Jun 01, 2023 - Sale 2639

Sale 2639 - Lot 45

Price Realized: $ 25,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
Stevenson, Fanny (1840-1914)
Archive of Photographs and Letters.

Archive of material that descended through Stevenson's sisters and descendants in Indiana including: ten autograph letters signed, circa 1866-1904, including three long letters home written by Stevenson from Vailma in Samoa, describing the life she shared there with her husband, Robert Louis Stevenson, including detailed accounts of their home, other buildings, land, staff, and much more concerning their life on the island; fifteen large original photographs taken of Vailima showing the house, activities, land, buildings, and large groups of Samoan employees and associates, each large photo on an 8 x 10 inch mount and inscribed on versos by Stevenson and other family members, identifying people, places, and giving at times lengthy descriptions of the content of each image; eleven photographs of Stevenson including cabinet cards and carte-de-visite spanning the time from her youth in Indiana, to her time in San Francisco in the 1860s, ending circa 1898, almost all inscribed on the verso by Stevenson with her name, dates, places, and circumstances of the photo, with an extra-large 14 x 10 1/2 in. cabinet card, and a pale sepia image on a wrinkled sheet mounted to card with Stevenson's name in her own hand on the verso, and "Skerryvore, Bournemouth," beneath that, in another hand, "This photo was probably taken by Sir Percy Shelley at Skerryvore, Bournemouth at the time he made the 'ghost pictures' of RLS"; two reproductions of a portrait of Stevenson; a photograph of Robert Louis Stevenson, along with reproductions of another portrait; a signed photo of Stevenson's daughter Isobel "Belle" Osbourne (1858-1953) dated Vailima, 1893; together with additional family letters and genealogical information, mostly from Stevenson's sister Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez and Nellie's son, Fred Thomas.

Frances "Fanny" Matilda Van de Grift Osbourne Stevenson was born and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. At seventeen, she married Samuel Osbourne who decided, after serving in the Civil War, to travel out West, and eventually found work in silver mines in Nevada. Fanny followed him to the west coast in the late 1860s and brought their five-year-old son, Lloyd. The couple had two more children together, but the marriage seemed doomed around 1875. At that point, the adventurous thirty-five-year-old and single mother of three young children moved her family to Europe alone. The family lived in Antwerp and Paris. Her youngest son died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1876, and at that point Fanny and her children moved to Grez-sur-Loing in north-central France. Already a self-supporting published magazine writer who had studied at the Academie Julian in Paris, not to mention living in mining towns and rough-and-tumble 1860s San Francisco, Fanny was a striking and memorable woman. It was in France that she first met Robert Louis Stevenson. Although the two made an important connection at the time and RLS wanted to join Fanny when she returned to California from France, his family forbade it. Fanny was facing the end of her first marriage in 1879 when RLS joined her in California. The two were married in San Francisco in 1880.

The most compelling material in this lot dates from the time around 1892 while RLS and Fanny were living at Vailima in Samoa. Although RLS had health problems throughout his life, involvement with the Samoan people and immersion in life there surrounded by gardens, land, animals and the sea had a positive effect on the author in his final years. He died at Vailima in 1894. Fanny's ashes and RLS's remains are buried together on Mount Vaea, above their former home, overlooking the sea.