'The scene of this little book is on a high mountain. Its naked peak stands nearly four thousand five hundred feet above the sea; its sides are fringed with forest; and, the soil, where it is bare, glows warm with cinnabar'. In 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson was living in San Francisco, recovering from a bout of bronchitis that plagued him all his life. Broke, his career floundering, he nevertheless fell in love with and married Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, a divorcee, in May of that year. Escaping the San Francisco fogs, the newly married couple travelled to the Napa Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains. Deep in the mountains, in an old mining town called Silverado, they spent their unconventional honeymoon in an abandoned millhouse that clung to the shoulder of Mount Saint Helena. For two months, they squatted amidst the detritus of the mines in 'a sylvan solitude' where bears roamed and fierce winds blew down into the valley. Stevenson was free of sickness, inspired to write and utterly content.
Taken from the diaries he kept during the time "The Silverado Squatters" is punctuated with colourful portrayals of the quirky and eccentric people who inhabited Silverado and with fascinating descriptions of the daily trials of living simply in the wild. Sparkling with rich and vivid descriptions of the landscape that so captivated Stevenson, this is above all a remarkably personal and revealing memoir by this most loved writer.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), was a Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, most famous for his books Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Vladimir Nabokov and J. M. Barrie, Stevenson was a celebrity in his lifetime, although his reputation gradually declined after his death. The late 20th century saw the start of a re-evaluation of Stevenson as an artist of great range and insight, a literary theorist, an essayist and social critic, a witness to the colonial history of the Pacific Islands and a humanist.