• Short Summary

    SYNOPSIS: In the Samoan Islands, there is a place called "Vailima"...

    From his gifted pen, there?

  • Description

    SYNOPSIS: In the Samoan Islands, there is a place called "Vailima"...

    From his gifted pen, there came a romantic quality and fascination that puts his writings among the most famous in our language. Robert Louis Stevenson had already won an enduring place in English literature before going to Samoa where he died, sixty seven years ago today.

    Stevenson married his American born wife, Fanny, in 1880, Ten years later, "Vailima" became their home... and this is "Vailima now.

    Stevenson once said "I have chosen this land to be my land, and these people to be my people, to live and die with". West Samoans of today often make the arduous trek to his tomb.

    What of "Vailima" itself? Apart from some additions, it's changed little since the 1890's. It's now the official residence of the New Zealand High Commissioner.

    The last of the High Commissioners if Mr. Wright. His country governs Western Samoa as a Trust Territory. But this link will cease next month when the islands become independent, with Mr. Malietoa as one of two Heads of State.

    The other is Mr. Tamasese, filmed here with his wife.

    The men are meeting as Council of State, so the ladies will rejoin them later. The story of "Vailima" always recalls its first owners: there's the fire place - for half a century the only one in Samoa. An artist from Austria painted Stevenson's portrait.

    During the Civil War which Stevenson tried hard to prevent, there was a Tamasese among the prominent names... and a Malietoa as well. So when the Trusteeship ends, the new island nation will be led by descendants of royal chiefs well known to the Scottish born writer.

    It was poor health that suggested Samoa to Robert Louis Stevenson, who came to the South Pacific with his wife. He twice visited Sydney but the climate upset him, so they began planning "Vailima" where they lived for four years - until Stevenson died.

    Although never completely well, life in Samoa gave him a renewed zest for literary work. He suffered from writer's cramp, but his output was prodigious. It was a Grand House - for teas, dinner parties and meetings with the various chiefs.

    In later years, "Vailima" knew several occupants - a Russian merchant, the German Governor, then the New Zealand High Commissioner. The up to date pool reminds us that Stevenson used to swim in a dammed up stream nearby. In fact, "Vailima" means "the place of five streams".

    In December of 1894, Stevenson said "I was not born for age". Three days later, forty Samoans worked all night, hacking a path up the steep slope of Mount Vaea. The next day, they carried his body up the mountain where he wanted to be buried.

    The ashes of his wife were brought here twenty years later to the tomb whose inscriptions include a passage from the Bible, in Samoan.

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    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
    Issue Date:
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Black & White
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