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The Hunter’s Home: Robert Louis Stevenson and the Saranac Connection

To America

In his address, read by proxy at the unveiling ceremony of the Borglum plaque at Baker’s in Saranac Lake in 1915, Lloyd Osbourne said: “Once in this house Stevenson lay down a copy of ‘Don Quixote’ he was reading and said, with a curious poignancy that lingers still in my ears: ...

The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

“One day Louis came down to luncheon in a very pre-occupied frame of mind, hurried through his meal—an unheard of thing for him to do—and on leaving said that he was working with extraordinary success on a new story that had come to him in a dream, and that he was not to be interrupted ...

Weevil in a biscuit, part III

“There are people who might live a life of the wildest adventure, of the most picturesque diversity, and yet be dull. Stevenson could lie in a sick room for weeks without speaking, and yet declare truly, as he asserted to Mr. Archer, ‘I never was bored in my life.’” — Graham Balfour, ...

Weevil in a biscuit, part II

“Nearly all the time which was not devoted to contending with illness was taken up with his work, and as he rarely left home without returning in a more or less disabled condition, he stayed in his own home and led the most retired of lives.” — Graham Balfour, “Life of Robert Louis ...

Weevil in a biscuit, part I

“Remember the pallid brute that lived at Skerryvore like a weevil in a biscuit.” — RLS to Henry James, 1889 The three years, 1884-87, that Robert Louis Stevenson spent in Bournemouth, England, living in a brick, ivy-covered house he called Skerryvore, proved to be the Scottish ...

‘Kidnapped’

“A graphic story here, you’ll find, by R.L. Stevenson. “It beats the ‘Treasure Island’ — or any he has done! “From opening unto finish, your attention’s kept alive — “The scene is laid in Scotland, just after ‘Forty-five’ — “‘Tis a tale of wild ...

Skerryvore

“Skerryvore” — the name was synonymous with terror for generations of mariners who had to navigate the waters of the North Irish Channel off the west coast of Scotland. In their superstitious, seafaring minds, the infamous reef, which stretched for 7 miles, was a monstrous submarine ...

RLS in Bournemouth

Dr. Zebulon Mennell had travelled from London, England, to Hyeres, in the south of France, in the context of an emergency, to come to the aid of one of his most delicate patients, namely, Robert Louis Stevenson, 33 years of age, 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing in around 104 pounds. Mennell ...

The beginning of the end

“The doctor says keep him alive until he is forty and then, though a winged bird, he may live to be ninety, but between now and forty, he must live as though he were walking on eggs, and for the next two years, no matter how well he feels, he must live the life of an invalid. He must be ...

To England

It was mid-January, 1884. Fanny Stevenson, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson, was working her hillside garden in southern France, when a telegram arrived from a hotel up the coast in Nice to advise her that a guest there, her husband, was alone and appeared to be dying and British doctors on ...

‘Happy once’ ends

Nine months of “happy” living in their Chalet La Solitude, near the town of Hyeres in southern France, had brought Mr. and Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson to their first and last Christmas there in 1883. It had been a “relatively” good period for the invalid Scottish author, health-wise. ...

Overthrow of the bankers

Friends of Robert Louis Stevenson found the town of Hyères on the French Riviera to be a more accessible destination than Davos in the Alps so they went there more readily to see him, most notably Henley, Colvin, Baxter, and cousin Bob. Space was at a minimum in the doll’s house of a chalet, ...

Happy once

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson had settled into their seemingly misplaced rental Swiss chalet on the French Riviera in March 1883. At 32, the invalid Scottish author would soon witness his first novel, “Treasure Island,” show off its staying power by going from a serial in Young Folks ...

Art — what is it good for?

“I was only happy once: that was at Hyeres.” — RLS That is a favorite talking point for tourism people in this picturesque little town in France, built on a hill topped off with medieval ruins and providing a view of the Mediterranean Sea, roughly halfway between Marseille and Nice. ...

‘Penny whistles’

Will Hickock Low was born in Albany in 1852. Twenty-two years later, in 1874, he went to France to further his ambition to be a self-supporting artist. There he befriended Robert Louis Stevenson for life when he became a member of the author’s innermost circle of intimates, along with cousin ...

‘The Black Arrow’

Chalet La Solitude seemed like a good name to give the next new home for Mr. and Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson as they migrated through Europe in search of places conducive to the health of Mr. Stevenson, a certified invalid, even more so since he had returned from his year-long American ...

France again

“We now leave Davos for good, I trust, Dr. Reudi giving me leave to live in France.” — RLS to his mother, April 1882 Robert Louis Stevenson had no problem about putting Davos, Switzerland, in his rear view forever, even though he may have saved his life by going there. The same ...

The Davos blocks

“Saranac Lake, as well as the Stevenson Society, is to be congratulated on acquiring, after weeks of effort, perhaps one of the greatest Stevenson relics in existence and which, as soon as it is delivered here by the Boston Public Library, upon orders from Stevenson’s step-son, Lloyd ...

Ralph’s book: how an artifact came to be

Behind glass in the little room beneath the southern gable of Baker’s in Saranac Lake, in the room Robert Louis Stevenson called his study, rests a red hardcover book with a singular bragging right. It is the only copy of “Treasure Island” inscribed by the author with public access in ...

Return to Davos, and to ‘Treasure Island’

Robert Louis Stevenson arrived at Davos, in the Swiss Alps, on Oct. 18, 1881. The invalid Scottish author hated the place but had lost the war of wills with his family and Dr. Reudi, his doctor in Davos, who insisted he return there to pass another winter. The logic was simple. He had a better ...