Item #14998 TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY IN THE CEVENNES. [inscribed by RLS's mother]. Robert Louis Stevenson.


[inscribed by Stevenson's mother] London: C. Kegan Paul & Co., 1879. 1 page preliminary undated ads. Original green-blue cloth pictorially decorated in gilt, beveled.

First Edition, first printing, which consisted of only 750 copies. This was Stevenson's third book, following AN INLAND VOYAGE and EDINBURGH PICTURESQUE NOTES; like the former two, this is something of a travelogue, describing his 1878 walking tour in the Cévennes region of southern France. Stevenson took this trip just after the woman he loved (and eventually would marry) left the Continent with her two children to rejoin her husband in San Francisco. For this trip the forlorn Stevenson found solace with another female -- Modestine the donkey. As with AN INLAND VOYAGE, included is a frontispiece by Walter Crane.

This volume is in very good condition, with minor wear at the extremities, and (as usual) with some cracking of the original delicate brown-coated endpapers; the volume does remain tight, even though it was part of the brief ill-fated UK experiment of binding with staples rather than with string. Beinecke 36; Princeton 8.

This is a presentation copy inscribed in the hand of the author's mother, Margaret Isabella (Balfour) Stevenson, the flyleaf bearing her inked inscription "With kindest regards | from | _The Author_". (Both the Sotheby's and Bonhams London auction houses have declared this inscription to be in RLS's hand, but it is not; without a doubt, this is the distinctly-bold hand of his mother.) Also, at the top of the title page is the inked signature "Maud Babington" (this signature as well may be in RLS's mother's hand, but could possibly be in the hand of Maud herself). And finally, on the flyleaf appears in pencil "Mrs Wilson | 56 Risbygate St | Bury St Edmunds".

Matilda Whytt "Maud" Wilson (1844-1919) was the daughter of Margaret's older sister Marion (Balfour) Wilson -- "Mrs Wilson" of the penciled inscription. Thus Margaret Stevenson, on behalf of her son the fledgling author, inscribed this volume for the benefit of her niece, i.e. the author's first cousin. A decade earlier Maud had married the Cambridge professor Churchill Babington, who also served as the Rector of Cockfield, a few miles southeast of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk; they lived in the Cockfield Rectory. RLS is known to have had two extended stays with the Babingtons at the Rectory, the first of which was 30 Sept - 15 Oct 1870, during which time he attended the wedding of Maud's sister Jane. The second, 26 July - late August 1873, was far more important in RLS's life, for it was then that...

He made two significant friendships – with Fanny Sitwell and Sidney Colvin. RLS’s cousin Maud and Mrs Sitwell were friends and during this period Fanny was staying at the Rectory. RLS first met Fanny Sitwell on 26 July and fell in love: for a long time he would write passionate letters to her, making her his confidante. He also met her partner, Sidney Colvin, who would not only be a lifelong friend but an enormous help to his literary ambitions [RLS Website]. Six years later, in fact, Stevenson dedicated this very title to Sidney Colvin.

Provenance: Sotheby's (London) sale of English Literature 11 Dec 2003, lot 101; also in the Bonhams sale of the renowned Jeremy & Penny Martin Collection. Housed in a (slightly scuffed) morocco-backed slipcase. We are indebted to friend and Stevenson scholar Roger Swearingen for his knowledge in attributing the inscriptions. Item #14998

Price: $5,750.00

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