Discovering the Political Traveler in Wollstonecraft's Letters (1796) and Holcroft's Travels (1804)

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Best known as political radicals and novelists, Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Holcroft each wrote a travel narrative: Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark ([1796] 1987) and Travels from Hamburg through Westphalia, Holland and the Netherlands to Paris (1804), respectively. Despite their specific differences, both Wollstonecraft and Holcroft reconfigure travel as a politically inflected act of cultural encounter, resisting both the Grand Tour tradition of elite education and Romantic travel as an asocial and personal experience of the sublime. Although Wollstonecraft's account has been examined as a kind of feminine sublime or roman à clef, her political project has frequently been elided, seen as separate from the personal affect of her account. Holcroft's narrative is simply neglected. Reading these two travel accounts as products of late eighteenth-century British radical reform and developing Romantic sensibility enhances our understanding of eighteenth-century travel narrative and British Romanticism itself.

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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