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This is the enchanting account of a Stevenson's 1878 journey in rural France, alone with his pack-donkey Modestine. This is the enchanting account of a Stevenson's 1878 journey in rural France, alone with his pack-donkey Modestine.


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This is the enchanting account of a Stevenson's 1878 journey in rural France, alone with his pack-donkey Modestine. This is the enchanting account of a Stevenson's 1878 journey in rural France, alone with his pack-donkey Modestine.

30 review for Travels With A Donkey (Classic Non Fiction)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Dubois

    I had this book on my shelves for one or two years. Few days ago, after finishing Walden by Thoreau, I picked it up… just because it was small ! And what an interesting reading after Walden : Two men living for a certain time in the nature. There are similar ways of living their adventures, similar thoughts about nature, food, Men, society and philosophy. But also so many differencies between Thoreau and Stevenson. And Stevenson is much more my kind! First he seems, from the first pages, totally f I had this book on my shelves for one or two years. Few days ago, after finishing Walden by Thoreau, I picked it up… just because it was small ! And what an interesting reading after Walden : Two men living for a certain time in the nature. There are similar ways of living their adventures, similar thoughts about nature, food, Men, society and philosophy. But also so many differencies between Thoreau and Stevenson. And Stevenson is much more my kind! First he seems, from the first pages, totally franck: he tells us about his troubles, his mistakes, his faults, as well as his joys and the pleasure he takes for this travel as a young and enthousiastic man; a tiny twelve days travel, but after which, definitively, nothing will ever be the same for Stevenson. Why the title Travel with a Donkey in the Cevennes ? Because Modestine, the female donkey is as important as Stevenson in this travel. Stevenson, like a school teacher would have done, tells us about the Cévennes which were the site of a Protestant rebellion around 1702, severely suppressed by Catholic French king Louis XIV. The Protestant insurgents were known as the Camisards. Stevenson was Protestant by upbringing, and a non-believer by philosophy. Stevenson was well-versed in the history and evokes scenes from the rebellion as he passes through the area of the rebellion during the final days of his trek. He planned his trek, knows each day where he has to go and had calculated how many hours it should take him to reach a lake he would like to see before the night comes. But… But Modestine the donkey doesn’t care about roads, time or history. Modestine is stubborn, pretty, fragile, whimsical, loving, submissive, curious about a thistle bunch, a farmyard or a small conversation with a donkey crossed on the way. Stevenson will be angry about her, sometimes very bad and finally resigned, because, thanks to Modestine, he’ll understand that the important thing in his travel, like in all travels, wasn’t to go somewhere, but to walk. A short book with beautiful thoughts about the Beauty of earth, about how men can live together even if some are Catholics and some others are Protestants. Stevenson, the scholar Protestant male aware of the time which passes, and Modestine, descendant from the donkey who carried the catholic Blessed Virgin Mary, a couple sometimes funny, more often sad because of the bad behaviour of Stevenson is to be read. And like in a good lovestory, Stevenson regrets his bad thoughts and facts towards Modestine and will understand he loved her once gone away.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    Robert Louis Stevenson’s account of his 12 day hike through the Cévennes mountains in Southern France, accompanied only by his determined and sometimes stubborn donkey Modestine.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jola

    TRAVELS WITH MODESTINE The literary trip to the Cévennes in France with Robert Louis Stevenson was a nightmare. I finished the book last evening and hoped it would turn out to be just a bad dream but nope, it still exists. What I expected was a hilarious travelogue which inspired John Steinbeck to write his Travels with Charley: In Search of America . What I got was a disturbing, weird book I would love to forget as soon as only possible. Why? The foundation of Travels with a Donkey in the Cév TRAVELS WITH MODESTINE The literary trip to the Cévennes in France with Robert Louis Stevenson was a nightmare. I finished the book last evening and hoped it would turn out to be just a bad dream but nope, it still exists. What I expected was a hilarious travelogue which inspired John Steinbeck to write his Travels with Charley: In Search of America . What I got was a disturbing, weird book I would love to forget as soon as only possible. Why? The foundation of Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) are three things which I hate, both in literature and life: animal cruelty, aggressive religiousness and mysogynism in neon colours. The plethora of scenes with Stevenson beating and pricking his donkey, Modestine, a diminutive she-ass, not much bigger than a dog, the colour of a mouse, with a kindly eye and a determined under-jaw, was revolting. If they were intended as a source of comicality, they did not work for me. At first, Stevenson feels awkward about abusing the poor animal, then it becomes a routine: I am ashamed to say, struck the poor sinner twice across the face. It was pitiful to see her lift her head with shut eyes, as if waiting for another blow. My arm ached like toothache from perpetual beating. Thither, with infinite trouble, I goaded and kicked the reluctant Modestine, and there I hastened to unload her. I must instantly maltreat this uncomplaining animal. The sound of my own blows sickened me. Just a few examples. To my mind, there is nothing funny in these passages. It does not help much to realize that Stevenson is disgusted with his own cruelty - he continues anyway. His sadness at the end, when he sold Ernestine, did not impress me much. In my opinion, the tear he shed was of a crocodile type. I am fully aware that the year was 1879 and we should not apply our standards but nonetheless, I felt awful. Marcus Prime Another issue I had with this book: I detest the type of religiousness Robert Louis Stevenson displays almost all the time: obsessive, ostentatious and obtrusive. He is hooked on the conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The Cévennes was the site of a Protestant rebellion around 1702 so it was an ideal place to reflect on that but he seems to be infatuated with the topic. There is a scene when he meets a French villager and instead of saying good morning he point-blank fires a question: are you Protestant or Catholic? I can imagine the impression he made on the locals. No wonder some of them escaped or did not want to talk to him at all. It did not weaken his self-esteem though: I did not know I was so good a preacher. There are some vague allusions to a recent disaster in the author’s love life: How the world gives and takes away, and brings sweethearts near only to separate them again into distant and strange lands. I did a little investigation and it turned out that he was recovering from an affair with Frances "Fanny" Matilda Van de Grift Osbourne, finished abruptly by her reunion with her husband. Later she became Stevenson's wife but for the time being he thought everything was over and his solo hiking trip was planned as therapy. Apparently, it turned out ineffective: Stevenson’s passive-aggressive misogynism is evident. There are some hints, also intended as jokes, that the donkey’s complex personality is a consequence of her sex. Besides, just look at the way he describes a French woman: And Clarisse? What shall I say of Clarisse? She waited the table with a heavy placable nonchalance, like a performing cow. …or two little girls: they were a pair of impudent sly sluts, with not a thought but mischief. ...or the way he sums up a conversation with a female interlocutor: As for you, mademoiselle,' said I, 'you are a farceuse'. Les Cévennes by Jean-Jacques Chambry. In Written Lives Javier Marías discusses Stevenson’s chivalry – well, as it seems, he did not express it in his words. Beating Modestine was a creepy self-help technique to deal with sad memories: Once, when I looked at her, she had a faint resemblance to a lady of my acquaintance who formerly loaded me with kindness. Besides, Stevenson hates children: I approached a great oak which grew in the meadow, hard by the river's brink; when to my disgust the voices of children fell upon my ear. …and dogs: the sharp cruel note of a dog's bark is in itself a keen annoyance; and to a tramp like myself, he represents the sedentary and respectable world in its most hostile form. Actually, the list of things that he does not hate is not very long. Add to that his know-it-all air of superiority and you will get the picture. Stevenson’s style and some observations prove that he was a talented writer. I will have to dwell on his connections with Poland: he mentions my country twice, giving an accurate opinion on the political situation. Besides, I enjoyed his descriptions of the picturesque Cévennes and their scenery in early autumn and his general thoughts on travelling. The rest was really hard to swallow though. I respectfully disagree with Junius, the character of Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven , who read Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes many times and called it nearly the finest thing in English. The Tamargue from La Souche, S. Baring-Gould. From A Book of the Cevennes, 1907.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    As Robert Louis Stevenson travels with a donkey through the Cevennes, he reflects on the suppression of Protestantism in the region at the end of the seventeenth century. The book would have been a nicer read if he had been pleasant to the donkey, but alas he believed in applying the stick rather than in offering the carrot, just as much as Louis XIV did to the Huguenots.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    This little book shares the adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson and his donkey Modestine during their journey through the Cevennes region of France. RLS had no donkey-driving experience before this trip, and if I had endured his terrible first days in person, I would have run screaming into the forest never to return. But he persevered, and with the kindly help of a local peasant who made him a goad to encourage dear Modestine in her forward motion, the rest of the trip was not nearly so horrif This little book shares the adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson and his donkey Modestine during their journey through the Cevennes region of France. RLS had no donkey-driving experience before this trip, and if I had endured his terrible first days in person, I would have run screaming into the forest never to return. But he persevered, and with the kindly help of a local peasant who made him a goad to encourage dear Modestine in her forward motion, the rest of the trip was not nearly so horrific for any of us. I got mad at RLS once when after a few days of being out on the road, unloading and loading Modestine, a peasant points out to him the sores between her legs and under her tail. Sores which the peasant said came from being overloaded. Now I understand a rookie donkey driver not comprehending things like balancing a load properly, but how can anyone not notice gallsores when they are tying straps and supposedly caring for the poor beast in their down time? But RLS definitely made up for that when he admitted to feeding Modestine her bread by hand, and he picked a lot of chestnut leaves for her one night, and even shed unashamed tears after he sold her at the end of his walk. RLS embraced every moment of his trip: sleeping under the stars at times (that was okay except for when he stayed under some chestnut trees one night and later learned that the noises he heard had been rats) and other times mixing with the locals at the village inn. He visited Le-Pont-de-Montvert 'of bloody memory'...and why was the memory bloody? It was the center of a rebellion by French Protestants against the Catholics of the time: this war was called the rebellion of the Camisards, for the linen shirts the Protestants wore. I don't remember quite so much detail about the religious history from the last time I read this book, but it was quite a few years ago and most likely I did not pay much attention to those sections. I found them much more interesting this time around, especially since RLS seemed to feel that the people had learned to get along, live together, and respect each other even with their different religions. Wouldn't it be nice if the whole world today could do the same?!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Say what you will about the French romcom version, but the heroine has a great ass. Say what you will about the French romcom version, but the heroine has a great ass.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the friends of him who writes it. They alone take his meaning; they find private messages, assurances of love, and expressions of gratitude, dropped for them in every corner. The public is but a generous patron who defrays the postage. In the summer of 1878, Robert Louis Stevenson turned his back on Paris and headed south. His love affair with an American woman, several years his senior, had apparently failed. Too depressed to write, he de Every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the friends of him who writes it. They alone take his meaning; they find private messages, assurances of love, and expressions of gratitude, dropped for them in every corner. The public is but a generous patron who defrays the postage. In the summer of 1878, Robert Louis Stevenson turned his back on Paris and headed south. His love affair with an American woman, several years his senior, had apparently failed. Too depressed to write, he decided to walk off his blues in some rugged country. In the foothill town of Monastier he bought a donkey, a diminutive mouse-colored beast he named Modestine, and in her reluctant company, he strolled off into the high pastures of the Cévennes. The result of these adventures, the aptly named Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879), is a private love letter to the women who had left him and a public observance of nature’s beauty, all interlaced with a light history of politics and faith in the region. Stevenson, nearing thirty, had already traveled considerably throughout Europe, but a sustained overland journey on foot was something new to him. He undertook this twelve-day ramble to settle his heart and his thoughts. "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this featherbed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.... To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind.” He must have appeared odd. A priest and his acolytes inspecting a church laughed out loud as the tramp and his donkey passed by. Their two shadows were comically deformed, his with a knapsack, hers with an enormous sleeping bag stuffed with a leg of cold mutton, a bottle of Beaujolais, an egg-beater (for eggnog, Stevenson's favorite drink), bread both black and white, changes of clothing, a coat, blanket, books, and a “permanent larder” of chocolate and tinned Bologna sausage. Some villagers refused to guide him, a little girl stuck out her tongue, and all the while Modestine behaved, predictably, like an ass. But most of the people he met were kind and helpful, and the September countryside was in its autumn beauty. Even the nights spent camped along the road were magical: “Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open world it passes lightly, with its stars and dews and perfumes, and the hours are marked by changes in the face of Nature.” The next morning, giddy with beauty that surrounded him, he scattered money on the turf to pay for his night’s “lodging.” Can he escape the memories of the woman he loves? No. Everything reminds him of Fanny. Even in the wild mountains of Gévaudan his thoughts run back to her: “And to live out of doors with the woman a man loves is of all lives the most complete and free.... Love is the great amulet which makes the world a garden.” What did Fanny make of the book? That’s unclear. But Stevenson, fortified by the profit earned by the sale of the manuscript, followed her across an ocean and a continent, and eventually won her lasting love. Until now I never rightly understood Borges’ fascination with Stevenson’s prose. But after reading Travels with a Donkey, I have to admit I was charmed by Stevenson’s breezy style and modest tone ... even when I was a little disturbed by how closely Stevenson’s difficult dealings with Modestine reflected his trying relationship with Fanny. Travels with a Donkey set the model for some of the excellent British travel writers that soon would follow. It’s hard not to hear Stevenson’s cheerful, self-deprecating voice carried over into Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat or Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. In fact, I was so enchanted by this short book, I read it twice in as many days.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Robert Louis Stevenson writes here of his 12-day, 120-mile hike in the Cévennes, an area located at the south-eastern edge of the Massif Central region of central, southern France. He was twenty-seven and the year was 1878. His sole companion was a jenny, a female donkey, called Modestine. It was she that carried his large, clumsy, homemade “sleeping sack”! Donkeys will be donkeys. We say they are stubborn, but what they really have is simply a strong self-preservation instinct. They will have th Robert Louis Stevenson writes here of his 12-day, 120-mile hike in the Cévennes, an area located at the south-eastern edge of the Massif Central region of central, southern France. He was twenty-seven and the year was 1878. His sole companion was a jenny, a female donkey, called Modestine. It was she that carried his large, clumsy, homemade “sleeping sack”! Donkeys will be donkeys. We say they are stubborn, but what they really have is simply a strong self-preservation instinct. They will have their own idea of the proper route to be taken! They do not move fast, unless they want to, often moving slower than a human’s walking pace. They must be reprimanded, goaded, or at least this is what Stevenson and those around him were saying. Does Stevenson feel guilt for his behavior toward Modestine? A little, but never does he alter his behavior. At the (view spoiler)[end he does shed a tear at their parting (hide spoiler)] . I picked this up to learn more about donkeys, and I didn’t! There is in fact very little about Modestine or donkeys in general! Stevenson talks about the landscape. His descriptions are nice, but I would not classify what is written as lyrical nature writing. The terrain passed through is sparsely populated, barren, rocky, heather-strewn hillsides. Th hike is taken in the fall, at the end of September and the beginning of October. For me, the most interesting section is when Stevenson tells of the 1702 Protestant rebellion when Camisards rose up against and then were suppressed by the Catholic King Louis XIV. Stevenson walked through the area where the uprising occurred. Billy Hartman's audiobook narration is OK. His French is not the best and his words run together. The audiobook has music inserted between chapters. Two stars for both the audio narration and the book. They are not bad, but not good either. Stevenson says this: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more clearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.” ***************** *The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World by Andy Merrifield 2 stars *Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson 2 stars *Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 1 star *Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall TBR *Last of the Donkey Pilgrims by by Kevin O'Hara TBR

  9. 5 out of 5

    Philippe Malzieu

    Small time in Florac. Time to read again this book. With Modestine (the dunkey) He crossed this poor and austere area from the north catholic Gévaudan to the South Protestant Cevennes. He delivers to us very fine observation on people and country. Especially, his glance on inhabitant's opinion is very accute. It gives to his travel an initiatic dimension. But 135 years later, has the mentalities really changed. Not sure.The trauma of the Religion Wars is well always present. The character who co Small time in Florac. Time to read again this book. With Modestine (the dunkey) He crossed this poor and austere area from the north catholic Gévaudan to the South Protestant Cevennes. He delivers to us very fine observation on people and country. Especially, his glance on inhabitant's opinion is very accute. It gives to his travel an initiatic dimension. But 135 years later, has the mentalities really changed. Not sure.The trauma of the Religion Wars is well always present. The character who confidentially acknowledges to be catholic would undoubtedly make in the same way currently. Always with Stevenson, just published in France the diary of his second wife, Charmian. It is also the log book of the « Snark » their boat during their travel in Oceania. I have order it. Charmian was the right equal of Stevenson. Great woman.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Numidica

    Since I love hiking, camping under the stars, France, and RLS, this book was for me. I've even hiked with a burro as pack animal, so I feel Mr. Stevenson's pain that regard. I love RLS's lucid character descriptions and general love of and tolerance of humanity in all its forms, and I am working my way through his oeuvre. Actually, his non-fiction is often more interesting and more revealing than his fiction, though I do love Kidnapped. Since I love hiking, camping under the stars, France, and RLS, this book was for me. I've even hiked with a burro as pack animal, so I feel Mr. Stevenson's pain that regard. I love RLS's lucid character descriptions and general love of and tolerance of humanity in all its forms, and I am working my way through his oeuvre. Actually, his non-fiction is often more interesting and more revealing than his fiction, though I do love Kidnapped.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (2.5) I think I decided this was a must-read because I so love Christopher Rush’s recreation of the travels in To Travel Hopefully. The problem with the original is that there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason for walking 120 miles in 12 days with a donkey as one’s pack animal and traveling companion. “I have been after an adventure all my life, a pure dispassionate adventurer, such as befell early and heroic voyagers,” he writes, but of all the options before him this must surely have be (2.5) I think I decided this was a must-read because I so love Christopher Rush’s recreation of the travels in To Travel Hopefully. The problem with the original is that there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason for walking 120 miles in 12 days with a donkey as one’s pack animal and traveling companion. “I have been after an adventure all my life, a pure dispassionate adventurer, such as befell early and heroic voyagers,” he writes, but of all the options before him this must surely have been one of the safer choices. As autumn comes on, Stevenson keeps being mistaken for a peddler and meeting religious extremists of various stripes, from Trappist monks to a Plymouth Brother. He stays in shared inn rooms or sleeps outdoors. He learns about the history of religious wars and martyrdom in the region. It’s the sort of material that might have inspired Guy Stagg in writing The Crossway, his account of a secular pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem. But it’s, for the most part, awfully boring. Rush at least had a good reason for undertaking his journey: after his wife’s death from breast cancer he needed a purposeful quest to take his mind off his grief. But anyway, the donkey: that’s why this features in my 20 Books of Summer, after all. Stevenson buys Modestine for 65 francs and she quickly proves to be a typical stubborn-as creature. Passersby encourage him to find an effective goad and show the beast who’s in charge. They told me when I left, and I was ready to believe it, that before a few days I should come to love Modestine like a dog. Three days had passed, we had shared some misadventures, and my heart was still as cold as a potato towards my beast of burden. She was pretty enough to look at; but then she had given proof of dead stupidity Between the early entries and the final ones, though, she is mostly invisible. And, regretfully, Stevenson then has to sell the poor beast again—and for only 35 francs with her saddle. That represents quite a financial loss after less than two weeks! Ultimately, I prefer reading about Stevenson to reading his actual work. (Other examples: Nancy Horan’s novel Under the Wide and Starry Sky; the chapter of Richard Holmes’s Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer in which he recreates the Cévennes trek.) My next Stevenson-themed reading will be The Lighthouse Stevensons by Bella Bathurst. A lovely line: “to love is the great amulet which makes the world a garden” Wigtown gets a random mention! As he’s musing on the controversial religious history of the area. “If you met a mixed company in the King’s Arms at Wigton, it is not likely that the talk would run on Covenanters.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    Despite the advice and concerns of his wife and the friend dragged along on his last travel book, Stevenson decides to hike through rural France. A couple days of hiking lead to the idea that he should buy a donkey to carry his baggage and everything will go smoothly. Funny and entertaining, as Stevenson, who loves travel, but is a complete amateur stumbles through his travels. Gives us a look at the way the world was then, as he trudges through small villages and visits a monastery. Plus, you real Despite the advice and concerns of his wife and the friend dragged along on his last travel book, Stevenson decides to hike through rural France. A couple days of hiking lead to the idea that he should buy a donkey to carry his baggage and everything will go smoothly. Funny and entertaining, as Stevenson, who loves travel, but is a complete amateur stumbles through his travels. Gives us a look at the way the world was then, as he trudges through small villages and visits a monastery. Plus, you realize just hiking through the French countryside in an era before cars, cell phones, electric lights or even handy paperback travel books is quite an adventure. The chapter where he and the donkey get lost and try to reach their destination after dark is quite intense and a bit scary, despite the fact that a mere couple miles separates the two places he's traveling between. In the woods, at night, he might as well be lost in the jungle. Interesting book, but he has a tendency to write about places like everyone will know where he's talking about and it left me a bit lost in spots, until he mentioned a place name I did recognize.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Apratim Mukherjee

    This is a travel journal of R.L.Stevenson written more than hundred years ago.The journey was completed within twelve days.So the book doesn't have many pages.What is actually has is a lot of humour in the beginning (sometimes one can even find oneself laughing).But as the book progresses,the humour gives way to religious debates and description which seem pretty nonsensical at present.There is a significant usage of French words which also rubs off the reader's interest.So this is a book for a This is a travel journal of R.L.Stevenson written more than hundred years ago.The journey was completed within twelve days.So the book doesn't have many pages.What is actually has is a lot of humour in the beginning (sometimes one can even find oneself laughing).But as the book progresses,the humour gives way to religious debates and description which seem pretty nonsensical at present.There is a significant usage of French words which also rubs off the reader's interest.So this is a book for a Stevenson fan or a historical travelogue fan.My rating is average.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katrice

    Ok. In terms of travel narratives, have read better and more interesting. Actually had a hard time getting through of it, found it a bit of a slog. But in terms of descriptive language, my god, the pictures this man paints with his words. . . Stevenson talaga. So I can't totally dismiss this book. So. Right down the middle I guess. Three stars. Ok. In terms of travel narratives, have read better and more interesting. Actually had a hard time getting through of it, found it a bit of a slog. But in terms of descriptive language, my god, the pictures this man paints with his words. . . Stevenson talaga. So I can't totally dismiss this book. So. Right down the middle I guess. Three stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura Anne

    Read, loved. Prompted to read because middle brother and friend, copied the route - no donkey.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Frumenty

    Stevensen's journey takes place in the first years of the 3rd Republic, which was to survive from 1870 to 1940. France was in a state of political ferment following the shock of defeat at Sedan, the loss of Alsace and Lorraine and the capture of the emperor Napoléon III. National humiliation spurred drastic political change. The starting point of Stevenson's journey, Le Monastier near Le Puy, is said to be characterised by, among other things, "unparalleled political dissension". Now I don't kno Stevensen's journey takes place in the first years of the 3rd Republic, which was to survive from 1870 to 1940. France was in a state of political ferment following the shock of defeat at Sedan, the loss of Alsace and Lorraine and the capture of the emperor Napoléon III. National humiliation spurred drastic political change. The starting point of Stevenson's journey, Le Monastier near Le Puy, is said to be characterised by, among other things, "unparalleled political dissension". Now I don't know a lot about this period, but I find it a little implausible that Le Monastier should be particularly remarkable in France at this time. This was just after the Paris Commune. The monarchy was finished at last, and monarchists were in retreat. I think the dissension that Stevenson witnessed may have been more representative of France in general than he suspected. It seems a pity that he should have chosen to travel in such an out-of-the-way place at a time when there must have been so much happening that might have been of greater social interest. At the beginning of the book Stevenson acquires a tiny donkey, which he names Modestine. I was a little dismayed at his account of the thrashing and proddings he administers to hurry her up. Granted, he does it reluctantly, for he is convinced of the necessity of such treatment if Modestine is to be useful. His repeated jocular use of very conventional gender stereotypes with reference to Modestine is rather tedious to my modern sense. The journey across the Cevennes is short enough. He and Modestine sleep at inns, in the open and in a Trappist monastery. The latter part of the journey is spent mostly among Protestants, who Stevenson finds generally more congenial than the Roman Catholics he has hitherto met; and he relates with some verve the history of a bloody Protestant armed rebellion that took place in the district about 160 years earlier. There is a good deal of well-meaning waffle about his religious views, which are mild, tolerant and of very little interest. His effusions about starry skies and scenery are equally conventional. It is in the nature of a travelogue, I suppose, to consist of a string of inconsequential incidents of which the author must make what he can. His meditations on incident and landscape and conversations may or may not make entertaining reading. Stevenson has no companion on his journey other than the donkey, so there is a dearth of entertaining dialogue. The book is mercifully short.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    I have never been a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson so this book was a delightful surprise for me. Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes is one of his early works and supposedly the first to feature camping as a recreational outdoor activity. The very first chapter talks about his preparations for this 12 day trip through the Cevennes region of France and the first thing he does is commission the making of a "sleeping-sack" which we know better as a sleeping bag and Stevenson is credited with bein I have never been a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson so this book was a delightful surprise for me. Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes is one of his early works and supposedly the first to feature camping as a recreational outdoor activity. The very first chapter talks about his preparations for this 12 day trip through the Cevennes region of France and the first thing he does is commission the making of a "sleeping-sack" which we know better as a sleeping bag and Stevenson is credited with being the first to use such a thing. The next thing he does is purchase and name his little donkey Modestine who is a major character in this travelogue's adventures. For an author who is famous for his stories of kidnapped boys, pirates, buried gold, and evil alter egos this tale of mountain wanderings is surpisingly gentle and lyrical when speaking of sleeping in the open. Even the sections on the history of the Cevennes area are made interesting by Stevenson's writing. Of course it is Modestine, the tiny donkey who gives Stevenson such grief who steals the show. It's easy to see why even today people get themselves an ass and follow Robert Louis Stevenson's trail through the Cevennes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ru

    A very sweet, early work from RLS. At first I absolutely cringed at some of the content of the story, with Modestine (the eponymous donkey) enduring her lashings, herself shutting her eyes in anticipation of being struck. But, I reminded myself that this is RLS as a young man in the 1870's, & soldiered on. I'm glad I did. RLS gives lush descriptions of his travels with Modestine as his somewhat reluctantly-accepted partner. As brief as this book is, by the time the end comes about, you feel as t A very sweet, early work from RLS. At first I absolutely cringed at some of the content of the story, with Modestine (the eponymous donkey) enduring her lashings, herself shutting her eyes in anticipation of being struck. But, I reminded myself that this is RLS as a young man in the 1870's, & soldiered on. I'm glad I did. RLS gives lush descriptions of his travels with Modestine as his somewhat reluctantly-accepted partner. As brief as this book is, by the time the end comes about, you feel as though you just took the same trip the author did, & I know at least for myself, felt such a quick affection for Modestine. The end is so beautifully written, I felt very touched by it. This is undoubtedly not as popular as Stevenson's other works, which is a shame, because it's a great read and in a different vein of what makes him popular.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sean Leas

    Funny and entertaining, “Travels with a Donkey in The Cevennes” is an interesting travel book. A vast departure from Robert Louis Stevenson’s more well know work. After reading this book it felt like the time frame was longer than it was I think due to the overall descriptions of Protestant suppression in the region, there was a good deal of time devoted to it. I found the experience travelling with Stevenson during those days in the late 19th Century enlightening and highly entertaining. The il Funny and entertaining, “Travels with a Donkey in The Cevennes” is an interesting travel book. A vast departure from Robert Louis Stevenson’s more well know work. After reading this book it felt like the time frame was longer than it was I think due to the overall descriptions of Protestant suppression in the region, there was a good deal of time devoted to it. I found the experience travelling with Stevenson during those days in the late 19th Century enlightening and highly entertaining. The illustrations by Ardizzone worked very well for me and did a good job of deepening the experience with this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sher

    Simply not the right timing for me to read this book -- as I have a very sick donkey at home. Maybe-reread another time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Ratliffe

    A small book worth many times its size in pleasant contemplation. It is written in a lovely old style of speaking with a wry sense of humor and detached observation of humans at a time and place far away from us, and written in 1878. After reading a recent article in the NYT about this overlooked area of France, I decided to find this book because the Time's travel piece was interesting, and the idea of an old book about the same place was attractive. I found a 1948 first edition from The Falcon A small book worth many times its size in pleasant contemplation. It is written in a lovely old style of speaking with a wry sense of humor and detached observation of humans at a time and place far away from us, and written in 1878. After reading a recent article in the NYT about this overlooked area of France, I decided to find this book because the Time's travel piece was interesting, and the idea of an old book about the same place was attractive. I found a 1948 first edition from The Falcon Press, but I do not find this edition on the edition list. However, there have been many publications of this classic. Perhaps most of us moderns do not know much of Robert Louis Stevenson, but boys of my age back in the day always read his Treasure Island. His accounts and descriptions of earth and sky and the happenstance of meeting random characters on the trail could inspire any of us to swear to undertake a pilgrimage at the next opportunity. The salubrious benefits of hiking (biking in my case) slowly across foreign territory are made more obvious by this tale, and the daily and nightly struggle to find food and lodging in humble cottages, village inns, and camping sites in forest glades enlivens the imagination and yen for adventure. Honestly, few travel writings of the sort could exceed this one. Plus there is a touch of history embedded in this countryside that recalls the bitter and bloody revolt of the French Huguenot Protestants, the Camisards, which lasted from 1702 until 1715, but final peace was not signed until 1787. Stevenson was obviously not a religious partisan, but his account of a short stay at a Trappist monastery where he enjoyed the hospitality of the Catholics in Protestant landscape stimulates one's interest in the period. And by the way, something else that might interest gentle reader is another collectible on my shelf from this Scot, "Essays of Travel and in the Art of Travel Writing," this one from Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1923. This includes a fragment from the above Cevennes work entitled, 'A Mountain Town in France.' Good hunting for this one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vic Heaney

    We all know RLS from childhood days, especially the classic “Treasure Island”. We spend several months each year in New Zealand and have seen several documentaries about his later life in the South Sea Islands. Living in the French Pyrenees we havealso become aware of his”Travels with a Donkey”, especially as we have friends who have followed his trail, which seems to be a bit of a tourist industry these days. So we have been learning more about him. Now we find that his adventures were even clos We all know RLS from childhood days, especially the classic “Treasure Island”. We spend several months each year in New Zealand and have seen several documentaries about his later life in the South Sea Islands. Living in the French Pyrenees we havealso become aware of his”Travels with a Donkey”, especially as we have friends who have followed his trail, which seems to be a bit of a tourist industry these days. So we have been learning more about him. Now we find that his adventures were even closer to my own. Last year I walked at the age of 70 from my home in the French Pyrenees to the house of my birth in Blackpool. This walk of 70 days is the subject of my own book “Vic’s Big Walk”. I read “Travels with a Donkey” to find that he also walked through France, even though his walk was a mere 12 days (and I did not have a revolver under my pillow). There are even parallels with our own life in the religious wars which took place in the area he covers (we live in the heart of “Cathar Country”. I was a bit disappointed with some of the prejudices of this 22-year old, but I suppose they were a sign of the times. For instance when he is clearly admiring the comely Clarisse, a waitress at table on one of his stops. He waxes lyrical about “her great grey eyes, steeped in amorous languor”, but then goes on to say that “with training” her face “offered the promise of delicate sentiment. It seemed pitiful to see so good a model left to country admirers and a country way of thought. Beauty should at least have touched upon society”. What! But a very enjoyable book, nevertheless. Would that my own 70-day walk could become so fabled. And that the book of the walk will be read a century later.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Rather than quote the whole book, here is my favorite passage: A very old shepherd, hobbling on a pair of sticks, and wearing a black cap of liberty, as if in honor to his nearness to the grave, directed me to the road for St. Germain de Calberte. There was something solemn in the isolation of this infirm and ancient creature. Where he dwelt, how he got upon this high ridge, or how he proposed to get down again, were more than I could fancy. Not far off upon my right was the famous Plan de Fonte Rather than quote the whole book, here is my favorite passage: A very old shepherd, hobbling on a pair of sticks, and wearing a black cap of liberty, as if in honor to his nearness to the grave, directed me to the road for St. Germain de Calberte. There was something solemn in the isolation of this infirm and ancient creature. Where he dwelt, how he got upon this high ridge, or how he proposed to get down again, were more than I could fancy. Not far off upon my right was the famous Plan de Fonte Morte, where Poul with his Armenian sabre slashed down the Camisards of Seguier. This, methought, might be some Rip van Winkle of the war, who had lost his comrades...and wandered ever since upon the mountains...And while I was thus working on my fancy, I heard him hailing in broken tones, and saw him waving me to come back with one of his two sticks. I already had got some way past him; but, leaving Modestine once more, retraced my steps. Alas, it was a very commonplace affair. The old gentleman had forgot to ask the pedlar what he sold, and wished to remedy this neglect. I told him sternly, "Nothing." "Nothing?" cried he. I repeated "Nothing," and made off. It's odd to think of, but perhaps I thus became as inexplicable to the old man as he had been to me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    gargamelscat

    I read this as mainly a primer for Tim Moore's book following in Stevenson's footsteps and was pleasantly surprised by how readable and entertaining it is. Also surprised to find out that he is mostly following a route that takes him through an area of a Protestant rebellion from 200 years before, which I had never heard of. He muses on the whole Protestant versus Catholic thing, which is actually still a hangup of some Scots today. The only negative was Stevenson's bad tempered reaction to uncoop I read this as mainly a primer for Tim Moore's book following in Stevenson's footsteps and was pleasantly surprised by how readable and entertaining it is. Also surprised to find out that he is mostly following a route that takes him through an area of a Protestant rebellion from 200 years before, which I had never heard of. He muses on the whole Protestant versus Catholic thing, which is actually still a hangup of some Scots today. The only negative was Stevenson's bad tempered reaction to uncooperative French peasants - why he would expect anything else is a mystery. Not because they are French or even peasants but why should anyone put themselves out for an importunate stranger. The book does tend to reinforce the stereotype that donkeys require cruel treatment (a metal tipped goad) to ensure any degree of cooperation - though he was suitably chagrined by this apparent necessity. Hopefully Tim Moore will address this. Tip: it's freely available from www.gutenberg.org as an an ebook so no excuses for not reading it. This inspires me to read to more Stevenson in the future.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Graychin

    Reading Travels with a Donkey, which is so far my favorite of Stevenson’s travel books, I remembered a visit my wife and I made a few years ago to the tony Napa Valley town of St Helena. The public library there plays host to a small museum dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson which is run on a volunteer basis by enthusiastic retirees. Stevenson and wife Fanny enjoyed their 1880 honeymoon in nearby rustic Silverado, where the site of their cabin and the summit of nearby Mt St Helena are now embra Reading Travels with a Donkey, which is so far my favorite of Stevenson’s travel books, I remembered a visit my wife and I made a few years ago to the tony Napa Valley town of St Helena. The public library there plays host to a small museum dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson which is run on a volunteer basis by enthusiastic retirees. Stevenson and wife Fanny enjoyed their 1880 honeymoon in nearby rustic Silverado, where the site of their cabin and the summit of nearby Mt St Helena are now embraced in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Wherever he went, it seems, the spots where Stevenson set his foot have more often than not seen fit to commemorate the fact – which is remarkable because he’s not in what most people would consider the top-tier of English writers, and no one seems to read him anymore. After reading the present title, however, I learned that there’s a Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in France which closely follows the route trod by Stevenson and dear Modestine (the donkey) in 1878. I’ve already added it to my mental list titled Things To Do In France, which also includes a visit to the Pont du Gard and to Montaigne's scribbling tower.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gerald Sinstadt

    Stevenson provides a model for all travel writers who come after him. His account of a twelve day journey through an area of north east France in the 1870s is the record of a man with an open mind discovering much about himself, about the people he meets, and about the the world around him. Religion and politics, sunshine and rain, hills and valleys all prompt the workings of a lively intellidence. The time spent with a community of Trappist monks is as informative as the observations of protesta Stevenson provides a model for all travel writers who come after him. His account of a twelve day journey through an area of north east France in the 1870s is the record of a man with an open mind discovering much about himself, about the people he meets, and about the the world around him. Religion and politics, sunshine and rain, hills and valleys all prompt the workings of a lively intellidence. The time spent with a community of Trappist monks is as informative as the observations of protestant and catholic opinion he collects over inn tables. There is humour, too, some of it at the author's own expense while he is coming to terms with Modestine, the donkey, at the outset of his travels; but when he sells her at the end, he sheds a tear. Why Stevenson chose this particular 120 miles, he doesn't say. Nor does he explain why it was undertaken in the autumn rther than when he might have hoped for better weather. But in a short book he tells us much, and tells it withh marvellous control, the long sentences unrolled with deceptive ease. A small gem

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cindie

    favorite passage: To make matters worse, we encountered another donkey, ranging at will upon the roadside; and this other donkey chanced to be a gentleman. He and Modestine met nickering for joy, and I had to separate the pair and beat down their young romance with a renewed and feverish bastinado. If the other donkey had had the heart of a male under his hide, he would have fallen upon me tooth and hoof; and this was kind of a consolation -- he was plainly unworthy of Modestine's affection. But favorite passage: To make matters worse, we encountered another donkey, ranging at will upon the roadside; and this other donkey chanced to be a gentleman. He and Modestine met nickering for joy, and I had to separate the pair and beat down their young romance with a renewed and feverish bastinado. If the other donkey had had the heart of a male under his hide, he would have fallen upon me tooth and hoof; and this was kind of a consolation -- he was plainly unworthy of Modestine's affection. But the incident saddened me, as did everything that spoke of my donkey's sex. A humorous testament to the gentlemanly character of Robert Louis Stevenson.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dianna

    I enjoyed this book way more than I should have for a two-week travelogue. I can't put my finger on it, because there were things that annoyed me: they condescension toward the locals, a little too much history. But it had some great quotes and amazing scenery. It was so relaxing and different, I just fell in love with it. Perfect bedtime reading. I enjoyed this book way more than I should have for a two-week travelogue. I can't put my finger on it, because there were things that annoyed me: they condescension toward the locals, a little too much history. But it had some great quotes and amazing scenery. It was so relaxing and different, I just fell in love with it. Perfect bedtime reading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    classic of travel literature, made me decide to drop everything and head to europe one summer in college and has influenced my philosophy of travel ever since, it's really not about the destination but about the process classic of travel literature, made me decide to drop everything and head to europe one summer in college and has influenced my philosophy of travel ever since, it's really not about the destination but about the process

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jrobertus

    Stevenson spends about two weeks driving a stubborn donkey through east central France. This is a wry, often hilarious narrative, but also has a marvelous description of a way of life that is now gone. This book is a real jewel.

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