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Title: ‘Home’ in Samoa: R.L. Stevenson and the South Pacific
Authors: Sborgi, Ilaria
Keywords: Robert Louis Stevenson;Home;South Pacific;Scotland;Cross-cultural Encounters
Issue Date: Aug-2008
My paper aims to chart Robert Louis Stevenson's decision to settle on the island of Upolu in the Samoan archipelago and establish his home there. After ten years of ill health during which he lived in many different places (England, Scotland, Switzerland, France, the United States), the author sailed with his family towards the South Pacific hoping to benefit from its milder climates. During his travels and residence in many Pacific islands, Stevenson generally felt better and repeatedly changed his plans to return home. In January 1890, he communicated an alarming news to his friends: not only had he bought land and intended to build a house in Samoa but when he returned home it would be to 'break up' his establishment there. Stevenson never went back and lived the rest of his life in the South Pacific (he died in 1894).
Through the analysis of his correspondence and the accounts of those who lived with him or simply visited 'Vailima', his Samoan estate, I will follow the author’s description of the building of his house and the making of his home there. My aim will be to show how 'Vailima' can be read as both a literal and figurative example of Stevenson's encounter with the Pacific colonial world through his own cultural heritage, the blending of Scottish and Samoan, old and new, personal and political.

This paper was originally presented at the seminar "The House of Fiction as the House of Life. Representation of the House in Literature and Culture, 1700-1900" (ESSE 2008, August 22-26, 2008, Department of English, University of Aarhus, Denmark). A revised version of it is forthcoming in F. Saggini and E. Soccio (eds.), The House of Fiction as the House of Life, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Rights: If not otherwise stated, this document is distributed by the Tuscia University Open Archive under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution - Noncommercial - Noderivs License (
Appears in Collections:DISTU - Archivio della produzione scientifica

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