xii INTRODUCTION: AN APPRECIATION Stevenson was totally unsuited for a professional career, At college, he was the despair of his tutors. As he tells us himself, he was a pattern of idleness.1 The hours which should have been devoted to lectures were spent in omnivorous reading, French and English ; essays, belles- lettres, history, philosophy and poetry were indiscriminately devoured. At the same time Stevenson was assiduously engaged in practising the art of writing, imitating the models which came to hand with surprising facility.2 In 1875, owing to lung-trouble, he was compelled to spend the first of many winters abroad. The following year he made his literary debut in the Cornhill Magazine, then edited by Leslie Stephen, contributing to its pages from time to time those delightful papers which afterwards appeared under the title of Virginibus Puerisque. About the same time he first made the acquaintance of his fellow- artist and collaborator, William Ernest Henley. In 1878, amid a mass of miscellaneous journalism, appeared two characteristic volumes—An Inland Voyage, recording a canoe-trip made two years previously in the company of Sir Walter Simpson, and Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, inspired by a walking tour from Monastier in Velay through the mountains to Florae. In 1879 came the great crisis of Stevenson's life. He had met at Fontainebleau an American lady, Mrs. Osbourne, with her son and daughter. He now determined to follow her to California and marry her. Owing to straitened circumstances, Stevenson was compelled to travel by an emigrant ship ; for a man of his health and temperament this decision was little less than heroic. His adventures on the voyage and subsequently in America are told in The Amateur Emigrant, Across the Plains, The Silverado Squatters and other papers. Mrs. Osbourne proved to be an ideal wife, a friend and companion who shared his tastes, helped him in his literary pursuits, and nursed him devotedly in his many illnesses. Hardly less beautiful was his friendship with his stepson, who became afterwards his collaborator. 1 CJ. An Apology for Idlers— autobiographical as usual. 3 A College Magazine.