1992-02-03: Travels With A Donkey & An Inland Voyage

Travels With A Donkey & An Inland Voyage (1878-1879)

by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

These were originally two small books, which have been combined in a single volume by Thomas Nelson & Son.  The two works were published in 1879 and 1878, before any of his other works.

The donkey travels is about a walking tour of the Cevennes region, from Monastier (near Le Puy) southward(?).  It is a delightful book, with observations on the nature of donkey driving, camping out, villagers of friendly and unfriendly persuasion, and encounters with Catholic and Protestant people in a region formerly wracked with religious warfare.  His tone is light and his comments pertinent, although perhaps he dwells on sectarian differences more than we now care to hear.  Still these were enormously important to the people he met, even if the wars were long ended.

The inland voyage is a record of his and a companion’s travels with two canoes along the rivers and canals of Belgium and northern France.  Again, his observations are mainly of encounters with village and town folk, oddities seen on the way, and the nature of holidaying.  Though published before the donkey travels, it appears after it in this volume.  This seems right to me, since it is based on a broader view, and leaves the reader in a better frame of mind.

The two together are good examples of travel journals, reworked into publishable material.  They would make good vacation or winter reading for anyone interested in the reaction of a tourist to the natives, and of the natives to a tourist.

 

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