Dr. Livesey
Treasure Island character
Created byRobert Louis Stevenson
In-universe information
OccupationDoctor and magistrate

Dr. David Livesey /ˈlɪvsɪ/ is a fictional character in the 1883 novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. As well as doctor, he is a magistrate, an important man in the rural society of southwest England, where the story opens; his social position is marked by his always wearing a white wig—even in the harsh conditions of the island on which the adventure takes place.

Some years previously, he had fought in the Battle of Fontenoy, and was wounded in action during the battle.

The doctor first appears[1] in the book when he comes to the "Admiral Benbow" to care for Jim Hawkins' ailing father, demonstrating courage and strength of character as he resists the attempts of pirate Billy Bones to bully him.[2] On Bones' subsequent death and the discovery of the treasure map, Dr. Livesey throws in his lot with Squire Trelawney's plans to recover Captain J. Flint's famous hoard. The cooler headed of the two, Dr. Livesey suggests discretion in recruiting a crew for the expedition, urging Trelawney to keep the purpose of the Hispaniola's voyage secret.[3]

When Hawkins (now serving as cabin boy) discovers the pirates' plot, it is the doctor he seeks out to make his report.[4] Livesey keeps his head in the crisis and lets none of the crew see that he has just been given dreadful news. Thanks to his cool temperament, he, Captain Alexander Smollett, and the squire are able to plan their escape with the few men they can trust. The doctor himself narrates their subsequent flight from the ship[5] and the establishing of their camp[6][7] in the old stockade on the island.[8]

Later, when ship's cook Long John Silver and the crew attack, the doctor—a battle-hardened veteran—fights well[9] and, with Captain Smollett wounded, takes responsibility for the safety of the expedition. Acting on Jim's account of his earlier adventures, he sets out to find Ben Gunn and succeeds in winning the castaway's loyalty with the offer of a small Parmesan cheese, a foodstuff for which Gunn has been pining through three years of living on goat meat. He negotiates a truce with Silver by agreeing to surrender the treasure map, which he (but not Silver) now knows to be useless. During the subsequent battle at the site of the plundered cache, he arrives opportunely to orchestrate the rescue of Jim and, as it turns out, Silver.

Dr. Livesey, though at one point earning a merited rebuke from Captain Smollett for inattention to his post,[10] likely has the largest share of the credit for the expedition's success. He can very well be considered the hero of the story. Without him, the whole expedition would have been a disaster.

Devoted to his Hippocratic Oath, Dr. Livesey feels duty bound to treat wounded and ill pirates, even though they are enemies who tried to kill him and might try again.

Stevenson does not describe Dr. Livesey; he lets the doctor describe himself in actions. He is intelligent, brave and cool headed—qualities that win the day against the cunning and ruthlessness of his formidable adversary Silver.



  1. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 1: The Old Sea-dog at the Admiral Benbow, "Dr. Livesey came late one afternoon to see the patient [...]"
  2. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 1: The Old Sea-dog at the Admiral Benbow, "The voices stopped at once, all but Dr. Livesey's; he went on as before speaking clear and kind and drawing briskly at his pipe between every word or two. The captain glared at him for a while, flapped his hand again, glared still harder, and at last broke out with a villainous, low oath, "Silence, there, between decks!" "Were you addressing me, sir?" says the doctor; and when the ruffian had told him, with another oath, that this was so, "I have only one thing to say to you, sir," replies the doctor, "that if you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quit of a very dirty scoundrel!" The old fellow's fury was awful. He sprang to his feet, drew and opened a sailor's clasp-knife, and balancing it open on the palm of his hand, threatened to pin the doctor to the wall. The doctor never so much as moved. He spoke to him as before, over his shoulder and in the same tone of voice, rather high, so that all the room might hear, but perfectly calm and steady: "If you do not put that knife this instant in your pocket, I promise, upon my honour, you shall hang at the next assizes." Then followed a battle of looks between them, but the captain soon knuckled under, put up his weapon, and resumed his seat, grumbling like a beaten dog."
  3. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 6: The Captain's Papers
  4. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 12: Council of War, "Captain Smollett, the squire, and Dr. Livesey were talking together on the quarter-deck, and anxious as I was to tell them my story, I durst not interrupt them openly. While I was still casting about in my thoughts to find some probable excuse, Dr. Livesey called me to his side. He had left his pipe below, and being a slave to tobacco, had meant that I should fetch it; but as soon as I was near enough to speak and not to be overheard, I broke immediately, "Doctor, let me speak. Get the captain and squire down to the cabin, and then make some pretence to send for me. I have terrible news."
  5. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 16: Narrative Continued by the Doctor: How the Ship Was Abandoned
  6. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 17: Narrative Continued by the Doctor: The Jolly-boat's Last Trip
  7. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 18: Narrative Continued by the Doctor: End of the First Day's Fighting
  8. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 19: Narrative Resumed by Jim Hawkins: The Garrison in the Stockade
  9. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 16: "I was not new to violent death—I have served his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and got a wound myself at Fontenoy—but I know my pulse went dot and carry one."
  10. ^ Stevenson, Chapter 17:"Doctor, I thought you had worn the king's coat! If that was how you served at Fontenoy, sir, you'd have been better in your berth."