"Fear is not cowardice."
Robert Michael Ballantyne was born on 24th April 1825 in Edinburgh. He was educated privately and at Edinburgh Academy. Between the ages of 16 and 22 he was employed in Canada by the Hudson Bay Company, trading with local Indians in remote areas. In 1847 he returned to Scotland. He was a clerk at the North British Railway Company in Edinburgh for two years, and worked then for the paper-makers Alexander Cowan and Company.
Ballantyne's Hudson’s Bay appeared in 1848. This autobiographical work depicted his youth and adventures in Canada. From 1856 he devoted himself entirely to freelance writing and giving lectures. Ballantyne's first stories depicted life in Canada, while later works dealt with adventures in Britain, Africa and elsewhere.
In 1847 he returned to Scotland to find that his father had died. The news was devastating, but he continued his writing, 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. From 1883 Balantyne lived in Harrow, Middlesex.
During his career Ballantyne wrote around a hundred books. In 1866 he married Jane Dickson Grant; they had four sons and two daughters. Ballantyne died in Rome on February 8, 1894. Ballantyne opened views into the world that just waited for brave explorers, and became the hero of Victorian youth.
***The Coral Island provided the inspiration for William Golding's The Lord of the Flies'. Ballantyne's book reflected his view of the world: 'Britons at the top of the tree, savages and pigs at the bottom'. Compared to Ballantyne's noble youths, Golding's book portrayed a much darker depiction of human nature, as the veneer of civilisation peels away from the castaway boys, and they descend into savagery.***