Wondering what Mary Shelley might have done on her summer vacation?
History of a Six Weeks’ Tour Through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland with Letters Descriptive of a Sail Round the Lake of Geneva, and of the Glaciers of Chamouni by Mary Shelley Wollstonecraft (1797-1851) (of Frankenstein fame) is the Special Collections featured book this month. Published 1817 in London by T. Hookham, Jun. and C. and J. Ollier, this small volume “contains the account of some desultory visits by a party of young people…” (see Preface)
A travel narrative by the British authors Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley, it describes two trips taken by Mary, Percy, and Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont: one across Europe in 1814, and one to Lake Geneva in 1816. Divided into three sections, the text consists of a journal, four letters, and Percy Shelley’s poem “Mont Blanc.” Apart from the poem, the text was primarily written and organized by Mary Shelley. In 1840 she revised the journal and the letters, republishing them in a collection of Percy Shelley’s writings. Part of the new genre of the Romantic travel narrative, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour displays spontaneity and enthusiasm as the authors describe the people and places they see in their travels (often comparing them to England and the English).
While in France, “We slept at Boulogne the first night, where there was an ugly but remarkably good-tempered femme de chambre. This made us for the first time remark the difference which exists between the class of persons in France and in England.”
While in Switzerland: “The waters of the Rhone are blue, those of the Reuss are of a deep green. I should think that there must be something in the beds of these rivers, and that the accidents of the banks and sky cannot alone cause this difference.”
While in Germany: “The same morning a boat, containing fifteen persons, in attempting to cross the water, had upset in the middle of the river, and every one in it perished. We saw the boat turned over, floating down the stream.”
While in Holland: “We saw many enormous frogs and toads in the canals; and the only sight which refreshed the eye by its beauty was the delicious verdure of the fields, where the grass was as rich and green as that of England….”
If you would like to read more about Mary Shelley’s travels, visit Special Collections and ask for D 919 .S533. We are located on the second floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room).