Robert Louis Stevenson was not only a gifted writer; he was also an indefatigable traveller. His thirst for adventure was formed by his boyhood visits to remote Scottish lighthouses, and he spent much of his life fleeing the rigours of cold climes and social orthodoxy. Along the way he travelled through the Cevennes with a donkey, booked passage to and across America, and finally famously settled in Samoa in the South Pacific. The canoeing trip through Belgium and northern France that Stevenson describes in An Inland Voyage was taken in 1876, when the author was 26 years old. Stevenson and his companion, Sir Walter Grindlay Simpson, each had a kayak-style wooden canoe, with a deck and rigged with a sail. Starting in Belgium and then travelling downriver in France from Maubeuge (near Mons) to Pontoise on the outskirts of Paris, the book paints a charming picture of Western Europe at a more innocent time.Travel writing.
I read this after reading Travels With a Donkey which was his next work to be published. Both are "travel literature" and both relate the story of rough travels in France - a little like an early backpacker experience - where the discomfort and inconvenience is a necessary part of the story to later told.
I found this work to be less polished than Travels with a Donkey, and when I found it was the earlier piece, I was able to retrospectively see the L-plates on the author. He seems to be trying too hard to impress. But by the second half of the book, I found the writing flowed better, contained more interesting insights, and was generally more pleasing.
A good read, particularly in relation to observing the development of the author.
Read Nov 2015.