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Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  573 ratings  ·  78 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 9th 2006 by Frontlist Books (first published 1879)
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48th out of 223 books — 29 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,217)
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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
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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
...more
Jan-Maat
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.
Greg 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
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
...more
Bob
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
...more
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
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
...more
Christina
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
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 ...more
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
...more
Laura
Aug 24, 2012 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Carey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
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
...more
Christine
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Gerald Sinstadt
Apr 24, 2013 Gerald Sinstadt added it
Shelves: travel
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
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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.
Greta
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
Alex
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.
blackteiwaz
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
...more
Kathy
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.
Liz
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.
Peter Perhac
My first Stevenson, and I have decided to stock up on his works for future enjoyment. I own an ancient 280 page edition, and for the first 200 pages this looked like I might finally award five stars to a book, and I felt like adding it to my list of favourites, but... the last 80 pages were... disappointing? Felt like written by a different author, felt like reading lorem ipsum. Pages and chapters devoted to getting some of author's religious notions into print. Then a rushed few sentences about ...more
Melmoth
I came across an older edition of this book in a small bookshop in my hometown. Thinking a RLS book can never be a bad buy, I bought this and certainly have not regretted it. The story is both informative and comic, as Mr. Stevenson's struggles with faithful donkey Modestine are both entertaining and admirable.

Tales of past Protestant-Catholic battles make the story come alive and, in Stevenson's familiar style, make it easy for the reader to imagine themselves alongside Modestine walking the Fr
...more
PJ Ebbrell
A curious little book. I felt the author writing was almost of today, even if it was in the 19th century. I mused on the journey was it road trip for pleasure, but most of the book was written from the mixture of religion in this area. It was short and sweet, but not too sweet. Made me want to read more of RLS work. Never having read Treasure Island.
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854076
Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of Neo-romanticism in 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
...more
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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.” 2391 likes
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