Stevenson’s most famous novels – “Treasure Island” (1883), “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886), and “Kidnapped” (1886) – deal with exotic themes. “The Master of Ballantrae” (1889) is also well regarded, although some consider the unfinished “Weir of Hermiston” (1896), on which he was working at the time of his death, to be Stevenson’s best work. Much of his writing, including his brilliant adventure novels, has subtle moral themes. He also wrote poetry, essays, and short stories. His travel books about the South Sea Islands are enriched by his experiences living in the islands.
His father expected him to pursue the family profession of lighthouse engineering, in which Stevenson had no interest. As a compromise, he studied law and engineering at the University of Edinburgh. His respiratory troubles began early, forcing him to leave Scotland for more congenial climates; some of his first writing is based on his early travels.
In 1879 Stevenson sailed to America to reunite with an American woman he had met in 1876. He became very ill during the crossing and arrived in California penniless and near death. In 1880 the couple married. They returned to Europe, but Stevenson’s bouts with Tuberculosis continued while the couple lived in Switzerland and Scotland. The couple returned to America, where Stevenson was greeted as a literary success, but they didn’t stay long. His ever-continuing search for a healthy climate led him to Tahiti, Hawaii, and Samoa; he spent the last six years of his life in the islands. He died suddenly in 1894 of a cerebral hemorrhage.