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Essays of Travel

Robert Louis Stevenson

Book Overview: 

Robert Louis Stevenson left Scotland to meet his future wife in her native California. Leaving by ship from Glasgow, Scotland, he determined to travel in steerage class to see how the working classes fared. At the last minute he was convinced by friends to purchase a ticket one grade above the lowest price, for which he was later thankful after seeing the conditions in steerage, but he still lived among the ‘lower’ classes. His comments on the experience make interesting reading. His father however was so shocked at the thought of his son associating with people ‘beneath him’ that the work was not published for a number of years.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I’ll no’ get better anyway.’  And then, with a moan that went to my heart, ‘O why did I come upon this miserable journey?’

I was reminded of the song which I had heard a little while before in the close, tossing steerage: ‘O why left I my hame?’

Meantime Jones, relieved of his immediate charge, had gone off to the galley, where we could see a light.  There he found a belated cook scouring pans by the radiance of two lanterns, and one of these he sought to borrow.  The scullion was backward.  ‘Was it one of the crew?’ he asked.  And when Jones, smitten with my theory, had assured him that it was a fireman, he reluctantly left his scouring and came towards us at an easy pace, with one of the lanterns swinging from his finger.  The light, as it reached the spot, showed us an elderly man, thick-set, and grizzled with years; but the shifting and coarse shadows concealed from us . . . Read More