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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Book Review

Unbeaten Tracks in Japan
By Isabella Bird. First published in 1880 and reprinted in many editions.

A lady an explorer? A traveller in skirts?
The notion’s just a trifle too seraphic.
Let them stay and mind the babies, or hem our ragged shirts,
But they mustn’t, can’t, and shan’t be geographic.
Punch (1893)

In Britain, where they take their travel seriously, serious travel was long considered a male province, even after women had crossed the borders. During the Victorian era the number of serious women travelers surged, yet as late as 1893—not long after Isabella Bird had returned from exploring Persia, and Kate Marsden from traveling Siberia—the Royal Geographical Society was heatedly debating whether women could qualify as explorers and, perhaps more to the point, as Society members.

The furor over female membership—nicely mocked in the above limerick from Punch--is described with wry humor by Dorothy Middleton in Victorian Lady Travellers. “Throughout,” she observes, “the controversy generates that flavour of ‘The Ladies! God bless 'em!’ so typical of assemblies of Englishmen when called upon to take women seriously.”  Read More 

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Book Review

Ramage in South Italy
The Nooks and By-Ways of Italy: Wanderings in Search of Its Ancient Remains and Modern Superstitions

By Crauford Tait Ramage. Edited by Edith Clay, with an introduction by Harold Acton. Academy Chicago Publications, 1987, 232 pp.

Through the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, South Italy was an isolated region, relatively unknown to the outside world. Brigands, malaria, political instability, a dearth of accommodations and passable roads rendered the area—once the most civilized part of Italy—inaccessible to all but the hardiest explorers. Read More 

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Book Review

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Coasting.
By Jonathan Raban. Harvill Press, 1986, 304 pp. (Vintage, 2003)

To some degree the traveler is always an outsider. For the travel writer this poses a risk: there are journeys where he never gains entry; his account is that of a stranger in a land he doesn’t understand. Yet it can also work to his advantage: the very detachment of being an outsider can serve to sharpen his perceptions and observations. Read More 

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Travel Quotation

“Worldwide travel is not compulsory. Great minds have been fostered entirely by staying close to home. Moses never got further than the Promised Land. Da Vinci and Beethoven never left Europe. Shakespeare hardly went anywhere at all―certainly not to Elsinore or the coast of Bohemia.”
―Jan Morris
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