Brilliant Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, author of author of Treasure Island (1883), Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Kidnapped (1886) and much more, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 3 December 1894, aged just 45.
Oscar Wilde admired Stevenson greatly and called him ‘that delicate artist in language’. In prison, he requested copies of his novels. He also had a connection with Stevenson’s stepdaughter Belle Strong.
Stevenson was very fond of Belle and described her thus in 1892:
She is my wife’s daughter, my secretary, my amanuensis, my woman-Friday on my desert island, my finder of things, my last assistance, my oasis, my staff of hope, my grove of peace, my anchor, my haven in a storm. She’s Belle, I suppose.
Here’s an excerpt from Wilde’s Women describing Wilde’s encounter with Belle in San Francisco in 1882:
In San Francisco, Oscar was entertained by Belle Strong, stepdaughter of Robert Louis Stevenson, who hosted a party in his honour in the studio of her artist husband, Joe. Belle thought Oscar ‘very impressive’, adding:
He was charming. His enthusiasm, his frank sincerity, dispelled at once any constraint we may have felt at meeting such a distinguished stranger. We didn’t know that we were listening to one who was acknowledged to be the wittiest man in London. We were exhilarated by his talk, gay, quick, delightfully cordial and almost affectionately friendly.
It was a memorable occasion: ‘When he left we all felt we had met a truly great man’, Belle decided.
Isobel Osbourne Field, This Life I’ve Loved (New York, Longmans, Green, 1938), p.148