Top 10 Robert Louis Stevenson quotations

A few Robert Louis Stevenson quotes in the run-up to #RLSDay – on Friday the 13th!!!

Tales of One City


The fan-tash-tic staff at Muirhouse Library are getting ready to celebrate Robert Louis Stevenson Day this Friday (13 November)

And to get you in the mood here are our top 10 RLS quotations:

Nothing like a little judicious levity.
The Wrong Box, 1889

All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.
Reflections and remarks on human life, 1898

Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.
The Lantern Bearers, 1882

Youth is wholly experimental.
Letter to a Young Gentleman, Scribner’s Magazine, 1888

The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.
Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers, 1881

It is a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes.

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Robert Louis Stephenson’s history tour from Edinburgh to California

 from the Glasgow Herald, Monday 8 June 2015


Robert Louis Stevenson one of the world’s best-loved writers, with a life story spanning the globe from Scotland to the South Seas.
Now 120 years after the Scots writer’s death, thousands of people will be able to follow a European network linking places that inspired the likes of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Travels With A Donkey
The new route has won official accreditation as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe.
The European Network “In the Footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson” links Scotland, England, Belgium and France through a series of places associated with the life and works of the Scottish author.
It begins in Edinburgh where Stevenson was born on November 13 1850.
It moves onto Colinton, Stevenson’s second childhood home where he would often stay with his Balfour cousins at the Manse, where his grandfather was the Minister.
Next on the trail is North Berwick in East Lothian, where the young Stevenson spent holidays and walked to the isle of Fidra, curiously reminiscent of Treasure Island.
It also includes the Highlands, which Stevenson toured with his father, gathering material for Kidnapped. In Bristol, Hispaniola was berthed. It was here that Jim Hawkins and his friends sailed in search of treasure, along with Long John Silver’s pirates.
In Belgium, Brussels and the Rivers and Canals of northern France provide the backdrop. The Belgian capital helped Stevenson on his voyage by canoe from Antwerp to Pontoise near Paris.
In Fontainebleau, Stevenson found freedom among the artists painting in the Forest of Fontainebleau, where he also met and fell in love with American Fanny Osbourne.
When Mrs Osbourne had to return to the US, Stevenson took himself off on a walk through the Cévennes mountains in southern France, which he wrote up as Travels With A Donkey.
The furthest point is California – where the author travelled by ship and train to persuade Mrs Osbourne to divorce her husband and marry him.
Launched in 1987, there are now 30 Cultural Routes ranging from the music of Mozart to the Santiago de Compostela religious pilgrimages.

Outlander – entertainment, education and Robert Louis Stevenson

I read the first book in the Outlander series at new Year. I read it on the recommendation of several American friends – and because the new tv series is being filmed not far from my home – I was curious. Although I didn’t enjoy the latter part of the book, it did start well.

Season 1 of the tv series is finally available on Amazon Instant. I’ve watched the 1st few episodes and been surprised by how much Gaelic is being spoken. I knew they used Gaelic of course, that’s part of why I wanted to watch it, but I didn’t expect to hear so much. I can understand a surprising amount and I’ve even learned a few new words. It’s always a bonus to get in some language learning whilst watching enjoyable telly.

The theme song has been bothering me a little though. It’s sung to the tune of the Skye Boat Song but with lyrics I’d never heard before. I thought they must have been specially written but they don’t quite fit the story so it seemed strange. By the beginning of episode 4 I was ready to find out more about those words.

Imagine my surprise, as a Robert Louis Stevenson fan, to discover that these lyrics were in fact penned by the man himself! I’m learning so much from this programme   🙂

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RLS music recital – a final mention

The RLS recital got a mention in the Faculty News this month (with a picture!). I’m the wee nervous looking one in the middle…

Faculty News - February 2015

Faculty News – February 2015

RLS music recital – my visuals

Last Friday evening, after months of planning (and talking about it), we finally put on our recital:

Robert Louis Stevenson  The Story of His Life in Word and Song Narrated by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith – Narrator Anna Poole QC – Soprano, script and fiddle James Mure QC – Baritone John Cameron – Piano Jane A Condie – Visuals

The idea for this recital, and the script, all came from Anna Poole – a trained singer as well as a QC. My job was to create a visual backdrop to the music. I decided that, for copyright reasons, I should gather images from as few places as possible. That way I could easily credit my sources. So, most of my images originated on two sites:

Although this made them easy to credit, it was a challenge locating the right pictures from such limited sources. garden of verses The old photographs come mainly from the Gallery section of the RLS Website and most of the colour illustrations are from the NLS Digital Gallery. The fun bit for me was making the images to illustrate songs based on A Child’s Garden of Verses. Via the RLS Website I found and downloaded a digital version of the work from 1895, illustrated by Charles Robinson (as pictured above). I located the poems we were using, cut and manipulated the illustrations and turned them into a usable format. It was time consuming work but so worth it. I love the way those pictures look on screen.

During her script research Anna discovered that, as well as writing books and poems, RLS dabbled with playing and composing music. Therefore, challenge number two was to locate sheet music for one of Stevenson’s compositions for Anna to play on the fiddle. After so many months I can’t even recall how I came across it, but eventually I learned of the Stevenson House Collection in Monterey, California. This building, formerly a hotel where Stevenson stayed while waiting for his beloved Fanny Osbourne’s divorce to be finalised, has been turned into a museum dedicated to RLS. Among their collections they hold pieces of music written in Stevenson’s own hand. aberlady links I made contact with the curator there, explained what we were doing, and managed to obtain both a copy of Stevenson’s original music (see above) and permission to use it in the recital. All they asked for was a mention – which I happily give again now:

Thank you to the Stevenson House Collection, Monterey for permission to use this sheet music

My final challenge was to create a presentation in keeping with the music, the occasion and the beautiful venue. I first put it together on PowerPoint, twiddling and tinkering over months to get the balance right. However, when I came back to it several weeks ago, as we prepared to actually stage the recital, I was disappointed by the overall look of the thing. It was flat.

So, having just purchased my gorgeous new MacBook Pro featuring Keynote presentation software, I set to work beautifying my visuals. The end result was just stunning! Keynote doesn’t just transition slides – it ushers them in and out with a wave of shimmering gold. My presentation became a thing of utter beauty. Sadly I was forced to export back to PowerPoint for practical purposes (the data-projector doesn’t talk to Macs).

However, I was happy and relieved to find that, though the golden wave was gone, most of the other Keynote additions remained. After some adjustment to sort out formatting issues, the presentation looked great. It was a huge improvement and I was very pleased. I really enjoyed setting up the animations and transitions, slowly fading stuff in and out. Avoiding jarring movements and sudden disappearances. Reading and re-reading the script to best fit the images with the text.

The slide below is my favourite for three reasons. Firstly, I just love these images: a beautiful view of Samoa and a coloured print of Robert Louis Stevenson looking rather dashing and buccaneerish. Next, it illustrates a poem called Envoy, about the way reading can transport you to another time or place – and I can obviously sympathise with that.

envoy - and death Finally, this slide also illustrates the part of the recital where we recount Stevenson’s sudden and tragically early death. I set the text, then the images to fade one by one as the narration went on – Stevenson himself fading last – to leave a blank screen. I feel that has quite a haunting effect.

As I said, we staged this recital last Friday – to a full house and rapturous applause – in Parliament Hall, Edinburgh. It lasted only an hour but it was a fabulous event. The singers and piano sounded glorious in the wonderful acoustics of the hall. Author, and honorary Advocate, Alexander McCall Smith made gently hilarious additions to the scrip and narrated in his lovely chocolatey voice. And I, couried in behind the grand piano, worked my slides and lapped up the ambiance.


After so much preparation it all seemed to be over too quickly – but I enjoyed every minute of it, and would probably like to do it all again next RLS Day… Maybe. A video version of the full slide show can be viewed here:

Celebrating #RLSDay with James Robertson, @AndrewOHagan …and @VeryFineLibrary !

…So, remember that video I mentioned?…


Thanks again to  for inviting me to contribute. It was much fun.

Happy  !

A re-posting for #RLSDay – ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON: The Story of His Life in Word and Song narrated by Alexander McCall Smith

Friday, 21 November 2014,  7:00 – 8:30 PM
Laigh Hall, Parliament House, Parliament Square, Edinburgh EH1 1RF

In this recital, celebrated author Alexander McCall Smith will take you on a journey through the life of a previous Edinburgh writer, Robert Louis Stevenson.


Stevenson’s story will be interspersed with song settings of some of his works, by composers including R. Vaughan Williams, Ronald Stevenson, John Ireland, Roger Quilter, Edith Swepstone, Frank Wildhorn and Mary Carmichael.

The programme will also include a composition for fiddle by RLS himself.

Although RLS is now remembered as an author, he was also an advocate. This recital will take place in the Advocates Library, where Stevenson read for the bar and practiced. This evening is presented with support from the Faculty of Advocates. It is part of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust RLS Day celebrations, a series of events celebrating RLS’s ‘unbirthday’ of 13 November each year. Proceeds of the evening will be donated to the Abbotsford Trust.

The recital will be preceded by drinks, and will last just over one hour

Cost of Admission is £15 with all free proceeds being donated to Abbotsford. Please make your cheque payable to ‘Faculty of Advocates’ and send to Faculty of Advocates, Parliament House, Edinburgh EH1 1RF and marked RLS event.

Pre-recital drinks from 7:00pm with the recital starting at 7:30pm
Register for tickets at:
or contact: Stephanie Brown (0131 260 5646)