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The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson, Fiction, Classics, Historical, Literary

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The scene of this little book is on a high mountain. There are, indeed, many higher; there are many of a nobler outline. It is no place of pilgrimage for the summary globe-trotter; but to one who lives upon its sides, Mount Saint Helena soon becomes a center of interest. It is the Mont Blanc of one section of the Californian Coast Range, none of its near neighbors rising t The scene of this little book is on a high mountain. There are, indeed, many higher; there are many of a nobler outline. It is no place of pilgrimage for the summary globe-trotter; but to one who lives upon its sides, Mount Saint Helena soon becomes a center of interest. It is the Mont Blanc of one section of the Californian Coast Range, none of its near neighbors rising to one-half its altitude. It looks down on much green, intricate country. It feeds in the spring-time many splashing brooks. From its summit you must have an excellent lesson of geography: seeing, to the south, San Francisco Bay, with Tamalpais on the one hand and Monte Diablo on the other; to the west and thirty miles away, the open ocean; eastward, across the corn-lands and thick tule swamps of Sacramento Valley, to where the Central Pacific railroad begins to climb the sides of the Sierras and northward, for what I know, the white head of Shasta looking down on Oregon. The author's experiences at Silverado were recorded in a journal he called "Silverado Sketches", parts of which he incorporated into Silverado Squatters in 1883 while living in Bournemouth, England, with other tales appearing in "Essays of Travel" and "Across the Plains". Many of his notes on the scenery around him later provided much of the descriptive detail for Treasure Island (1883).


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The scene of this little book is on a high mountain. There are, indeed, many higher; there are many of a nobler outline. It is no place of pilgrimage for the summary globe-trotter; but to one who lives upon its sides, Mount Saint Helena soon becomes a center of interest. It is the Mont Blanc of one section of the Californian Coast Range, none of its near neighbors rising t The scene of this little book is on a high mountain. There are, indeed, many higher; there are many of a nobler outline. It is no place of pilgrimage for the summary globe-trotter; but to one who lives upon its sides, Mount Saint Helena soon becomes a center of interest. It is the Mont Blanc of one section of the Californian Coast Range, none of its near neighbors rising to one-half its altitude. It looks down on much green, intricate country. It feeds in the spring-time many splashing brooks. From its summit you must have an excellent lesson of geography: seeing, to the south, San Francisco Bay, with Tamalpais on the one hand and Monte Diablo on the other; to the west and thirty miles away, the open ocean; eastward, across the corn-lands and thick tule swamps of Sacramento Valley, to where the Central Pacific railroad begins to climb the sides of the Sierras and northward, for what I know, the white head of Shasta looking down on Oregon. The author's experiences at Silverado were recorded in a journal he called "Silverado Sketches", parts of which he incorporated into Silverado Squatters in 1883 while living in Bournemouth, England, with other tales appearing in "Essays of Travel" and "Across the Plains". Many of his notes on the scenery around him later provided much of the descriptive detail for Treasure Island (1883).

30 review for The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson, Fiction, Classics, Historical, Literary

  1. 5 out of 5

    Scott Cox

    This book is somewhat of travel memoir for Robert Louis Stevenson who spent about one year in California before returning to Europe (and ultimately Samoa, where he died & is buried). It is a story of Stevenson and his new bride "squatting" in the abandoned housing of an old mine, the Silverado. The abandoned silver & gold mine is on Mt. Saint Helena near the Napa wine country town of Calistoga. Stevenson describes the natural beauty of the area, providing an entire chapter on looking down upon t This book is somewhat of travel memoir for Robert Louis Stevenson who spent about one year in California before returning to Europe (and ultimately Samoa, where he died & is buried). It is a story of Stevenson and his new bride "squatting" in the abandoned housing of an old mine, the Silverado. The abandoned silver & gold mine is on Mt. Saint Helena near the Napa wine country town of Calistoga. Stevenson describes the natural beauty of the area, providing an entire chapter on looking down upon the "Sea Fogs." He also describes the nascent Napa Valley wine industry, visiting pioneer wineries of Schram and M'Eckron. The most disturbing aspect of the book is the attitude portraying Chinese and Jews, perhaps reflecting a not-so-tolerant era. Another excellent book regarding Stevenson's California days is "From Scotland to Silverado" edited by James D. Hart.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie Hacker

    Honestly I do not believe this story deserves such a low rating as three stars. Nonetheless I have given such an appraisal simply because the story was uninteresting to me. Robert Louis Stevenson's writing is amazing, and flows with something like a poetic air. However, the tale he wove with these words was less than intriguing. It took me quite awhile to slog through and I dearly hope I do not have to read it again. Honestly I do not believe this story deserves such a low rating as three stars. Nonetheless I have given such an appraisal simply because the story was uninteresting to me. Robert Louis Stevenson's writing is amazing, and flows with something like a poetic air. However, the tale he wove with these words was less than intriguing. It took me quite awhile to slog through and I dearly hope I do not have to read it again.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Georgetowner

    Incredibly well written, if not always engaging. More than a story, it is a series of observations on a truly unique adventure. Stevenson's turn of phrase and imagery is remarkable, and at times laugh-out-loud funny! All that said, though the book is quite short, there were still times I felt I was slogging though to the next truly great moment. Even still, I highly recommend this book especially if traveling in the Napa region. I bought it in one visit to the RLS museum, and read it several yea Incredibly well written, if not always engaging. More than a story, it is a series of observations on a truly unique adventure. Stevenson's turn of phrase and imagery is remarkable, and at times laugh-out-loud funny! All that said, though the book is quite short, there were still times I felt I was slogging though to the next truly great moment. Even still, I highly recommend this book especially if traveling in the Napa region. I bought it in one visit to the RLS museum, and read it several years later when back in Napa.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Short, interesting little book about the Napa/Sonoma area in the late nineteenth century.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    Interesting view on early California history. The place seemed so small then.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Clever, funny, descriptive ... Not a honeymoon I'd envy, but a wonderful description to make you feel you were there. Clever, funny, descriptive ... Not a honeymoon I'd envy, but a wonderful description to make you feel you were there.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin Burt

    'The happiest lot on earth is to be born a Scotchman. You must pay for it in many ways, as for all other advantages on earth. You have to learn the paraphrases and the shorter catechism; you generally take to drink; your youth is a time of louder war against society, of more outcry and tears and turmoil, than if you had been born, for instance, in England. But somehow life is warmer and closer; the hearth burns more redly; the lights of home shine softer on the rainy street; the very names, ende 'The happiest lot on earth is to be born a Scotchman. You must pay for it in many ways, as for all other advantages on earth. You have to learn the paraphrases and the shorter catechism; you generally take to drink; your youth is a time of louder war against society, of more outcry and tears and turmoil, than if you had been born, for instance, in England. But somehow life is warmer and closer; the hearth burns more redly; the lights of home shine softer on the rainy street; the very names, endeared in verse and music, cling nearer round our hearts.'

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lauri

    A hard but eloquent read. RLS is a flowery writer and I mean that in a good way. I felt as transported as possible considering how hard it was to relate to certain concepts (I.e. toll house) and not knowing a fair number of words (contumelious, chary, sachems, and ladings to name just a few). I like to read about pioneers and while I didn’t fully understand what was going on in this story, I enjoyed reading about the history of of St. Helena & Calistoga and overall appreciated RLS’s tone, langua A hard but eloquent read. RLS is a flowery writer and I mean that in a good way. I felt as transported as possible considering how hard it was to relate to certain concepts (I.e. toll house) and not knowing a fair number of words (contumelious, chary, sachems, and ladings to name just a few). I like to read about pioneers and while I didn’t fully understand what was going on in this story, I enjoyed reading about the history of of St. Helena & Calistoga and overall appreciated RLS’s tone, language and storytelling.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erick

    It's amazing to me how he can write about something so simple and uninteresting yet so perfectly make you feel like you are there. He captures your interest by the deep realism and understanding of humans and how they see the world. The subject was not that interesting but the writing is so so good. It's amazing to me how he can write about something so simple and uninteresting yet so perfectly make you feel like you are there. He captures your interest by the deep realism and understanding of humans and how they see the world. The subject was not that interesting but the writing is so so good.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I'm a fan of Stevenson's nonfiction and his typical turn of phrase and low-key humor are evident here, but it's a pretty skimpy effort. Disappointing overall and as a result the typical bigotries of the 19th century are more wince-inducing than they would be in a more fully fleshed work. I think it's most likely to appeal to the Stevenson completist or the California history buff. I'm a fan of Stevenson's nonfiction and his typical turn of phrase and low-key humor are evident here, but it's a pretty skimpy effort. Disappointing overall and as a result the typical bigotries of the 19th century are more wince-inducing than they would be in a more fully fleshed work. I think it's most likely to appeal to the Stevenson completist or the California history buff.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Debord

    Excellent and inspiring description of early 20th century Napa Valley. For this native Napan, was inspired to hike the Oat Hill Mine Trail to walk where RLS rode and wrote.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bill Jenkins

    Ok. About Stevenson’s hellish trip from England to San Francisco. Largely a description of characters he met along the way. Stevenson doesn’t have a very high regard for Americans of any race.

  13. 4 out of 5

    James Frase-White

    A most interesting honeymoon, spent in an old mining camp, on Mount Saint Helena in California, Stevenson rarely mentions his new wife. He does a remarkable job in fleshing out the other characters in his tale, including an odd "respectful anti-semitism" no doubt fashionable in that time, and some curious thoughts and bright observations of the fellow inhabitants of the mountain. Most impressive are his physical depictions of the the mountain: the fog rolling in, like a great andulivian flood, w A most interesting honeymoon, spent in an old mining camp, on Mount Saint Helena in California, Stevenson rarely mentions his new wife. He does a remarkable job in fleshing out the other characters in his tale, including an odd "respectful anti-semitism" no doubt fashionable in that time, and some curious thoughts and bright observations of the fellow inhabitants of the mountain. Most impressive are his physical depictions of the the mountain: the fog rolling in, like a great andulivian flood, while he remains above it, and the beauty and quiet of the night in this refuge. He also enjoys the company of Joe Strong, an artist who comes for a visit. Strong, a Hawaiian missionary's son, who will later resurface in RLS's Pacific journeys, and will later be stricken from all his later works after a family feud--this is a side reference worth investigating, as well as the skillful paintings of Mr. Strong, which deserve a wider audience. The book is charming, and will definitely transport you to 100 years past, and is well worth the journey. According to the book, by the way, there is no evidence that Stevenson was there to prospect silver, as was touted by a California outdoor reference guide to the nearby RLS State Park.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Snow Ford

    a nice little novella of Stevenson's rustic honeymoon on a mountain above Calistoga in a deserted mining camp. I chose this book because I wanted to read a story with my boys that had mellifluous writing, with more complex vocabulary but was still accessible. This was a good choice, since we had familiarity with "A Childs Garden of Verses" and "Treasure Island", and the local tie in. Each chapter is a little vignette, making it a good choice for bedtime. It was a delight to read aloud, with lang a nice little novella of Stevenson's rustic honeymoon on a mountain above Calistoga in a deserted mining camp. I chose this book because I wanted to read a story with my boys that had mellifluous writing, with more complex vocabulary but was still accessible. This was a good choice, since we had familiarity with "A Childs Garden of Verses" and "Treasure Island", and the local tie in. Each chapter is a little vignette, making it a good choice for bedtime. It was a delight to read aloud, with language that really sang. My older son was able to grasp the story line, despite the circumlocutious sentence structure. My youngest made me laugh with his comment "The words are so long. I forget them so fast."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Chekouras

    Libraries closed, local bookstores shuttered, reluctant to use Amazon, I dug into my bookshelves and came across this account of Stevenson’s idyll high in the Silverado hills overlooking Calistoga and St. Helena, the gift of a friend when I moved to the Valley of the Moon nextdoor. Rich in observation of people and place, lush with sensual detail of Napa Valley in the heat of summer, Stevenson summers among those who remained after silver mining in the area collapsed and those who planted grapev Libraries closed, local bookstores shuttered, reluctant to use Amazon, I dug into my bookshelves and came across this account of Stevenson’s idyll high in the Silverado hills overlooking Calistoga and St. Helena, the gift of a friend when I moved to the Valley of the Moon nextdoor. Rich in observation of people and place, lush with sensual detail of Napa Valley in the heat of summer, Stevenson summers among those who remained after silver mining in the area collapsed and those who planted grapevines in the hope something may come of it. Published in 1883, some of the language didn’t survive into 2020, or perhaps it was Stevenson’s usage of English as spoken by a man from Edinburgh, but those bumps in no way diminished my enjoyment of this series of tales. A delightful escape.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hope

    I thought that this would be a fun book to read because we had gone to the Petrified Forest in CA where Robert Louis Stevenson had been and this book had been written about his account there. But, I forgot that the auther was Scottish and a poet and I really didn't like the way he wrote. I had a hard time following his writings as he jumped around so much. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless they like the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson. I thought that this would be a fun book to read because we had gone to the Petrified Forest in CA where Robert Louis Stevenson had been and this book had been written about his account there. But, I forgot that the auther was Scottish and a poet and I really didn't like the way he wrote. I had a hard time following his writings as he jumped around so much. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless they like the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Taylor

    I came across this little book in the dollar bin of a used bookstore, and was intrigued because I had never heard of this particular manuscript by Stevenson. Basically, it is a simple, concise collection of various portraits of scenery, all located in the California mountains around Napa Valley. The descriptions were charmingly pastoral. However, after a little while all the descriptions of houses, valleys, and mountains seem to merge and become all one and the same. Extremely repetitive.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Deke

    Who knew RLS wrote nonfiction so eloquently and even reverently? Highly recommended if you live in or love California's wine country, of and on which he waxes poetic, transporting you to a place and time that's almost mythical. His comment that napa valley wine is "bottled poetry" is well known around there, but it's his description of waking to find the valley below him filled with fog, like a lake, that I found most poetic. Who knew RLS wrote nonfiction so eloquently and even reverently? Highly recommended if you live in or love California's wine country, of and on which he waxes poetic, transporting you to a place and time that's almost mythical. His comment that napa valley wine is "bottled poetry" is well known around there, but it's his description of waking to find the valley below him filled with fog, like a lake, that I found most poetic.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Excellent travel memoir of Robert Louis Stevenson's time spent in the Napa Valley/Calistoga region, in particular the old mining town called Silverado. His descriptions of the people and the area (in 1880) are wonderfully detailed and almost poetic. I could see the old mines, the ramshackle, abandoned house and the beautiful, mesmerizing, all encompassing fog. I highly recommend this for Napa Valley/California/the old West fans. Excellent travel memoir of Robert Louis Stevenson's time spent in the Napa Valley/Calistoga region, in particular the old mining town called Silverado. His descriptions of the people and the area (in 1880) are wonderfully detailed and almost poetic. I could see the old mines, the ramshackle, abandoned house and the beautiful, mesmerizing, all encompassing fog. I highly recommend this for Napa Valley/California/the old West fans.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Noran Miss Pumkin

    this was my first travel read,The Petrified Forest of Calistoga, California is the basis of this story. this started my life long habit of travel reads. it was an exciting read for a young lady that had never been more than 75 miles away from home, nor flown before. nor traveled without her parents before either. so my rating maybe a little off.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Truitti

    If you read this, remember that this was about 1870. I DEFFINATELY would not want to be part of settling the west. Living like this doesn't appeal to me at all. LOL Give me a bathroom and round up anytime !! I am still not sure if Stevenson was being a bigot or just describing people's backgrounds. BUT I am now researching to see if Silverado is still in Calif. If you read this, remember that this was about 1870. I DEFFINATELY would not want to be part of settling the west. Living like this doesn't appeal to me at all. LOL Give me a bathroom and round up anytime !! I am still not sure if Stevenson was being a bigot or just describing people's backgrounds. BUT I am now researching to see if Silverado is still in Calif.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    A memoir by the famous author about the brief period he and his new bride lived in an abandoned house near an abandoned silver mine just ten miles or so from Calistoga, California. I've heard about it for years. It was good to finally read it and get the impressions of the area of someone from that long ago. A memoir by the famous author about the brief period he and his new bride lived in an abandoned house near an abandoned silver mine just ten miles or so from Calistoga, California. I've heard about it for years. It was good to finally read it and get the impressions of the area of someone from that long ago.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul Jellinek

    Written at about the same time as "Treasure Island," his breakthrough classic, this little book is not one of Stevenson's best by any means, but it gives you a sense of the man and what his life was like at the time, and it does contain some beautiful writing, both about the Calistoga-Napa Valley section of California in the 1880's and about some the people who lived there. Written at about the same time as "Treasure Island," his breakthrough classic, this little book is not one of Stevenson's best by any means, but it gives you a sense of the man and what his life was like at the time, and it does contain some beautiful writing, both about the Calistoga-Napa Valley section of California in the 1880's and about some the people who lived there.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marley

    I delightful little gem from Roberet Lewis Stevenson--an account of his honeymoon in the more-or-less ghost town of Silverado. I got a little tired ofhis descriptions of the landscape and natural wonders (I know!), but they are beautifully written. Of more interest to me were the people he met along the way. Real characters. This should be a classic travel book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    This book has been on my list for awhile. It's very short and provides interesting historical context for Napa Valley in the 1880s. It's also fairly racist and not particularly polished - more of a collection of diary entries from the period. This book has been on my list for awhile. It's very short and provides interesting historical context for Napa Valley in the 1880s. It's also fairly racist and not particularly polished - more of a collection of diary entries from the period.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ali Skiera

    I think it helped that I was able to purchase a copy from the RLS museum during my vacation to California... and read while lounging poolside and basking in the sun... right after checking out the Nappa Valley. It was the perfect read in the perfect setting>

  27. 5 out of 5

    Edward Weiner

    Enjoyed this because I am so familiar with the Napa Valley. Interesting descriptions of Napa Valley in the late 19th century. RLS wrote this before he wrote any of his more famous books. Kind of fun. Short and Sweet.

  28. 5 out of 5

    LP

    Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the most compassionate and humorous writers it's been my pleasure to read. Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the most compassionate and humorous writers it's been my pleasure to read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    RLS's notes about he and his family living in Silverado CA to escape the San Fran. fogs. Good descriptions but seems like there should be more to the book. RLS's notes about he and his family living in Silverado CA to escape the San Fran. fogs. Good descriptions but seems like there should be more to the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Book #1 in my 3-book 'Road Books' list along with 'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac and 'The Road' by Jack London. Book #1 in my 3-book 'Road Books' list along with 'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac and 'The Road' by Jack London.

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