "Vailima Edition" published by his stepson Lloyd Osbourne from 1921 to 1923 in New York 26 volumes. It is due to Stevenson's frequent change of location that his estate is archived widely. The Beincke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University , the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, the Huntingdon Library in San Marino, California, the Widener Library at Harvard University and the Edinburgh Public Library hold extensive manuscript material. The first German-language edition was published in Munich in 1918, the last 12-volume edition in 1979 in Zurich is a new edition of the translations by Marguerite and Curt Thesing from the 1920s. The most complete German edition to date of the novels and stories (excluding the joint works with Lloyd and Fanny Osbourne) was published in 1960 in a translation by Richard Mummendey by Winkler Verlag Munich.

Edinburgh was at a bookstore in Lady Stair's House of Robert Burns , Sir Walter Scott is a small museum with the name and Robert Louis Stevenson The Writers' Museum set up in which some of their works and personal items are on display.

Historical novels and short stories (selection)

Treasure Island , cover of a 1911 edition

"Fifteen men on the dead man's box of
yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!"

- Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

The first print of Stevenson's most popular work Treasure Island ( Treasure Island ) - a later classic book for young people - was published as a multi-part series in Young Folks magazine from October 1, 1881 to January 28, 1882. The first English edition in book form appeared in London in 1883 and was his first literary success. An edition translated into German appeared for the first time in 1897. Originally the novel was supposed to be called The Sea Cook . When it comes to the figures and motifs, Stevenson said he was influenced by Daniel Defoe , Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving , among others . The worldwide impact of this popular youth book is comparable to the works of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe , Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland .

The novel Prince Otto , published in 1885, tells in a fairytale way the story of a young German nobleman whose counterpart, Baron Heinrich von Gondremark, acts as a power-obsessed schemer and who is said to be modeled on the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck . This novel could not build on the success of Treasure Island .

The historical novel Kidnapped ( Kidnapped ) , published in 1886, playing at the time of the Jacobite conflicts between England and Scotland in the 18th century. The adventures of David Balfour link with the second protagonist Alan Breck a largely historical figure in the history of Scotland , the Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart. This novel was continued in Catriona in 1893 . The Black Arrow. A Tale of the Two Roses ( The Black Arrow ) , published in 1883 as a serial again under the pseudonym Captain Georg North in the Young Folks , was published in book form in 1888. It deals with the time of the Wars of the Roses . 1889 was followed by The Master of Ballantrae ( The Junker Ballantrae ) and together with Lloyd Osbourne The Wrong Box (The wrong box) . He broke off the novel St. Ives , begun in 1893 , in 1894 in favor of the work Weir of Hermiston ( The Lords of Hermiston ) . This novel is considered to be his most mature literary work, but Stevenson failed to complete it. The fragment appeared posthumously in London in 1896, followed by the publication of the St. Ives fragment in 1897 .

The Metamorphosis , poster from the 1880s

The Schauern Novelle The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from 1886, which tells of a split personality , takes up the theme of the drama Deacon Brodie , which was co-authored with Henley . Mary Shelley had already created a scientist in her work Frankenstein in 1818 , who was gripped by an irrepressible thirst for knowledge and knew no bounds. Dr. Jekyll had succeeded in inventing a synthetic drug that enabled the change from scientist to villain Hyde. According to Stevensons, the idea for the novel should have come to him after experiencing a nightmare . Due to Stevenson's illness, there are suspicions that he may have taken the opium-containing laudanum available at the time and therefore suffered from anxiety. The book was published in January and turned out to be a huge hit. In the UK, 40,000 copies were sold within six months; this was followed by a license edition in the USA and translations in many languages. The theater poet Thomas Russell Sullivan dramatized the material a year later and staged it with great success in New York in 1887 and in London a year later. In the 20th century, the new medium of film made Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde known worldwide. The first German version from 1920 comes from Friedrich Murnau with Conrad Veidt in the leading role; the 1941 Hollywood version, directed by Victor Fleming , starred Spencer Tracy , Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner . Further adaptations for film and television, such as the television film from 2002, are also being shot in the present.

In the short story The Bottle Imp ( The bottle imp ) deals Stevenson first time with a theme that plays in his new home and is tailored to Polynesian conditions. The protagonist is the Hawaiian Keawe, who purchases a glass bottle with a little devil in it who can make wishes come true. He must have sold the bottle before he died, otherwise he would go to hell. The Samoans believed the story was true and Stevenson the owner of the bottle, whose wealth must have come from the devil. The novella was printed in several parts in advance in the missionary newspaper O le Sulu O Samoa in 1891 and first appeared in book form in 1892. In 1893, Stevenson published The Bottle Goblin along with other South Sea stories in the book Island Night's Entertainments .

Travel reports, short stories, plays, essays, letters and poetry

According to Inland Voyage (1878) (An inland journey through Belgium and France) , Stevenson's first book, a report on a canoe trip with his friend Simpson from Belgium to France followed,Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) (A journey with the donkey through the Cevennes) . He describes a two-week hike with the Modestine packhorse in the Cevennes in southern France . Stevenson covered 220 km with Modestine in twelve days from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille in the Haute-Loire department to Saint-Jean-du-Gard . This path, the GR 70 long-distance hiking trail, called Robert-Louis-Stevenson-Weg , is followed by hikers to this day - donkeys are available.

The Amateur Emigrant (Emigrant's Tale) describes the passage in 1879 of Scotland with the emigrant ship across the Atlantic and the subsequent journey by train from New York to Chicago and San Francisco. The report did not appear until posthumously in 1895, as the publication of Stevenson's account of the poor conditions to which emigrants were exposed did not seem opportune in Victorian Britain.

The Silverado Squatters (1883) is Stevenson's memory report of his two-month honeymoon with his wife Fanny and stepson Lloyd to Napa Valley, California in the late spring to early summer of 1880. Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is named after him. It offers the ascent to the summit of Mount Saint Helena , from which the Bay Area is visible. On a clear day, the summit of Mount Shasta can be seen. In the South Seas (in the South) , a report on Stevenson's three cruises , appeared in the 1896th

Stevenson's first short story Lodging for the Night (One night's lodging) appeared in 1877; it deals with the French late medieval poet François Villon , whom he drew as a caricature of himself right down to his behavior . A list of other selected short stories, plays, essays, letters and poetry can be found in the literature list.

Stevenson's volume of poetry from 1885, about 65 children's poems in Knittelversen with the title A Child's Garden of Verses (German Im Versgarten , Mein Kingdom or Mein Bett ist ein Boot ) is still enjoying a certain popularity in Great Britain today.


Portrait Robert Louis Stevenson , 1892, painting by Girolamo Nerli, Scottish National Gallery

"From childhood on, Robert Louis Stevenson has been one of the forms of happiness for me."

Testimonials from writers

The American art critic and writer Henry James , who was friends with Stevenson, rejected the distinction between "novel" and "romance", demanded a realistic representation and saw in the adventure novel Treasure Island fulfilled its conditions. In the literary theoretical essay The Art of Fiction 1884 he wrote: "I call 'Treasure Island' wonderful because it seems to me to have succeeded in what it strives for in a wonderful way".

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle reported in Through the Magic Door in 1907 that he had never met Stevenson, but that he owed him a lot in a literary sense. “I will always remember the pleasure with which I read his early stories in Cornhill Magazine long before I even knew the author's name. Even today I consider the pavilion in the dunes to be one of the most important short stories in the world ”.

In a letter to Lorrin A. Thurston in 1910 , Jack London wrote : “Believe me, Stevenson's Father Damien letter is more effective every minute than anything I have ever written, and it will certainly continue to do so in the future have and will ever write. "

Bertolt Brecht expressed his praise for the book Der Junker von Ballantrae in his glosses to Stevenson in 1925 , feeling it as an extraordinary example of an adventure novel, “in which the reader's sympathy for the adventurer himself (on whom all other adventure novels live) only begins to enforce with difficulty. As I said, an invention of the very highest order. "

In the Italian newspaper L'Unità of June 27, 1950, Cesare Pavese stated : “With Stevenson, the stylistic demands of the French naturalists, wrapped in exotic magic, found their way into English literature. One can say that the beginnings of the most important prose of our century are to be found here. "

The Russian-American writer and literary critic Vladimir Nabokov held Stevenson in high regard and wrote a foreword to an edition by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and included it in 1980 in his book Lectures on Literature (The Art of Reading. Masterpieces of European Literature) , which brings together Nabokov's most famous lectures. Stevenson found a place of honor there alongside Jane Austen , Charles Dickens , Gustave Flaubert , James Joyce , Franz Kafka , Marcel Proust and others.


Robert Louis Stevenson, 1880

Stevenson was well known during his lifetime, but when classical modern literature emerged after World War I , he was considered a second class author in Great Britain, limited to the genre of children's and horror literature . Authors such as Virginia and Leonard Woolf rejected his works, and he was struck from the canon of literature . Exclusion peaked in 1973 when Stevenson was not mentioned in the two thousand page Oxford Anthology of English Literature . The Norton Anthology of English Literature excluded it from 1968 to 2000 and did not include it in its eighth edition until 2006. It was not until the late 20th century that Stevenson recognized again as a first-rate author, as a literary theorist, essayist and social critic, as a humanist and as a witness to the history of the Pacific Islands. Today Stevenson is back in line with Joseph Conrad , who was influenced by Stevenson's South Seas stories, and Henry James .

The literary critic Robert Kiely points out that Stevenson was active in almost every literary genre and not lined up work after work like his Victorian contemporaries Charles Dickens , Anthony Trollope , George Eliot and Matthew Arnold . Because of his versatility, literary studies have problems classifying Stevenson among the ranks of his writing colleagues.

Stevenson's German biographer Michael Reinbold mentions that there are many protagonists in Stevenson's work, whose moral problems remain undiscussed and whose moral depravity still seems fascinating in part; Examples among many are Long John Silver and Dr. Jekyll. This is not accidental, since in his essays on contemporary literature he shows himself to be a sharp critic of the prevailing realistic literature and thus belongs to writers like Oscar Wilde and George Moore , whose work is referred to as decadence poetry . Bypassing Victorian morality, Stevenson takes an L'art-pour-l'art approach, as can also be found in the visual arts of the last third of the 19th century. The writer colleagues Joseph Conrad , Arthur Conan Doyle , Rudyard Kipling , Jack London and B. Traven are placed at his side; Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas the elder are regarded as role models . Time has passed his literary theoretical approaches, but at least his adventure and horror stories are still internationally successful.

Stevenson had an extraordinarily polished style of speech. His maxim was: "Art is craft", therefore his writing style is shaped by the struggle for the exact choice of words, sound character and sentence rhythm; contemporary French literature was a model for him.

Literature (selection)

Stevenson's works are no longer subject to copyright. Some editions have been published in German translation under different titles and some are out of print.


  • Treasure Island. Cassell, London 1883.
    • Treasure Island . German first in 1897; various editions of further translations, including Insel (tb 65), Frankfurt 2008, ISBN 978-3-458-31765-4 .
    • Treasure Island . Novel. Ed. U. trans. by Andreas Nohl . Hanser, Munich 2013. Complete edition also as DTV paperback no. 14430.
  • Prince Otto . 1885; German: intrigues on the throne. Translation by Klaus-Dieter Sedlacek. BOD, Norderstedt 2012, ISBN 978-3-8482-0065-8 .
Title page of the first edition, 1886
Together with Lloyd Osbourne
  • The wrong box. 1892; dt. The wrong box. Novel. Insel, Frankfurt 1994, ISBN 3-458-33305-3 .
  • The wrecker. 1892; dt. The butcher. A crime novel. Newly translated and with an afterword by Hanna Neves, dtv, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-423-02343-0 (since 2012 udT Der Strandräuber. ISBN 978-3-423-14121-5 )
  • The Ebb Tide. 1894; German ebb. Together with Treasure Island. and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Haffmans, Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-251-20282-0 .

Stories and short stories

Title page of the New York edition, 1896
  • The story of a lie. In: New Quarterly Magazine Oct 25, 1879; dt. The story of a lie. Winkler 1960.
  • New Arabian Nights. 1882; Collection of stories, including:
  • More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter. co-authored with Fanny Stevenson, 1885; Narrative cycle; German: The Dynamite Conspirator - New Arabian Nights . Achilla Presse, Butjadingen 2006, ISBN 3-928398-93-8 .
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 1886; German first edition 1889; dt. The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. u. a. Winkler 1960 & Hildesheim 2002: ISBN 3-8067-4767-9 .
  • The Misadventures of John Nicholson. A Christmas Story. In: Yule Tide. Cassell's Christmas Annual. Dec 1887; dt. The unfortunate adventures of John Nicholson . Winkler 1960
The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables. first English edition by Chatto & Windus, London 1887
  • The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables. 1887; Collection of stories, including:
  • Island Nights Entertainments. 1893; Collection of stories, including:
  • Fables. 1896 In: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. With other fables.
  • The Waif Woman. In: Scribner's magazine. 1914; dt. The foreigner . Winkler 1960
  • When the Devil Was Well. Boston: Bibliophile Society; 1921; dt. When the devil was fine again. Winkler 1960.


  • A Child's Garden of Verses. 1885; German: In the Versgarten. 1960 - also: my bed is a boat. A child's verse garden. Lappan Verlag, Oldenburg 2002, ISBN 3-8303-1062-5 .
  • Underwoods. 1887.
  • Ballads. 1890.
  • Songs of Travel and Other Verses. 1896.


  • Three Plays by W. E. Henley and RL Stevenson , 1892. Contains the tracks Admiral Guinea , Beau Austin and Deacon Brodie or the Double Life .
  • The Hanging Judge , with Fanny Stevenson, printed in Lloyd Osbourne's Vailima Edition, Volume 6, New York 1922.
  • Macaire , together with W. E. Henley 1895, after private printing 1885.

Travel reports

Illustration from: The Silverado Squatters in William Ernest Henley's The Novels and Tales of Robert Louis Stevenson. Volume 15, Scribner's and Sons, 1905
  • At Inland Voyage. 1878.
  • Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes . 1879; German: A journey with the donkey through the Cevennes. Editions La Colombe, Bergisch Gladbach 2000, ISBN 3-929351-12-9 .
  • Silverado Squatters. 1884.
  • The amateur emigrant. 1895; German: Emigrant out of passion. A literary travelogue. Manesse Verlag, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-7175-2030-X (also contains a translation of Across the Plains ).
  • In the South Seas. 1896; German: In the South Seas , translated by Heirich Siemer (1928), new edition Belle Époque Verlag, Dettenhausen 2017, ISBN 978-3-945796-69-6

Collections, essays on literary and contemporary history, politics

  • Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes , 1878; German Fascinating Edinburgh: Impressions from 1879. German by Nadine Erler and Olaf Spittel. Verlag 28 Eichen, Barnstorf 2020, ISBN 978-3-96027-123-9 .
  • Virginibus Puerisque and other Papers , 1881; German: Virginibus Puerisque and other writings , Achilla Presse, 1995.
  • Familiar Studies of Men and Books , 1882.
  • Memories and Portraits , 1887.
  • Father Damien: An Open Letter to the Reverend Doctor Hyde of Honolulu from Robert Louis Stevenson , 1890.
  • Across the Plains With Other Memories and Essays , 1892. German: Emigrant with passion. A literary travelogue. Manesse Verlag, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-7175-2030-X .
  • A Footnote to History, Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa , 1890.
    • German: A footnote on history - Eight years of unrest in Samoa. Achilla Presse, 2001, ISBN 3-928398-76-8 .


The English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams selected nine of the forty-four poems of the Songs of Travel to be set to music in 1904 as a song cycle for baritone and piano under the same title. The collection was published by Boosey & Hawkes.

In 2012, Hildesheim's R.AM Children's Theater set several poems from A child's garden of verses to music , and in some cases new translations were also created. The accompanying CD Kirschbaumtage / Cherry Tree Days was published in 2013 by Müller-Lüdenscheid-Verlag in Bremen.

Radio plays


Secondary literature

German literature and translations

  • Alex Capus : Traveling in the light of the stars. A speculation. Biographical novel based on research by Walter Hurni. Albrecht Knaus Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-8135-0251-1 .
  • Horst Dölvers: The narrator Robert Louis Stevenson. Interpretations. Francke Verlag, Bern 1969.
  • Frederik Hetmann : Journey to the end of the world. From the life of Robert Louis Stevenson. Ravensburger Buchverlag, Ravensburg 1994, ISBN 3-473-35138-5 .
  • Ina Knobloch: The Secret of Treasure Island. Robert Louis Stevenson and Coconut Island - on the trail of a myth. marebuchverlag, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-86648-097-1 .
  • Alberto Manguel : Stevenson under palm trees. A metaphysical crime story. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-10-047750-2 .
  • Vladimir Nabokov : The Art of Reading. Masterpieces of European Literature. Foreword by John Updike , ed. Fredson Bowers, translated by Karl A. Klewer. New edition. Fischer, Frankfurt 2002, ISBN 3-596-10495-5 .
  • Burkhard Niederhoff: Narrator and perspective with Robert Louis Stevenson. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1998, ISBN 3-88479-840-5 .
  • Michael Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1995, ISBN 3-499-50488-X .
  • Hans Joachim Schädlich : Tusitala. In: Ders .: Over. Three stories. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2007, ISBN 978-3-498-06379-5 .
  • Susanne Scholz: Cultural Pathologies: The "strange cases" of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Jack the Ripper. (= Paderborn University Speeches. 88). Rectorate of the University, Paderborn 2003.
  • Fanny Stevenson: Course for the South Seas. Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson's diary. Edited by Roslyn Jolly. National Geographic, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89405-823-4 .
  • Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson: South Seas Years. An unusual marriage in diaries and letters. Translated and edited by Lucien Deprijck . Mare Verlag, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86648-152-7 .

English-language literature

  • Nathalie Abi-Ezzi: The Double in the Fiction of RL Stevenson, Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurier. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2003, ISBN 3-906769-68-2 .
  • Graham Balfour: The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson. Methuen, London 1901.
  • Ian Bell: Dreams of Exile. Mainstream, Edinburgh 1992.
  • John Cairney: The Quest for Robert Louis Stevenson. Luath, Edinburgh 2004, ISBN 0-946487-87-1 .
  • Philip Callow: Louis. A Life of Robert Louis Stevenson. Constable, London 2001, ISBN 0-09-480180-0 .
  • Angelica Shirley Carpenter, Jean Shirley: Robert Louis Stevenson. Finding Treasure Island. Lerner, Minneapolis, Minn. 1997, ISBN 0-8225-4955-7 .
  • Ann C. Colley: Robert Louis Stevenson and the Colonial Imagination. Ashgate, Aldershot et al. 2004, ISBN 0-7546-3506-6 .
  • David Daiches: Robert Louis Stevenson and his World. Thames and Hudson, London 1973, ISBN 0-500-13045-0 .
  • Linda Dryden: The Modern Gothic and Literary Doubles. Stevenson, Wilde and Wells. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. 2003, ISBN 1-4039-0510-X .
  • JC Furnas: Voyage to Windward. The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson. Faber and Faber, London 1952.
  • William Gray: Robert Louis Stevenson. A literary life. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. 2004, ISBN 0-333-98401-3 .
  • Robert Irwin Hillier: The South Seas Fiction of Robert Louis Stevenson. (= American University Studies: Series IV, English Language and Literature. 91). Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1989, ISBN 0-8204-0889-1 .
  • WF Prideaux: Bibliography of the Works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Martino Fine Books, Mansfield 1999 (Facs. Of the original edition London, Hollings, 1917) ISBN 1-57898-118-2 .

Trade journals

Web links

Commons : Robert Louis Stevenson  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Robert Louis Stevenson  - Sources and full texts (English)
Wikisource: Robert Louis Stevenson  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 18.
  2. ^ Graham Balfour: The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson. London (1901), 10-12.
  3. ^ Rowohlt Verlag (ed.): What they write. What they look like . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1954, p. 33 (not paginated).
  4. Michael Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 17-22.
  5. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 25-27.
  6. My first book. In: Treasure Island. Zurich 1979, p. 311.
  7. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 31 f.
  8. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 32 f.
  9. ^ A b Margaret Moyes Black: Robert Louis Stevenson. Scribner's, 1898, p. 75 , accessed February 10, 2009 .
  10. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 34-48.
  11. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 40-54.
  12. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson. University of South Carolina, accessed January 14, 2009 .
  13. Stevenson reported on this in several letters that are to be regarded as finger exercises for his later work as a travel writer. Stevenson knew Frankfurt from two previous stays in Germany with his parents (1862, 1863). - Cf. Robin A. Hill, Roland Haase: RLS in Germany - Robert Louis Stevenson's earliest Travels in Europe; Edinburgh (self-published) 2001.
  14. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 56 ff.
  15. ^ Letters I (Vailima Edition, Volume 20, p. 469, letter from May 1880).
  16. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 62-72.
  17. The attending physician in Davos was Dr. Carl Rüedi .
  18. My first book. In: Treasure Island. Zurich 1979, p. 314 f.
  19. Reinbold; Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 72-77.
  20. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 83-98.
  21. ^ Albert Bigelow Paine: Mark Twain. A Biography 1886-1901. Retrieved February 18, 2009 .
  22. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson: Travels in Hawaii . edited and with an introduction by A. Grove Day. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu 1991, ISBN 0-8248-1397-9 .
  23. Mick Arellano: A Traveler's History of Hawaii. Agile Guidebooks, 2006.
  24. Reinbold: Robert Lous Stevenson. Pp. 98-110, 146.
  25. Joseph Teroux: Some Misconceptions about RLS., accessed July 29, 2009 .
  26. Letter to Sidney Colvin, January 3, 1892, Vailima Letters , Chapter XIV.
  27. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 118 f.
  28. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 110-127.
  29. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, accessed January 20, 2009 .
  30. ^ Renovation of Vailima. fletcherconstruction, archived from the original on March 18, 2009 ; Retrieved October 6, 2012 .
  31. ^ H. J. Moors: With Stevenson in Samoa. London 1910, p. 112.
  32. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 132-138.
  33. Reinbold, p. 150 f.
  34. ^ The Writer 'Museum on, The Writer' Museum on or Robert-Louis-Stevenson-Collections ( Memento from November 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) on, Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  35. Treasure Island . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1997, ISBN 3-499-20816-4 , p. 11.
  36. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 78 f.
  37. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 151 f.
  38. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 92 f.
  39. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 122.
  40. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 62 f.
  41. Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 7, 154.
  42. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson. Book Guild Gutenberg, accessed on February 8, 2009 .
  43. ^ The Art of Fiction (1884). In: The Art of the Novel. Selected essays on literature. Leipzig / Weimar 1984, p. 28.
  44. Source for the above quotations: Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. P. 147 f.
  45. Stephen Arata: Robert Louis Stevenson. In: The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. ed. by David Scott Kastan 2006, Volume 5, pp. 99-102.
  46. ^ Robert Kiely: Robert Louis Stevenson. In: Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 18: Victorian Novelists After 1885. Detroit 1983, p. 283.
  47. Michael Reinbold: Robert Louis Stevenson. Pp. 8-14.
  48. ^ Vaughan / Stevenson: Songs of Travel., accessed February 9, 2009 .
  49. ^ Hörr / Roberts / Stevenson: Kirschbaumtage / Cherry Tree Days. Retrieved July 9, 2013 .
  50. The black arrow on
  51. ^ Summarized film adaptation of the novels Kidnapped and Catriona
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on July 3, 2009 in this version .