Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe Hardcover – November 6, 2001
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
For upper-class Englishmen in the 18th century, travel on the Continent represented pretty much what it does for college students today a chance to learn a few things and have some unsupervised fun. For women of that era, however, it might represent an opportunity denied to them at home: freedom from a narrowly defined femininity, the chance to develop and exercise their intelligence, an escape from an abusive marriage or, occasionally, a career as a travel writer or political correspondent. As Dolan points out, however, these benefits came at some real cost, since Continental travel, even for the rich, was neither comfortable nor safe, and the woman who remained too long abroad risked condemnation at home as unpatriotic, unfeminine or unchaste. While some were decidedly the last, using a sojourn abroad to pursue an irregular sexual liaison or to conceal its results, many found in revolutionary Paris or benign Tuscany a personal and intellectual liberty impossible in England and, like Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote home to say so. Although this book is richly detailed and immensely entertaining, it is a bit of a grab-bag in which women of no particular interest jostle for space with the genuinely significant. Still, it is hard to forget the otherwise obscure Elizabeth Webster, reluctant repatriate, being borne backwards over the Alps so that she would not lose sight of her beloved Italy until the last possible moment. 16 pages of color photos not seen by PW. (Nov. 16)Forecast: This entertaining volume will please students of women's history and of travel literature.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
The notion of a grand tour of Europe as an essential rite of passage for aristocratic young Englishmen has been a historical given for generations. Dolan, a university lecturer, is more interested in a less common phenomenon: British women who traveled the Continent at a time when most aristocratic women's travels were narrowly constrained. Drawing on journals, letters, and diaries, Dolan explores the many goals those women sought in travel: "Education & Improvement," "Liberty & Independence," "Fashionable Society & Foreign Affairs," "Sea Breezes & Sanity," "Fine Art & Fashion," "Revelation & Revolution." Continental nations were hardly a feminist paradise, but traveling itself gave many women more freedom than they would have had at home, and writing about their travels gave many an opportunity to exercise their intelligence and define the characteristics of the Georgian lady of letters. Although it is not an essential acquisition, Ladies of the Grand Tour is thoroughly researched and gracefully written. Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
Because of my enjoyment in reading romantic fiction set in England during this time period, the chapter on "Fashionable Society and Foreign Affairs" was of particular interest to me. Lady Webster's affair and real-life concealment of her daughter seemed more fantastical than a novel. But of course, real life can be stranger than fiction. Some of the diary entries throughout were fascinating and I will be looking for the journals of Lady Mary Coke.
Favorite quote: "The Continent provided an escape from English laws and customs; a refuge from gossip and ostracism; it could even provide a higher standard of living in an alternative society." An interesting view of the advantages of heading abroad, and the need for some to escape England's rigid society. Sixteen pages of lovely, color paintings and photographs are a treat!
I feel very much at home in the Georgian era of British history and so it wasn't hard for me to acclimate myself to all the naming conventions of the aristocracy or the famous names of the period. I think, though, that if I were not as familiar with the history of the period, it would be difficult for me to remember who was who. Luckily, at the end of the book, Dolan includes a list with brief biography of the main figures he focuses on.
For me, this book was very hit or miss, depending on the chapter. For example, I found the chapter on British women in France during the French Revolution fascinating. I can't imagine ever wanting to stay and live in a country when it was going through such a terrifying process, and that people did and wrote about it is amazing to me. I also found it interesting that the French Revolution's rallying cry of liberty, equality and fraternity really resonated with women of the period (including Mary Wollstonecraft) and had a considerable influence on the women's rights movement. I did not find some of the other chapters quite as interesting, though. For example, the chapter on women's salons wasn't as great as I thought it would be.
I also enjoyed learning about travel in the 18th century. It seems to have consisted of many over-hyped sights, shady tour guides, questionable souvenirs and sometimes horrible hotel stays. I loved that sense of familiarity.
When reading books of this type, I am of two minds about the women portrayed in them. Often, I am appalled by the powerlessness of their situations. By how often they are unhappy. By how naive they can be due to very limited life experiences. But then I "meet" women like Mary Wollstonecraft, who stayed in France throughout the revolution. Or Lady Holland who bounced back from a miserable first marriage to go through a scandalous divorce proceeding all so that she could marry her long-time lover. The courage and style some of these women had is inspiring.
I really enjoyed this book and am glad I pulled it off my shelf. While I'm not sure it would appeal to all history lovers, I think those with a love of Georgian England would really enjoy it, as would those who want to see those first seeds of the feminist movement planted. While it was not what I'd call a riveting read, it was very enjoyable and I think I learned more about the period and its key female players by reading it.