Robert Louis Stevenson throughout England

“There is nothing perhaps more puzzling (if one thing in sociology can ever really be more unaccountable than another) than the great gulf that is set between England and Scotland – a gulf so easy in appearance, in reality so difficult to traverse. Here are two people almost identical in blood: pent up together on one small island, so that their intercourse (one would have thought) must be as close as that of prisoners who shared one cell of the Bastille [. . . ] and yet a few years of quarrelsome isolation [. . . ] has so separated their thoughts and ways that not unions, nor mutual dangers, nor steamers, nor railways, nor all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, seem able to obliterate the broad distinction”

(RLS, “Cockermouth and Keswick: A Fragment”, in Essays of Travel [London: Chatto and Windus, 1905], pp. 94-94)

On this page you will find information about all of the other places in England RLS visited: Birmingham, Box Hill, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chester, Cornwall, Dorchester, Dover, Exeter, Liverpool, Malvern, Matlock, Oxford, Peterborough, Torquay, his Walking Tour of the River Stour, Ware, Weybridge and York.

Birmingham

“The weather is warmer here but (by what my imagination suffers) more like the day of judgment than anything else”

(Letter from RLS to his mother, 18 April 1886, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol v [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 247)

On 18 April 1886 RLS stayed in the Queen’s Hotel in Birmingham. He was returning home to Bournemouth after visiting Smedley’s Hydropathic in Matlock, Derbyshire, with his parents.

Box Hill

“The visit to Meredith’s was a great success. Mrs M. (who is death on you, your smile etc.) begged to be remembered to you”

(Letter from RLS to his mother, 9 June 1879, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 322)

From 15 -19 March 1878, RLS and his mother stayed at Burford Bridge Hotel, Box Hill, Dorking, Surrey. Stevenson first met George Meredith at Box Hill, probably on the 18th or 19th.

RLS visited Meredith again in the summer of 1879 (probably from 1-8 June 1879).

After resting for a few days in Weybridge in May of 1882, RLS visited George Meredith again (from 12 -17 May). As before, he stayed in the Burford Bridge Hotel.

Stevenson paid his last visit to Meredith at Box Hill from 4-8 August 1886.

Cambridge

“Here I am in the most delightful rooms. I have not spoken to a soul for about sixty hours. I should be perfectly happy if I could work, but I cannot, not the least; my head is so think and weak”

(Letter from RLS to his mother, 17 November 1878, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 287)

From 17-22 November 1878, RLS visited Sidney Colvin at Trinity College, Cambridge. A letter that Fanny Stevenson wrote to her mother-in-law suggests that she and RLS were also in Cambridge at the end of May 1881.

Carlisle

RLS was in Carlisle on 24 October 1873, en route to London.

Chester

“I like this place much; but somehow I feel glad when I get among the quiet eighteenth century buildings, in easy places with some elbow room about them, after the older architecture”

(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, 8 September 1874, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 49)

RLS and his parents visited Chester on 8 September 1874. While there, they visited Chester Cathedral. From Chester, RLS and his parents travelled to Wales, visiting Barmouth and Llandudno.

Cornwall

“Cornwall is not much to my taste, being as bleak as the bleakest parts of Scotland and nothing like so pointed and characteristic. It has a flavor of its own, though”

(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, 10 August 1877, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 218)

RLS and his parents visited Cornwall from 3-16 August 1877. RLS’s letters from the visit indicate that they stayed in Penzance. On the 9th, the family visited St Michal’s Mount. The following day they went to Land’s End.

Dorchester

“I expect to arrive in Dorchester tomorrow or next day; and if I shall be strong enough, I shall do myself the pleasure of calling on you – if not, I shall let you know at what inn I put up, and perhaps you will be kind enough to call on me? I think you must have heard of me from Gosse; - but my acquaintance with your mind is already of so old a date, that I scarce felt such formalities were needed - ; and if you should be busy or unwilling, the irregularity of my approach leaves you the safer retreat”

(Letter from RLS to Thomas Hardy, 24 August 1885, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol v [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 125)

At the end of August or early September 1885, RLS, Fanny, Lloyd and Katharine de Mattos went to Dorchester. They stayed in the King’s Arm Hotel and then visited Thomas Hardy at his new home in Max Gate, Dorchester.

Fanny wrote about the visit with Hardy to RLS’s mother on 10 September 1885: “Did I tell you that we saw Hardy the novelist at Dorchester? A pale, gentle, frightened little man, that one felt an instinctive tenderness for, with a wife – ugly is not the word for it, who said ‘whatever shall we do?’ I had never heard a living being say it before”. In a letter to Colvin she wrote about the Hardys: “What very strange marriages literary men seem to make” (The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol v [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 125).

Although the party had originally planned to go to Dartmoor, it seems that they had to change their plans: RLS hemorrhaged and the party was forced to stay in Exeter during early September.

Dover

“I came down today in company with a man who regaled me with the chronicle of accidents that had befallen him – he had broken in his time seven ribs, a collar bone, a leg and an arm, and seemed not one penny the worse. The country was very lovely; one grand spread of russet and green; and to the Medway; which accompanied us for a little way, I quite lost my heart. Tonight it blows most lamentably, and the noise of both wind and sea dins my ears. I fear I shall not have a pleasant crossing”

(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, 5 November 1873, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 355-56)

In the summer of 1862, RLS and his parents visited Bad Homburg vor der Höhe (then Homburg), the capital of Hesse-Homburg, Germany. From 1-11 July 1862, the family made their way to Homburg, travelling via Peterborough, London, Dover, Brussels, Koblenz, and Frankfurt to Homburg.

When RLS was 12, he, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January -20 May 1863. They stayed at Dover on 5th January 1863 (at Lord Warden Hotel) en route to the Continent. They stopped in the city again on 20th May en route to returning to Edinburgh. Read more information on RLS’s travels though Europe in 1863

Stevenson was also in Dover on 5 November 1873, staying overnight there en route to Mentone (where he was going for health reasons). He travelled to Mentone via London, Dover, Paris, Sens, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon, and Marseille.

Exeter

“It is now a week since we left home, and we are no further away than Exeter. We stayed one night in Dorchester where we saw [Thomas] Hardy, a most lovable creature, and then here, where one night Louis was taken with a dreadful hemorrhage, only less bad than the one at Hyeres. It did not last long, but was more violent. Had it continued but a little longer it would have strangled him. We are, in consequence, here indefinitely”

(Letter from Fanny Stevenson to W.E. Henley, early September 1885, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol v [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 125)

After visiting Thomas Hardy in Dorchester, RLS, Fanny, Lloyd and Katharine de Mattos stayed in the New London Hotel in Exeter. Here, RLS hemorrhaged and the party were forced to stay in Exeter through early September 1885 while he recuperated. RLS returned to Bournemouth on 12 September 1885.

Liverpool

“Did you know that I went to meet Louis and his family at their landing? – suddenly made up my mind at dinner here last Monday, took on the night mail, and was just in time to welcome them at early morning on the quays of the grey Mersey”

(Letter from Sidney Colvin to W.E. Henley, 17 August 1880, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol iii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 93)

On 17 August 1880 RLS, his new wife and stepson arrived in Liverpool from the United States. It was here that Thomas and Maggie Stevenson met Fanny and Lloyd for the first time.

Malvern

“I must say that I am damn tired of this place. My mother and I talk little except at meal times, and I write or read straight on, except when I betake me to my waiter”

(Letter from RLS to Charles Baxter, writing from Malvern, 16 January 1873, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 271)

From 10 – 29 January 1873 RLS and his mother were in Malvern, Worcestershire. They stayed in the Imperial Hotel. During this visit RLS was unwell and depressed. As soon as he returned to Edinburgh he and his father argued about religion: RLS told the horrified Thomas that he did not believe in the Christian faith.

Matlock

“You see I have not lost much time and here we are (my father and I) stranded at Smedley’s and at the tender mercies of Dr Hunter, who seems a capable fellow”

(Letter from RLS to Dr George Balfour, 12 April 1886, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol v [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 241)

RLS and his parents stayed in Smedley’s Hydropathic, Matlock Derbyshire, from 10 - c.18 April 1886. During this stay Thomas Stevenson was often quite unwell, and RLS himself was low in spirit. RLS left to return home to Bournemouth on the 17th or 18th. He lunched at the Midland Hotel in Derby and on the 18th stayed in the Queen’s Hotel, Birmingham.

Oxford

“I had a very nice time at Oxford and Buckinghamshire – Bucks is, I believe, the knowing way to refer to it. And I say, you must not be vexed at my absences. You must understand (I want to say this in a letter) that I shall be a nomad, more or less, until my days be done”

(Letter from RLS to his mother, 16 October 1874, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 60)

RLS visited Oxford in October of 1874. It is probable that he stayed with Andrew Lang at Merton College, Oxford University.

Peterborough

In the summer of 1862, RLS and his parents visited Bad Homburg vor der Höhe (then Homburg), the capital of Hesse-Homburg, Germany. From 1-11 July 1862, the family made their way to Homburg, travelling via Peterborough, London, Dover, Brussels, Koblenz, and Frankfurt to Homburg.

Torquay

“This rhyming letter’s writ to the[e]
From Glen Villa at Torquay
It is raining plashing pouring
And without the wind is roaring
Among the cliffs that bound the sea

(Letter from RLS to Mrs Robert Cunningham, March 1865, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 106)

The Stevenson family stayed in Torquay during the spring of 1865 and 1866 for Margaret Stevenson’s health. In 1865 they arrived in Torquay on 16 March and stayed until April. While there, they lived in Glen Villa, Meadfoot Road.

In 1866, the Stevensons were in Torquay from 7 March until the end of April. During this visit they stayed at 2 Sulyarde Terrace.

Walking Tour of the River Stour

”The walking tour broke down. My heel gave way and hurt horrid, and it was dull, cold and not singularly pretty on the road. Hence, here I am”

(Letter from RLS to his mother, 25 November 1878, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 289)

In November 1878 RLS planned to take a walking tour of the River Stour. He pursued the plan from the 23rd to the 25th, but then abandoned the walk and instead went to London.

Ware

“The world is not such a bad place after all; only there are cruel moments in it, when one wants all one’s courage to hold oneself together”

(Letter from RLS to his mother, 12 November 1878, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 286)

RLS was in Ware, Hertfordshire on 12 November 1878. He had come from London and was heading to Cambridge.

Weybridge

RLS was at the Hand and Spear in Weybridge in October of 1881. He spent his time there correcting proofs of Treasure Island (1883).

Stevenson was in Weybridge again in early May 1882. He was resting here before going on to Box Hill to visit George Meredith.

York

When RLS was 12, he, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January -20 May 1863. They stayed in York on 2 January 1863 (arriving at the Station Hotel in York from Edinburgh) on the first stage of their journey to the Continent. RLS and Cummy took a walk in the city that night, and looked at the construction of Lendal Bridge. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

RLS and Fanny were in York at the end of May 1881. They stopped there on their way to Edinburgh after wintering in Davos, then spending the early spring in Barbizon and Paris. In York they visited Lloyd (who was at school here during this period).

On 5/6 May 1887 RLS and Fanny went to York en route to Edinburgh. Thomas Stevenson was gravely ill, and they had gone to be with him. He died on 8 May 1887.