Thursday, September 27, 2018

Travel Back in Time, Through the Mountains of France & Around the World with Robert Louis Stevenson

[NOTEThis article contains a lot of beautiful, but sometimes complex, prose. If you'd prefer to listen to, rather than read, this material, click here. You'll get my audio narration which you can easily download and play at your convenience.]

From a Brilliant Writer, Brilliant Travel Essays

What do you get when one of the best writers of all time sets out on a personal odyssey with a donkey and documents his travels?  You get delicious prose like the paragraph below, describing a night under the stars in the Cévennes mountains in France, circa 1859:

"Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open world it passes lightly, with its stars and dews and perfumes, and the hours are marked by changes in the face of Nature.  What seems a kind of temporal death to people choked between walls and curtains, is only a light and living slumber to the man who sleeps afield.  All night long he can hear Nature breathing deeply and freely; even as she takes her rest, she turns and smiles; and there is one stirring hour unknown to those who dwell in houses, when a wakeful influence goes abroad over the sleeping hemisphere, and all the outdoor world are on their feet.  It is then that the cock first crows, not this time to announce the dawn, but like a cheerful watchman speeding the course of night.  Cattle awake on the meadows; sheep break their fast on dewy hillsides, and change to a new lair among the ferns; and houseless men, who have lain down with the fowls, open their dim eyes and behold the beauty of the night."
-- from Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes, "A Night Among the Pines," by Robert Louis Stevenson

Author of such timeless classics as Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson also created some not-so-famous travel treasures that you can enjoy, absolutely free, as ebooks from Project Gutenberg. Why should you read these lesser-known Stevenson creations? Because they'll take you back in time and all over the planet and hold a magnifying glass to a world of simple things that are also complex and wondrous when seen through Stevenson's eyes. Like travel itself, the experience of reading these can't help but broaden your perspective and deepen your empathy.

Some Teasers

Below are a few of my favorite passages from a couple of these works, along with links to the Project Gutenberg page where you can download the complete work in a suitable format for your particular e-reader. I hope these fragments inspire you to get the rest of the work from Gutenberg and settle in for your own slow, conscious journey back in time and around the world.