Influence of Stevenson's life on Kidnapped

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in 1850 and died in 1894. Several elements of the novel are drawn from his family background.

Stevenson was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson. His father Thomas was a lighthouse engineer. Indeed this was something of a family profession – both his grandfathers as well as his brothers Alan and Robert worked in this industry.

On Margaret's side, the family traced their roots back to Alexander Balfour, who held the lands of Inchyre in Fife in the 15th century.

Stevenson's early life was affected by illness which led eventually to his early death. He was taught at home for long periods, not learning to read until he was seven years old. But he always loved stories and learned many tales and history from his nurse, Alison Cunningham.

The origins of names, characters and places used in Kidnapped can be seen in aspects of Stevenson's life, for example:

  • David is a Balfour.
  • His journey takes him round the west coast where the reefs and islands were a hazard until the building of the lighthouses.
  • The novel returns to the metropolis of Edinburgh which Stevenson knew well.
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