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But she also cared for him tenderly in illness, reading to him from John Bunyan and the Bible as he lay sick in bed and telling tales of the Covenanters.
The family moved again to the sunnier 17 Heriot Row when Stevenson was six years old, but the tendency to extreme sickness in winter remained with him until he was 11.
Illness was a recurrent feature of his adult life and left him extraordinarily thin.
He is currently ranked as the 26th most translated author in the world.
Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland on 13 November 1850 to Thomas Stevenson (1818–87), a leading lighthouse engineer, and his wife Margaret Isabella (born Balfour, 1829–97). At about age 18, he changed the spelling of "Lewis" to "Louis", and he dropped "Balfour" in 1873.
His frequent illnesses often kept him away from his first school, so he was taught for long stretches by private tutors.
He was a late reader, learning at age 7 or 8, but even before this he dictated stories to his mother and nurse, and he compulsively wrote stories throughout his childhood.
Stevenson spent several years in search of a location suited to his health, before finally settling in Samoa, where he died.
A celebrity in his lifetime, Stevenson attracted a more negative critical response for much of the 20th century, though his reputation has been largely restored.
In September 1857, Stevenson went to Mr Henderson's School in India Street, Edinburgh, but because of poor health stayed only a few weeks and did not return until October 1859.
During his many absences he was taught by private tutors.