Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born in 1850. He was a sickly child who was often confined to his bedroom. As a result he longed to travel and as a young man made frequent visits to France.
In 1876 he undertook a voyage along the Oise River from Belgium through France with his friend Walter Grindlay Simpson. Each man had a wooden canoe rigged with a sail, comparable in style to a modern kayak. The canoes were narrow, decked, and paddled with double-bladed paddles – similar in fact to the photo above.
In 1873 Stevenson published An Inland Voyage a travelogue about his canoeing trip. It was in fact his first published work.
This voyage is still remembered today in the region in a tiny museum near my hometown. This museum opened last summer and mainly contains one person’s collection. Marie-Jeanne Delville was born between the two world wars. Over the years, the former seamstress has collected thousands of every day life objects such as irons, washing machines, sewing machines, children’s toys, postcards and clothes. Recently she gifted her collection to her village and a museum was opened to host it.
Because Stevenson traveled in the area, the people who set up the musem decided to include his voyage in the building. I haven’t read An Inland Voyage, although I would love to now, but I enjoyed Stevenson’s novels when I read them. My favorite is The Master of Ballantrae. What is yours?
For those who wonder why the spelling of Stevenson’s name at the beginning of the post is different from what they read on book covers, here is the explanation: at about 18, Stevenson changed the spelling of ‘Lewis’ to ‘Louis’, and in 1873 he dropped ‘Balfour’. (Wikipedia)