Romantic Women’s Travel Writing

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By Catherine Redford

I became interested in women’s travel writing of the Romantic period entirely by accident during the course of my PhD research. Part of my doctoral thesis explores the link between depictions of abandoned cities in Romantic Last Man literature and contemporary accounts of visits to the newly-rediscovered cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. What fascinated me about these travel accounts was the way in which Pompeii and Herculaneum are not presented as ruins in the traditional sense; rather, they are described by early nineteenth-century tourists as appearing to have been only recently abandoned, Mary Celeste-style. Just as the Last Man wanders around deserted cities encountering half-eaten meals in people’s homes, so, too, did contemporary visitors to the sites come across chilling scenes of abandoned domesticity.

A street in Pompeii
An article printed in an 1824 edition of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine suggests a strange feeling of the uncanny in its account of Pompeii. The city is described as rooted in the ancient past and yet simultaneously imbued with a sense that it was inhabited up until the previous day, with the author stating that ‘the narrow streets, the little Greek houses, with their remnants of ornamental painting, their corridores [sic] and their …read more