More from and about
Robert Louis Stevenson
(biographical info at bottom of page)


To become what we are capable of becoming is the only end in life.


To be wealthy, a rich nature is the first requisite and money but the second.  To be of a quick and healthy blood, to share in all honorable curiosities, to be rich in admiration and free from envy, to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or unkindness—these are the gifts of fortune which money cannot buy, and without which money can buy nothing.
To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.

If you teach people to keep their eyes upon what others think of them, unthinkingly to lead the lives and hold the principles of the majority of their contemporaries, you must discredit in their own eyes the authoritative voices of their own souls.  They may be docile citizens; they will never be men and women.  It is ours, on the other hand, to disregard this babble and chattering of other people better and worse than we are, and to walk straight before us by what light we have.  They may be right; but so, before heaven, are we.  They may know; but we know also, and by that knowledge we must stand or fall.  There is such a thing as loyalty to one's own better self; and from those who have not that, God help me, how am I to look for loyalty to others?
In each of us, two natures are at war--the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose--what we want most to be we are.
Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.

The cruelest lies are often told in silence.  One may have sat in a room for hours and not opened his mouth, and yet come out of that room a disloyal friend or a vile calumniator. 


To be wholly devoted to some intellectual exercise is to have succeeded in life.


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For God's sake give me the young person who has
brains enough to make a fool of him or herself!


As yesterday is history, and tomorrow may never come, I have
resolved from this day on, I will do all the business I can honestly,
have all the fun I can reasonably, do all the good I can willingly,
and save my digestion by thinking pleasantly.


Do not forget that even as "to work is to worship"
so to be cheery is to worship also, and to be happy
is the first step to being pious.

Stevenson was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Thomas Stevenson and grandson of Robert Stevenson, both successful lighthouse engineers, and Margaret Balfour. He studied at Edinburgh Academy in his youth.  His parents were both very religious.  Robert gave up the religion of his parents while studying at Edinburgh University, but the teaching that he received as a child continued to influence him.

Although ill with tuberculosis from childhood, Stevenson had a full life.  He began his education as an engineer but, despite his family history, he showed little aptitude and soon switched to studying law.  At the age of 18 he dropped the name Balfour and changed his middle name from Lewis to Louis (but retaining the original pronunciation); from this time on he began styling himself "RLS."  He turned to the law because of poor health, but he never practiced.  He ended his life as a tribal leader (called by his tribe Tusitala, meaning "storyteller" in
Samoan) and plantation owner at his residence "Vailima" in Samoa, all this in addition to his literary career.

Stevenson's novels of adventure, romance, and horror are of considerable psychological depth and have continued in popularity long after his death, both as books and as films.

Stevenson's grave on Mt Vaea, Samoa.  His wife Fanny, whom he married in 1880, was a great support in his adventurous and arduous life.

Stevenson made several trips to the Kingdom of Hawaii and became a good friend of King David Kalakaua with whom Stevenson spent much time.  Stevenson also became best friends with the king's niece Princess Victoria Kaiulani, also of Scottish heritage.  Since the tragic deaths of both Stevenson and Kaiulani, historians have debated the true nature of their relationship as to whether or not they had romantic feelings for each other.  Because of the age difference, such stories have often been discredited.  In 1888, Stevenson traveled to the island of Molokai just weeks after the death of Father Damien.  He spent twelve days at the missionary priest's residence, Bishop Home at Kalawao.  Stevenson taught the local girls to play croquet. When Congregationalist and Presbyterian ministers began to incite slander against Father Damien out of spite for his Catholicism, Stevenson wrote one of his most famous essays in defense of the life and work of the missionary priest.

Stevenson died of a brain (cerebral) hemorrhage in Vailima in Samoa, aged 44.  In his will, he bequeathed his birthday to a little girl who had been born on Christmas Day.



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