Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Author Biography

Learn more about Robert Louis Stevenson's life and the personal experiences that inspired his novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Course Hero's video study guide.

Robert Louis Stevenson | Biography


Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 13, 1850, Robert Louis Stevenson lived a brief but interesting life. During his childhood his health was so poor it prevented him from receiving much formal education and delayed his learning to read and write. Nevertheless Stevenson was fortunate in having a nurse, Alison Cunningham, who read him religious stories and told him ghost stories and dark tales of real life, like the story of the famous Scottish criminal Deacon Brodie. His imagination thus piqued, Stevenson decided from an early age to become a writer. He dictated his first story at age six.

Stevenson's family shaped him in several ways. A strong mechanical interest ran through his father's side of the family: his father, grandfather, and step-great-grandfather were all lighthouse engineers. Naturally Stevenson's father assumed Robert would follow in their footsteps. Stevenson, however, wanted to write and studied law as a compromise before becoming a professional writer. His mother's father was a minister, and both parents were deeply religious. They gave Stevenson an intensely religious upbringing, which Stevenson rebelled against in college, but it definitely colored his work.

Stevenson traveled widely throughout his life, partly for adventure and partly while looking for places that would be better for his health. He visited the United States, traveled through Europe, and sailed the South Pacific. Sometimes he wrote about these travels in nonfiction travel writing. At other times he used them as material for his adventure stories, such as Treasure Island and "The Beach of Falesá."

Stevenson's breakthrough as a writer came with the publication of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The story came to Stevenson in a dream in 1885, and he wrote the entire novella in just a few days. It sold 40,000 copies in the first six months and has since become a classic.

Stevenson died on December 3, 1894, in Samoa.

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