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Robert Louis Stevenson's party, including the band of HMS KATOOMBA, Samoa

Date: 12 September 1893
Overall: 172 x 235 mm
Display Dimensions: 170 x 234 mm
Medium: Gold toned albumen print.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00016893
Place Manufactured:Samoa

User Terms

    In this image people pose for a group portrait on the verandah of a building with Robert and Fanny Stevenson at the top centre. The Stevenson’s are flanked by Samoans, some of whom are in western dress. Sitting on the steps leading up to the verandah are fifteen members of the HMS KATOOMBA band. The musicians are in uniform and wear a garland of leaves around their neck and each holds his instrument. At the centre of the group is the drummer with drum and a guitar, in the foreground are Samoan men in traditional dress each holding an axe. Stamped in the lower left corner is the text: 'J Davies photo/ Samoa', and a handwritten inscription that appears vertically along the left hand reads: 'RLS's party'.
    SignificanceRobert Louis Stevenson authored several classic works of literature including 'Treasure Island' and 'Kidnapped'. This image was taken a year before his death and after Stevenson had moved to Samoa for his health and to distance himself from the pressure of the European literary scene.
    HistoryAuthor and poet Robert Louis Stevenson was born on 13 November 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Thomas Stevenson, followed in the family tradition and worked as a leading lighthouse engineer.

    Stevenson inherited from his mother a tendency to sickness, and he was schooled for long periods by private tutors. As a child Stevenson wrote stories and at the age of 16 his father paid for the printing of his first publication titled 'The Pentland Rising: A page of history', on the two hundredth anniversary of the covenanters' rebellion.

    Stevenson entered university in 1867 to study engineering and it was during this period he developed several friendships that were to significantly influence him as a writer. While a student he met Charles Baxter, who would become his financial agent, and Fleeming Jenkin, whose biography he would later write. Lacking interest in his studies, Stevenson soon decided against entering the family profession of engineering. He switched to law and passed the Scottish bar in 1875, however his real interest lay in pursuing his love of writing.

    During the 1870s Stevenson became increasingly invested in a more bohemian lifestyle and found himself, to the disapproval of his parents, rejecting his Christian upbringing. He became an active part of the London literary scene where he made many lasting acquaintances - including that of literary and art critic Sidney Colvin in 1873. Colvin went on to become one of his closest friends and assisted the aspiring writer to find work in the early years of his career.

    Over the next few years Stevenson's wavering health saw him move between England and France, where the warmer climate assisted his recuperation. During his time in France Stevenson became immersed in the arts scene and further developed his love of writing and travel. In Grez in September 1876 Stevenson met his future wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne (1840-1914) who was separated from her husband and living in France with her three children. In 1878 Fanny returned to America and Stevenson followed the year after in an arduous voyage that would provide inspiration for much of his later literary work. After a period of near destitution and ill health upon his arrival in America, the couple reunited and were married in May 1880, returning to England later that year.

    From 1880 to about 1888 Stevenson was prolific in his writing and produced many of his classic works such as 'Treasure Island' (1883), 'Kidnapped' (1886), 'Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' (1886) and 'The Black Arrow' (1888).

    Following the death of his father in 1887 Stevenson relocated his family back to America. In 1888 they moved again when Stevenson chartered a yacht and sailed from San Francisco to the Pacific, living on various islands. In 1889 he arrived at Apia in the Samoan Islands where he decided to build a house and settle with his family. Here Stevenson found some respite for his poor health, and a comfortable distance from the pressures of London literary circles. On 3 December 1894 Stevenson died, probably of a cerebral hemorrhage, and was buried on the summit of Mount Vaea on Upolu, Samoa.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Robert Louis Stevenson's party, including the band of HMS KATOOMBA, Samoa

    Assigned title: Robert Louis Stevenson's party

    Related People
    Photographer: J Davies

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