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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, the popular Scottish novelist and essayist, was born on November 13, 1850 in Howard Place, Edinburgh. He was the son of a civil engineer, Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Isabel Balfour. Christened 'Robert Lewis Balfour', at the age of 18 he dropped the name Balfour and changed his middle name from Lewis to Louis.
As a baby he showed signs of pulmonary trouble, probably inherited from his mother. This state of health troubled him throughout his life. As a youngster his formal education was interrupted by illness and was frequently taken for holidays in Scotland and abroad.
His childish mind was greatly developed by his nurse, Alison Cunningham with her grim Calvinism and her stock of stories of ghosts and fairies. He spent a large part of his childhood at his grandfather’s place at Colington or with his aunt, Jane Whyte Balfour. He had a happy childhood.
He was sent to school at Edinburgh academy and when he was 17 he became a student at the Edinburgh University. He had no interest in his studies and spent most of his time exploring the low life of the old town of Edinburgh. According to his fathers wish he studied engineering at the university. At 21 he expressed his wish to become a writer. His father accepted young Stevenson wish, as he was well aware of his son's ill health. To secure his future, his father enrolled him in the university to study Law. He passed the bar in 1875 but never practiced.
He had started writing in his teens and several already appearing in English magazines. In spite of his ill health he traveled extensively. An account of his canoe tour of France and Belgium was published in 1878 as An Island Voyage (his first book) and Travels With A Donkey. In 1879, In the Cevennes was published. The same year he traveled to California. Here he married Ms. Fanny Osborne whom he had earlier met in France.
His most celebrated work, Treasure Island, was written for his stepson, Lloyd Osborne. It was first published as a serial in the children's magazine Young Folks from October 1881 to January 1882. It was later published as a complete book in 1883. The sudden spurt of writing which started with Treasure Island resulted in some of his best book is like Kidnapped (1886), The Black Arrow (1888), The Master of Ballantre (1889), The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and The Wrong Box (1889).
Health reasons forced him to leave England in 1888. In October 1890, Stevenson and his family settled in Apia, in Samoa, among the Pacific Islands. The climate in the island suited him. He wrote extensively there. In the South Sea (1896) and A Foot note to History (1892) are two of his South Sea novels. Catriona (1893) [A sequel to Kidnapped], Weir of Hermiston (1896), Island Night’s Entertainment (1893), The Ebbtide (1894), St. Ives [Finished by A.T. Quiller-Couch] (1898) were his last important books.
On December 4, 1894, a blood vessel in his brain ruptured and caused his death. He was buried in the summit of Mon Vaea by the native people who had named him TUSITALA ("Teller of Tales").
One of his well-known verses from his ‘requiem’ was rightly etched on his Tombstone. It read:
"Here he lies where he longed to be;
LITERARY / HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Treasure Island is an adventure story for written for young boys. It is a step-by-step narration of Jim Hawkins' experiences related to his trip to Treasure Island. The story is set in two places. First is where the book starts: at the Admiral Benbow Inn, a small seaside inn situated at Black Hill Cove. Second, on Treasure Island, a huge stretch of land in the middle of the sea inhabited by only one human being.
The book was written at the request of his stepson, Lloyd Osborne, at the Braemar Cottage. Stevenson wrote one chapter per day. At the end of the day he would read it to a chosen audience. This book was first published in a serial form.
Some of the incidents recorded in the book are based on real life occurrences. For example, Jim Hawkins overhearing the mutineers' conspiring conversation in the apple barrel is based on an incident his father had experienced as a child --- he had overheard the conspiracies of the Captain of the lighthouse Board's vessel against his own father while he was concealed in the apple barrel. The character of the pirate-cook, Long John Silver is based on his close friend W.E. Healey, who, despite his handicap, was full of energy and exuberance. The real-life images of the island with tall trees and hills are reminiscent of parts of Scotland that he visited when he was a child.
His other main characters in the book were borrowed from other author's works. Stevenson was quite frank about this and was indebted to other writers. In one of the occasions he had said "No doubts, the parrot once belonged to Robinson Crusoe; The stockade, I am told, is from Masterman Ready , and the character of Billy Bones and the opening scene at the inn from Washington Irving's Tales of a Traveller."
As mentioned by his biographer, Jenni Calder, "Stevenson's experience of the islands were extensive. He knew what it felt like to be surrounded by water."
It is the same magic that he has recreated in Treasure Island.