Robert Louis Stevenson's Birthday
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“Seaward ho! Hang the treasure! It's the glory of the sea that has turned my head.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1881
Apart from the famous tale of "buccaneers and buried gold," there is a real Treasure Island, an artificial island in the San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Oakland, USA. Built in 1936–37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, it is named after Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson's novel of the same name, serialized in 1881. Stevenson, who traveled widely for his health, lived in San Francisco from 1879 to 1880 and traveled extensively in California before moving to the South Seas.
Treasure Island Jig
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894), Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer was a literary celebrity during his lifetime, and now ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world, most remembered for his many stories, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Master of Ballantrae, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Troubled by chronic ill health, Stevenson traveled extensively both a child and adult, searching for a place of residence suitable to his state of health. He spent his summers at various places in Scotland and England, France, The United States, and Hawaii.
When his father died in 1887, Stevenson felt free to follow the advice of his physician to try a complete change of climate, and he started with his mother and family for Colorado. But after landing in New York, they decided to spend the winter at Saranac Lake, New York, in the Adirondacks at a cure cottage now known as Stevenson Cottage. During the intensely cold winter Stevenson wrote some of his best essays, including Pulvis et Umbra, and began The Master of Ballantrae.
In June 1888 Stevenson chartered the yacht Casco and set sail with his family from San Francisco. The sea air and thrill of adventure for a time restored his health, and for nearly three years he wandered the eastern and central Pacific, stopping for extended stays at the Hawaiian Islands, where he became a good friend of King Kalākaua, and befriended the king's niece, Princess Victoria Kaiulani, who also had a link to Scottish heritage. He later spent time at the Gilbert Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand and the Samoan Islands, where he died.
For more on his fascinating life, click the Treasure Island illustration by Louis Rhead, 1915. And to see the dance performed by the Highland Mist Scottish Country Dancers, see below.