British Women Travellers and Italian Marriages, c. 1789–1844

  • Ross Balzaretti
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History Series book series (GSX)


During the early nineteenth century, the well-established, popular and largely male genre of travel writing shifted from its earlier focus on interminable and repetitive descriptions of art and landscape towards a greater concern with the contemporary inhabitants of the places visited. Although too much might not be expected of this characteristically ‘light’ genre, such writing has become a fertile hunting ground for historians interested in the development of national and racial stereotypes.1 The cross-cultural interactions represented in and by travel writing were necessary to processes of nineteenth-century nation-building and ever-changing configurations of national identity.2 Accounts of Italy exemplify this as eighteenth-century works tended to say little about contemporary Italians and nineteenth-century ones, notably Charles Dickens’ Pictures from Italy (1846), rather more.3 One subject which appeared in both eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travel writing was marriage, particularly ‘dysfunctional’ Italian marriage compared with ‘functional’ English marriage, which was employed as an unsophisticated metaphor for Italian Catholic backwardness contrasted with English Protestant progress. The comparisons which travellers made between Italian and English marriage are worth studying because of the acknowledged importance of marriage within Victorian society, as evidenced by legislation which significantly changed its terms throughout the century.4


National Identity Italian Society Italian Woman Domestic Life Woman Writer 
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  1. 98.
    J. Stabler, ‘Devotion and Diversion: Early Nineteenth-Century British Women Travellers in Italy and the Catholic Church’ in Chapman and Stabler (eds), Unfolding the South, 15–34 at 30–34; Schoina, Romantic ‘Anglo-Italians’, 82–88;J. Moskal, ‘Gender and Italian Nationalism in Mary Shelley’s Rambles in Germany and Italy’, Romanticism, 5 (1999), 188–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Ross Balzaretti 2015

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  • Ross Balzaretti

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