Treasure Island: Biography: Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 13, 1850. His father was an engineer, and his mother came from a family of lawyers and ministers. Stevenson trained as a lawyer but never practiced. Instead, he devoted his talents to writing. He wrote essays, novels, short stories and travel literature. His first book was An Inland Voyage (1878), an account of a canoe trip he made in Belgium and France.
Treasure Island was first published in book form in 1883. The story originated in an imaginary map of a "treasure island" that Stevenson drew for the amusement of his twelve-year-old stepson on a rainy day. He then thought of a pirate story to accompany the map, which he wrote quickly. The story was serialized in the boys' magazine, Young Folks, from October 1881to January 1882. Within a few years of publication, Treasure Island had become one of the most popular books of the decade, enjoyed by adults and children alike. Legend has it that even the prime minister of England, William Ewart Gladstone, stayed up all night reading it. Treasure Island marked the beginning of Stevenson's career as a successful and popular writer.
Within a few years, Stevenson had written the fantasy Prince Otto (1885), A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), The Black Arrow (1883), Kidnapped (1886) and Catriona (1893). All the last three books, like Treasure Island, have young protagonists, but they were intended to be read by adults as well as children. The novel for which Stevenson is best known, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was published in 1886.
Stevenson struggled with ill health all his life. In 1889, he and his family moved to the island of Upolu in the South Seas (now known as Western Samoa), where he died five years later, in December, 1894, at the age of forty-four.
Stevenson's reputation slumped after his death, and for much of the twentieth century his work was undervalued. He was thought of primarily as a writer for children. In recent years, however, there has been a revival of interest, and Stevenson is appreciated today for the elegance and originality of his work.