I fantasize that one day, I’ll be able to write a whole book about this fellow John Chetwode Eustace, a much-maligned Irish-Catholic priest who went under the gauntlet posthumously in Little Dorrit. I can’t thank Dickens enough for deriding him, however, because otherwise I would never have found out about the man who wrote one of the most important proto-guidebooks of the nineteenth century, and I would never have published this, my finest work, in Studies in Romanticism.
Looking around at various databases of travel writing as I figure out what sort of format mine should use, and I found this:
“A Database of Women’s Travel Writing, 1780-1840”
Will be exploring what it offers and how it is formatted in more detail.
My own travel writing database is quite specific to the readings I’ve been doing for the past 5 years – whenever I stumble across a reference to a guidebook—sometimes within a guidebook—I put it in my list. My list has grown into a spreadsheet and at the moment, I’m trying to figure out what tags I want to use and how to notate the ways in which travelers used and referenced each others’ writings.
I wrote an email to a friend today in which I summarized my dissertation casually. I am quoting it here because I rarely write about my dissertation in casual email form, and it was fun to summarize it outside the context of a job market letter.
The subject is the evolution of the guidebook genre and how middle class mass tourists liked reading guides that condescended to them – touring as aspirational role-playing. (Tourists liked to think of themselves as Lord Byron.) Also about the way religious politics make their way into the guidebooks – because Anglos loved the exoticism of watching Roman Catholic rituals in Italy and France. I have a chapter on a radical Catholic priest who wrote the first 19th c proto-guidebook – John Chetwode Eustace. Really fascinating weird figure. Then a chapter on Hobhouse (Byron’s best friend) who hated Eustace. A chapter on John Murray III, the publisher and his 1840s guides to Northern Italy. A chapter on Ruskin and Venice. Last is a chapter about this woman from the 1860s who went on Thomas Cook’s first guided tour of the Alps – Jemima Morrell. She wrote a hilarious journal about her trip.
While my Storymap version of the Morrell chapter map is still in progress here, I completed a very thorough map using Google Maps of her route.
My goal in this map is to show the form of travel (train/boat/foot) rather than the precise routes and roads taken. Using the rather rough line-drawing tool of the platform was a good way to show the form (using color) – but the lines are rather blunt. The value of showing the type of travel for this chapter is in demonstrating A) how varied the transportation was for members of Morrell’s traveling group and B) just how much ground they covered nearly every single day. And they rose around 4am and fell asleep after 10pm regularly. Such robustness.
I plan to do a separate map to outline their four days in Paris at the tail end of their journey – such running about town on foot and feeling pushed around on omnibuses. (I’d like to find a good image of an 1860s omnibus!)
Although it is behind a paywall, my article in Literature Compass came out on September 3. Here is a link to its abstract. It’s called “19th-century Travel and the 21st-century Scholar.” It’s a survey of books published in the last ten years or so that describe nineteenth-century British tourism and its relationship to literature. I argue that given the development of the field over the past generation of scholars, they “need no longer apologize for interdisciplinarity nor for discarding the observance of strict boundaries between literary and non-literary genres.”
I’m creating a page on this site (here) where I keep track of one of my favorite recurring tropes of tourism, both historical and contemporary. It’s this idea that having a real experience of a place – experiencing the “authentic” Paris or the “real” Los Angeles – means going somewhere where the other tourists don’t tend to go, or to which only locals can give you access. Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist (one of the most important texts on the topic) writes that this search for getting off the “beaten track” “suggests that somewhere in tourist settings there are real events accessible to intellectual elites” (105). Jonathan Culler, in his essay “The Semiotics of Tourism,” writes that this is the “most common motif” of tourism (159 in Framing the Sign).
Obviously, the big societal/cultural question to consider is why we are so concerned with authenticity in the first place. What are we doing in our daily lives that makes us want to find something “authentic” when we leave home? And what does the experience of “authenticity” feel like to someone in the midst of experiencing it?