Travelers in Europe, 1807-1826: de Staël, Shelley, Starke, & Jameson
March 17, 2022 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Amy Watkin (McSweeney's), "Germaine de Staël: Napoleon's Worst Enemy": "[S]he took her conversational skills seriously and used them to put people at ease, to entertain, and ... to make people examine their own views of the world" (Watkin's column archives). De Staël's Corinne; or, Italy (1807; odes trans. by Letitia Elizabeth Landon) is a "novelogue" [PDF] based on her tour of Italy during her Ten Years of Exile from Paris. Toril Moi's "A Woman's Desire to Be Known" [PDF] argues it "offers a radical analysis" and reflects "meditations on the relationship between love and expressivity, and between love and our capacity to understand others." De Staël's biography by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. De Staël as Corinne by royal portraitist Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun [repainted]; de Staël & daughter Albertine by "Bad News" cat fancier portraitist Marguerite Gérard.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, History of a Six Weeks' Tour: "We left London July 28th, 1814, on a hotter day than has been known in this climate for many years. I am not a good traveller, and this heat agreed very ill with me, till, on arriving at Dover, I was refreshed by a sea-bath ... The evening was most beautiful; there was but little wind, and the sails flapped in the flagging breeze: the moon rose, and night came on." Shelley's brief, picturesque narrative--also documented in her journal--describes an abrupt journey [map] at age 16 with her stepsister and "S***" (with whom she was eloping). An avid reader, she mentions along the way other travel literature: her mother's Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway (important for Romanticism in general) and also Lady Montagu's Turkish Embassy Letters [map; covered in a 5 part blog series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Related: Amy Watkin's columns at McSweeney's on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, and her stepsister Claire Clairmont (also known as Mary, Jane, or Mary Jane in Mary's journal).

Mariana Starke (1820), Travels on the Continent Written for the Use and Particular Information of Travellers: "I, therefore, resolved, instead of publishing a fourth Edition of my 'Letters from Italy,' to write A NEW WORK: and being ambitious to prove myself a faithful historian, I spent two years, namely, from May, 1817, to June, 1819, in the countries it has been my endeavour to describe; that I might write from the spot, and trust nothing to memory." Starke's guide pre-dates Baedeker's, et al., and differs from hundreds of Grand Tour narratives by introducing an extensive rating system of !, !!, !!!, !!!!, !!!!!, and !!!!!! marks for artworks (explained in a footnote; some examples--perhaps the first media criticism to use ratings systematically, though pre-dated by the occasional, even rare extra enthusiasm marks used informally in Thomas Martyn's earlier guide). There's also a guide to expenses, pre-railway routes, hotels, shops, etc. Starke previously: 25 Playwrights and their Plays.

Anna Jameson (1826), The Diary of an Ennuyée: "What young lady, travelling for the first time on the Continent, does not write a 'Diary?' ... wherein we are to record and preserve all the striking, profound, and original observations--the classical reminiscences--the thread-bare raptures--the poetical effusions--in short, all the never-sufficiently-to-be-exhausted topics of sentiment and enthusiasm, which must necessarily suggest themselves while posting from Paris to Naples." Unlike other Grand Tour narratives, Jameson's semi-fictionalized travelogue can be read as satire. Elisabetta Marino gives an overview of the text [PDF]. See also "silver fork" writer Catherine Gore's mildly related novel, The Diary of a Désennuyée, referencing Jameson's book a decade later.
posted by Wobbuffet (7 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Unlike other Grand Tour narratives ...

Oh, this should say something like "Unlike these other narratives"--a connecting thought to distinguish Jameson here, not something that parses in a wider context where it's almost funny her book wasn't read as a novel. Maybe, compared to yet more texts at the time, what might have made it more like a novel would be emphasizing that it's a True History, and what might have made it more like a memoir would be telling more obvious whoppers.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:28 PM on March 17, 2022

Wow! Fascinating - I'm only a handful of links in buy there's so much here - thank you Wobbuffet!
posted by esoteric things at 7:04 AM on March 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I appreciate how dense this post is. Thank you Wobbuffet!
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:25 AM on March 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is absolutely a six-exclamation-points post. Thank you!
posted by TangoCharlie at 9:34 AM on March 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really liked this gem from Germaine's biography: "She rather loved what made her weep rather than what made her laugh."
Now *that* sentence tells me worlds about her.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 11:13 AM on March 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've been meaning to read de Staël for ages but still haven't: perhaps this will finally give me the impetus. Also previously - Wobbuffet's fascinating 2017 post about Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
posted by misteraitch at 12:44 PM on March 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Holy cow, what a post! Thank you!
posted by jokeefe at 9:01 PM on March 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

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