Book Notes: French Romantic Travel Writing (2012)

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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5 Responses

  1. jason says:

    Nice article. I’ve read Said, but not any of the French travel writers (my French lit is weak, but I’ve been reading some lately). Reading this reminded me of the Orientalist section of the Musee D’Orsay, so I’m guessing the paintings must have been in style along with the literature. I wonder if the paintings had any Salon success.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to jason says:

      Yeah I believe so- at least Delacroix and Ingres must have been. I’m not as good with the art as lit but my sense is it went in waves of popularity after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, the Greek war of independence, and the taking of Algeria. Of course this is when the French military was taking over painters and other savants with the expeditions. Then there were the expositions, which I find fascinating. Somewhere I have a picture of Paris with the park in front of the eiffel tower filled with faux Egyptian buildings!Report

  2. Maribou says:

    I am torn between really enjoying this post and feeling a great deal of sympathy for you that someone else got there too.


  3. Enjoyable piece, but I wanted more!

    So I did a little Googling and learned enough to ask dumb questions

    Clearly, you explored the pilgrim/tourist dichotomy. Apparently the Turners included in their analysis of Middle Ages pilgrimages the throw away line: “This is why some pilgrimages have become crusades and jihads.” If we unmoor this from its specific historical reference we can extend your observation “that the tourist who is disillusioned by their travels is most often saddened not by the place visited, but by their own lack of response to it.” to a related insight. The tourist, pilgrim and crusader all, by their very presence (more or less so according to the activities they engage in) change the places they visit. Sadness about this is something that I encountered frequently in the random more of less contemporary travel writing I’ve encountered. I wonder if this came up in your work on the French Romantics travel writing.Report

    • Well, if I can get this book published…

      The Turners also had a great line to the effect that, if a pilgrim is half tourist, a tourist is half pilgrim. Definitely there was sadness. I found that nearly every French traveler after Chateaubriand commented that Europeans were ruining the “Orient” by their presence. Maxime Du Camp had a line that Alexandria had become nothing but a “ville franque- the worst thing in the world!” So disillusionment was a constant theme, particularly when you get to the second generation of French Romantics, who were incidentally of significantly lesser means than their illustrious forebears and more ironic in general.Report