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Lawyer Could-Have-Been: Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson (right) penned one of the greatest adventure tales published in the 19th century, “Treasure Island.” He produced a dark story of duality, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” as well as poetry for children – “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” He delved into Scottish history in another adventure, “Kidnapped.”

But his family wanted him to be a lawyer. Well, first they wanted him to be an engineer. His father and other family members were engineers and they expected Robert to follow suit when he entered the University of Edinburgh in 1867. He had no interest in same, and he announced he wanted to pursue a life of letters. Okay, fine, his father said, you can be a lawyer.

Stevenson studied law at the university, and he even qualified for the Scottish bar in 1875. His ever-hopeful father put a plate outside the family residence, “R.L. Stevenson, Advocate.” But he never practiced.

Instead, Stevenson traveled widely and made good on his determination to be a writer. During the 1880s, he published the four books named above and a variety of other works. He sailed all over the world. But his health, never good, was failing.

Looking for a warmer climate, he ended up in the Pacific, settling on one of the Samoan islands. He died there at the age of 44 in 1894.

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