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Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  906 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
The wild Cevennes 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 the120 mile, 12 day trek and recorded his experiences in this journal. His ...more
Paperback, 156 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Soft Editions (first published 1879)
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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.
Debbie Zapata
Jul 21, 2015 Debbie Zapata rated it liked it
Shelves: gutenberg
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 ...more
Feb 06, 2010 Travis rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Mar 06, 2015 Philippe Malzieu rated it really liked it
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
Sean Leas
Feb 14, 2016 Sean Leas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
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 ...more
Greg Deane
Apr 09, 2013 Greg Deane rated it really liked it
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 really liked it
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 it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 17, 2010 Cindie rated it it was amazing
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
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.
May 14, 2015 Frumenty rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jan 06, 2010 gargamelscat rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, travel, ebook
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
Feb 03, 2014 Christina rated it really liked it
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
Sep 07, 2012 Ru rated it really liked it
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
Sean Leas
Feb 20, 2016 Sean Leas rated it it was amazing
Humorous and entertaining, “Travels with a Donkey in The Cevennes” is an interesting travel book. A vast departure from Robert Louis Stevenson’s other 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 entertainin ...more
Aug 02, 2009 Christine rated it liked it
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.
Oct 12, 2007 John rated it really liked it
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
Julie Richards-fox
Feb 02, 2014 Julie Richards-fox rated it liked it
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.
Nov 12, 2009 Jrobertus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Moira McPartlin
This little travelogue is fun and gives a great insight into what made Robert Louis Stevenson tick. Modestine the donkey is a star.
Feb 02, 2017 Elian rated it liked it
Stevenson's descriptions of the Mountains, his experiences, and his interactions with Modestine (his donkey companion) were marvelous and captivating. However, there were some things that grated me a bit about his bias or viewpoint. I don't rightly recall what they were, but they caused me to put the book down for a few months at a time, but I was always happy I picked it back up. :)
Trudy Pomerantz
Oct 24, 2016 Trudy Pomerantz rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book that made me wish that I could trek the same path the Stevenson did. Patrick Wallace (for Librivox) did a superb job reading it - I almost forgot that it was not Stevenson reading it himself.
Jan 25, 2017 Frank rated it liked it
I kinda feel sorry for the donkey. Not a bad book, but not as entertaining or informative as I would have wanted.
May 16, 2013 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian, walks, 1870s
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
Eleanor McLaren
Aug 13, 2015 Eleanor McLaren rated it it was amazing
Fresh on the heels from the previous book I chose with its flashy cover, I deliberately set about choosing a book from the shelf with a more modest cover. Another small volume, this time bearing a price tag of £2. It came from a charity shop, I am sure, possibly the Oxfam bookshop in Troon, but there is no other identifying mark on it. I remember choosing this one for the author alone. I knew many of his works, but had no recollection of ever having heard this title.

It is Robert Louis Stevenson’
Oct 10, 2013 Mumbler rated it liked it
Shelves: travel-and-place
For me, it can be pretty good, but it's not great. When I read a memoir, I often feel an affection for the author/character. Then I tell myself, well you're reading their carefully edited self-presentation; of course you like them in the book. Well, I don't like Stevenson much here. He makes his trip sound almost like a stunt. "Travel for the sake of traveling", not for any destination might sound deep, but a lot of the time he just sounds flippantly uninterested in the people and creatures arou ...more
Mar 06, 2014 Chris rated it it was amazing
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
Jason Pryde
Sep 29, 2016 Jason Pryde rated it really liked it
Shelves: pilgrimages
I chose this book because it is about Robert Louis Stevenson's pilgrimage across southern France. I half expected a satire on the order of Don Quixote by Cervantes. Instead, this short book was part travelog and part commentary about the history of brutal conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the region and how they get at the time of his writing.

His travel companion was a donkey that, while maddening slow and helpless, toward the end also appeared to be enjoying the trip. Their common e
Jack Casey
Jun 12, 2014 Jack Casey rated it really liked it
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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 onl
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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.” 2709 likes
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