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Reviews Marjorie Morgan. NationalIdentities and Travelin Victorian Britain (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2001), x+271 pp. ISBN 0 333 71999 9, $65.00. Morgan's aim in NationalIdentities and Travelin Victorian Britain is: "to use travel writing (published and non-published) about trips to the Continent andaround Britain to explore components ofnational identity imagined by middle- and upper-middle-class men and women from England, Scotland and Wales during Victoria's reign" (p.3). Morgan pursues three main arguments: that everyday images and material goods contributed importantly to people's sense ofnational belonging or identity; that context is crucial for comprehending national identity; and that the process ofnational imagining involves a blending ofold and new. These second andthird points in particular emphasise variability and process: national identities are plural and flexible. Work on the colonial and imperial travel narratives produced during Victoria's reign has sometimes encouraged readers to view the so-called centre as monolithic. While Morgan's defence ofher exclusion ofnarratives of empire does not convince (pp.6-7, p.232, n.ll), and she finally concedes the weakness (p.218), the omission does allow her to represent a more differentiated 'centre' than many assume. (It is a shame that her project also leaves her litde room to consider less privileged forms of travel but tiiat would mean a quite different book from the one she has set out to write.) In Morgan's view: much ofwhat we are now terming 'colonial' existed within Europeitself before there were any overseas colonies. ... Furthermore, the imperial experience began in Britain itself with an English empire. Rather than privileging empire as a context, it seems more meaningful to view empire as one ofmany contexts in which people from Britain framed their identity, (pp.6-7) Morgan's first chapter considers the "Meaning and Mechanics of Travel" during Victoria's years on the throne. It outlines the types 114volume 29 number I Reviews and effects oftravel in that period ofhuge changes. The relationship between travel, gender, and social class is traced, often in relation to material objects, such as port-a-loos, cameras, guidebooks, passports, and modes oftransport. This is followed by four thematic chapters on landscape and climate; religion; customs, comfort and class; and liberty, language and history. A sixth addresses the discourse of national identity among Victorian travellers and is followed by a brief conclusion and by an appendix giving basic biographical information on the travellers. Morgan is certainly not the first commentator to suggest that identities move more into focus through contact. However, she identifies four main things that travel does to travellers and to those they encounter: estrange, transform, liberate and unsettle. These classifications allow Morgan to acknowledge both the external and the internal effects of travel. She reminds us that travel transformed not only the travellers themselves but also the places that they visited. Chapter Two, on "Landscape and Climate," is less convincing. Often, in musing on the "close relationship, or mutual influence, between a nation's landscape and its people" (p47), Morgan seems to reflect as much as to report nineteenth-century beliefs. It is also to the detriment ofher argument that she appears to make no distinction between landscape descriptions from either end of Victoria's rule. Accounts from the 1830s and 1890s ate treated alike, a curious failing in a book avowedly devoted to historical context. The chapter seems further weakened by dubious interpretations of quoted passages (pp.57, 81-2) and by some strange speculations, such as the suggestion that the fact that British travellers felt their country's landscape was more human in scale than that ofcontinental Europe created a sense ofcontrol that helped impel imperialism! Furthermore, for all Morgan's comments on landscape, she scarcely mentions the traditions ofthe sublime, the picturesque, and the Gothic. Consequently she appears to mistake expressions ofawe and terror in the face ofrugged and mountainous landscape for a rejection ofit. There is little sense of how these conventions survived into or were modified by the second part ofthe nineteenth century. Victorian Review115 Reviews Morgan's discussion appears more substantial when she notices distinctions: that English travellers identified with an English as opposed to a British...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 114-118
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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