Born in Edinburgh into a distinguished family of lighthouse engineers, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94) was a sickly child, with a solitary childhood dominated by his governess, Alison “Cummie” Cunningham, who regaled him with tales drawn from Calvinist folklore. Sent to the university to study engineering, Stevenson rebelled against his upbringing by spending much of his time in the lowlife howffs and brothels of the city.

Stevenson’s early successes were two travelogues, An Inland Voyage and Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, kaleidoscopic jottings based on his journeys in France, where he went to escape Scotland’s weather, which was damaging his health. It was there that he met Fanny Osbourne, an American ten years his senior. Having married the now-divorced Fanny, Stevenson began an elusive search for an agreeable climate that led to Switzerland, the French Riviera and the Scottish Highlands. He belatedly turned to the novel, achieving immediate acclaim in 1881 for Treasure Island, a moralistic adventure yarn that began as an entertainment for his stepson and future collaborator, Lloyd Osbourne. In 1886, his most famous short story, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, despite its nominal London setting, offered a vivid evocation of Edinburgh’s Old Town: an allegory of its dual personality of prosperity and squalor, and an analysis of its Calvinistic preoccupations with guilt and damnation. The same year saw the publication of the historical romance Kidnapped, an adventure novel that exemplified Stevenson’s view that literature should seek above all to entertain. In 1887 Stevenson left Britain for good, travelling first to the United States. A year later, he set sail for the South Seas, and eventually settled in Samoa, where he died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage in 1894.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Scotland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
8 alternative UK winter breaks

8 alternative UK winter breaks

The UK gets pretty grim during the winter, with its dark, early nights and splutteringly cold weather. But if you can’t wait until spring to start having fun …

06 Nov 2017 • Greg Dickinson insert_drive_file Article
Sipping Speyside: on the whisky trail in Scotland

Sipping Speyside: on the whisky trail in Scotland

Whisky is much more than Scotland’s national drink – it’s blended deep into the country’s history and culture. Donna Dailey learns more and discovers th…

18 Oct 2017 • Donna Dailey local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right