Continuing the Conversation

The papers on this panel (remember, you can find the full texts of all of them, with illustrations, here) brought up a whole series of fascinating, interconnected issues:

  • How do travelers think about their personal and national identities, and to what degree are these tied to particular places as opposed to displaying particular kinds of bodies or marked identity categories?
  • How do the problems of nostalgia shape the experience of travelers?
  • How do travel writers define the picturesque, and what are the costs/consequences of seeking it as one travels?
  • What is the relationship between the desire to fix/memorialize/preserve a place (through exploring it, writing definitive guides to it, or demarcating it as “protected” land, for example) and the fact that tourism itself is often seen as interfering with the authenticity of the original place? How possible is it to travel and to conserve simultaneously? What are the costs of both efforts, and how do travelers–whether skillfully or not–negotiate those competing impulses?

There are many more topics we could fruitfully discuss. I hope that people who attended might add questions, comments, observations here in the comments, or bring up other issues that we should discuss. And I hope the panelists themselves will keep the conversation going, as we think about intersections between their work.

Abstract: “Victorian Zionism and Jewish Cultural Memory: Judith Montefiore’s Notes from a Private Journal of a Visit to Egypt and Palestine (1844)”

Lindsay Dearinger.

Lady Judith Montefiore, wife of noted Victorian philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore and well-known philanthropist in her own right, travelled with her husband to Palestine multiple times throughout the mid-nineteenth century. Only two of Montefiore’s unpublished diaries documenting her travels and experiences in Palestine survive; those from her first and second trips through the Levant. Montefiore’s travel journals differ significantly from the typical accounts of British Christians engaging in Holy Land tourism. Montefiore, an Anglo-Jewish woman, structures her first journal, according to Judith Page, “as a Jewish mythical narrative of exile and return.” While her first journal emulates the narrative of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, and in so doing, depicts a Jewish future in the land of Israel squarely within a biblical past, Montefiore’s record of her second trip to Palestine, Notes from a Private Journal of a Visit to Egypt and Palestine, by Way of Italy and the Mediterranean (1844), particularizes Moses and Judith’s plans to found Jewish agricultural settlements outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the biblical land of Israel—to build a tangible Jewish future in the land in the Victorian present. In this paper, I explore how, as a Western Ashkenazi Jew traveling to Palestine with the intent of establishing Jewish settlements in the land for oppressed Jewish peoples, and in so doing, reaffirming her belief in Jewish historical claim on the land, Judith Montefiore’s Notes documents a Victorian Anglo-Jewish woman’s construction of Jewish cultural memory. For Montefiore, the landscape recalls the biblical scenes of her imagination, but she also sees possibilities for a constructive plan for renewal as part of Jewish historical continuity. I argue that, rather than focusing on Jewish past as in the first diary, Notes combines images of Jewish past, present, and future and balances an idealized return to the land with a more practical plan for settling the land in what is a complication of the nineteenth-century British colonialist paradigm.

Abstract: “We Vagabonds”: Humanitarianism and Migrancy in Dickens’s ‘Uncommercial Traveller’ Papers”

Sarah Winter.

Arguably the most versatile fabricator of a distinctively Victorian version of cultural memory through his fiction and journalism, Charles Dickens also extended his authorial influence through his travel writings. Though less often investigated by scholars than his travelogues American Notes (1842) and Pictures of Italy (1846), Dickens’s series of “Uncommercial Traveller” papers published in the 1860s in All the Year Round elaborate a detailed and wide-ranging set of itineraries through a national and international terrain lacking an organizing or dominant geographical center. Despite his professional, literary, and imaginative connections to the metropole of London, Dickens’s adoption of the “uncommercial traveller” persona seems to cut his narration loose from the city to explore its margins, peripheries, and points of departure. This practice of wandering, seemingly at random or as his interests take him, enables Dickens in this guise to run across repeatedly, as if by accident, various persons who are equally on the move, including Irish migrant workers and gypsies with their families on the roads of rural Kent; mercantile sailors frequenting the brothels of Liverpool; or a shipload of emigrants bound for the United States. While his serial fiction positions Dickens’s authorial persona and his characters as relay points through which the Victorian reading audience may constitute itself as a participatory collective via their shared memories of reading (as I have argued recently), Dickens’s “Uncommercial Traveller” articles seem to pursue a different, though related, project by conveying a shared humanitarian perspective on precarious lives linked together by the common experiences of mobility, stigmatization, and displacement. I want to explore in this paper the ways Dickens’s “Uncommercial Traveller” essays materialize the forms of cultural memory gained through common reading, not as the transmission of the quasi-ethnographic vantage on cultural diversity gained by the experienced traveller, but rather as the product of “vagabonding” encounters on the road that seem to generalize a human condition of migrancy.

Abstract: “Emily Carr from Victoria to London: Colonial Homecoming, Cultural Memory, and the Illustrated Travel Narrative”

Samantha Burton.

On the 30th of July, 1910, writer and artist Emily Carr arrived at the Quebec City offices of the Canadian Pacific Railway company in a rage: her trunk had been lost, the final insult after a difficult cross-country journey from her hometown Victoria, British Columbia. Carr’s illustration of the incident is humourously violent (fig. 1): Emily “heaps maledictions on the sandy head” of a worker cowering “in a state of writhing terror,” as her sister Alice sits despondently on a pile of luggage. Carr was en route to London when she was waylaid in Quebec; a full account of the pleasures and travails – and usually more of the latter – of the five-week voyage is related in an unpublished illustrated diary entitled “Sister and I from Victoria to London: Memoirs of Odds and Ends.” Composed of forty-six pen and ink drawings, each accompanied by a lengthy written description, the book is notable as a rare example of a woman’s illustrated travel narrative in the long nineteenth century. This paper examines the ways in which the diary deftly combines text and image to capture the experience of a colonial woman making a secular pilgrimage to the center of empire.

Carr was just one of a flood of Canadian travelers making the trip to Britain in the decades between Confederation and World War I, their travel positioned in both fiction and journalism as a kind of homecoming. I argue that this voyage “home” was undertaken precisely because of the strength of cultural memory: a collective colonial longing for Britain, which was itself at least in part constructed through the production and dissemination of popular travel narratives. Carr’s “memoir of odds and ends” would have functioned within this cycle, serving not only as a way for the artist to record her own memories, but as a potential guide both for future travelers and for armchair travelers who might never themselves make the trek. Situating “Sister and I…” in the context of contemporary understandings of collective memory and cultural heritage, I examine the tension between text and image and the ways in which each contributes to and departs from various conventions of the travel narrative genre in order to explore the role played by cultural memory in the construction of a desire for travel and the role played by travel in the construction of cultural memory in the age of empire.

Figure 1.
Emily Carr, “We determined on a personal investigation,” in “Sister and I from
Victoria to London: Memoirs of Odds and Ends,” 1910. Watercolour and ink on paper, 23.5 x 36.5 cm. Emily Carr fonds, British Columbia Archives, Victoria, B.C.

Abstract: “Blogging Victorian Tourism: Morrell, Memory, and Plagiarism”

Alex L. Milsom.

In 1862, the elite Alpine Club of London published Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers. It admonished fellow Alpinists that, “The dangers of Alpine expeditions may be divided into two classes—the real and the imaginary.” The “real” dangers include glacier crevasses, steep icy inclines, and snow-bridges. The “imaginary” ones include the “formidable effect on the traveller’s imagination” that these “real” dangers can have. In 1861, John Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland, Savoy, and Piedmont, 10th ed. quoted this passage from the Alpine club in a section advocating mountaineering safety. In 1863, with Murray’s guidebook in hand, Jemima Morrell of Yorkshire went on Thomas Cook’s first commercial group tour of the Alps. Her travel journal quotes, alters, and fails to attribute this same line. Finally, for the 150th anniversary of Morrell’s journey, a blogger named Helen Mort won a competition held by “Switzerland Tourism” to be the “’new’ Jemima,” retrace her Alpine route, and record her experience. In an article online, Mort too quotes this line from the Alpine Club’s text, attributing it incorrectly to Morrell, citing it as an example of that writer’s eloquence and mocking tone.

My paper will examine the reappearances of this line from the Alpine Club’s text as a way of analyzing the extent to which travel writing is often about rewriting oneself into the narrative of a journey. Travelers incorporate phrases into their written descriptions of their trips just as they incorporate old routes into their itineraries; Mort’s idea of her Victorian predecessor scripted her own travel experience, though along the way, the script itself has been doctored and removed from its original context. By the time the sentence appears in Mort’s article, it has lost its relationship to its original context and stands in as “Victorian” to the nostalgic contemporary traveler.

Abstract: “Victorian Travel and Spaces of Cultural Memory: From the English Lake District to Colonial Banff”

Margaret Linley.

Lake District travel writing is an established genre of historical and cultural significance dating back to the 1750s. The northwestern district of England, historically encompassing the counties of Westmorland, Cumberland, and Lancashire (now Cumbria), has been a tourist destination since the mid-eighteenth century when a state-sponsored road-building program opened a major northern thoroughfare from Lancaster to Keswick. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the region was cherished for its combined natural beauty and poetic associations. It also, however, became the site of repeated conflict and confrontation over shared cultural heritage and environmental encroachment; and the landscape continues to this day to bear the imprint of philosophical ideas and literary aesthetic values along with the scars of land use battles.

William Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes (1835) is a landmark work of cultural memory that seeks to place the local English Lake District within a virtual network of global “scenic” landscapes and common spaces. As Jonathan Bate puts it in Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition, the Guide was “without question the most widely read work of the most admired English poet of the first half of the nineteenth century” (41). Perhaps no one memorializes the feeling for place with quite the intensity as Wordsworth in his poetry. While his poetry is characteristic of the early nineteenth century in drawing heavily on the motif of travel for inspiration, it is important that he uniquely figured himself as a travel guide to his home region and used the travel genre as a platform to consolidate collective memory and to express his ambivalence toward mass tourism and travel writing itself. In its long Victorian afterlife, Wordsworth’s Guide is a notoriously complex and influential text in its relation to environmental consciousness, cultural memory, aesthetics, political sensibility, and travel itself.

In a recent discussion of the Lake District in the institutionalization of public space around an “ecology of authorship,” Scott Hess posits that the supposedly universal Wordsworthian vision of nature underwrote the designation of the Yosemite Valley as a public park in 1864 and the designation of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. But the picturesque mode that culminated by the late eighteenth century in the “high” picturesque (Alan Lui) was in fact “institutionalized” (Ian Ousby) within English cultural memory as a public domain well before Wordsworth consecrated the region a “national property.” Significantly, Lake District travel writing archives cultural memory of common space in relation not only to continental geographies (especially the Alps) but also to colonial landscapes. In addition, it also usefully complicates the history of the relationship between local cultural heritage, globalization of space, and the environmental movement. Indeed, Wordsworth’s own consolidating travel vision of the Lake District in his Guide is variously condemned as universalist (Scott Hess) and patriarchal (Jacqueline Labbe) or celebrated as cosmopolitan (Lisa Ottum) and republican (Tim Fulford).

Taking the colonial Canadian Pacific Northwest as a case study, this paper surveys English Lake District travel writing as a cultural archive in order to consider what’s at stake when the Victorian memorializing view of natural, common space, inherited from Wordsworth and more than a century of domestic travel writing, itself begins to travel. Wordsworth recognized travel writing and public parks as ecological spaces of collective consciousness. The global implications of the distinct discursive practices found within English Lake District travel writing become especially complicated when considered in the context of colonial communications and transportation networks, well documented in book history and travel writing in Canadian studies. The ecology of picturesque English Lake District travel writing helped convey and record nineteenth-century colonial exploration in the colonial Pacific Northwest and eventually contributed to the railway transports of the touristic commercial imagination and the public consecration of natural space, beginning with Canada’s first national park in Banff in 1885. By charting and analyzing patterns within a large body of travel writing that is as fundamental to the archives of colonial memory as it is to today’s environmental and cultural heritage practices, this paper contributes to our understanding of the place of the history of the Victorian domestic travel book in networking and memorializing mobile spatialities from the local to the global, from a remote region in the Northwest of imperial England to the colonial Pacific Northwest.