Literary Travel and Cycling during fin de siècle England




Bicycle, Victorian Travel Writing, Sentimentality, Fin de Siècle


For most of the literary historians, the time period between the 1880s and 1920s have generally been accepted as the climax years of the notion of literary travelling not only in Europe but also in England. This type of journeying fashion is seen in the literary works of many English writers such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. Literary travel can be considered as roaming of places of literary interest for pleasure where the traveller could experience and re-memory of birthplaces, homes, haunts and even graves of the prominent literary figures. Visiting places related with the particular writers or books coincides with bicycle condensed years of the last quarter of the nineteenth century (fin de siècle) in England. In addition to the above writers, Elizabeth Robins Pennell and Joseph Pennell are two different kind of travellers and their published account namely Our Sentimental Journey through France and Italy is worth scrutinizing. Both as American citizens, the Elizabeth Robins and Joseph Pennells decided to move to England in 1884, where they carried on their artistic and literary engagements for nearly thirty years, and the couple regularly had the chance to travel to Europe and brought their cultural baggage there on their tricycles. Joseph Pennell was born in Philadelphia, and he was an acclaimed lithographer of his time. After graduating from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Joseph worked on the illustrations of travel articles and books for American publishers for a while.
Through the mutual connection and overlapping of these two fin de siècle trends (literary travel and cycle travel) and the above-mentioned text of the Pennells’, this paper argues that the sentimental preconception of cycling complicates the experience of travelling for the above-mentioned couple as they tried to imitate Laurence Sterne, well-known writer of novels and travel accounts. For this respect, some supportive quotations will be given from the Pennells’ text in which they both lack to illustrate their sentimental mood in times and in other times, successfully show their joy enthusiasm in their pedalling with their tricycles. Thus, the foremost aim of this paper is to elaborate on Pennells’ text claiming their intertextual allusions on their former model Laurence Sterne.


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