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Robert Louis Stevenson, Michael Morpurgo - Author

About the Author

Robert Louis Stevenson was born to Thomas and Margaret Isabella Balfour Stevenson in Edinburgh on 13 November 1850. From the beginning he was sickly. Through much of his childhood he was attended by his faithful nurse, Alison Cunningham, known as Cummy in the family circle. She told him morbid stories about the Covenanters (the Scots Presbyterian martyrs), read aloud to him Victorian penny-serial novels, Bible stories, and the Psalms, and drilled the catechism into him, all with his parents' approval. Thomas Stevenson was quite a storyteller himself, and his wife doted on their only child, sitting in admiration while her precocious son expounded on religious dogma. Stevenson inevitably reacted to the morbidity of his religious education and to the stiffness of his family's middle-class values, but that rebellion would come only after he entered Edinburgh University. The juvenilia that survives from his childhood shows an observer who was already sensitive to religious issues and Scottish history. Not surprisingly, the boy who listened to Cummy's religious tales first tried his hand at retelling Bible stories: "A History of Moses" was followed by "The Book of Joseph." When Stevenson was sixteen his family published a pamphlet he had written entitled The Pentland Rising, a recounting of the murder of Nonconformist Scots Presbyterians who rebelled against their royalist persecutors.

 

Michael Morpurgo is, in his own words, "oldish, married with three children, and a grandfather six times over." Born in 1943, he attended schools in London, Sussex and Canterbury. He went on to London University to study English and French, followed by a step into the teaching profession and a job in a primary school in Kent. It was there that he discovered what he wanted to do. "We had to read the children a story every day and my lot were bored by the book I was reading. I decided I had to do something and told them the kind of story I used to tell my kids - it was like a soap opera, and they focused on it. I could see there was magic in it for them, and realised there was magic in it for me." Living in Devon, listening to Mozart, and working with children have provided most of the stimulae Michael needs to discover and write his stories. He spends about half his life mucking out sheds with the children, feeding sheep or milking cows; the other half he spends dreaming up and writing stories.

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