TEUILA

The Stevensons Waikiki AT WAIKIKI, HAWAII

      Front row (left to right):  Ah Foo, the cook, R.L.S., Mrs. R.L.S., Lloyd Osbourne               Standing:  Mrs. M.I. Stevenson, and Isabel Osbourne (Teuila)

This Life I've Loved

‘Teuila’* was the familiar name by which Isobel Osbourne, the step-daughter of Robert Louis Stevenson, was known in Samoa.   Her mother Fanny Osbourne married Stevenson in 1880.   The last years of his life were spent at Vailima in Samoa where he settled in 1890.   Teuila’s luminous autobiography, This Life I’ve Loved (Michael Joseph 1937), describes the rich and exciting life there.   She was Stevenson’s secretary for four years until his death in 1894.

*  ‘Teuila’ is pronounced’ chewila’ with the emphasis on the first syllable.   It means the flower of the Samoan ginger plant.

Isobel Osbourne at Monterey Artwork by Joseph Strong

Following her mother’s death in 1914 she married the author, poet, playwright and journalist, Edward ‘Ned’ Salisbury Field (1878-1936).   Field was an employee and friend of William Randolph Hearst   He made drawings for Hearst newspapers, signing them ‘Childe Harold’.   As a young news man in his 20’s, Field became the secretary, protégé and possibly lover of Fanny Stevenson (who was 38 years older), after the death of her husband.    After Fanny’s death in 1914, Field married her daughter Isobel Osbourne (‘Teuila’), who was 20 years his senior.  He became  a  successful  Southern  California  real  estate   developer.   In  the  1920’s  oil  was  discovered  on  some of his  property which made them wealthy.

Isabel Osbourne at Monterrey

by Joseph Strong

'Allen Herbert's House', 1896 watercolor by Isobel Osbourne, Honolulu Academy of Arts

Allen Herbert’s House 1896

Watercolour by Isobel Osbourne, Honolulu Academy of Arts

Mrs. Field (Isobel ‘Belle’ Osbourne 1858-1953) was an accomplished artist who continued to study the craft throughout her life.   She attended Paine’s popular art classes at the Community Arts in Santa Barbara (cf. post November 26, 2017) during the nineteen-twenties.

Isdobel Field 1937

Isobel Field 1937

In 1926 the Fields purchased Zaca Lake and surrounding land on Figueroa Mountain near Los Olivos.   Isobel built an artist’s studio at Serena and the Field home became a popular meeting place for writers and actors.   Paine designed a stained glass window for the house which may still be there.   He also helped Mrs. Field to design and execute some murals, giving advice by letter from England.

Mrs. Salisbury Field 'Teuila'

                                           Mrs Salisbury Field                                                

(From a painting by Alfred Herter)

Mrs. Field was greatly impressed by Paine and evidently thought him a genius.   In a letter dated 25 September 1937 she wrote, ‘I can’t understand why you haven’t a crowded class – there never lived anyone who could teach so well – for you some way arouse enthusiasm not only in those who want to draw – but in the pupils who are sent to your class by their parents and arrive perfectly dull and unresponsive’.

Elsewhere she refers to his ‘great and glorious talent –  not  only   to   create beauty but to inspire others’ (13 December 1936).   And again, ‘In the old days when genius was recognised you’d have been given a Cathedral and told to go ahead and decorate it …’   (25 September 1937)    In 1948 she sent Paine her note-book, her ‘Precious Book’.   She wrote, ‘This little book has been treasured by me all these years’.   The  ‘Precious Book’, inscribed ‘What I learned from Mr. Paine’ is now lodged with the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh together with the seventeen letters she wrote to Paine between 1936 and 1948.   (cf. post 17 November 2018)

Teuila Fortune Telling Cards — 1899/1923

In 1937 Teuila sent Paine a pack of her tarot cards as a present for Anna.   His third wife, used them to tell fortunes, guests frequently being entertained with a ‘cut of cards’.  They are now owned by Joan Paine’s daughter.

Teuila Fortune Telling cards

The cards were made by the U.S. Playing Card Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio.   The instruction sheet says they are copyright 1897-1904; they were first published in 1899.   There are 45 cards in the deck (not 35 as stated in the advertisement); plus 7 with instructions, including a Life Card and an advertising card for the company that isn’t used as part of a reading (it functions as a joker if you’re using the deck for playing cards; evidently the Life Card would be the other joker).

Teuila Fortune Telling Cards Designs

During her time in Hawaii, Mrs. Field (then married to the artist, Joseph Strong), became a friend of King Kalakaua.   In her autobiography she says, ‘When the Queen gave a garden party at Iolani Palace, often for the benefit of some charity, I was always asked to tell fortunes.   On the backs of my calling cards, I had drawn and painted little symbols – a horseshoe for luck, a bee to signify work, a heart for love, etc.   These cards were the beginning of my Teuila Fortune Telling Cards.’

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