11-13-1850

Robert Louis Stevenson

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, Scots author, born (d: 1894); a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of Neo-romanticism in English literature. He was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Louis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov. Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is only recently that critics have begun to look beyond Stevenson’s popularity and allow him a place in the Western canon.

There has always been an air of mystery associated with the romantic character of Robert Louis Stevenson. Did the author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde possess a dual nature himself? The question, though unanswerable, has been raised often. Was there, in fact, a homosexual side to Stevenson? He was one of the outstanding proponents of Whitman’s poetry in Britain. He married a widow older than himself and eventually wrote several works jointly with his grown-up son. During the last four years of his life, he found the paradise he had yearned for in the South Seas. Is it merely coincidence that others who had yielded to the seductive islands and to the bodies of their natives were homosexual or bisexual – Gaugin, Stoddard, Maugham?