THE OTHER WALKING WORDSWORTH

I’ve started reading a journal of Dorothy Wordsworth on a trip she and her brother William took to Switzerland just after the end of the Napoleonic War, (early 1820’s). She is the lesser known of the two sibs, but holds her own as a keen observer of their travels. Its remarkable her walking energy for a 19th century woman, a time when women were held to be fragile flowers.

She is one of a set of writer-walker-tourists that we are studying to understand walkers’ experience in the past. Dorothy was an avid walker, capable of 25-30 mile/day walks – no slouch!

In her book,  Prints, Panoramas, and Picturesque Travel in Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal of a Tour on the Continent, Pamela Buck writes:

When Dorothy Wordsworth arrived in Switzerland in 1820 with her brother the poet William Wordsworth, his wife Mary Wordsworth, her cousin Thomas Monkhouse, and his new wife Jane Horrocks, they were one of many middle-class family groups who adopted the practices of commercial tourism in order to see the country. Her Journal of a Tour on the Continent, which covers the three-and-a-half-month journey through France, Switzerland, and Italy, records her visits to renowned sites such as the birthplace of William Tell, the castle of Chillon, Voltaire’s château, and her brother’s path through the Alps from his walking tour of 1790. With the reopening of the Continent after the end of the Napoleonic wars, travel abroad was no longer only a privilege of wealthy men on the Grand Tour but a popular consumer enterprise supported and enhanced by guidebooks, print culture, and visual entertainments (Wood 117). Many of these were influenced by William Gilpin’s theory of the picturesque, namely an aesthetic based on the perceptual structures of art that encouraged tourists to view landscape as a picture.

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