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Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes; The Amateur Emigrant

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  599 ratings  ·  81 reviews
In 1878 Robert Louis Stevenson escaped from his numerous troubles—poor health, tormented love, inadequate funds—by embarking on a journey through the Cévennes in France, accompanied by Modestine, a rather single-minded donkey. The notebook Stevenson kept during this time became Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, a highly entertaining account of the French and their cou ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 25th 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published 1879)
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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
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
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 ...more
As Robert Louis Stevenson travels with a donkey through the Cevennes, he reflects on the suppression of Protestantism in the region. 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 offering the carrot just as much as Louis XIV did to the Huguenots.
J Deane
Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Travels with a Donkey in The Cevennes” is an interesting departure from his swashbuckling pirate stories or his examination of good and evil in “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” , being a short autobiographical work set in 1878 when he went on a twelve day, 120 mile hike while in his youth, in southern France. To carry his luggage he bought a donkey which he called Modestine. As Modestine proved mulish, Stevenson gradually exchanged his humane principles for the stick, which he t ...more
Vic Heaney
Sep 07, 2011 Vic Heaney rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes reading about travel, adventure, good writing
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
Dec 27, 2011 Bob rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers & travel writers
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
Douglas Dalrymple
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 ...more
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 have sort of a love/hate relationship with old books that feature animals. The treatment of the animals often makes me wince, and I have to remind myself that while it isn't right it is just a reflection of the attitudes and beliefs at the time it was written. So, in this book, I felt very sorry for Modestine as she was beaten, poked and prodded along the journey. But then Stevenson also writes about how he does feel somewhat bad for his actions, and he does actually care for Modestine. The ve ...more
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 ...more
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
Aug 24, 2012 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bettie, Carey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wilkin Beall
This account traces the author's walk from one point in southern France to another. It takes him about two weeks and when it was written walking for fun had yet to take off as an activity in its own right. Yes, there was Wordsworth before him who liked to walk just for the hell of it but apparently not so many people followed in his footsteps. Stevenson encounters some unpleasant examples of French peasantry in his travels, sleeps under the stars and stays in the odd abbey all in the company of ...more
I really enjoy travel books and this is the oldest I've read so far, first published in 1879 Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes chronicles a 12 day hiking journey taken by Robert Louis Stevenson when he was in his twenties. The book is brilliant and very easy to read despite its age.

Stevenson had been sickly for much of his early life and craved adventure now he was well enough to travel. He took the trip on his own with nothing for company but a stubborn mule he purchased to carry his equipm
This is a light, short read that follows Stevenson's trek through the Cevennes. His trusty, humorous sidekick is his donkey, Modestine who accompanies him throughout the journey. RLS of course writes wonderfully which makes up for the lack of any real plot or significant goings on in this book. And what a joy it is to feel what adventure travel would have been like back then. It is a rare window back in time.
Jack Casey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Julie Richards-fox
Very sweet book & easy to read. Makes my mind wander, right along with Stevenson as he traverses the Cevennes meeting all types of characters. Highly poignant passages on the Protestants & Catholics living tolerably side by side towards the end of the book.
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.
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
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
Mike Killingley
Having first read this some 30 or 40 years ago, I read it again as I walked the Stevenson Trail (GR70) in France. An easy read, with much humour, it was interesting to compare Stevenson's experience, and opinions, with ours. Much has changed in the Cevennes in 135 years! More about the people, and the religious Camisard wars, than about the country itself. Recommended, especially if you're walking in these parts.
This book is a man's recollection of his 12-day hike through a wild region of France back in the days of yore with his trusty but stubborn donkey. Light-hearted, descriptive, and without much drama, this book about his trip is a pleasant stroll through a landscape back in time, and without all the mod cons we have today. It makes you wonder if life with mobile phones, GPS, fast cars, mag lights, ready meals and everything else is really all that great when it comes to traveling and getting to kn ...more
Sep 28, 2014 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Ha, it's an "equestrian travel classic". This has been described by me as "Travels with Charlie with Robert Louis Stevenson," which I'm sure was very clever of me. Gill suggests I pair it with Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer.
Reading the Spanish version: Viajes con una burra. This is one of favourite authors.
Although this is not my favourite of his books, it is still a nice read.
Stevenson travels from Le Monastier to Saint Jean du Gard.
He takes the road to Gevaudan and arrives at Lozere, where he contemplates the mountains of the Cévennes. Florac, Cassagnas, St. Germain de Calberte, are some of the stops he makes in his journey.
He embellishes the narration with some historical accounts, specially those regarding the
Some beautiful descriptive passages that will resonate with anyone who enjoys wandering and sleeping in the outdoors. Also, he cried after selling his donkey! For these things I give it four stars. Most of the philosophical reflections are more thematic here than in An Inland Voyage or In the South Seas; they relate to religion because of the history of the Cevennes.
I was hoping for more actual names of people and places since Stevenson's route went through areas where my ancestors lived. It was still interesting to see his depictions of the area and the people, but I would not have read it except for the family connection.
I tried to like this story, I really did. I am all about stories about unconventional travel experiences, and I am planning my own self-propelled trip through this region of France, so I wanted to learn about how the experience was historically. However, due in large part to Robert Louis Stevenson's decision to publish his rambling journal entries in largely unedited form, I found myself at nearly all times unable to focus on what I was reading because my brain kept getting derailed by his run-o ...more
Sidney Weber
Pleasant little book

There is not much to this book, but it was a pleasant diversion. If I had had a better understanding of the history of the region, the historical references would have added to its meaning for me.
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Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of English literature. He was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov.

Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is o
More about Robert Louis Stevenson...
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“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.” 2442 likes
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