Robert Louis Stevenson in California

Google reminded me that today is the birthday of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of such classics as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped, and that consummate pirate adventure, Treasure Island.

And what does RLS have to do with John Bidwell and Northern California? Not much, but Stevenson did spend a few (but very important) months in California. He came here in pursuit of the woman he loved and wished to marry, Fanny Osbourne, in 1879. He lived for a time in San Francisco and Monterey. It is said that the California coast inspired the setting for Treasure Island.

After their marriage in May 1880 RLS and Fanny spent their summer honeymoon at an abandoned mining camp on the slopes of Mt. St. Helena at the northern end of the Napa Valley. An odd choice for a honeymoon cottage, but it was all they could afford. He wrote about their experiences in The Silverado Squatters, a book I read last summer after visiting the Robert Louis Stevenson Silverado Museum in St. Helena, California.  It’s a very short book, and a good read. Stevenson could turn any experience into words worth reading.

So while John Bidwell was running his rancho in Chico, RLS was experiencing California just over the hill, 100 or so miles to the southwest. Too bad RLS never ventured into the Sacramento Valley—maybe he could have been a guest at Bidwell Mansion!


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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