Chinatown – Robert Louis Stevenson

 Posted by on December 2, 2011
Dec 022011
Portsmouth Square

San Francisco remembers Robert Louis Stevenson with this monument in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown.  In 1876 Stevenson was at an art colony in France and fell in love Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, who was not only married with several children, but was 11 years his senior.  In 1878, Fanny was called home by her husband in San Francisco. After a while Fanny telegraphed asking Stevenson to join her and he headed to San Francisco.

At the time Stevenson was not the world renown author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he was just a sickly and unknown writer.  When he arrived in San Francisco he rented a room at 608 Bush Street, and often visited Portsmouth Square for the sunshine.

In 1880, once Fanny was free to marry Stevenson, they did and after a honeymoon in Napa Valley (home of the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and a museum that is dedicated to his work), they headed back to Europe.  In 1888 the Stevensons chartered a boat for the South Seas and eventually settled in Samoa.  Stevenson died there in 1894 at the age of forty-four.

This monument was designed by Bruce Porter, landscape designer of Filoli Gardens and architect Willis Polk.  It was unveiled in 1897.  The inscription is from the Christmas Sermon in  Stevensons’ book Across the Plains.

It reads:  To remember Robert Louis Stevenson – To be honest to be kind – to earn a little to spend a little less – to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence – to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered to keep a few friends but these without capitulation – above all on the same grim condition to keep friends with himself here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.

In his novel The Wrecker, Stevenson said this of San Francisco: “She is not only the most interesting city in the Union, and the hugest smelting-pot of the races and the precious metals. She keeps, besides, the doors of the Pacific, and is port of entry to another world and another epoch in man’s history.”

608 Bush Street

  7 Responses to “Chinatown – Robert Louis Stevenson”

  1. What an interesting history! That was quite a love story — I wonder if she abandoned her children for RLS? Great quotes!

  2. Interesting. I was not aware of his history.

  3. I didn’t know his history either! I love that sculpture! Makes me want to sail away! That’s a dream, I really don’t sail!!!

  4. Even back then, San Francisco was a huge melting pot. Stevenson made some quite interesting journeys around the world in his short life.

  5. Interesting history… I never new that much about him… thanks for sharing, he died quite young didn’t he? Thank you for sharing this post on Weekly Top Shot…

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