Good Reading : February 2011
52 goodreading ı FEBRUARY 2011 The restless Scottish writer and storyteller Robert Louis Stevenson once said '... to travel hopefully is a better thing than to ar rive'. Stevenson travelled the world, and eventually settled in Samoa. But no jour ney of his was ever undertaken with such hope and longing as the one to California in 1879. The writer turned his back on his disapproving family in Edinburgh and followed his heart to San Francisco to marry Fanny Osbour ne. He was a penniless, sickly, 29-year-old. She, at 39, was an independent divorced Califor nian with two children. Robert and Fanny were mar ried in San Francisco, but the summer fogs proved devastating for Stevenson's already frail health. He was plagued by bronchial illness all his life. Friends advised the couple to travel north to the mining town of Calistoga in the Napa Valley, where the climate was warm and clear, and the accommodation was cheap. But they went further, to the abandoned mining camp of Silverado to rent a three-room cabin on Mount Saint Helena. Stevenson, despite sickness and rough travelling conditions, kept a diary that he later turned into a book called The Silverado Squatters. In the 1880s Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny took two fer ries and a train, the 'iron horse', to reach Calistoga.The last leg of their jour ney -- to the empty mining cabin on Mount Saint Helena -- was taken by stagecoach. As they journeyed, Stevenson, an astute observer, jotted down notes: '... and by and by these hills began to draw nearer on either hand, and first thicket and then wood began to clothe their sides; and soon we were away from all signs of the sea's neighbourhood. A great variety of oaks stood, among the fields and vineyards.' Today the hills and mountains are still wooded, but now the journey is taken via Highway 101 and Highway 29. The hills around the towns of Napa, Yountville, St Helena and Calistoga are dotted with vineyards and homesteads of the affluent. In 1969 Norman H Strouse, an avid collector and Robert Louis Stevenson fan, founded the Silverado Museum. Holding more than 8 000 items of memorabilia, the museum now has a permanent home in a building near the lush and tranquil gardens of the St Helena library. The assistant curator, Dianne Fraser, is a fount of knowledge on the Stevenson family. She tells their Travelling hopefully through the Napa Valley A gr reader, GERALDINE MACKEY, traces the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson as he travelled in the late 1800s to America’s Wild West to marry the divorced Fanny Osbourne. reader's life 2 View from the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Trail on Mount Saint Helena. The sign at the foothills of the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.
December January 2011