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RLS Day 2020 logo

WELCOME to the website for Robert Louis Stevenson Day 2020. Normally the November 13 birthday of the great Scottish author is celebrated each year with events staged by Stevenson lovers in his home city of Edinburgh and further afield, but this year is a little different because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of staging physical events, RLS Day 2020 is going online with a collection of items celebrating one of the most charismatic characters in world literature. 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. To enjoy some of the ways in which Stevenson lovers are now celebrating his 170th birthday, please visit this page regularly in the weeks leading up to November 13 and click on the growing list of links that will appear here. And if you have any RLS-related material you have posted online, please email robertlouisstevenson@blueyonder.co.uk giving details including a link so we can add it to the collection. Happy RLSDay!

RLS – Around the World in Under One Hour

A SET of short readings by Stevenson fans drawn from across the world, following the author’s travels and related writings as he criss-crossed the globe. View online here from the start of Stevenson Week, November 9. To whet your appetite, dip into Stevenson’s Travels, an event staged by members and friends of the Robert Louis Stevenson Club on RLS Day 2014. To enjoy a full, downloadable transcript, click Stevenson’s Travels

I Travel Not To Go Anywhere, But To Go…

ROBERT Louis Stevenson’s travels worldwide were all the more remarkable because of his determination not to let ill-health prevent them. Jon Cossar draws from his background as Foundation Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Travel Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (2006-2008) to give a highly pictorial presentation exploring the fascinating relationships between aspects of Stevenson’s remarkable writings, travels and health problems. Jon looks at Stevenson’s pre-existing health, the various risks to it and the hazards he faced compared to the modern-day traveller, and speculates on why he travelled and what he wrote about it. This presentation, due to be given in Edinburgh on RLS Day, has now been moved online – view it here on November 13 and thereafter.

Stevenson At Home In Bournemouth

RLS SkerryILL-HEALTH meant RLS often had to be shielded from infection – and never more so than at Skerryvore, his seaside home in Bournemouth where he lived ‘like a weevil in a biscuit’. Any flare-up in his chronic lung disease could prove fatal, and his wife Fanny would screen visitors, insisting on seeing a clean handkerchief and refusing admittance if they showed any sign of suffering from a cold. But what was it like inside Skerryvore, which no longer exists thanks to a wartime bomb? New research by Professor Richard Dury pulls together original architectural drawings and eye-witness accounts to recreate the house where Kidnapped and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were written. Read his findings here

Robert Louis Stevenson Day Hydeathon

TYPEWRONGER Books is celebrating RLS Day with an online video reading of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Volunteers are now being sought by the Edinburgh-based bookshop to video themselves reading a chapter of the Stevenson novella, with or without a glass of wine or whatever strange potion you prefer. The entire story will then go online from 8pm on Robert Louis Stevenson Day, when the link will be posted here. To volunteer beforehand, email tom@typewronger.com to receive your chapter. For more details click here

Living Stevenson

A CENTURY ago this year, the Robert Louis Stevenson Club was founded in Edinburgh to promote interest in the life and works of one of the world’s great authors. One of its first tasks was to gather living memories of RLS from various people who had known him. The result was a book called I Can Remember Robert Louis Stevenson, collected and edited by author Rosaline Masson, one of the Club’s founding members. This year, to mark its Centenary, the Club has pulled together a collection of contributions from authors and Stevenson scholars, celebrities and others from all walks of life whose lives have been touched by the spirit RLS, explaining what he means to them.  Sadly the pandemic has sabotaged plans to publish the new book on RLS Day 2020 but it’s merely a pleasure deferred until next year. Meanwhile, you can listen to a highlight from Rosaline Masson’s original book, in which her sister Flora remembers the RLS she knew in his twenties. To hear it, just click on her picture…Flora Masson

Vailima Prayers go musical in time for Stevenson Day!

NeilandJudySCOTS AUSTRALIAN songwriter Neil Adam has been ‘collaborating’ with RLS for over a decade. In 2019 his show about the life of RLS – Sing Me A Song – was a sell-out at the Edinburgh Fringe. Prevented by Covid from a planned return to the Scottish Storytelling Centre in 2020, Neil has completed a new Stevenson project. The Windmill Needs the Wind is a musical reimagining of 12 of Stevenson’s Vailima Prayers, bringing hope and wisdom to this confusing time. The project is brought to life by Neil and his partner Judy Turner, with a group of fine musicians from around Australia, all recording during lockdown, in their own homes. The CD and songbook are on sale now, with a special offer for lovers of RLS. To see videos of three of the new prayer/songs and read the prayers that inspired them, click here And to purchase CDs and songbooks, using the code NOVEMBER13 at the checkout, click here.

Stranger On A Train

WHAT was Robert Louis Stevenson really like? Like many people with the gift of charm he won the hearts of many, but did any of them really know the private Stevenson when alone with his own thoughts? A revealing picture was painted by the Scottish author William Sharp who saw him alighting from the Bournemouth train to London, on one of Stevenson’s rare escapes from Skerryvore. At the time Sharp did not know the curious figure he was observing closely, which makes this unique pen portrait all the more telling. Download a copy here  Stranger On A Train

Poetry In Locomotion

A YEAR ago, RLS Day saw several hundred schoolchildren reciting the Stevenson poem From A Railway Carriage in a disused railway tunnel at Colinton on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The tunnel has been transformed with murals illustrating the poem, created by the children in collaboration with artist Chris Rutterford. Work has continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic and now the project is complete. Scotland Today was there to view the finished product, click here. To read the poem yourself, click From A Railway Carriage
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Louis At The Library

FOR a brief guide to the life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson, why not visit the National Library of Scotland’s RLS Pages here. For a more detailed perspective, visit the RLS Website run by Edinburgh Napier University here. There’s even a free, full-length RLS biography called Lamplit, Vicious Fairy Lane – to download it, click hereSkull.