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Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, 13th November, 1850 and died in the Samoan Islands in the Pacific, 3rd December, 1894. He was a novelist, short story writer, poet and travel writer.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson tried his hand at many different genres before he published his first major work of fiction, Treasure Island (1883). It is an adventure story for children about pirates and buried treasure on a mysterious island, and is a good example of how a popular story for children can also be adequate literature. Three years later he revisited the genre of children's literature in the novel, Kidnapped, about a perilous quest based on events in Scottish history. The same year Stevenson published his first serious novel, which also became his biggest success - The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The novel can be read on many levels and is a more naturalistic approach to an intriguing theme. Dr Jekyll wants to uncover his dark sides in order to gain control over evil forces inside him. After drinking some mysterious potion mixed in his laboratory, Dr Jekyll is transformed into the evil murderer, Mr Hyde, at night. The background of the book may well be the fact that many prominent Victorians were leading a double life with an immaculate façade during the day, and indulging in criminal activities at night. But the story may also be interpreted as an attempt to reveal the duality of man, and in that perspective, the outcome of the story is not very optimistic.

Robert Louis Stevenson at the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh

Scotland has long literary traditions, and has contributed to world literature for centuries. In the 18th century, Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) travelled around the Scottish countryside collecting traditional verses and rhymes. The most well-known contemporary writer, who created her main character while living in Edinburgh, may be J.K Rowling. She has become a global celebrity by introducing us to Harry Potter. In Edinburgh we can visit the Writers’ Museum, where we can learn about some of the most prominent Scottish writers. In this interview you will hear a pensioner, who spends some of his spare time telling visitors to the Writers’ Museum about Robert Louis Stevenson, and showing them some of the artifacts on display.

Writer's Museum Edinburgh

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Writer's Museum Edinburgh (ab. 7min.)

After listening to the interview, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are the three main writers presented in the Writers’ Museum?
  2. According to Mitchell, what is it about Stevenson’s life that attracts most people?
  3. Which second language was Stevenson fluent in?
  4. Which novel shows how Stevenson is good at integrating real incidents into fictitious tales?
  5. Why is Stevenson more accessible to young readers than Sir Walter Scott is?
  6. Why has Treasure Island become so popular?
  7. Which famous Stevenson novel does Mitchell not mention?

Research

Find out about one of the following topics, and give a short talk in class.

  1. Stevenson’s last, unfinished, novel is called Weir of Hermiston. What is it about?
  2. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson explores different aspects of the human mind. Find out what the book is about, and try to relate the story to other books/films dealing with the same topic.
  3. Due to tuberculosis, and an adventurous mind, Stevenson lived in several places around the world. Read about him and pick the 3 places you find most interesting. Give a short presentation of them.
  4. Here are the names of some famous Scottish writers. The letters are jumbled together. Find the names and give a short presentation of one of the writers.
    • IRS RATELW TOCTS S___ W___ S___
    • ERROBT OLUIS EVENTSONS R___ L___ S___
    • M.R. YNETLLABEN R__ B_____NE
    • NETNEKH AHAMEGR K_____ G_____E

Writing

  1. Write an article about Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel Treasure Island. What is it about, and what inspired him to write it? Are there any references to real events, places or persons?
  2. Write your own story based on the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  3. Write an article where you give a presentation of some of the unsolved kidnapping stories in the world.

Learning content

Literary period: The Victorian Era

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