Good Reading : February 2011
reader's life 2 story while pointing out some of the manuscripts, letters, sculptures, photographs, paintings and other memorabilia depicting Stevenson's life. A display of tin soldiers conjures a picture of the sickly lonely boy whose imagination was his main source of entertainment. A picture painted by Fanny and sold to pay for her divorce indicates the extent of the poverty surrounding their early married life. Quotes from RLS are inscribed on the museum walls. Who could not love a man famous for saying, 'Wine is bottled poetry.' Their honeymoon destination, Calistoga, still has the quiet charm depicted in The Silverado Squatters. Unfortunately the poverty-stricken Stevensons spent their last $10 staying at the Hot Springs Hotel in Calistoga. The locals advised them to go to an empty miner's cabin tucked into one of the ravines of Mount Saint Helena, near the abandoned mining town of Silverado. Stevenson wrote: ' ... there was Silverado. The name had already pleased me; the high station pleased me still more ... It was but a little while ago that Silverado was a great place.The mine -- a silver mine of course -- had promised great things ... Now there was no one living in the town but Rufe the hunter.' The bunkhouse was a basic shack, a mile uphill from the nearest road or supplies, and the only bed was hay. When they arrived they had to chase out rattlesnakes and clear the poison oak. Yet the silence in the hills appealed to Stevenson, and he and Fanny spent a happy time on Mount Saint Helena. Today there is a beauty and peace about the site. The bunkhouse has now been replaced by a stone-and-marble memorial erected in 1911 by the Club Women of Napa Valley, and is inscribed with the words: 'He took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing, Came and stayed and went, nor ever ceased to smile.' While living here, the frail but intrepid Scotsman not only climbed to the top of Mount Saint Helena, but became deeply attached to it. It is said that he later modelled Spyglass Hill in Treasure Island on this mountain. The local Native Americans considered Mount Saint Helena to be the physical and spiritual centre of their nation. As a result of Stevenson's later fame, the mountain was declared and preserved as a state park in his name, thus preventing planned logging activity and future developments. It seems it was very fortunate indeed that Robert Louis Stevenson travelled hopefully to California. Photograph of Lincoln Ave, Calistoga by Chick Harrity MEET JEFFREY ARCHER Jesse Blackadder on her Scottish heritage What to read when in Havana Alan Gold on creating a plot NEXT ISSUE on sale 25 February ORDER YOUR COPY NOW! Lincoln Ave, Calistoga 2010 Noticeboard outside the RLS Silverado Museum, St Helena.
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