An account of Robert Louis Stevenson's desperate search for health, and the fulfilment of his life-long ambition to cross broad oceans in tall ships and gain an understanding of the world beyond the frontiers of 'civilised' society. It is the story of a literary giant and his supportive and somewhat eccentric family and the ships-the Casco, the Equator and the Janet Nicoll-that transported them to high adventure in the South Pacific between the years 1888 and 1890. Like many sailors before and since, the South Sea islands haunted and inspired legendary author Robert Louis Stevenson. Lowell D. Holmes' account of Stevenson's Pacific wanderings is an enchanting mix of high seas adventure and a fresh view of the fragile writer and his eccentric but devoted family. Holmes an anthropologist and a sailor, senses a kindred spirit as he describes Stevenson's fascination and respect for the island cultures.
...a 'must' for admirers of Robert Louis Stevenson's literary works. Midwest Book Review ...an intriguing, thoroughly researched account of Stevenson's Pacific wanderings...a delightful literary voyage. Sailing ...you can almost feel the motion of the deck as you read this well written account. Latitudes & Attitudes He latches on to the significance of Stevenson's South Seas writings and lets them guide his course. Wichita Eagle The South Seas were not only a great source of inspiration for legendary author Robert Louis Stevenson, they were also physically and spiritually life sustaining. Stevenson's best-loved novels, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are still widely read today, more than 100 years after they were first published. What is less widely known is that the author spent his final years sailing about the South Pacific in a variety of ships in search of an island utopia, or at least an idyllic island climate that would help restore his failing health. Lowell D. Holmes' new book, Treasured Islands, is an intriguing, thoroughly researched account of Stevenson's Pacific wanderings and offers fresh insights on Stevenson as a man obsessed by tropical seas but sadly stricken with a bronchial ailment that slowly but steadily sucked the life out of him at age 44. To fully understand Stevenson as a writer and as a man you must understand how important these islands were to him, how they flowed through his soul. An anthropologist and an author, Holmes became intrigued by Stevenson while working on his doctorate degree in Samoa. Fortunately, Holmes is more than a scholar, he is also a sailor and I suspect his book, which is filled with nautical details, will appeal more to sailors than literature students. I'm certain it would have pleased Stevenson. The book opens in San Francisco, California, where Stevenson and his eccentric but devoted family arranged to charter the sweet sailing schooner, CASCO, for an expedition to the South Pacific. After a shaky start, the Stevenson clan, which consisted of the author's American wife Fanny, her son Lloyd, Stevenson's mother and Valentine, their French maid, settled in to life at sea. The captain and crew were brusque but capable seamen and 93-foot CASCO raised the marquesas one month out of San Francisco, a classic trade wind passage. Stevenson was a curious and unusual traveler for the times. Among other things, he insisted on meeting local people on their own terms and had genuine respect for native cultures. In Nuka Hiva he concluded that Melville's fanciful tales of cannibalism in the islands were unwarranted. The Stevensons sailed through the dangerous reefs of the Tuamotus archipelago and on to Tahiti but didn't find it to be the paradise they were seeking. A short time after arriving, Stevenson announced to Fanny, Papeete is too depressing a place in which to end our happy marriage. I have therefore decided not to die just yet. CASCO eventually sailed north to Hawaii where the Stevensons jumped ship. Stevenson and Fanny then arranged to charter the 69-ton EQUATOR, a rough and ready copra trader. This sturdy vessel took them south again, this time to the Gilbert Islands and later to Samoa, where Stevenson at last found his South Seas Island. Three miles inland from the port of Apia, the Stevensons purchased 300 acres, locally called Vailima, and working side by side, cleared the land. Stevenson, who had been sickly for years, was proud that his health allowed him to work the land. He wrote to a friend, Nothing is so interesting as weeding, clearing and path making. The Stevensons eventually made one more South Pacific voyage, this time aboard the large sailing steamer JANET NICOLL sailing to Sydney. But in the end they returned to Samoa, where Stevenson spent his last days, writing and living his dream. Treasured Islands, which includes photos of Stevenson, his Samoan neighbors and family, as well as some wonderful line drawings of the EQUATOR and JANET NICOLL, is a delightful literary voyage. Sailing