Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894  Stevenson as an adolescent

A child's garden

Stevenson was born into a prosperous Edinburgh professional family, and christened Robert Lewis Balfour after his two grandfathers. He was an only child — 'intelligent and sickly' — and he later recalled:

'I have three powerful impressions of childhood: my sufferings when I was sick, my delights in convalescence at my grandfather's manse of Colinton, near Edinburgh, and the unnatural activity of my mind after I was in bed at night.'

His devoted nurse, Alison Cunningham — 'Cummy' — fed his imagination with stories from the Bible and Scottish history:

'Scottish child hears much of shipwreck, outlying iron skerries, pitiless breakers, and great sealights; much of heathery mountains, wild clans, and hunted Covenanters.'

Source of inspiration
These tales which kept Stevenson awake at night as a boy were later to become a source of inspiration for his own writing. The resulting novels – 'Kidnapped', 'The Master of Ballantrae', 'Weir of Hermiston' — are full of adventure and romance, and are now famous far beyond the shores of Scotland.

 Stevenson as a child Alison Cunningham
Norman Wilkinson illustration Israelites drawing
 Jessie Willcox Smith illustration Stevenson as an adolescent



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