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A Motor-Flight Through France

Edith Wharton

Publication Year: 2012

Shedding the constraints that existed for women in turn-of-the-century America, Edith Wharton set out in the newly invented "motor-car" to explore the cities and countryside of France. Originally published in 1908, A Motor-Flight Through France is considered by many to be the very best of Wharton’s outstanding travel writings.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press


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pp. v-6

Illustration List

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

I N May 1980, I set out, together with my friend and colleague Lynne Waldeland, on a five-week motorflight through France with Edith Wharton's Motor-Flight in hand. We traveled in a Renault rather than a Panhard; our "entourage" consisted of ourselves and a pair of suitcases; and we were spared...

Note on the Text

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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. xvii-52

ON a winter's day in Paris when she was just four years old and as yet unable to read, the little girl who would forty years later write A Motor-Flight Through France met her destiny. She found, she writes in her autobiography, the "necessary formula" for storytelling, or "making up," as...


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pp. 1-53

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I. Boulogne to Amiens

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pp. 1-14

THE motor-car has restored the romance of travel. Freeing us from all the compulsions and contacts of the railway, the bondage to fixed hours and the beaten track, the approach to each town through the area of ugliness and desolation created by the railway itself, it has given us back the wonder, the adventure...

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II. Beauvais and Rouen

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pp. 15-23

THE same wonderful white road, flinging itself in great coils and arrow-Bights across the same spacious landscape, swept us on the next day to Beauvais. If there seemed to be fewer memorable incidents by the way-if the villages had less individual character, over and above their general charm...

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III. From Rouen to Fontainebleau

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pp. 24-33

THE Seine, two days later, by the sweetest curves, drew us on from Rouen to Les Andelys, past such bright gardens terraced above its banks, such moist poplar-fringed islands, such low green promontories deflecting its silver flow, that we continually checked the flight of the motor, pausing...

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IV. The Loire and the Indre

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pp. 34-47

FONTAINEBLEAU is charming in May, and at no season do its glades more invitingly detain the wanderer; but it belonged to the familiar, the already-experienced part of our itinerary, and we had to press on to the unexplored. So after a...

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V. Nohant to Clermont

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pp. 48-55

T HERE happened to us, on leaving N ohant, what had happened after Beauvais: the quiet country house by the roadside, like the mighty Gothic choir, possessed our thoughts to the exclusion of other impressions. As far as La Chatre, indeed...

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VI. In Auvergne

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pp. 56-65

AT last we were really in Auvergne. On our balcony at Royat, just under the flank of the Puy de Dome, we found ourselves in close communion with its tossed heights, its black towns, its threatening castles. And Royat itself-even the dull new watering-place quarter -is extremely...

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VII. Royat to Bourges

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pp. 66-72

T HE term of our holiday was upon us and, stem necessity took us back, the next day, to Vichy. We followed, this time, the road along the western side of the Limagne, passing through the old towns of Riom and Aigueperse. Riom, thanks to its broad boulevards and bright open squares, struck us...


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pp. 73-151

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I. Paris to Poitiers

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pp. 73-94

SPRIN G again, and the long white road unrolling itself southward from Paris. How could one resist the call? We answered it on the blandest of late March mornings, all April in the air, and the Seine fringing itself with a mist of yellowish willows as we rose over it, climbing...

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II. Poitiers to the Pyrenees

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pp. 95-116

T HE road from Poitiers to Angouleme carries one through a country rolling and various in line-a country with a dash of Normandy in it, but facing south instead of west. The villages are fewer than in Normandy, and make less mark in the landscape; but the way passes through...

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III. The Pyrenees to Provence

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pp. 117-142

J\ S one turns north-eastward from the Pyref'l. nees the bright abundant landscape passes gradually into a flattish grey-and-drab country that has ceased to be Aquitaine and is yet not Provence. A dull region at best, this department of Haute Garonne grows positively...

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IV. The Rhone to the Seine

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pp. 143-171

FROM Montelimar to Lyons the "great north road" to Paris follows almost continuously the east shore of the Rhone, looking across at the feudal ruins that stud the opposite cliffs. The swift turns of the river, and the fantastic outline of these castle-crowned rocks, behind which hang the...


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pp. 172-298

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A Flight to the North-East

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pp. 172-201

THERE are several ways of leaving Paris by motor without touching even the fringe of what, were it like other cities, would be called its slums. Going, for instance, southward or south-westward, one may emerge from the alleys of the Bois near the Pont de Suresnes and, crossing the river, pass...

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090715
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875806860

Page Count: 253
Illustrations: 48
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • France -- Description and travel.
  • Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937 -- Homes and haunts -- France.
  • Authors, American -- Homes and haunts -- France.
  • France -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
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