The book is a travelogue by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879) is one of Robert Louis Stevenson's earliest published works and is considered a pioneering classic of outdoor literature.
Stevenson was in his late 20s and still dependent on his parents for support. His journey was designed to provide material for publication while allowing him to distance himself from a love affair with an American woman of which his friends and families did not approve and who had returned to her husband in California.
Travels recounts Stevenson's 12-day, 200 kilometres (120 mi) solo hiking journey through the sparsely populated and impoverished areas of the Cevennes mountains in south-central France in 1878. The terrain, with its barren rocky heather-filled hillsides, he often compared to parts of Scotland. The other principal character is Modestine, a stubborn, manipulative donkey he could never quite master. It is one of the earliest accounts to present hiking and camping outdoors as a recreational activity. It also tells of commissioning one of the first sleeping bags, large and heavy enough to require a donkey to carry. Stevenson is several times mistaken for a peddler, the usual occupation of someone traveling in his fashion. Some locals are horrified that he would sleep outdoors and suggest it is dangerous to do so because of wolves or robbers.
The Cevennes was the site of a Protestant rebellion around 1702, severely suppressed by Catholic 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 notes that the Catholics and the Protestants, at the time of his travels, live peaceably alongside one another, though each community is faithful to its own traditions and its version of the region's history. All disapprove equally of a young Catholic man who married a Protestant girl and changed his faith, agreeing that "It's a bad idea for a man to change." As for a Catholic priest who left the priesthood and married, the sentiment common to all was that it is wrong to change one's commitments.
The book appeared the following year, 1879, and is dedicated to his friend Sidney Colvin, an art historian and critic who had befriended him when he was unpublished and seeking to develop a career as a writer.
The Amateur Emigrant (in full: The Amateur Emigrant from the Clyde to Sandy Hook) is Robert Louis Stevenson's travel memoir of his journey from Scotland to California in 1879-1880. It is not a complete account, covering the first third, by ship from Europe to New York City. The middle leg of the trip is documented in Across the Plains (1892) with the final part covered in The Silverado Squatters (1883). The Amateur Emigrant was written in 1879-80 and was not published in full until 1895, one year after his death.
In July 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson received word that his future American wife's (Fanny Vandegrift) divorce was almost complete and she was ready to re-marry, but that she was seriously ill. He left Scotland right away to meet her in her native California. Leaving by ship from Glasgow, Scotland, he determined to travel in steerage class to see how the working classes fared. At the last minute he was convinced by friends to purchase a ticket one grade above the lowest, which he was later thankful for after seeing the conditions at the bow of the boat, but he still lived among the lower classes.
Stevenson described the crowded weeks in steerage with the poor and sick, as well as stowaways, and his initial reactions to New York City, where he spent a few days. Filled with sharp-eyed observations, it brilliantly conveys Stevenson’s perceptions of America and Americans. It also provides a very detailed and enjoyable account of what it was like to travel to America as an emigrant in the 19th century, during a time of mass migrations to the New World. Details such as the bedding arrangements, daily food rations, relationships with the crew and with higher grade ticket holders, passengers of other nationalities, entertainment, children - all provide a rich and colorful tapestry of life on board the ship.
The work was never published in full in Stevenson's lifetime. It shocked the sensibilities of his middle-class friends and family that he was so close with rough people. Certain passages were considered too graphic by the publisher, and also by Stevenson's father Thomas Stevenson, who bought all the copies of the already printed travelogue, judging it beneath his son's talent. However The Amateur Emigrant is a remarkable revelation of the intermingled complexities of class, race and gender in late Victorian England. Andrew Noble (1991) says it was Stevenson's greatest work, due to his willingness to confront the difficult social conditions of his time.
Across the Plains (1892) is the middle section of Robert Louis Stevenson's three-part travel memoir which began with The Amateur Emigrant and ended with The Silverado Squatters.
The book contains 12 chapters, each a story or essay unto itself. The title chapter is the longest, and is dividied into 7 subsections. It describes Stevenson's arrival at New York as an immigrant, along with hundreds of other Europeans, and his train journey from New York to San Francisco in an immigrant train. Stevenson describes the train as having three sections: one for women and children, one for men, and one for Chinese. He notes that while the Europeans looked down on the Chinese for being dirty, in fact the Chinese carriages were the freshest and their passengers the cleanest.
The Silverado Squatters (1883) is Robert Louis Stevenson's travel memoir of his two-month honeymoon trip with Fanny Vandegrift (and her son Lloyd Osbourne) to Napa Valley, California, in 1880.
In July 1879, Stevenson received word that his future American wife's divorce was almost complete, but that she was seriously ill. He left Scotland right away and travelled to meet her in Monterey, California, (his trip detailed in The Amateur Emigrant (1894) and Across the Plains (1892)). Broken financially, suffering from a lifelong fibrinous bronchitis condition, and with his writing career at a dead end, he was nursed back to health by his doctor, his nurse, and his future wife, while living briefly in Monterey, San Francisco, and Oakland. His father having provided money to help, on May 19, 1880, he married the San Francisco native, whom he had first met in France in 1875, soon after the events of An Inland Voyage. Still too weak to undertake the journey back to Scotland, friends suggested Calistoga, in the upper Napa Valley, with its healthy mountain air.
They first went to the Hot Springs Hotel in Calistoga, but unable to afford the 10 dollars a week, they spent an unconventional honeymoon in an abandoned three-story bunkhouse at a derelict mining camp called "Silverado" on the shoulder of Mount Saint Helena in the Mayacamas Mountains. There they managed to "squat" for two months during a pleasant California summer, putting up makeshift cloth windows and hauling water in by hand from a nearby stream while dodging rattlesnakes and the occasional fog banks so detrimental to Stevenson's health.
The Silverado Squatters provides some interesting views of California during the late 19th century. Stevenson uses the first telephone of his life. He meets a number of wine growers in Napa Valley, an enterprise he deemed "experimental", with growers sometimes even mislabelling the bottles as originating from Spain in order to sell their product to sceptical Americans. He visits the oldest wine grower in the valley, Jacob Schram, who had been experimenting for 18 years at his Schramsberg Winery, and had recently expanded the wine cellar in his backyard. Stevenson also visits apetrified forest owned by an old Swedish ex-sailor who had stumbled upon it while clearing farmland—the precise nature of the petrified forest remained for everyone a source of curiosity. Stevenson also details his encounters with a local Jewish merchant, whom he compares to a character in a Charles Dickens novel (probably Fagin from Oliver Twist), and portrays as happy-go-lucky but always scheming to earn a dollar. Like Dickens in American Notes (1842), Stevenson found the American habit of spitting on the floor hard to get used to.
His experiences at Silverado were recorded in a journal he called "Silverado Sketches", parts of which he incorporated into Silverado Squatters in 1883 while living in Bournemouth, England, with other tales appearing in "Essays of Travel" and "Across the Plains". Many of his notes on the scenery around him later provided much of the descriptive detail for Treasure Island (1883).
Table of Contents:
TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY IN THE CEVENNES
1. The Donkey, the Pack, and the Pack-Saddle
2. The Green Donkey-Driver
3. I have a Goad
4. Upper Gevaudan
5. A Camp in the Dark
6. Cheylard and Luc
7. Our Lady of the Snows
8. Father Apollinaris
9. The Monks
10. The Boarders
11. Upper Gevaudan (continued)
12. Across the Goulet
13. A Night Among the Pines
14. The Country of the Camisards
15. Across the Lozere
16. Pont De Montvert
17. In the Valley of the Tarn
19. In the Valley of the Mimente
20. The Heart of the Country
21. The Last Day
22. Farewell, Modestine!
THE AMATEUR EMIGRANT
1. The Second Cabin
2. Early Impressions
3. Steerage Scenes
4. Steerage Types
5. The Sick Man
6. The Stowaways
7. Personal Experience and Review
8. New York
ACROSS THE PLAINS
1. Leaves from the Notebook of an Emigrant Between New York and San Francisco
2. The Emigrant Train
3. The Plains of Nebraska
4. The Desert of Wyoming
6. Despised Races
7. To the Golden Gates
THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS
PART I — IN THE VALLEY
2. The Petrified Forest
3. Napa Wine
4. The Scot Abroad
PART II — WITH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
1. To Introduce Mr. Kelmar
2. First Impressions of Silverado
3. The Return
4. The Act of Squatting
5. The Hunter’s Family
6. The Sea Fogs
7. The Toll House
8. A Starry Drive
9. Episodes in the Story of a Mine
10. Toils and Pleasures
Audiobook. Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson