rls-day-rls

RLS Day 2021 Logo Colour

 

WELCOME to the website for Robert Louis Stevenson Day 2021. This year the November 13 birthday of the great Scottish author will be celebrated with a combination of physical and online events, made necessary by the Covid pandemic. A charismatic character recognisable instantly by his initials, RLS was the most versatile of writers – poet, essayist, travel writer, children’s author, historical novelist and humourist who also found time to pen some of the finest letters in the English language. His life story, from Edinburgh to the South Seas, was every bit as exciting as his novels – and he crammed it all into a life of 44 years. Details of RLS Day events will be posted here over the coming weeks in the run-up to November 13. Meanwhile, you can enjoy some online highlights from last year’s events by selecting the 2020 programme from the Archive menu above. Happy RLS Day!

A Fortunate Voyager with friends the world over

CovershotAS one of the world’s best-loved authors, Robert Louis Stevenson continues to inspire people today from all walks of life, from writers and film-makers to academics, politicians and many other fellow travellers on life’s voyage. To celebrate the centenary of the Robert Louis Stevenson Club, a new book brings together tributes from 60 such travellers, including Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, crime writers Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, children’s author Michael Morpurgo, and Sir Paul McCartney, a Treasure Island fan since childhood. To pre-order copies, price £9.99, email info@typewronger.com

Island Characters

5pm Saturday November 13

hippiesAFTER years of confinement in the sickroom, the last years of Robert Louis Stevenson’s life unfolded like a Boy’s Own adventure as he sailed the Pacific, visiting a string of South Sea islands before settling on Samoa. His travels were recorded in his letters and subsequent accounts, and also in photographs taken by his step-son Lloyd Osbourne, many of which are held by Museums & Galleries Edinburgh. From this rich collection, Stevenson biographer Jeremy Hodges celebrates RLS Day with a small personal selection and shares the amazing stories behind the pictures. Click on the picture to enjoy them.

Exciting new bequest to museum collection

A SPECIAL podcast to celebrate RLS Day is being released by Museums & Galleries Edinburgh, with Collections Assistant Suzy Murray in conversation with Nico Tyack, Project Manager, and Anna MacQuarrie, Curator of History, discussing the Writers’ Museum collection of four photo albums compiled by the Stevenson family on their travels around the South Pacific. The podcast complements the above talk by Jeremy Hodges and will reveal a new addition to the Writers’ Museum’s Stevenson collection – a unique family Bible and other items with direct links to Robert Louis and his lighthouse engineer family. Learn more by tuning in to the podcast on RLS Day – just click here on November 13.

jekyllsJekylls & Hydes

7pm Saturday November 13

TYPEWRONGER BOOKS, 4A HADDINGTON PLACE, EDINBURGH

WHEN Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, he created a gift that keeps on giving for countless other writers and Hollywood film makers who continue to be inspired by this dark tale of duality, each with their own take on the theme. In this event to celebrate RLS Day, thriller writer Anthony O’Neill (Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek, The Devil Upstairs) and biographer Jeremy Hodges (Mrs Jekyll & Cousin Hyde) reveal how Stevenson has inspired their writing and discuss some of the influences that led him to write a gothic horror classic. Admission free but pre-booking essential by email, info@typewronger.com

Craig Russell: Me and Robert Louis Stevenson

russellTHERE is no Jekyll, only Hyde – this is the dark secret Craig Russell explores in his 2021 McIlvanney Prize-winning thriller Hyde. In an exclusive talk for RLS Day he acknowledges his debt to Stevenson in creating a modern-day variant on a classic theme. In doing so he examines the real-life influences who may have inspired Stevenson to create his seminal gothic horror story, including his burly, bearded, one-legged friend William Ernest Henley, who was also the original for Long John Silver.  To hear what he has to say, on RLS Day, Saturday November 13 and thereafter, click here.

A Friendship in Letters
Robert Louis Stevenson & JM Barrie

CAFE EDINBURGH, 3pm, FRIday November 12

lastpicture Barrie

THE correspondence between two of Scotland’s most famous writers reveals a remarkable literary friendship. They never met, yet developed a meeting of  creative minds through letters that are witty, playful and poignant. Taken from the eponymous book compiled by Michael Shaw, performed by John Shedden and Peter Berry.
Café Edinburgh, 57 High Street,(beside the Scottish Storytelling Centre). The price of £7 per person includes a choice of cakes, biscuits, tea or coffee. A few places still available – to reserve seats contact Margaret Wilkie, wilkiejl@blueyonder.co.uk or call 0131 477 6738, mob 07815 845586. Payment on the day at Café Edinburgh.

Tunnel celebration

RLS ColintonA PLAQUE to mark completion of the Colinton Tunnel will be unveiled on RLS Day, with the chance to meet some of the artists who created the murals illustrating the Stevenson poem From A Railway Carriage. The murals were painted by Chris Rutterford and local schoolchildren, transforming the disused railway tunnel and celebrating Stevenson’s links with Colinton. The brief ceremony at the Colinton end of the tunnel will be at 11.45am sharp. For video of the Colinton Tunnel, click on the picture of RLS.

Your chance to rescue Treasure Island

bookshopENJOY a new role-playing game inspired by Treasure Island, created by Adrian Barber and presented the the Scottish Book Trust. There are two versions of the Book Shop game, in which you are faced with a challenge: One rainy afternoon you find yourself in a book shop, with a very flustered bookseller. There’s been a bit of bother with a book of spells and a dragon has ended up inside Treasure Island! We need you and your ragtag bunch of heroes to get this dragon out of the book before it ruins Treasure Island forever. To play the game, click on the picture.

Drink a health to Louis on RLS Day

FingalA SPECIAL RLS cocktail has been devised to celebrate Stevenson’s family connection with lighthouse building around Scotland. The cocktail will be launched on RLS Day at the Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar aboard the former lighthouse tender Fingal, now a luxury floating hotel in Leith – for more, click on the picture. Hotel guests arriving at the ship, which once served the lighthouses built by Stevenson’s grandfather, father, uncles and cousins, will find RLS poems in all the rooms, each named after a Stevenson lighthouse. The restaurant is happy to accept bookings, with high demand expected on RLS Day. The new cocktail will continue to be served thereafter, or can be enjoyed at home as follows:

fingal rumArdbeg 10, to spritz
50ml Leith rum
25ml ounce Cocchi americano
25ml ounce Punt e Mes
1 pinch coffee-infused salt

Spritz the scotch into a rocks glass.
Add the rum, sweet vermouth, Punt y Mes and coffee-infused salt into the glass with one large ice cube, and stir gently to combine.
Garnish with a fresh orange peel

Celebrating Stevenson’s home city

6pm, Saturday November 13

THE EDINBURGH BOOKSHOP, 219 BRUNTSFIELD PLACE, EDINBURGH

Picturesque PicSTEVENSON’S home city of Edinburgh is celebrated in a new, illustrated version of his 1878 classic Edinburgh Picturesque Notes. Manderley Press will launch Edinburgh, a handsome hardback edition with new illustrations by Iain McIntosh and an introduction by Alexander McCall Smith, at The Edinburgh Bookshop. The event will feature a talk by Professor Linda Dryden, an authority on Stevenson, and a chance to meet the illustrator. Book free tickets online by clicking on the picture. And for more details of forthcoming Manderley Press editions of classic works, click here

jekyllsJekylls & Hydes

7pm Saturday November 13

TYPEWRONGER BOOKS, 4A HADDINGTON PLACE, EDINBURGH

WHEN Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, he created a gift that keeps on giving for countless other writers and Hollywood film makers who continue to be inspired by this dark tale of duality, each with their own take on the theme. In this event to celebrate RLS Day, thriller writer Anthony O’Neill (Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek, The Devil Upstairs) and biographer Jeremy Hodges (Mrs Jekyll & Cousin Hyde) reveal how Stevenson has inspired their writing and discuss some of the influences that led him to write a gothic horror classic. Admission free but pre-booking essential by email, info@typewronger.com

Craig Russell: Me and Robert Louis Stevenson

russellTHERE is no Jekyll, only Hyde – this is the dark secret Craig Russell explores in his 2021 McIlvanney Prize-winning thriller Hyde. In an exclusive talk for RLS Day he acknowledges his debt to Stevenson in creating a modern-day variant on a classic theme. In doing so he examines the real-life influences who may have inspired Stevenson to create his seminal gothic horror story, including his burly, bearded, one-legged friend William Ernest Henley, who was also the original for Long John Silver.  To hear what he has to say, on RLS Day, Saturday November 13 and thereafter, click here.

The Fascinating Mrs Sitwell

FJSFANNY SITWELL remains a mystery woman in the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, whose letters to the unhappily married vicar’s wife reveal a passionate if platonic relationship. We will never know how she felt about the young man who called her his ‘Madonna’ because she insisted that he destroy all her letters to him. This is what prompted historical novelist Ali Bacon to write about about Mrs Sitwell, RLS and the man she would eventually marry – Stevenson’s literary mentor Sidney Colvin. In this video about her work in progress, recorded for RLS Day, she explains what led her to fill in the gaps in the story of a remarkable Victorian lady. Click on the picture to enjoy the video, then click here for more about Ali Bacon and her previous novel, In the Blink of an Eye, about the pioneering Edinburgh photographer David Octavius Hill.

froggytadpoleWrite a fabulous Fable like RLS

COULD you write a brief story inspired by the Fables of Robert Louis Stevenson – and win a £500 first prize? With an upper limit of 350 words, our Fables competition falls under the popular modern heading of Flash Fiction, with the added challenge of making a simple edifying or cautionary point. For a very brief example by RLS, click on the picture of The Tadpole and the Frog. Our competition is open to entries from RLS Day, November 13, to April 2 next year. For guidance on how to write your Fable, along with competition rules, click here. And for a free digital copy of Stevenson’s Fables from the Association of Scottish Literary Studies, click here.

Growing the Garden of Verses

OUR RLS Garden of Verses produced a bumper crop last year, and we would love to hear more. If you would like to add to it by recording your favourite Stevenson poem, email it as a sound file to robertlouisstevenson@blueyonder.co.uk There’s no need to confine yourself to Stevenson’s poems for children, but please check out last year’s poems to avoid duplication before making your choice from the rich variety penned by RLS. To enjoy last year’s crop, click here.

Stevenson on the skids in Davos

toboggans1BY the autumn of 1880, it was clear Stevenson’s health could not stand a prolonged stay in Scotland and he was banished, with his wife Fanny and step-son Lloyd, to the cold, clear and supposedly sterile climate of the Swiss Alps. He would spend the next two winters in Davos Platz, complaining of extortionate prices and indifferent food at his hotel and surviving largely on cigarettes and red wine – a litre of Valtellina a day, though he found the hotel charged him for three. His essays on his stay in the Alps began with the observation that ‘a mountain valley, an Alpine winter, and an invalid’s weakness make up among them a prison of the most effective kind’ and from then on Davos goes downhill in his estimation. But his writing takes off as he extols the exhilarating and dangerous (especially for an invalid prone to haemorrhages) sport of toboganning. To hear his account of it, written 140 years ago, click on the picture of toboggans. To view the National Library of Scotland’s blog accompanying its 2019 exhibition, Robert Louis Stevenson and Switzerland, click here.

Snowballing Stevenson’s guilty secret

MUCH to his parents’ embarrassment, the 19-year-old Stevenson acquired a criminal record after taking part in a snowball riot at Edinburgh university, having been frogmarched round to the police office along with several other student offenders. After pleading guilty to a breach of the peace, he escaped a three-day jail sentence by agreeing to be bound over, with his father standing surety for his good behaviour to the tune of £1. To read newspaper accounts of the court hearing and the snowball riot, click Louis in court.

Crossing the Atlantic incognito

Devoniause

In August 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson boarded an emigrant ship to the USA without telling his parents he was leaving Edinburgh. He knew they might try to prevent him going to the rescue of Fanny Osbourne, trapped in a loveless marriage in California. To see how he tried to disguise his identity on the passenger list of the SS Devonia, along with a note by Roger Swearingen, click on the picture of the ship.

Skull.