Sunday, November 13, 2011


RL Stevenson in Sydney, 18931850 Robert Louis Stevenson (d. December 3, 1894), Scottish author (Kidnapped; Treasure Island; The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) who spent some of the last years of his life on the Pacific island of Samoa, originally going there for his health and staying because he loved the 'South Seas'.
He stayed some months in Sydney, Australia, in 1890, and on three other visits during the early part of the decade. On one of his visits, with his mother and some in-laws, their party was turned away from at least one Sydney hotel because they appeared to be dishevelled bohemians carrying South Sea islands souvenirs and buckets.

On February 25, 1890, from the foyer of the Union Club, Sydney, Stevenson wrote his famous diatribe, Father Damien: An Open Letter to the Reverend Dr. Hyde of Honolulu. He wrote the letter, which took up nearly the whole of the front page of the broadsheet The Australian Star of May 24, 1890, in defence of Belgian missionary Father Damien (Damien De Veuster) of Molokai, Hawaii, whom Dr Charles M Hyde, a former missionary to Molokai, had accused of contracting leprosy from having sexual relations with women at the leper colony he worked in. Stevenson also stayed in Sydney at the Oxford Hotel*, and at Richmond Terrace in the Sydney Domain (while on the seas his address was care of R. Towns & Co, Sydney). Around this time, he also wrote about the poverty he witnessed in the Domain. Stevenson arrived in Sydney in February on the German steamship, Lubeck,but suffered a relapse of his serious ill health in Sydney ("being a blooming prisoner here in the club, and indeed in my bedroom" he wrote in a letter to Charles Baxter**), and, since it seemed that only in the warmer climes of the South Pacific did he ever have respite from his illness, he and his wife Fanny set sail from Sydney on April 10, on board the Janet Nicoll ("had a cruel rough passage to Auckland, for the JANET is the worst roller I was ever aboard of. I was confined to my cabin, ports closed, self shied out of the berth, stomach [pampered till the day I left on a diet of perpetual egg-nogg] revolted at ship's food and ship eating, in a frowsy bunk, clinging with one hand to the plate, with the other to the glass, and using the knife and fork [except at intervals] with the eyelid," he wrote to Sidney Colvin), visiting dozens of islands and returning to Sydney in August, by which time the writer's health had returned. They stayed until September; during this short visit he wrote to Henry James from the Union Club, "Kipling*** is too clever to live ... I must tell you plainly – I can't tell Colvin – I do not think I shall come to England more than once, and then it'll be to die. Health I enjoy in the tropics; even here, which they call sub- or semi-tropical, I come only to catch cold. I have not been out since my arrival; live here in a nice bedroom by the fireside, and read books and letters from Henry James, and send out to get his TRAGIC MUSE, only to be told they can't be had as yet in Sydney, and have altogether a placid time. But I can't go out! The thermometer was nearly down to 50 degrees the other day – no temperature for me, Mr. James: how should I do in England? ... The sea, islands, the islanders, the island life and climate, make and keep me truly happier. These last two years I have been much at sea, and I have NEVER WEARIED". From the Union Club, in September, he wrote to Mrs Charles Fairchild, "You are quite right; our civilisation is a hollow fraud, all the fun of life is lost by it; all it gains is that a larger number of persons can continue to be contemporaneously unhappy on the surface of the globe." On August 19, from the Union Club, Stevenson wrote to Marcel Schwob: "I am just now overloaded with work. I have two huge novels on hand – THE WRECKER and the PEARL FISHER, in collaboration with my stepson: the latter, the PEARL FISHER, I think highly of, for a black, ugly, trampling, violent story, full of strange scenes and striking characters. And then I am about waist-deep in my big book on the South Seas: THE big book on the South Seas it ought to be, and shall. And besides, I have some verses in the press, which, however, I hesitate to publish. For I am no judge of my own verse; self-deception is there so facile. All this and the cares of an impending settlement in Samoa keep me very busy, and a cold (as usual) keeps me in bed." ,,,


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