Robert Louis Stevenson around London

“‘And now, gentlemen,’ concluded Somerset, ‘let us separate. I hasten to put myself in fortune’s way. Hark how, in this quiet corner, London roars like the noise of battle; four million destinies are here concentred; and in the strong panoply of one hundred pounds, payable to the bearer, I am about to plunge into that web’”
(RLS, More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter [London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1885], p. 8)

RLS and London

RLS was often in London: he visited friends, travelled there on business (meeting with publishers etc.), and consulted with doctors about his health. For many of Stevenson’s visits, London was simply a stopping-place en route to somewhere else – elsewhere in the UK, Europe and later, the United States.

When RLS was in London with his family, they often stayed in the Craven Hotel, Craven Street, The Strand. In New Arabian Nights (1878), Silas Q, Scuddamore also stays at the Craven Hotel.

Stevenson himself spent a great deal of his time in London at the Savile Club. The Savile Club is a gentlemen’s literary, academic and arts club founded in 1868. When RLS frequented it, it was based at No. 15 Savile Row. Stevenson was in good company – Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, and Rudyard Kipling were also members. The Savile Club is now located at 69 Brook Street, Mayfair, London.

London also captured Stevenson’s imagination. He used it as a setting for New Arabian Nights (1882), More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter (1885) and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886).

On this page you will find information about when RLS was in London (including places in Greater London like Chelsea, Hampstead and Richmond) and where he stayed. You will also find details about his time at Burlington Lodge Academy, Spring Grove, Isleworth.

Dates and Addresses in London

  • In the summer of 1862, RLS and his parents visited Bad Homburg vor der Höhe (then Homburg), the capital of Hesse-Homburg, Germany. From 1-11 July 1862, the family made their way to Homburg, travelling via Peterborough, London, Dover, Brussels, Koblenz, and Frankfurt to Homburg.
  • When RLS was 12, he, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863. They stayed in London on 3 and 4 January 1863 (at the Craven Hotel) en route to Dover and France. From 20 – c. 23 May they stayed in the Craven Hotel again, on the return leg of their journey to Edinburgh. On the 22nd of May, RLS and his mother met with his Aunt Jane Whyte Balfour. The three visited Lee, Blackheath. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.
  • 20 December 1863: RLS travelled from London (staying in the Craven Hotel) to Paris to spend Christmas in Menton with parents.
  • 23 July 1872: RLS was in London en route to touring Germany with Walter Simpson. He stayed at the Craven Hotel and walked around Kensington, visiting the Church of our Lady of Victories in High Street, Kensington. He also visited the National Gallery.
  • After his tour of Germany with Simpson and then a week in Baden Baden with his parents, RLS was in London again. From 30 August – 11 September 1872 (he was returning home to Edinburgh) he travelled via Strasburg, Paris, Boulogne and London.
  • August 1873: RLS and Fanny Sitwell visited Kew Gardens (the Royal Botanic Gardens in Southwest London).
  • 25 October – 5 November 1873: RLS visited Sidney Colvin and Fanny Sitwell at their home at 15 Chepstow Place, Bayswater.
  • 6 November 1873: RLS left London for Menton via Dover, Paris, Sens, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon and Marseille. He had been “ordered south” for health reasons. For more information see the page devoted to Menton.
  • 22 – 26 April 1874: On return from convalescing in Menton, RLS stayed at the Great Western Royal Hotel, London. He returned to Edinburgh on 26 April.
  • early June 1874: on the occasion of his election to the Savile Club (3 June); then again from 13 June to the second week of July, staying with Colvin at Abernethy House, Hampstead, at the corner of Mount Vernon and Holly Place (plaque).
  • 16 October 1874: After his walk in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire, RLS stayed in Euston and Victoria Hotels at Euston Station. He returned home to Edinburgh on the 18th.
  • 2 – 13 December 1874: RLS stayed at the Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross.
  • 19 March 1875: RLS was at the Savile Club during this visit.
  • 17-21 June 1875
  • c. 26 – 31 July 1875: RLS was in London en route to Barbizon, France with Walter Simpson. RLS was at the Savile Club during this visit.
  • 15 April 1876: RLS visited the Savile Club, then travelled on to France. He returned to Edinburgh on 15 May 1876.
  • August 1876: RLS was in London and visited the Savile Club before embarking on the canoe trip with Walter Simpson (later described in An Inland Voyage [1878]).
  • 2 January 1877: RLS left for London en route to Paris. He stayed in Paris for the rest of the month with Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne.
  • 10 – c. 19 February 1877: After his stay with Fanny Osbourne in Paris, RLS was again in London and the Savile Club.
  • Early – c.18 November 1877: Fanny Osbourne brought RLS to London so that he could be treated for an eye infection. During this stay RLS he visited the Savile Club and took rooms at the Bedford Hotel, Russell Square.
  • 22 December 1877: RLS left for London en route to Dieppe and Paris. He returned briefly to the Savile Club on 7 January 1878 and then went back to Paris and Dieppe.
  • 11 March 1878: RLS returned to London after his trip to Dieppe and Paris.
  • 19 March 1878: RLS returned to London after meeting George Meredith for the first time. He stayed at the Savile Club.
  • 22 – 29 May 1878: RLS stayed at the Albemarle Club, 13 Albemarle Street.
  • 1 – 12 August 1878: RLS stayed in lodgings at Radnor Street, Chelsea with Fanny Osbourne and her children Belle and Lloyd.The Osbournes were planning to return to Fanny’s husband (they left for New York from Liverpool on 15 August). It is unclear how they left their relationship at this point. Stevenson, however, was deeply depressed about the departure and worried about his future with Fanny. It was in this mood that he left for his walking tour of the Cevennes (stopping first in Paris, Montargis, Le Puy and Monastier), later described in Travels with a Donkey  in the Cevennes (1879).
  • 28 – c. 31 October 1878: RLS stayed with W.E Henley and his wife at their home at 4 Earl’s Terrace, Devonport Road. He was in London after his walking tour of the Cevennes (later described in Travels with a Donkey [1879]).
  • 25 November – c. 21 December 1878: Savile Club.
  • 5 – c. 18 February 1879: Savile Club.
  • 8 – 19 May 1879: Savile Club.
  • 19 – 31 May 1879: Because the Savile Club needed repair work, RLS moved to the Arts Club, Hanover Square, West: “Savile under repairs; the Art is now my home. A waiter ex-of-Savile, now-of-Arts, is asked by an Arts man how he thinks we will like the Arts. ‘Why, sir, I think it’s quite a little ‘oliday out for them’ (Letter from RLS to his parents, 19 May 1879, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 271).
  • 9 June 1879: RLS was at the Savile Club after visiting George Meredith in early June. Shortly after arriving in London, he went on to Cernay-la-Ville, France.
  • c. 25 June – 14 July 1879: RLS stayed at Savile Club after his visit to Cernay-la-Ville.
  • 30 July – c. 5/6 August 1879: During this trip to London, RLS asked his friends advice about his idea to go to the United States in pursuit of Fanny Osbourne. They strongly disapproved, but Stevenson went anyway. For more information about this trip, see the pages devoted to RLS’s travels in the USA. It was also during this visit to London that RLS first met Henry James.
  • 7 – 19 October 1880: RLS, his wife and Lloyd stayed in the Grosvenor Hotel, Victoria Station (RLS also visited the Savile Club), before travelling on to Davos (via Paris and Troyes) for their first winter there. The Alps were supposed to be beneficial to Stevenson’s health.
  • 18 May 1881: The Stevensons left Paris for London as part of their return trip from Davos.
  • Late September/Early October 1881: RLS and Fanny stayed at 16 St Leonard’s Terrace, Chelsea (Bob Stevenson’s mother’s house). From 12 – 18 October they travelled from London via Paris and Zurich for a second winter in Davos.
  • 27 April 1882 – Early May 1882: The Stevensons were in London, returning from their second winter in Davos. RLS’s parents went on to staying in lodgings with Fanny at 48 Tedworth Square, Chelsea (RLS was resting in Weybridge). Afterwards, the whole party went to visit George Meredith at Box Hill.
  • 18 – c. 20 May 1882: The Stevensons returned to London from visiting George Meredith. They went on to Edinburgh and then summered in Peebles and Kingussie.
  • 9 – c.15 September 1882: After his stay in Kingussie, RLS consulted with Dr Andrew Clark in London about his health. Clark told him to go to the South of France. Because Fanny was too ill at the time, Bob and RLS travelled together (Fanny would join RLS later). For more about RLS’s time in the South of France from 1882 – 1884 see the sections devoted to Montpellier, Marseilles, Nice and Hyeres.
  • 1 – 12 July 1884: After their long stay in the South of France, RLS and Fanny were in London again before settling in Bournemouth. They stayed at the Queen’s Hotel, Richmond.
  • 23 – 28 July 1884: RLS consulted doctors in London and then returned home to Bournemouth.
  • Early June 1885: RLS stayed with Sidney Colvin in his apartment at the British Museum (Great Russell Street).
  • 6 July 1885: RLS and W. E. Henley wrote a joint letter from 18 Camden Gardens, Shepherds Bush West. The letter was to the actor and manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917). Henley and RLS wanted to know whether he wanted to take on their play Macaire (1895) – he did not.
  • 25 March – c. early April 1886: RLS stayed at Bacon’s Private Hotel, 5 Fitzroy Square, to visit his parents.
  • 9 – c. 12 June 1886: RLS stayed with Sidney Colvin at his apartment at the British Museum. He also dined with Thomas Hardy at Colvin’s, probably on 11 June.
  • Early August 1886: RLS was in London, en route to Paris for a two-week holiday with Will H. Low and his wife. He stayed with Sidney Colvin at his apartment in the British Museum. While in London, the painter William Blake Richmond (1842-1921) painted his portrait (which is on display at the National Portrait Gallery). RLS also had lunch with Richmond, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and his daughter Margaret.
  • October 1886: RLS and Fanny were visiting Sidney Colvin in his apartment at the British Museum. RLS became unwell, and stayed there for the whole month.
  • 31 June – 21 July 1887 : RLS and Fanny stayed with Sidney Colvin at his apartment in the British Museum , then returned to Bournemouth.
  • 20 & 21 August 1887: Having left Bournemouth forever, the Stevensons stayed in London at Armfield’s Hotel, South Place, Finsbury – the would travel to the USA on the 22nd.
  • 22 August 1887: RLS, his wife, mother, Lloyd and maid Valentine Roch left the Royal Albert Docks in London on board the Ludgate Hill, bound for New York (via Le Havre on 23 August). This was the last time that RLS would ever be in the UK or Europe.

Hampstead

“I wish somebody would explain to me the climate of Hampstead. To be so near London, and yet to be in an atmosphere more that of like Peebles than any other I can think of, is surely a puzzle in meteorology. Hampstead is all my fancy painted it; it is so quiet, so healthful and beautiful; and yet one can go in and dine at the Club in three-quarters of an hour, or thereabout”
(Letter from RLS to his mother, c. 3 July 1874, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 27)

From 13 June – c.11 July 1874 RLS and Sidney Colvin stayed in lodgings at Abernethy House, Hampstead (at the corner of Mount Vernon and Holly Place). During his stay, RLS spent time with Leslie Stephen. He also saw a performance of Messiah as part of the Handel Festival at the Crystal Palace ( on 22 June 1874).

From 24 September – early October 1874 RLS was in Hampstead again. This time he stayed with Basil Champneys at Harrow Cottage. Champneys (1842-1935) was an architect and author, and one of Sidney Colvin’s close friends. During his stay RLS would sometimes go to the Savile Club. In early October, he visited a public house in Adelaide Road, Chalk Farm, NW3.

Burlington Lodge Academy, Spring Grove, Isleworth

“My dearest Papa and Mama, I am getting on very well. I hope Papa’s cold is better and Mama is keeping well. Yesterday I was playing at football. I have never played at Cricket so Papa may comfort himself with that”
(Letter from RLS to his parents, September 1863, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 94)

On 28 August 1863, RLS began his studies at Burlington Lodge Academy, Spring Grove, Isleworth. While RLS was a pupil here, he would sometimes stay with his maternal Uncle Lewis Balfour at Rostrevor House, Spring Grove. Stevenson often felt homesick, and it seems that a boarding school was not the right choice for a child with such poor health. On 20 December 1863, he left the academy and did not return. He spent Christmas in Menton with his parents.