Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Visit the South Seas with Robert Louis Stevenson

Mention Robert Louis Stevenson and the mind probably goes straight to Treasure Island and Kidnapped. During his short life, he wrote several books that have become classics, so when we visited Western Samoa, I made a beeline to view his house.

Robert suffered from ill-health for most of his life (thought to be tuberculosis) and spent time traveling through the South Pacific searching for a climate to ease his symptoms. In 1890, he and his wife Fanny purchased a block of land in Samoa. It's a gorgeous spot, in the middle of the bush and surrounded by vast grass lawns and lots of tropical plants. There is a beautiful view out to sea, the sort of view one would never tire of watching. Of course when Robert purchased the land on the slopes of Mt. Vaea, it was covered with bush and in a rough state. They lived in a shack while they cleared the site and built their house. Their estate was christened Vailima.

He lived there happily with his family and made friends with the locals while continuing to write. He died suddenly on 3 December 1894 at the age of 44.

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This is a view of the mansion. As you can see it's quite big and has several bedrooms. It also has a ballroom and a library, which was my favorite spot.

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This is the view of the bush from the house.

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And here's the view of the sea from inside the house. 

We were given a guided tour around the house by Margaret who was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions. I loved this place because we were actually allowed to touch. The valuable first editions, were of course, locked up, but there were none of the ropes and barricades found in stately homes.

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The above photo shows the formal room. Note the fireplace - the only one in Samoa! The wall paper is all batik style and that's a lion skin on the floor.

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This is a first edition of Kidnapped.

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Robert Louis Stevenson's medicine cabinet complete with bottles and potions.

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And this is me on the staircase.

Robert Louis Stevenson is buried on Mt. Vaea and overlooks Vailima. His wife Fanny, who was American, died in California. Her ashes were buried at the foot of her husband's grave.

If you ever visit Samoa I highly recommend a visit to Robert Louis Stevenson's house.

If you had the money, where would you build your dream house and office?

14 comments:

Cathy Perkins said...

The South Sea is sounding pretty great for a home and office!

While I love the beach, I'm not ready to give up the mountains, so perhaps on one of the volcanic islands (preferably an inactive one!) in the Pacific :)

Anne Marie Becker said...

Very cool - love the pics!

If I could, I'd build a dream house on the beach. I find the sound of ocean waves so soothing and inspiring.

Rita said...

Oh! Love the photos. We lived in Hawaii for a few years. I don’t know if I could work in the South Pacific. They have a malady in the islands called Polynesian paralysis. People come from the fast paced anxiety world. Their mind and bodies slow to fit in with the relaxed pace. It is a wonderful feeling. I am already lazy I probably wouldn’t be able to write more than a sentence a day. I like my office here. Just wish it was clean.

Elise Warner said...

Just beautiful. I would prefer the lion to be in his own skin. the furnishings look as if they have so many stories to tell. I like to write at home but if I were rich I would love to have a place in Sorrento.

jean harrington said...

OMG,this is an awesome post. I've reread Treasure Island countless times and have never grown tired of it. What a gift to give me on my wedding anniversary. I'd tell you the number of years, but I've run out of digits. Off for the big anniversary dinner. Thanks for a fun and informative blog.

Toni Anderson said...

What a wonderful post. I love RLS and feel the connection through his grandfather and father who built all those lighthouses off the coast of Scotland I used to look at. And he spent time in Cellardyke where I lived and based Robinson Crusoe on a local figure. I had no idea about his South Sea adventures. Gorgeous house!

Shelley Munro said...

Cathy - the mountains would work for me. I don't like to get too hot, but I'm glad it worked for RLS.

Shelley Munro said...

Anne Marie - ah, I love the sound of the waves too. I think they might entice me out to play too often :)

Shelley Munro said...

Rita - LOL That's true. Island time is catchy!

Shelley Munro said...

Elise - I couldn't make myself walk on that poor lion. I like them better in their skins too, but those were different times.

Shelley Munro said...

Jean - happy anniversary! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Shelley Munro said...

Toni - it's funny because I don't know much about his Scottish life. He certainly wrote some amazing books.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Shelley, what fun! Thanks so much for telling us about this. If I had my wish, I'd write from a cozy house on a cliff overlooking the wild sea. None of this warm sands stuff for me.

Jean, Happy Anniversary!

Toni -- what a cool connection!

Wynter Daniels said...

Looks lovely. I've visited the house in Savannah where he wrote Treasure Island. If I could, I'd live the south of France, somewhere near the beach. But I'd probably never want to write for all the other things I could be doing there!