Robert Michael Ballantyne

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R. M. Ballantyne (24 April 1825 – 8 February 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 Native Americans 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."

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