Born: Established: 13 Nov 1850 Edinburgh
Robert Louis Stevenson visited Sydney, New South Wales, four times between 1890 and1893. His first two visits were in the same year, from February to April 1890 and from August to September. His novel The Wrecker (1892), written with his step son Lloyd Osbourne, has some Australian characters and setting probably influenced by his 1890 visit. According to John Douglas Pringle, quoting Stevenson's friend the Reverend W. Clarke, Stevenson ...'contemplated settling in Sydney rather than Samoa' (60) but the weather and illness made him decide to settle permanently in Samoa.
Stevenson returned to Sydney in January 1891 to meet his mother who had arrived from Scotland in December 1890. But again he became ill. Pringle quotes from a letter from Stevenson to Sidney Colvin, 'It is vastly annoying that I can't even go to Sydney without an attack.' (7) Stevenson returned to Samoa in February.
Stevenson's fourth visit to Sydney was between 28 February and 20 March 1893. Pringle asserts that Stevenson did more in Sydney on this last visit than on previous visits and that his greater fame and relative health allowed him to 'savour "the sweet smell of sucess" for the first time in his life' (74) Pringle quotes from a letter by Stevenson to Sidney Colvin, 'I found my fame much grown on this return to civilizations ...people all looked at me in the streets ... ' (81) During this visit Stevenson attended lectures, dinners and official functions. The Presbyterian and Australian Witness, a weekly newspaper, published three interviews, all corrected by Stevenson and, with his approval, two of his lectures. Stevenson wrote of Samoan politics, denounced the traffic of black labour from the Islands to Queensland and discussed his own writing.
Stevenson and his works have been the subject of, and have influenced, Australian creative writers and illustrators. Some editions of his famous adventure story Treasure Island (1883) have been illustrated by Australian artist Robert Ingpen.
Sources: John Douglas Pringle, 'R. L. S. in Sydney' On Second Thoughts: Australian Essays, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1971; W. Farmer Whyte, 'Stevenson and Sydney' The Lone Hand, 1 August 1917: 446-449.