Robinson Crusoe was not more affectionately treated by his father to stay at home than was Robert Louise Stevenson by his loving friends. But the Edinburgh youth imitated the mariner of York in that, consulting neither father nor mother any more, without any consideration of circumstances or consequences, he went on board a ship. It was bound for New York, and young Stevenson, while not a steerage passenger — travelling, indeed, second cabin — might as well, but for occasional leavings from the saloon passengers’ plates and the convenience of a rough table, have been in the steerage outright. He reached New York in a flood of rain, repaired to an emigrants’ boardinghouse on the river front, sitting en route on some straw in the bottom of an express wagon, and in another twenty-four hours was speeding west on a freight train architecturally modified to accommodate tourists as hopeful and destitute as himself. He reached San Francisco like a man at death’s door to learn that Mrs. Osbourne was ill. He at once wrote “The Amateur Emigrant,” plunged into essays on Thoreau and virtue, and became lonely and unkept, and was nursed by his future wife, who had by this time obtained her divorce. The far away father in Edinburgh now relented, a substantial allowance was forthcoming, and Fanny Van de Grift Ozbourne became Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson. “As I look back,” he wrote years later, “I think my marriage was the best move I ever made in my life.” Not only would he do it again — he could not conceive the idea of doing otherwise.

Text from “Life of Robert Louise Stevenson,” by Alexander Harvey, from within A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods (1928), by Robert Louise Stevenson, p.xlix, purchased at The Magic Door, in downtown Pomona. Image from Owly, by Andy Runton, p.16, available at Funny Business on Garey Avenue.

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