Thursday, July 2, 2009

Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum

I walked into this museum knowing little of Rober Louis Stevenson,other that he had written TREASURE ISLAND and A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES,and I came out knowing him rather up close and personal. This museum even has a lock of his baby hair as well as his childhood photographs. Not to even mention the small round tub which he bathed in while living in this house! Some of his possessions there even gave me a glimpse of the kind of man he was. His life had apparently changed dramatically when he married Frances Vandegrift Osbourne,a woman born in Indianapolis. She had two children and because of his stepson RLS let his imagination fly with the fantasy characters he wrote about. In this museum are the wooden printing blocks on which he carved various scenes and characters. Then collaborating with his stepson he would write stories about each block. Also in this museum are original letters and hundreds of articles of Stevenson lore. Once this museum started, memorabilia was sent from around the world;like his smoking jacket which a member of the RLS Society of America sent from Scotland. He spent the last years of his life in the South Seas, and articles from his life there are also in the museum. The prosperity which came to him while living in Saranac Lake,New York gave him the means to finally go to the South Seas(while at Saranac Lake he wrote "THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE"THE WRONG BOX and 12 essays published as the Charles Scribner series). He lived at Saranac Lake less than a year. He came because of lung problems and had heard of a Dr.Trudeau who was doing research there on treatments for tuberculosis. Dr. Trudeau became one of his best friends(by the way,Trudeau is a great grandfather of the cartoonist). His health did improve while at Saranc Lake despite his penchant for cigarette smoking. There are cigarette burns on the fireplace mantel of this house,something that aggravated his landlady Mrs. Baker to no end! Something else I learned about RLS was that to warm up his fingers from the numbing cold he would do a fierce attack of Beethoven with a bunch of rusty keys on the piano, and follow that up with a Jacobite air on the penny whistle,after which he would resume with the pen(this is noted in the Stephen Chalmer's book THE PENNY PIPER OF SARANAC). In the museum is his penny whistle and sheet music on which he had composed songs for the whistle. He was a very talented man besides a genius of a writer! If you have enjoyed any of Stevenson's works, I am sure you would find this museum and cottage quite fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. This is a marvelous little museum whose curator gives a fascinating tour and has incredible knowledge and a love of his subject. It's definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in Saranac Lake.