Skip to main content

Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

See other formats


ROBERT Louis STEVENSON was born in Edinburgh on
November 13, 1850. On his father's side he came of a
family of famous lighthouse builders, abiding memorials
of whose skill and genius may yet be seen in the noble
beacons dotted about on the Bell Rock, Skerryvore, Dhu
Heartach, and many other points of the rugged Scotch
coast. His grandfather, Robert Stevenson, had been a
friend of Sir Walter Scott; his mother was a daughter
of the Rev. Dr, Balfour of Colinton. Both of them are
described with wonderful sympathy and insight in
Memories and Portraits. From this stern, old-fashioned
Presbyterian stock he inherited the moralizing tendency
so apparent in all his writings. From his father he acquired
' the family evil, despondency'; to his mother, on the
other hand, he owed, along with, alas, extreme physical
delicacy of constitution, a courageous and buoyant dis-
position, and fortitude in the face of suffering. To his
remoter Celtic ancestry, as he tells us in The Manse, must
be traced the imaginative temperament and wayward
disposition which differentiated him so amazingly from
his more immediate forebears. It was an odd, and in some
respects incongruous, combination of opposite qualities.

He was educated at Edinburgh University, and after it
had become evident that his health would permanently
incapacitate him from following his ancestral profession,
he was called to the Bar. But it was soon apparent that