Saeko Yoshikawa, William Wordsworth and the Invention of Tourism, 1820-1900. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Pp. xii+268. £65. ISBN 9781472420138.
The word 'invention' in the title of Yoshikawa's book suggests a conscious and deliberate attempt to build and shape tourism. Yoshikawa begins her exploration of a series of mid-nineteenth-century 'Wordsworthian pilgrimage[s]' (48) by taking readers through the unpublished 1850 album, Wordsworth, previously owned by an art collector in the late nineteenth century, and bestowed to the Wordsworth Trust in 2006 by Dr Duncan Thomson. Although the collective, commercial idea of touring was still distant at the time of the album's composition, Yoshikawa underlines the significance of its pencil sketches - visual representations of Wordsworthian places in the manner closest to the poet's own vision, particularly of the four houses he resided in. While the artist exhibits an almost intimate knowledge of Wordsworth and his circle, such as Wordsworth's interest in the chimneys of Loughrigg Holme and Southey's more frequently-trodden entry near Greta Hall, not every visitor to the Lake District was lucky enough to possess such privileged first-hand knowledge. They had to rely on local anecdotes and descriptions in guidebooks to learn about the poet. Carefully written and rich in detail, Yoshikawa's book provides readers with an abundance of quotations from personal accounts of visitors to illustrate how guidebooks mediated between these and actual places in the Lake District from 1802 to 1900.
Yoshikawa makes extensive use of guidebooks to show how the Wordsworthian connections of various places gradually came to crystalise, deposit, and accumulate in people's hearts, offering a new way of understanding the formation of those connections as a century-long process. In Chapter 2, she points readers to a time when Wordsworth's quotations were lacking or treated only as one of many in early guidebooks, especially those published after the continuing fashion for picturesque tourism in the 1810s and 20s. She notes that before the 1820s and 30s, when quotations from The Excursion (1814) became standardised, visits to Rydal Mount were mainly prompted by the intention to obtain picturesque views from Wordsworth's house. Yoshikawa not only gives readers a gradual sense of development of Wordsworth's popularity and his association with the Lake District, but also of the legitimacy of his residences as Wordsworthian memorials (170). For instance, it took years for Dove Cottage to succeed Rydal Mount as 'Wordsworth's cottage'. Yoshikawa draws her readers' attention to factors that affect a place's legitimacy as a memorial to the poet, including its status of ownership (e.g. tenants' deterrence of visitors from the privately-owned Rydal Mount), the certainty of its essential connections with Wordsworth (e.g. debates over which house in Hawkshead was the poet's residence), and the availability of the poet's published works and guidebooks to popularise it.
Reading Yoshikawa's investigation of the aforesaid process of mediation leads to the discovery that the authenticity of some places as Wordsworthian sites/locales have not been fully verified before they were brought to the attention of guidebook readers, a strategy that Yoshikawa has described as a play between 'fact and fancy' (170). In Chapter 6, she shows the materialist approach to be prevalent from the 1860s among guidebook writers who strove to discover places where tangible legacies of the poet were still to be found, including Wordsworth's Seat in Rydal that overlooks the lake and vale. This emphasis on the tangible could perhaps be compared, contrasted, and even related to the enormous interest in materiality expressed in recent Romantic criticism.
The strength of Yoshikawa's informative and descriptive approach is complemented by the revealing facts with which she presents readers; some of which have the potential to significantly impact our understanding of what might be called the internationalisation of Romantic readership and influence that has gradually gained the attention of Romantic scholars working on comparative poetry and legacy. She touches on the question of ownership, inquiring why Wordsworth's four residences, despite not having been owned by himself, have become so imbued with the nation's (and even the world's) memories of him. Generations of visitors, including the hitherto underexplored Ichinosuke Takagi (1888-1974) exhibited a longing for a personal and place-specific kind of physicality in living out the spiritual connection they had established with Wordsworth through their reading.
In the course of Yoshikawa's examination of the history of guidebooks and Wordsworth's poetry interlocking to construct places of memory related to the poet, she touches on the recent themes of preservation (Chapter 6) and environmental protection (Chapter 2). While her central metaphors, the reading of landscape (12) and the Lake District as a museum, have been adopted from Nicola Watson's recent book The Literary Tourist (2006) and Ann Wroe's article 'A Continuous Force' respectively, some of her core concepts, such as the keyword 'quasi-religious' (89) describing visitors' search for the experience with Wordsworth's spirit that presides over various 'haunts' (1) show hints of having descended from what Geoffrey Hartman called the 'spirit of place'(212) in Wordsworth's Poetry 1787-1814 (1964). It is with terminology traditionally familiar to Wordsworthian study that Yoshikawa brings to readers her new angle on Wordsworthʼs personal and poetic engagement with places; one that is backed up by historical study of those places (such as their ownership and changes through urban development) and confirmed by biographical records of his exchange with the locals. She has enabled us to see through the unique and penetrating lenses of the painter of the 1850 album and enlarged our vision of Wordsworthian landscapes and monuments.
Viona Au Yeung, Independent Researcher
- There are currently no refbacks.