Item description for Travels With a Donkey (Classic non-fiction) by Robert Louis Stevenson...
The wild Cvennes region of France forms the backdrop for the pioneering travelogue Travels with a Donkey, written by a young Robert Louis Stevenson. Ever hopeful of encountering the adventure he yearned for and raising much needed finance at the start of his writing career, Stevenson embarked on the 120 mile, 12 day trek and recorded his experiences in this journal. His only companion for the trip was a predictably stubborn donkey called Modestine.
Travels with a Donkey gives the reader a rare glimpse of the character of the author, and the journalistic and often comical style of writing is in refreshing contrast to Stevenson's more famous works.
Outline Most of the problems travelers encounter have to do with transportation. On a 12-day trek through the Cevennes, Stevenson's cross to bear was Modestine, a stubborn, manipulative donkey he could never quite get the better of. After many humorous trials and tribulations, Stevenson found that his disdain for the creature had turned to love, and at the end of the trip he said goodbye with much regret. Written in just a few months when he was in his late twenties, the publication was initially a means to earn a quick buck. Little did Stevenson know that his Modestine would become one of the great characters in travel literature.
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Born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robert Louis Stevenson traveled often, and his global wanderings lent themselves well to his brand of fiction. Stevenson developed a desire to write early in life, having no interest in the family business of lighthouse engineering. He was often abroad, usually for health reasons, and his journeys led to some of his early literary works.
Publishing his first volume at the age of 28, Stevenson became a literary celebrity during his life when works such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were released to eager audiences. He died in Samoa in 1894.
In 1878, Robert Louis Stevenson saw the publication of his first volume of work, An Inland Voyage; the book provides an account of his trip from Antwerp to northern France, which he made in a canoe via the river Oisé. A companion work, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879), continues in the introspective vein of Inland Voyage and also focuses on the voice and character of the narrator, beyond simply telling a tale.
Also from this period are the humorous essays of Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers (1881), which were originally published from 1876 to '79 in various magazines, and Stevenson's first book of short fiction, New Arabian Nights (1882). The stories marked the United Kingdom's emergence into the realm of the short story, which had previously been dominated by Russians, Americans and the French. These stories also marked the beginning of Stevenson's adventure fiction, which would come to be his calling card.
The 1880s were notable for both Stevenson's declining health (which had never been good) and his prodigious literary output. He suffered from hemorrhaging lungs (likely caused by undiagnosed tuberculosis), and writing was one of the few activities he could do while confined to bed. While in this bedridden state, he wrote some of his most popular fiction, most notably Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and The Black Arrow (1888).
The idea for Treasure Island was ignited by a map that Stevenson had drawn for his 12-year-old stepson; Stevenson had conjured a pirate adventure story to accompany the drawing, and it was serialized in the boys' magazine Young Folks from October 1881 to January 1882. When Treasure Island was published in book form in 1883, Stevenson got his first real taste of widespread popularity, and his career as a profitable writer had finally begun. The book was Stevenson's first volume-length fictional work, as well as the first of his writings that would be dubbed "for children." By the end of the 1880s, it was one of the period's most popular and widely read books.
Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Edinburgh Edinburgh. Robert Louis Stevenson was born in 1850 and died in 1894.
Reviews - What do customers think about Travels With a Donkey (Classic non-fiction)?
Donkey in France Jan 7, 2008
Excellent, short book. This is a must read for anyone interested in donkeys, The Cevennes, or Robert Louis Stevenson.
Delightful and Humorous - Sympathetic Look at an Isolated People. Mar 30, 2007
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1878) is among the earliest published works of Robert Louis Stevenson, and yet it is in no way inferior to his later writing that established his fame. In fact, this delightful account of Stevenson's solo trek in the Cevennes Range in south central France ranks among the best travel literature in the nineteenth century.
Wishing not to advertise that he would be camping alone in remote areas, he chose not to travel with a tent. Instead, he designed a sleeping sack some six feet square, made of green water-proof cart cloth without and blue sheep's fur within. This commodious bed was too heavy to carry, and thus Stevenson acquired a donkey, one Modestine.
Stevenson and Modestine for twelve days were close companions, traveling some 120 miles over several mountain ridges, along rocky roads, and even through boggy marshes. The stubborn Modestine was never quite convinced that the journey was entirely worth the effort, but nonetheless Stevenson and Modestine eventually became fast friends.
Stevenson actually found lodging most nights, including a stint at a monastery, Our Lady of the Snows, allowing him not only to sleep more comfortably, but to share meals with strangers. Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes is as much about the people Stevenson encountered as about his adventuresome travels through this remote region of France. My only criticism of this short account, a little more than one hundred pages, is that it is not twice as long.
Stevenson was familiar with the history of the Cevennes, especially the Protestant-Catholic strife under Louis XIV that eventually resulted in a Protestant rebellion in 1702. With the passage of nearly two hundred years, the Protestants and Catholics were now living peacefully together, although these two peoples seldom mixed socially and intermarriages were quite rare. Stevenson himself was Protestant, and while staying at the monastery his hosts made sincere efforts to convert him to the Catholic faith.
The young Robert Louis Stevenson was a rare individual that truly enjoyed life, one that was continually fascinated with his chanced acquaintances. Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes is delightful and amusing, but at the same time it is equally successful as a thoughtful examination of the people of the Cevennes, isolated by both mountainous geography and a minority religion.
Fresh, Delightful Oct 15, 2003
In the late 1870s, Robert Louis Stevenson needed cash to break dependence on his parents so he could go to the woman he loved (and they did not). A chronic invalid, he also needed adventure. He decided to do some travel writing and one such trip is recounted in TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY. He headed off to the remote Cevennes mountain range of south central France and got himself kitted out nicely, so nicely, he needed assistance in carrying everything. Enter Modestine, a donkey. He might as well have attempted to harness and pack up a cat. Thus, to a deft narrative that works in powerful landscape description, sketches of country folk met along the way, and a revisiting of the region's dramatic history, he adds the self-deprecating wit that would become a model for his 20th century counterparts like Peter Fleming, Eric Newby, and Bill Bryson. Though his commentary moves along at a swift but casual gait, it builds a tension on the upside, beginning with the age-old legend of the murderous Beast of Gevaudan that haunts a neighborhood where he finds the peasantry by turns hostile and friendly and accommodations primitive. Near the summit, a visit to a monastery introduces the religious theme that will attend his descent into the beautiful land of the Camisards, the friction between Protestants and Catholics that erupted into a tragic civil war in the first decade of the 18th century. Stevenson does a fine job of sorting out the history and evoking the awe that comes with visiting the deceptively bucolic scene. No wonder this book has continued to inspire: it often appears on recommended lists and it prompted Romantic biographer Richard Holmes to retrace the journey early in his career, a century later, complete with a donkey of his own (see his book FOOTSTEPS). The critical introduction to this edition is worthwhile.
Looking for the Camisards in the Lozère Mountains Jun 29, 2002
R.L. Stevenson writes here the first account of a touristic journey in France. He is the first modern tourist. He penetrates and discovers the country and the people of what he calls the Lozère, this mountain range in the south of The Central mountains in France, a range of mountains that was the locale of a protestant rebellion at the very beginning of the eighteenth century, severely repressed by Louis XIV. These protestant insurgers are known as the Camisards. Stevenson tries to discover the landscape, the natural setting of this insurrection and tries to show how the insurrection was connected to the very nature of these mountains. He also shows how no repression can change a person or a population. These old Camisards are still alive in the memory and the customs and ways of the protestant population of this region. It is the survival of this faith that interests and fascinates Stevenson. He also notices that the catholics and the protestants, at the time of his travels, lived in harmony but with an absolute divide between the two communities. A young catholic man who married a protestant girl and changed his faith in the process was unanimously condemned for this breach of loyalty. This book is also a perfect example of what tourism can and must be : the discovery of the visited people's mentality, culture, way of life, and the connection of these with the surrounding nature, and not only a quick look at monuments and other (un)perishable. One has to live with the people, no matter how little, to eat the people's food and to be in contact with the people in order to discuss general and particular subjects and to understand their way of thinking and behaving. Thus tourism becomes an adventure even in the heart of the most civilized country and only a couple of miles away from a railroad.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
Discover a beautiful region of France Aug 25, 2000
If you want to discover a beautiful and wild French region through the eyes of a Scottish writer, read Travels with a donkey. Stevenson, before he became famous, depicted his journey in the cevennes, with his donkey "Modestine". Rediscover the excellent style of a young writer about to become world-wide-known.