Robert William Service was born on January 16, 1874 in Lancashire, England. At the age of five he went to live with his grandfather and aunts in Scotland until he was nine. His growing family was reunited at this time.
Robert William Service studied English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow. Even though he was 4th out of a class of 200 students, he did not complete his degree because he had a strong disagreement with one of his professors that led to him leaving the university.
Service followed in his father's footsteps and spent time as a banker before deciding to leave for Canada in 1894 to become a cowboy. While in Canada, he spent time working as a farm hand for various people. He also worked in British Columbia's banks, where he eventually found a position where they paid for his food and lodging.
With the tales Service heard from the people of the Yukon, he was inspired to write "The Cremation of Sam McGee". He sent it to his father in Scotland and asked him to get in touch with a vanity publisher so he could give it to family and friends as a gift. To his surprise, the publisher offered him a check and publishing rights. "The Cremation of Sam McGee" is one of Service's most famous poems.
The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 inspired Service to write a novel about it, which he titled The Trail of Ninety-Eight. He traveled along the Klondike River to visit all the towns where people were frantically searching for gold.
In 1913 Robert William Service married Germaine Bourgoin. The couple spent most of their life together in France, but they also took up residence in Hollywood, California. Germaine did not know her husband was rich until a year into their marriage. Even though he had a lot of money, Service dressed down on many occasions to spend time in lowly places. Those places and people gave him inspiration for his writing.
Robert William Service continued writing until his death. He passed away on September 11, 1958 from a heart attack.
Interesting Facts about Robert William Service
- He was the first of 10 children, seven boys and three girls.
- He did not like authority as a child.
- Service played on his school's rugby team.
- He challenged a college professor to a fight after a disagreement about a paper he wrote, but the challenge was declined. Service ended up leaving the college.
- When he decided to return to college, he failed his entrance exams in French and Algebra.
- Service was unable to serve during World War I because of a varicose vein.
- He volunteered for the Red Cross, but his motive was to experience the front line of war so he could write about it.
- Service's novel, The Trail of Ninety-Eight, was turned into a movie in 1928.
- He appeared in the movie The Spoilers in 1942.
- The cabin Robert William Service lived in from November 1909-June 1912 in the Yukon is a historical site that can be visited.
- Service wrote six novels, two memoirs, and 1,000 poems.