Travel can mean travail, risk, even danger. Given all that, why have so many people over the course of history taken the trouble to take themselves out of their familiar surroundings and wander off to distant, unfamiliar places?
Well, the rewards for the adventurous traveler are many, writes literary historian Ian Littlewood, among them the promise of self-discovery, of education, of broadening one's horizons. But, more elementally, there's another lure: the prospect of landing in a strange new bed with an exotic partner somewhere far from home. "Travel," Littlewood neatly observes, "tends to undermine moral absolutes." And so many travelers have found out for themselves: Oliver Goldsmith, for instance, who concluded of Italy, "sensual bliss is all the nation knows"; James Boswell, who filled his diaries of travels to the continent with "sultanesque fantasy" and some sultanesque fact; and Lord Byron, who, "having left England in a blaze of scandal ... took full advantage of the sexual privileges of exile."
Littlewood's learned but engaging study takes a fresh look at the cultural history of journeying from a fly-on-the-bedroom-wall point of view, and fans of literary travel will find much of interest in his pages. --Gregory McNamee
From Library Journal
The author of several travel guides (e.g., A Literary Guide to Venice), Littlewood contends that the allure of travel is rooted in the anticipation of sexual encounter and that sex is the tacit motivation for travel. His reading of the narratives, correspondence, and memoirs of British travelers (beginning with the 18th-century Grand Tour) reveal that ostensibly they journeyed in search of cultural enlightenment, expanded sensibility, and self-knowledge but in effect they set out to escape native inhibitions in the pursuit of erotic opportunity. Boswell sought out the prostitutes of the Continent, Byron ravaged both genders, while Forster, J.A Symonds, A.E. Houseman, and Joe Orton lusted after the lads of Naples, Venice, Alexandria, and Tangier. Littlewood suggests that similar unexpressed desires are exploited in tourism packages promoting the sensual enticements of sun, sand, and abandonment in sultry climes. The information in this book is neither new nor shocking but it is presented in an engaging narrative. Recommended for all libraries. Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal
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