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sland Landfalls * The Wrecker * The Ebb-Tide Driven to the South Seas by ill health, Stevenson could t close his eyes to the impact of colonialism, the 'stirabout of epochs and races, barbarisms and civilisations, virtues and crimes'. Setting his imaginative writings within the social and political contexts of his letters and essays from the South Seas, reveals the deepening and broadening of Stevenson's genius and his growing awareness of and anger at white exploitation. It was a society in which his love of adventure, his awareness of the extremes of human nature, and his fascination with good and evil, could find full release. Tales of the South Seas gathers together all of Stevenson's South Sea fiction and a selection of prose and letters provides t only a vivid portrait of a colourful and exotic world, but also a full and rounded picture of a superb writer at the height of his powers.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) was born and educated in Edinburgh. He was a sickly child, and most of his adult years were to be spent travelling in search of a climate which would do least damage to his lungs. Following the family tradition in civil engineering, he went to Edinburgh University in 1867. More interested in literature and the bohemian life, he changed to law and qualified as an advocate in 1875. Thereafter he gave himself to his creative ambitions, with frequent visits to London and to France, where he met Fanny Osbourne, a married American woman who was to become his future wife. Stevenson began with essays, short stories and travel writing, most notably Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879). He went to California to marry Fanny in 1880. The journey nearly killed him, but he wrote of his experiences in Across the Plains (1892), The Amateur Emigrant (1895) and The Silverado Squatters (1883). He is, perhaps, best remembered for his first novel Treasure Island (1883), and his early reputation was made with this and other examples of adventure fiction, not least The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which appeared as a paperback thriller in 1886. The great Scottish novels followed, with Kidnapped (1886), The Master of Ballantrae (1889), and Weir of Hermiston (1893), which was left unfinished at his death. Catriona (1893), was always planned as the immediate sequel to Kidnapped, but had been delayed in the writing. Stevenson spent seven years in the South Seas, settling for the last five on the island of Upolu in Samoa, where he died suddenly from a cerebral stroke at the age of forty-four.