Fanny Vandegrift

Fanny Vandegrift

Infobox Person
name = Fanny Vandergrift

caption = Fanny Vandergrift Osbourne Stevenson
birth_date = March 10, 1840
birth_place = Indianapolis
death_date = February 18, 1914
death_place = Santa Barbara, California
spouse = Samuel Osbourne; Robert Louis Stevenson
parents = Jacob Vandegrift and Esther Thomas Keen

Fanny Vandergrift Osbourne Stevenson (10 March 1840 —18 February 1914) was the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson and mother of Isobel and Lloyd Osbourne.

Early life

Fanny Vandergrift was born in Indianapolis, the daughter of builder Jacob Vandegrift, and his wife Esther Thomas Keen. She was something of a tomboy, and had dark curly hair. At the age of seventeen she married Samuel Osbourne, a lieutenant on the State Governor's staff. Their daughter Isobel (or 'Belle') was born the following year.

Samuel fought in the American Civil War, went with a friend sick with tuberculosis to California, and via San Francisco, he ended up in the silver mines of Nevada. Once settled there he sent for his family. Fanny and the five-year-old Isobel made the long journey via New York, the isthmus of Panama, San Francisco, and finally by wagons and stage-coach to the mining camps of the Reese River, and the town of Austin in Lander County. Life was difficult in the mining town, and there were few women around. Fanny learned to shoot a pistol and to roll her own cigarettes.

The family moved to Virginia City, Nevada. Samuel began going with saloon girls, and in 1866 he headed off gold prospecting in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, and Fanny and her daughter journeyed to San Francisco. There was a rumour that Sam had been killed by a grizzly bear, but he returned to the family safe, and a second child Samuel Lloyd was born in 1868. But Samuel continued philandering and Fanny returned to Indianapolis.

The couple were reconciled again in 1869, and lived in Oakland where a second son, Hervey, was born. Fanny took up painting and gardening. However, Sam's behaviour did not improve, and Fanny finally left him in 1875 and moved with her three children to Europe. They lived in Antwerp for three months, and then in order to allow Fanny to study art, they moved to Paris where Fanny and Isobel both enrolled in the Académie Julian. Hervey sick with scrofulous tuberculosis, died on 5 April 1876, and was buried in a temporary grave at Père Lachaise.

With Stevenson

While in Paris, she met and befriended Robert Louis Stevenson. Convinced of his talent, she encouraged and inspired him. He became deeply attached to her, but Fanny returned abruptly to California.

Stevenson announced his intention of following her, but his parents refused to pay for it, so he saved for three years in order to pay his own way. In 1879, despite protests of family and friends, Stevenson went to Monterey, California, where Fanny was recovering from an emotional breakdown related to indecision about whether to leave her philandering husband. Stevenson wrote many of his most 'muscular' essays in Monterey while awaiting Fanny's decision.

The lady ultimately chose Stevenson, and in May 1880, they were married in San Francisco. A few days later, the couple left for a honeymoon in the Napa Valley, where Stevenson produced his work "Silverado Squatters". He later wrote "The Amateur Emigrant" in two parts about his passage to America: "From the Clyde to Sandy Hook" and "Across the Plains". His middle-class friends were shocked by his travel with the lower classes; it was not published in full in his lifetime, and his father bought up most copies.

In August 1880, the family moved to Great Britain, where Fanny helped to patch things up between Robert and his father. Always in search of a climate conducive to Stevenson's ailing health, the couple traveled to the Adironacks in the U.S. In 1888, they chartered the "Casco" out of San Francisco and sailed to Western Samoa. Later voyages on the "Equator" and "Janet Nicoll" with Lloyd followed. [ "The Cruise of the Janet Nichol Among the South Sea Islands"] , Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1914.] They settled in Upolu, at their home Vailima, where Stevenson died on 3 December 1894.

Return to California

After his death, Fanny, imbued with her late husband's love of adventure, returned to California to begin a new life in America and Europe with an adoring companion decades her junior, newsman Ned Field. When Fanny died in Santa Barbara, California on February 18 1914, Field, her last companion-in-adventure, described her as "the only woman in the world worth dying for." She was buried in the grave next to Stevenson on top of Mt. Vaea in Western Samoa.


Further reading

* "Dead Man's Chest: Travels after Robert Louis Stevenson", Nicholas Rankin, ISBN 0-571-13808-X
* "Tales of Love and Hate in Old San Francisco", Mille Robbins. Chronicle Books, San Francisco 1971. ISBN 1125489812
* "Robert Louis Stevensoon's Ethics for Rascals", Elayne Wareing Fitzpatrick, Xlibris Books, Philadelphia, 2000. ISBN 0-7388-3548-X

External links

* [ Works by/about Fanny Vandegrift] , at Internet Archive

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Van Vandegrift — Infobox Person name = Van Vandegrift image size = 300px caption = Hollywood producer Van Vandegrift and actor Brendan Fraser at the premiere of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, 2008 birth date = birth date and age|1969|2|14 birth place =… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Louis Stevenson — Infobox Writer name = Robert Louis Stevenson imagesize = 200px caption = Portrait by Girolamo Nerli, 1892 pseudonym = birthdate = birth date|df=yes|1850|11|13 birthplace = Edinburgh, Scotland deathdate = death date and… …   Wikipedia

  • Tuvalu — This article is about the country. For other uses, see Tuvalu (disambiguation). Tuvalu …   Wikipedia

  • More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter — More New Arabian Nights   …   Wikipedia

  • Calistoga, California — Infobox Settlement official name = Calistoga, California settlement type = City nickname = motto = imagesize = image caption = image imagesize = image caption = image mapsize = 250x200px map caption = mapsize1 = map caption1 = subdivision type =… …   Wikipedia

  • Mount Vaea — View of Mt Vaea from Lepea village to the northwest. Elevation …   Wikipedia

  • Stevenson, Robert Louis — ▪ British author Introduction in full  Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson  born Nov. 13, 1850, Edinburgh died Dec. 3, 1894, Vailima, Samoa  Scottish essayist, poet, and author of fiction and travel books, best known for his novels Treasure Island… …   Universalium

  • Joseph Dwight Strong — Joseph Dwight Strong, Jr. (September 15, 1853, Connecticut April 5, 1899) was an American artist. The son of a minister, his childhood was spent in Honolulu with his family for a few years before moving to Oakland, California in 1859. He later… …   Wikipedia

  • The Silverado Squatters — Infobox Book | name = The Silverado Squatters image caption = author = Robert Louis Stevenson illustrator = cover artist = country = Scotland language = English and Scots series = genre = Short stories publisher = Chatto and Windus release date …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Louis Stevenson State Park — is a California state park, located in Sonoma and Napa Counties. The park offers a convert|5|mi|km|0|adj=on hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena from which one can see much of the Bay Area. On clear days it is possible to see the peak of… …   Wikipedia