The Times/1894/Obituary/Robert Michael Ballantyne

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Mr. Robert M. Ballantyne, the prolific and excellent writer of tales for boys, whose death we announced yesterday, was connected with the well-known family of the Ballantynes, Sir Author:Walter Scott's printers. He was born in Edinburgh in 1825. When a lad of 16 he went out to Canada, and spent six years there in service of the Hudson Bay Company. Having returned to Scotland in 1847, he published in the following year his first book, entitled "Hudson Bay, or Everyday Life in the Wilds of North America." In this he embodied the substance of his letters to his mother and of his journals written on the spot. He spent some time in the printing office of Messrs. Constable in Edinburgh, but he did not take kindly to the desk after his free and roving life in the West. At the same time his literary proclivities were asserting themselves strongly, and about the year 1856 he gave up business and adopted literature as his profession. Then began that series of adventure tales written about and for boys and girls which have brightened the loves of several generations of young folks, and which seemed ever fresh and never-failing in interest. "The Coral Island," "The World of Ice," "The Young Fur Traders," "Ungava," "The Dog Crusoe," and many more followed one another in quick succession. Every Christmas I saw at least one new story from his busy pen. For the material of several of his earlier stories he reverted to his Canadian experiences. He made it a rule, indeed, to write always, when he could, from his own experiences. Before he wrote "The Lighthouse" he lived for some time with the keepers on the Bell Rock. He prepared for "Deep Down" by a visit to the Cornish mines, for the "The Pirate City" by a winter in Algiers, and so in other cases. This method of preparation gave a realistic character to his work and a graphic force to his descriptions. There was a great deal of human nature in his creations, and all his books are pervaded by a sound and healthy tone which loses nothing from the vein of humour that runs through most of them. Down to 1887 Mr. Ballantyne had written 74 volumes containing 62 separate stories. He was also a clever artist, and often exhibited water-colours in the Royal Scottish Academy, for many years past he had resided at Harrow. A short time ago he fell into bad health, the result of overwork, and he had gone to Italy in search of relief and rest. He died in Rome.

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