Charles Darwin changed the world. His book ‘The Origin of the Species’ gave us the idea of evolution. He travelled around the world looking for proof and he believed he found it. However, he was not the first person to suggest that there is a relationship between humans and other animals and that humans were descended* from apes*. This is his story.
Robert Louis Stevenson
This post looks at the life of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson is most famous for writing Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde as well as many essays, poems and plays. Words with an * are explained at the end.
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on 13th November 1850. His father was a lighthouse engineer who wanted Robert to become an engineer also. Stevenson was an only child* and often too sick to attend* school. He frequently travelled with his family, for health reasons. They would travel to find somewhere with a warmer climate* to help with Robert’s lung problems. In fact, Robert Louis Stevenson spent most of his life travelling and living in different places looking for the perfect climate. He finally settled* on one of the Samoan islands a few years before his untimely* death. Stevenson’s travels helped inspire* many of his stories.
In 1867, Stevenson began an engineering degree at Edinburgh university. However, his heart was not in engineering. He didn’t attend most of his lectures because he spent a lot of time with his friends drinking, smoking hashish and trying to meet women.
Eventually he gave up the engineering to become a writer. However, to please his father, he began, and finished, a degree in law although he never practised*.
Stevenson had always been a writer. Even before he could read he would dictate* stories to his mother and his nurse who then wrote them down*. His first published book was ‘An Inland Voyage’ in 1878. The book was about a journey through France and Belgium that Stevenson and a friend did in a canoe. It was on this journey that Stevenson met a married American who was separated from her husband. Her name was Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. She had two children. Stevenson fell in love. He continued to write to Fanny even after she returned to America. When Fanny finally divorced her husband, Stevenson moved to America to be with her. The journey nearly killed him. After a while his health improved and Stevenson began to earn money through writing. However, he became ill again and his father had to send money.
Stevenson married Fanny in the spring of 1880 and after their honeymoon* they moved with Fanny’s children to Britain. They settled in Bournemouth, on the English south coast, and this is where Stevenson wrote some of his most famous novels; Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden Book of Verse (a collection of poetry for children).
On a wet, rainy holiday in Scotland, Stevenson entertained his bored step-son* with a picture of an island. Stevenson began to create a story about the island, giving names to places on the island. This was to become Treasure Island, possibly his most famous novel.
After several years in England and following the death of his father, Stevenson moved his family back to America. He had been advised by a doctor to move somewhere with a warmer climate. A year later, he hired a yacht and he and his family spent several years sailing on the Pacific Ocean, stopping at different islands around Hawaii and around New Zealand. The family eventually settled on the Samoan island, Upolu. He grew to love the Samoan people and was loved in return. However, on 3rd December 1894, he became ill and, within a few hours, he died. He was 44.
Stevenson’s body is buried on a hill top near his home. During his life, the Samoans gave Stevenson a nickname*. It was ‘Tusitala’ meaning ‘Teller of Tales’* (one who tells stories).
An only child – someone who does not have any brothers or sisters
Attend – to go to
Inspire – to make someone feel they want to do something.
Climate – the weather conditions a place has (a warm climate, a cold climate, a harsh climate etc)
Settled – to start living in a place you are going to stay in for a long time
Untimely – earlier than expected
Practice law – to work in a particular profession – usually law or medicine
Dictate – to tell someone exactly what to write for you
Write down – to write something on a piece of paper
Honeymoon – a holiday many couples take just after getting married
Step-son – someone’s son by marriage not a blood relation
Nickname – a name friends or family call you that is not your real name
Tales – stories
Also, if you would like to know more about Robert Louis Stevenson, why not try,
Samuel Johnson – a short biography for advanced learners of English
Samuel Johnson was born on 18th September, 1709 in Breadmarket Street, Lichfield in Staffordshire, England. He was the son of a bookseller and his childhood was spoiled* by poverty* and illness. A brilliant man, Samuel Johnson overcame his difficulties and became the author of one of the most famous English dictionaries in the world, ‘Dictionary of the English Language.’ He was a man determined to succeed. This is his story.
Agatha Christie was born on 15th September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, England. Her family lived in a large house and money was not a problem for the Christies. Agatha did not go to school. Instead she was taught at home by her parents and a governess*. She was an intelligent child who taught herself to read. Her father died when Agatha was only 11 years-old although money was a worry for her mother, Clara, they managed to survive.*
Alexander Fleming: Discoverer of penicillin
Alexander Fleming was a Scottish scientist who is famous for discovering penicillin. He, and two other chemists, won the Nobel Prize for medicine because of this discovery.
Fleming was born on 6th August 1881 in Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the son of a farmer. At the age of 13 he moved to London where he worked in a shipping office* for the next four years. After, he began studying to be a doctor at St Mary’s Medical School, London University. His teacher was Sir Almroth Wright, a pioneer* in vaccine therapy.*
William Shakespeare is a famous English writer. He is famous all over the world for writing plays for the theatre. Another name for him is the “Bard of Avon”. (Words with * are explained at the end)
Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and many historians believe it was probably on Saint George’s Day, 23rd April. He was the third child in a family of eight children. His father was a leather merchant* and had an important position in the local council*. William went to the local grammar* school where he learned Latin and history.
Stephen Hawking is a British physicist*. He was born in Oxford, England on the 8th January 1942, 300 years after the death of Italian astronomer* and engineer* Galileo Galilei. Stephen spent his childhood living 20 miles outside of London in the town of St. Albans. He went to a local* school and afterwards to University College, Oxford. Both of Stephen’s parents had studied at Oxford University. He wanted to study Mathematics but that was not possible so he chose to study physics instead. He was an active young man who enjoyed* dancing and rowing.