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Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,447 ratings  ·  179 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 the 120 mile, 12 day trek and recorded his experiences in this journal. His only com ...more
Paperback, 156 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Soft Editions (first published 1879)
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Gabrielle Dubois
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 19th-century
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 page
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.
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 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
May 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: walks, victorian, 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 d
Philippe Malzieu
Mar 06, 2015 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
(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 s ...more
Feb 06, 2010 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 monast
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 ...more
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.
Sep 07, 2012 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 14, 2016 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
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 14, 2015 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
Vic Heaney
Sep 07, 2011 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 we
Dec 27, 2011 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
Jan 06, 2010 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 tem
Gerald Sinstadt
Apr 23, 2013 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
Jun 17, 2010 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 aff
Oct 12, 2007 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
John Ratliffe
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Jared Smith
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
With an ambiguous beginning, a definitive ending, and much rambling in between, Travels read much like Stevenson's journey itself. I quite enjoyed it - I laughed out loud a few times, reveled in the adventurous romanticism, and curiously listened in on the fascinating encounters recalled throughout. There were a number of memorable quotes and though the whole of the story resembled one of his rough, picturesque landscape sketches, I found it an engaging and warm memoir.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved the descriptions of Modestine the donkey, Stevenson's interactions with those he meets and the landscapes. The historical aspects shoehorned in didn't really do anything for me, and it all ended a bit abruptly. Perhaps in a nod to the stubbornness of Modestine 😂
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teenager
Read, loved. Prompted to read because middle brother and friend, copied the route - no donkey.
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had enjoyed reading Stevenson when I was a kid, and after reading Nancy Horan's novel about Stevenson and his wife Fanny, decided I really wanted to read him again so we picked this slender book to read for a book discussion group. I enjoyed it, though a bit surprised at how much of it dealt with religious history in France. Loved the donkey! Good discussion too. Plan to read more of his non-fiction and maybe go back to his fiction too.
Sep 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The region Stevenson travels through is famous for the French protestants or Hugonauts and their descendants who refused to convert to Catholicism despite cruel and coercive pressures. Stevenson knows a lot of the history, and his recounting of some of the more lurid narratives in the annals of Protestant France animate his narrative. There's the amusing relationship between Stevenson and his donkey, too, of course. But for me, the most magical chapter and the heart of the book is "A Night Among ...more
Feb 03, 2014 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
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
Aug 02, 2009 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.
Apr 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC7 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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 literatur
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.” 2906 likes
“I was once more face to face with the big bonfire that occupies the kernel of our system.” 1 likes
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