Today marks Robert Louis Stevenson’s 167th birthday. We have showcased the humble memorial to him that lies in West Princes Street Gardens before, and his many stories and poems such as Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde are still read and revered widely today. But what did the great man think of his place of birth? In Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes, Stevenson describes an Edinburgh as follows:
“Into no other city does the sight of the country enter so far; if you do not meet a butterfly, you shall certainly catch a glimpse of far-away trees upon your walk; and the place is full of theatre tricks in the way of scenery. You peep under an arch, you descend stairs that look as if they would land you in a cellar, you turn to the back-window of a grimy tenement in a lane:—and behold! you are face-to-face with distant and bright prospects. You turn a corner, and there is the sun going down into the Highland hills. You look down an alley, and see ships tacking for the Baltic.”
He captures so eloquently the enduring appeal of Edinburgh; the stunning architecture, the sense of history and mystery; it’s remarkable to think that the very views and flashes of nature and scenery provided by places like Princes Street Gardens remain essentially the same as those that moved him to write these words. So, if you’re walking through town today, and catch a glimpse of the Gardens, take a moment to think of “A Man of Letters” who shared those same views all those years ago.