Introduction: Forms of Travel, Modes of Transport

  • Brian H. Murray
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


In her 1927 essay ‘Street Haunting: A London Adventure’, Virginia Woolf wanders into a second-hand bookshop on Charing Cross Road. A disorganised stack of volumes piled on the floor offers a panoramic view of the print culture of the previous century. Although scholars of the nineteenth century have long thought of the novel as the dominant literary form of the period, Woolf suggests that it is another category —the travel book —that overwhelms all others.

There are travellers … row upon row of them, still testifying, indomitable spinsters that they were, to the discomforts that they endured and the sunsets they admired in Greece when Queen Victoria was a girl. A tour in Cornwall with a visit to the tin mines was then worthy of voluminous record. People went slowly up the Rhine and did portraits of each other in Indian ink, sitting reading on deck beside a coil of rope; they measured the pyramids; were lost to civilization for years; converted negroes in pestilential swamps. This packing up and going off, exploring deserts and catching fevers, settling in India for a lifetime, penetrating even to China and then returning to lead a parochial life in Edmonton, tumbles and tosses upon the dusty floor like an uneasy sea, so restless the English are, with the waves at their very door.1


Nineteenth Century Blank Space Literary Form Visual Culture Postcolonial Theory 
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Notes and references

  1. 1.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘Street Haunting: A London Adventure’, The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (London: Hogarth Press, 1942), pp. 19–29 (pp. 25–6).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Roy Bridges, ‘Exploration and Travel outside Europe (1720–1914)’, The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, ed. Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 53–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    John Pemble, The Mediterranean Passion: Victorians and Edwardians in the South (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 7.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel (London: Verso, 1999), p. 197.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Some important studies that have helped to define the field include: Paul Carter, The Road to Botany Bay: An Exploration of Landscape and History (London: Faber, 1987)Google Scholar
  6. John Urry, The Tourist Gaze (London: Sage, 1990)Google Scholar
  7. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 2008)Google Scholar
  8. James Duncan and Derek Gregory (ed.), Writes of Passage: Reading Travel Writing (London: Routledge, 1999). A thoughtful discussion of the state of travel writing studies by two of the genre’s most eminent scholars can be found inGoogle Scholar
  9. Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs, Talking About Travel Writing (Leicester: The English Association, 2007).Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs, ‘Introduction’, The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 1–13 (p. 8).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 10.
    Tim Youngs, ‘Introduction: Filling the Blank Spaces’, Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century: Filling the Blank Spaces, ed. Tim Youngs (London: Anthem, 2006), pp. 1–18 (p. 3).Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Caroline Levine, ‘Strategic Formalism: Toward a New Method in Cultural Studies’, Victorian Studies, 48 (2006), 625–7 (pp. 651, 633).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 12.
    Paul Smethurst, ‘Introduction’, Travel Writing, Form and Empire: The Poetics and Politics of Mobility, ed. Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst (New York: Routledge, 2009), pp. 1–18 (p. 2).Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    James Buzard, The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways to Culture, 1800–1918 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 19.
    Nicola J. Watson, The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006), pp. 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 20.
    Kate Flint, ‘Travelling Readers’, The Feeling of Reading: Affective Experience and Victorian Literature, ed. Rachel Ablow (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010), pp. 27–46 (p. 29).Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    Felix Driver, Geography Militant: Cultures of Exploration and Empire (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), p. 56.Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    Dane Kennedy, The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), p. 42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 24.
    Francis Galton, The Art of Travel, Or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries, 4th edn (London: John Murray, 1867), p. iii. The front matter to this edition also includes advertisements for various Murray ‘Handbooks’.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Paul Fussell, Abroad: British Literary Traveling between the Wars (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 39.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    George Eliot, Middlemarch (London: Penguin, 2003 [1872]), p. 26.Google Scholar
  22. 31.
    See Innes M. Keighren, Charles W. J. Withers, Bill Bell, eds, Travels Into Print: Exploration, Writing, and Publishing with John Murray, 1773–1859 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015).Google Scholar
  23. 32.
    J. Gardner Wilkinson, A Handbook for Travellers in Egypt (London: John Murray, 1847)Google Scholar
  24. J.G. Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians (London: John Murray, 1837).Google Scholar
  25. 33.
    On the panorama and other spectacles as simulated travel–and their influence on travel literature–see Richard Altick, The Shows of London (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978), pp. 198–210Google Scholar
  26. Alison Byerly, Are We There Yet? Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012), pp. 29–70.Google Scholar
  27. 36.
    James Duncan and Derek Gregory, ‘Introduction’, Writes of Passage: Reading Travel Writing, ed. James Duncan and Derek Gregory (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  28. 37.
    Peter Osborne, Travelling Light: Photography, Travel and Visual Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 9.Google Scholar

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© Brian H. Murray 2016

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  • Brian H. Murray

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