Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote literary classics including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. His travels in the Pacific inspired them.

On June 17, 1888, Stevenson, his wife Fanny, Mrs. Thomas Stevenson (his mother), and Lloyd Osbourne (his step-son) sailed their yacht “Casco” from San Francisco to the Pacific to the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, Samoa, and, finally, Hawaii.

On January 24, 1889, they arrived in Honolulu in his first, five-month visit to the Sandwich Islands and met Isabelle Strong (step-daughter), Joseph Dwight Strong (son-in-law), and Austin (the couple’s eight-year-old son). A few days later, Stevenson stayed at “Manuia Lanai,” a house by the sea at Kapiolani Park.

A friend to Hawaiian royalty, Stevenson befriended King Kalakaua, Archibald Scott Cleghorn, and his daughter Princess Kaiulani. Two days after his arrival, Stevenson visited Iolani and met the king. In the following week, he sent Kalakaua a yellow pearl and a sonnet:

The Silver Ship, my King–that was her name.
In the bright islands whence your fathers came–
The Silver Ship, at rest from winds and tides,
Below your palace in your harbor rides:
And the sea-farers, sitting safe on shore,
Like eager merchants count their treasure o’er;
One gift they find, a strange and lovely thing,
Now doubly precious since it pleased a king.

The right, my liege, is ancient as the lyre,
For bards to give to kings what kings admire.
‘Tis mine to offer for Apollo’s sake:
And since the gift is fitting, yours to take.
To golden hands the golden pearl I bring:
The ocean jewel to the island king.
Honolulu, Feb. 3, 1889

Stevenson, Cleghorn, and Kaiulani shared the bond of their Scottish ancestry, as the first two were both born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Stevenson met Kaiulani after he moved next door to the Cleghorns’ Ainahau estate when she was thirteen years old. In the garden of Ainahau, Stevenson and Kaiulani would sit together on a stone bench

Before the heir apparent of the Hawaiian throne left to study in Great Britain, Stevenson wrote the following poem for her:

Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The island maid, the island rose;
Light of heart and bright of face,
The daughter of a double race.
Her Islands here, in southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.
But our Scot’s islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by,
To smile in Kaiulani’s eye.

In 1889, Stevenson again wrote about Kaiulani:

Written in April to Kaiulani, in the April of her age, and at Waikiki, within easy walk of Kaiulani’s Banyan. When she comes to may land and her father’s, and the rain beats upon the window (as I fear it will), let her look at this page–it will be like a weed, gathered and pressed at home, and she will remember her islands and the shadow of the mighty tree, and she will hear the peacocks screaming in the dusk and the wind blowing in the palms, and she will think of her father sitting there alone.”

Unfortunately, they would never see each other again. In 1894, a year after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, Stevenson died, and Kaiulani received the news in Europe.

In August 1889, Reverend Charles McEwen Hyde wrote a letter to fellow pastor Reverend H. B. Gage, attacking Father Damien, and called him a “course, dirty man.” In response, in February 1890, Stevenson wrote an open letter, defending Father Damien and predicting Father Damien’s future sainthood:

“If that world at all remember you, on the day when Damien of Molokai shall be named

Four years later, the Scottish writer delivered an informal talk to the Scottish Thistle Club.

Hawaii newspapers profusely praised Stevenson. The Hawaiian Gazette said,“Mr. Stevenson is a novelist that no man who has once read him will ever regret, and his literary style is such that it is sure to call to the perusal of his works more than the ordinary man. The literary work of Robert Louis Stevenson, when viewed by itself, is something out of the ordinary line of literary production, and deserves the calmer thought of those who are ready to judge it as such. The people of these islands feel the arrival of Mr. Stevenson here is an epoch in Hawaiian literary history which those who really appreciate his worth shall never forget.”

The Daily Bulletin said, “It is a pleasure to know that such a graceful writer is coming to do justice to our islands, and as his articles are copied immediately by the leading English and American papers, the fame of our Paradise will go broadcast to the world.

Articles in Hawaii newspapers about Stevenson can be seen below.

– Alice Kim

Stevenson’s Writings on Chronicling America

“The Isle of Voices: A Tale of the Hawaiian Islands”
The Seattle post-intelligencer, April 16, 1893, Page 14

“Robert Louis Stevenson’s Account of Rev. Kekela”

Articles from Chronicling America

“Robert Louis Stevenson”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, June 1, 1888, Image 2

“A Yachting Party”
The Daily bulletin, July 31, 1888, Image 2

“Personal Items”
The Daily bulletin, January 28, 1889, Image 3

“Royal Calls”
The Hawaiian gazette, May 14, 1889, Page 8

“Robt. Louis Stevenson: He Arrives in Town on the Mariposa”
The Hawaiian star, September 20, 1893, Page 5

“Mr. Stevenson”
The Hawaiian gazette, September 26, 1893, Page 2

“Robert Louis Stevenson: The Distinguished Author Gives an Informal Talk to the Thistle Club”
The Daily bulletin, September 28, 1893, Image 2

“Cannot Lecture: Robert Louis Stevenson Will Not Give His Promised Talk”
The Hawaiian star, October 21, 1893, Page 5

“An Interesting Interview: Liliuokalani Speaks to the Friend of Robert Louis Stevenson”
The Independent, December 12, 1898, Image 1

“Isobel Strong’s Home: Old Honolulu Resident in New York”
The Hawaiian star, August 9, 1899, Page 3

“Passing of Sans Souci: The Famous Resort Is No More”
The Hawaiian star, February 5, 1900, Page 3

“Kaiulani School Children Recall Life of Late Princess”
Evening bulletin, October 17, 1901, Image 1

“Stevenson and Hyde: Old Controversy a Lecture Theme”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, April 12, 1902, Image 1

“Robert Louis Stevenson in Hawaii: By Mabel Wing Castle”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, April 14, 1902, P. 9 & 12

“Father Damien’s Memory: Stevenson’s Defense of the Priest Recalled and an English Critic Unmercifully Scored”
The Independent, June 30, 1902, Image 1

“The Bystander”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, September 20, 1903, Page 4

“Another Book About Hawaii”
The Hawaiian star, June 16, 1905, SECOND EDITION, Page 3

“Mrs. Strong’s Novel on Hawaiian Life”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, August 21, 1905, Page 3

“Miss Krout’s Talk on Robert Louis Stevenson”
The Hawaiian gazette, January 22, 1907, Page 6

“Kaiulani: By Ella Wheeler Wilcox, in San Francisco Examiner”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, April 29, 1908, Page 5

“Mrs. Isobel Strong Sighs for Days when Monarchy Ruled These Islands”
Honolulu star-bulletin, January 21, 1914, Image 1

“Mrs. Isobel Strong’s Visit Revives the Old Times: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Stepdaughter Is Here”
Honolulu star-bulletin, January 24, 1914, 3:30 Edition, Page 13

“Little Tales About Town”
Honolulu star-bulletin, July 10, 1917, 2:30 Edition, Page 12


2 Comments on “Robert Louis Stevenson”

  1. […] February 1900 — one of Hawaii’s first hotels, the Sans Souci Hotel closed. Famed author Robert Louis Stevenson lived here during his stay in […]

  2. […] is gone today, the location still honors Princess Kaiulani with the stone bench she sat on with writer Robert Louis Stevenson, a small triangular park, a bronze statue of her in the park, and the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani […]

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