Lesley Graham

Footprints in the Sand: Travellers after Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific

The flow of visitors to Robert Louis Stevenson’s tomb on Mount Vaea in Samoa began soon after his death in 1894 and has continued unabated until today. This paper explores the various ways in which literary tourists — including Gavin Bell, Nicholas Rankin, Ian Bell, and Pamela Stephenson – have used and reworked the following-in-the-footsteps genre in their accounts of Stevenson and the Pacific Islands. These literary tourists simultaneously attempt to recount Stevenson’s reaction to the Pacific and their own, often incorporating the accounts of the followers who have preceded them into a multi-layered re-interpretation of the geographical space originally inhabited by the exiled Scottish writer. Similarly, their auto/biographical accounts map out two contrasting Pacific cultures: that of the late nineteenth-century encountered by Stevenson and the purportedly less pristine culture that they experience and consume during their own literary pilgrimages. Their belated attempts to create a meaningful connection with Stevenson’s original experience of the Pacific raise interesting questions about literary nostalgia and transcultural tourism.

Lesley Graham, Université de Bordeaux