Author Ballantyne Robert Michael

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R. M. Ballantyne (April 24, 1825 – February 8, 1894) was a Scottish juvenile fiction writer. Born Robert Michael Ballantyne in Edinburgh, he was part of a famous family of printers and publishers. At


the age of 16 he went to Canada and was six years in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. He returned to Scotland in 1847, and published his first book the following year, Hudson's Bay: or, Life in the Wilds of North America. For some time he was employed by Messrs Constable, the publishers, but in 1856 he gave up business for the profession of literature, and began the series of adventure stories for the young with which his name is popularly associated. The Young Fur-Traders (1856), The Coral Island (1857), The World of Ice (1859), Ungava: a Tale of Eskimo Land (1857), The Dog Crusoe (1860), The Lighthouse (1865), Deep Down (1868), The Pirate City (1874), Erling the Bold (1869), The Settler and the Savage (1877), and other books, to the number of upwards of a hundred, followed in regular succession, his rule being in every case to write as far as possible from personal knowledge of the scenes he described. Ballantyne was also an accomplished artist, and exhibited some of his water-colours at the Royal Scottish Academy. He lived in later years at Harrow, and died in Rome, Italy, where he had gone to attempt to shake off the results of overwork. He wrote a volume of Personal Reminiscences of Book Making (1893). When Eric Quayle, author of Ballantyne the Brave, penned these words in 1967, the works of R.M. Ballantyne were still well known. Today this is much less the case. Born into a family of literature, Robert was the son of newspaper editor and printer Sandy Ballantyne. He was also the nephew of James Ballantyne the printer for Scotland's most famous literary author, Sir Walter Scott. Robert grew up in and around the home of Scott, and one can only imagine the influence this relationship had on the future author. Some bad financial investments made by Scott and Sandy Ballantyne would cause the family's ruin and Ballantyne's life would be changed forever. From the age of 16 to 22, Robert was hired to work in Canada by the Hudson's Bay Company. There he would trade with the local Indians and trappers in some of the most remote regions described as "the wilds of Canada". He would later base his book Snowflakes and Sunbeams on his adventures. His longing for family and home impressed him to start writing letters to his mother. This was the beginning of a long love of writing. Ballantyne would later recall in his Personal Reminiscences of Book Making, "To this long-letter writing I attribute whatever small amount of facility in composition I may have acquired." In 1847 he returned to Scotland to find out that his father was dead. The news was devastating, but he would press on, and in the year 1857 he published his first great work, The Coral Island. Nevertheless, because of one mistake he had made in The Coral Island, in which he gave an incorrect thickness of coconut shells, Ballantyne would travel all over the world to gain first-hand knowledge of his subject matter and to research the backgrounds of his stories. For example, he served for a while as a London fireman while researching Fighting the Flames. For his great book Deep Down he spent time with the tin miners of Cornwall. Ballantyne felt that the old saying "boys will be boys" was not correct. Instead, he believed that boys must trained up from boys to be true men and not just left on their own "to be boys". He said: "Boys [should be] inured from childhood to trifling risks and slight dangers of every possible description, such as tumbling into ponds and off of trees, etc., in order to strengthen their nervous system.... They ought to practice leaping off heights into deep water. They ought never to hesitate to cross a stream over a narrow unsafe plank for fear of a ducking. They ought never to decline to climb up a tree, to pull fruit merely because there is a possibility of their falling off and breaking their necks. I firmly believe that boys were intended to encounter all kinds of risks, in order to prepare them to meet and grapple with risks and dangers incident to man's career with cool, cautious self-possession... -R.M. Ballantyne, The Gorilla Hunters R.M. Ballantyne also believed in firm manly friendships in boys. He knew how important it is for boys to have good wholesome friends. In almost all his books, he sets his characters around other young men or even older men who speak into their lives. Ballantyne had few important friendships when he was a boy, so understood all the more just how important they were. Some people have criticized him for his Scottish Covenanter/Reformation theology and perspective on life. Others have complained about his so-called "puritanism" found in all his books. But rather than being points of criticism, it is Ballantyne's strong theology which sets him apart from so many other authors. During his life he would write over 80 books. In 1866 he married Jane Dickson Grant. They had four sons and two daughters. Ballantyne died in Rome, Italy, on February 8, 1894. One of the young men directly touched by Ballantyne was Robert Louis Stevenson. This young man was so impressed with the story of The Coral Island that he would later base portions of his famous book Treasure Island on themes found in Ballantyne. In fact, he honored Ballantyne in the introduction to Treasure Island with the following poem: Ballantyne was an opponent of the slave trade, stating that: —R. M. Ballantyne

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