A writer in the Cévennes...On 22 September 1878, the young Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson set off by foot from Monastier-sur-Gazeille (Haute-Loire) with his donkey, Modestine.
Twelve days, 220km and many adventures later, he arrived at Saint-Jean-du-Gard.
|We are in 1878.
Fanny Osbourne, the beautiful American with whom Stevenson had fallen in love during a stay in Barbizon, had returned to California, leaving the young 28 year old Scot all alone.
Subject to illness and not in the best of spirits in the light of his impossible love (the lady was married to a rich American), Robert Louis Stevenson needed time to think things over. Walking was the ideal activity, giving him time to think while also tempering the effects of the pulmonary tuberculosis which he had had since childhood.
Two further reasons drew him to the Cévennes, the first being the need to spend as little as possible while continuing to write and the second was to explore the land of the Camisards whose history resembled somewhat that of the Covenanters and of Stevenson’s protestant education.
The writer consequently travelled to Monastier-sur-Gazeille, a small town in the Velay region, where he spent approximately one month before setting off southwards towards the Cévennes.
|After a great deal of preparation and having collected all sorts of objects, many of which were far too bulky to be carried on a backpack, Stevenson purchased a donkey which he named Modestine.
He set off on the 22nd September 1878 at 9a.m.
|12 days of walking, thinking, meetings, writing and living with Modestine later, he arrived at Saint Jean du Gard where he took a carriage to reach Alès (formerly Alais).|
His travel journal was published one year later, in 1879, as Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and preceded other later and more famous works: Treasure Island and the Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
This work enables the reader to relive his itinerary, which has today become the ‘Chemin de Stevenson’ (GR 70) and offers walkers the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of this Scottish adventurer who loved France and was the forefather of hiking for pleasure.
His love for Fanny had not diminished after his adventure in the Cévennes and he later set off for America to find his sweetheart who had divorced from her first husband.
They married and... never again left each others’ side. They travelled around the world together until the Samoan Islands where Stevenson was to die.
|For more information about the life of Stevenson|