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.
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.