Remembering the arrival of a classic author

Remembering Hawaii

On January 24th, 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson arrived in Hawaii. The author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde arrived on a schooner that departed San Francisco in June 1888. He made stops in the Marquesas Islands, the Paumotas and Tahiti before reaching Hawaii.

While visiting the Kingdom, Stevenson met with King Kalakaua, Princess Likelike, and 13-year-old Princess Kaʻiulani, with whom he became friends. He and Kaʻiulani struck a particularly close bond, as Stevenson was from Scotland and Kaʻiulani was half-Scottish. She was soon headed for boarding school in England and was naturally anxious about leaving, so to reassure her he wrote her a poem:

Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The island maid, the island rose,
Light of heart and bright of face:
The daughter of a double race.

Her islands here, in Southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.

But our Scots islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by
To smile in Kaiulani’s eye.

Stevenson primarily resided in Waikiki, but also travelled to Hawaii Island and Molokaʻi. While in Hawaii, he was productive with his writing. He finished the comedic novel The Wrong Box, the novel The Master of Ballantrae, and the poetry collection Ballads. He also started writing the short novel The Ebb-Tide

He left for Samoa in June that year, much to the sadness of King Kalakaua, but would return again in 1893, staying for a month before returning to Samoa. He died in Samoa in December 1894, most likely due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Still, his warm reception in Hawaii is felt: a middle school in Honolulu bears his name, and a grass hut where he wrote can be found near the Waiʻoli Tea Room. 

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