Robert Louis Stevenson
It is sadly ironic that one of the writers who wrote best about Scotland and the Scottish character was not able to live in the country, and died far from his native land, a novel imbued with the essence of Scotland under his pen on the day he died.
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on 13 November 1850, into a family of lighthouse engineers. Despite making an attempt at studying engineering, and then studying and qualifying as a lawyer, by the time he was in his early twenties it was apparent to Stevenson himself, and eventually to his parents, that to be a writer was his calling. The ill-health that had dogged him from his earliest childhood had provided him with the space and time in which his imagination could flourish; it also gave him the constant companionship of his nurse, Alison Cunningham, who fed him a diet of Bible stories and Covenanting history, as well as tuning his young ear to a rich variety of the Scots language.
Although his travels in search of a climate conducive to better health kept him away from Scotland, much of the fiction he was developing in the 1880s reflected his deep interest in his native land. The conflicting currents of the country’s history, and its perceived dualism of national character are reflected in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and in the relationship between the two very different heroes of Kidnapped. (Both books were published in 1886.)
Most famous for his novels, Stevenson was also a poet. He is probably best known for A Child’s Garden of Verses, but he also wrote much lyric poetry, and a range of lively verse in Scots. It was in his poetry that Stevenson most effectively expressed the pain of his separation from Scotland.