Today, 13th November, is designated world Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) Day, commemorating the date of his birth in 1850 in a suburb of Edinburgh. He may already have been destined for greatness, as both his father and grandfather were already well known as lighthouse engineers - Stevenson lighthouses still stand around the coasts of Scotland, and had he followed in his father's footsteps young Robert could easily have been another bright light (pun intended) in the world of maritime shipping.
He is likely also to have been inspired by the life and times of Edinburgh's infamous Deacon Brodie, a real-life figure who had also lived two characters - an honourable cabinet maker and council member by day, Brodie used the skills of his trade to re-enter his customer's houses during the night, to rob them of their belongings.
Today the dual personality motif is a common theme in many books, films and television stories, as well as being reflected in some psychological theories of human personality and identity. But it was Stevenson's chilling representation of such themes and ideas in his classic novella that helped such notions become a staple of the gothic horror canon.
Stevenson was a voracious traveller, and the romanticism of the island adventures of Treasure Island formed another backdrop to his own life. Having journeyed around the globe, Stevenson ended his days ten-thousand miles from his Scottish home, on an island in Samoa in the Pacific Ocean. Here he had made a home for himself, taking the tribal name Tusitala - meaning 'teller of tales' - and it was here that he is buried, having died on 3rd December 1894, aged just 44 years old.
A small commemorative stone in Princes Street Gardens commemorates Stevenson in Edinburgh, and his tomb in Samoa bears the following '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.
Find out more about Edinburgh's literary associations with my private city walking tours...
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
Search the blog archive...
© COPYRIGHT GARETH DAVIES 2014-21