Before 1780, only ten books of travel by women had been published in Britain and Ireland, all by single authors if we discount the role of translators (two of the ten were translations from the French)1. After 1780, as the Database of Women’s Travel Writing (2014) demonstrates with statistical accuracy, women for the first time established themselves as a continuous presence in the travel writing market, increasing their output from 5 titles in the 1780s to 74 in the 1830s2. These figures include diverse travel genres, principally narratives, guidebooks, and letterpress plate books, but also travel-based storybooks for young audiences, digests, and collections. For the first time, we begin to see female travel writers experimenting with authorial roles such as co-author, contributor, editor, translator, abridger, compiler, letterpress writer, and illustrator. In other instances, women’s travel writing finds its way into print, sometime posthumously, only through the intervention of others, editors who overlay their own language, perspectives, and agendas, a form of collaboration to be sure, but not one that embodies the joint production some might associate with the term. Of the 204 titles covered by the Database, 47 (or 23 %) involve multiple authorial relationships, though only seven of these are jointly written works where authors have coordinated their writings with the aim of publication. This article and the taxonomic checklist that follows it explore in more detail the nature of and motivations behind authorial partnerships in the light of particular instances of them, addressing fundamental questions: What types of collaboration are there, and what are the conditions of co-writing? How is joint production presented textually and paratextually? How do men and women collaborators negotiate the gendered spaces and expectations of travel and travel writing?
When treated in the most inclusive sense, partnership in travel writing can include the relationship between author and publisher, who might employ expert readers to comment on, annotate, and even revise manuscript submissions, as Innes M. Keighren, Charles W. J. Withers, and Bill Bell have discussed in relation to books of exploration published by John Murray in the first half of the nineteenth century3. This ‘regime of regulatory practices’ might well change the form and content of the author’s original manuscript, amounting at times to the creative selection process more usually associated with the work of an editor4. Editors, too, can become collaborative partners even when working at removes from authors, who might be unwilling or unable to bestow further work on manuscript material (posthumous editions are a special subset of this kind of relationship). Maria Graham’s editing of Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands, in the Years 1824-1825 (1826 [i.e. 1827]) (no. 16), for example, goes well beyond her immediate source materials, the manuscript journals of the ship’s chaplain, Richard Bloxam, and his brother, the ship’s naturalist, Andrew Bloxam. According to Carl Thompson, who reconstructs the commission and its importance for our understanding of women’s contribution to scientific writing, Graham reconciled differences in the two journals, supplied missing details, and supplemented the science with reference to additional material from the voyage and from her own research, as well as corroborating interviews with other scientists and explorers. ‘Rather than simply facilitating the transfer of scientific knowledge’, concludes Thompson, ‘[female editors like Graham] might to some extent be collaborators and co-authors in the production of that knowledge5’. Alison E. Martin makes a similar case for translators, whose mediation of the originals is not only linguistic, but cultural, and quite often critical, when translators assume the additional role of editor, commenting on the veracity of the source texts in prefaces and footnotes, at times interpolating new material6.
The boundaries of collaborative partnerships are therefore by no means well-defined, and are often porous, but for the purposes of the checklist that follows this discussion, seven categories have been identified: 1) Jointly written works; 2) Author/Contributor combinations; 3) Edited works (contemporaneous); 4) Edited works (posthumous); 5) Author/Artist combinations; 6) Compilations; and 7) Corporate publications. Notwithstanding Martin’s argument, no separate category has been accorded ‘Translated works’, even though two of the entries listed under ‘edited works’ – Edgar Garston’s translation of Louise Demont’s Journal of the Visit of Her Majesty the Queen, to Tunis, Greece, and Palestine (no. 15) and Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck’s of Claude Lancelot’s Narrative of a Tour Taken in the Year 1667, to La Grande Chartreuse and Alet (no. 22)7 – well illustrate translators’ complex production of meaning though editorial selection and omission, as well as through paratextual interventions in introductions, footnotes, and appendices. However, as translations are not yet generally included in the Database, a pragmatic decision has been made to exclude them here too8. Though included and worthy of further research, the final two categories must also be mentioned only briefly. The first of these, Compilations, comprises seven titles (nos. 40-46), all of which are adaptations for children of single or multiple source texts (in the case of Sarah Akins’s Fruits of Enterprize, a simplified retelling of Giovanni Belzoni’s Narrative [see no. 9], with the author’s permission). The second, Corporate publications, comprises but a single title, Catherine Kearsley’s Stranger’s Guide (no. 47). As a publisher-author, Kearsley may have presided over the guidebook, but the extent to which she had sole or even majority authorship is debatable (her son, George Kearsley, co-proprietor of the publishing firm, may equally have taken authorial responsibility). Though limited to a single edition, the Stranger’s Guide belongs to a wider subgenre of in-house publisher guidebooks that often recycle previously published material and otherwise involve staff writers contributing revisions and amendments, often on an annual basis.
Of the seven jointly written texts, the first category in the checklist, all represent productions of family tours with the majority being wife/husband combinations. The earliest of these, Anne Radcliffe’s A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 (1795) (no. 1), presents itself on the title page as a single-authored book, but an untitled preface inserted before the table of contents declares that the work arises from a collaboration with her husband, the journalist and translator William Radcliffe. A Journey is described as being the result of their ‘mutual observation’, with his predominant when the volume treats ‘oeconomical and political conditions’ of the countries through which they passed. Her forensic language gives little away as to whether her husband contributed to the writing or only to the ideas behind the writing, nor is the exact division of labour specified. Her rationale for omitting their ‘joint names’ from the title page revolves around her deference to William’s reluctance to own more than his share (a tacit acknowledgment, perhaps, that his was less than might have been otherwise implied), as well as her desire not to be seen to be attracting ‘attention by extraordinary novelty9’. Rhetorically sophisticated, the stance heads off gendered objections to a female traveller publishing in the first place by acknowledging a domestic context to the journey and shared responsibility for its content, yet at the same time projects Radcliffe’s public status as a fashionable novelist who needs no apology for appearing in print10. Ascribing political and economic investigations to her husband further circumscribes her authorial role in gendered terms, and anticipates Mrs Albanis-Beaumont’s anonymous A Sketch of Modern France (1798) (no. 12), whose concluding letter ends with synopses of French politics, religion, morality, arts and sciences, agriculture, commerce, and finances, all supplied by her husband; likewise, in the early nineteenth century, Lady Morgan’s relegates such subjects as law, finance, statistics, and medicine to appendices written by her husband in both her France and Italy (see nos. 8 and 10).
Husband and wife partnerships also include nos. 2, 3, 4, and 6, among jointly written works. Mary Douglas’s Notes of a Journey from Berne to England, through France. Made in the Year 1796. By M. D. (1797) (no. 2) appeared as part 2 of a privately printed journal of the same title by her husband, the physician and man-midwife Dr Andrew Douglas, an arrangement formalized in an 1802 edition under the Kelso imprint of James Ballantyne, Mary’s dedication to her husband this time typographically paralleling his to her. Complimentary and uxorious in the 1797 version, the couple each identify the other as the motivator of the project: ‘the arrangement of my Notes is the consequence of my desire to comply with your requests’, explains Andrew, to which Mary replies, ‘your desire that our observations should not be disunited, is the reason of their now appearing together11’. Ultimate motives for the journey itself, however, are firmly established in a strength-weakness binary, where Andrew endeavours to promote his wife’s ‘happiness’ in the light of her ‘weakly frame of body’, sojourning on the continent to improve her convalescence, and risking an overland return journey through Revolutionary France to avoid her dread of sea voyaging. Designed for ‘a family dinner’ rather than ‘public entertainment12’, both editions were intended for a circumscribed circulation, but preserve nevertheless in their stance towards matrimonial dependence something of Radcliffe’s rhetorical consciousness of audience expectations. In a more public context, the talisman of matrimony demonstrably guides Blackwood’s Edinburgh Review’s efflorescent response to Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s anonymously published History of a Six Weeks’ Tour (1817) (no. 3), which the reviewer compares with Elizabeth Spence’s Letters from the North Highlands, during the Summer 1816 (1817). The author of the History, according to Blackwood’s, writes like ‘a sweet-blooded wedded wife’; that of Letters, like ‘a sour, solitary spinster’. Had the reviewer known the true state of affairs (Shelley was still married to Harriet Westbrook during the tours, and the History itself was published nearly two months before Shelley and Mary were legally married after Harriet’s suicide), he would have taken a much different line, but the review is remarkable (or perhaps unremarkable) for its assumptions about what is of value in women’s travel writing: ‘ease, gracefulness, and vivacity’, ‘modesty’, unlearned simplicity, and national feeling13. Spence’s ‘confident professionalism’ when performing the role of solitary traveller in her several published tours14, by contrast, draws Blackwood’s’ opprobrium; she is branded a blue-stocking and declared unfeminine.
A different, but no less complex approach is taken by the two jointly written works in which other family members participate, the Blake family’s Letters from the Irish Highlands (1825) (no. 5) and Elizabeth Broughton’s Six Years Residence in Algiers (1839) (no. 7). Letters from the Irish Highlands was co-written by at least seven and possibly eight members of the extended Blake family of Renvyl House, the patrimonial estate in County Mayo, Ireland, of Henry Blake (1789-1856), where he settled with his English wife, Martha Louisa née Attersoll (1790-1853), in the early 1820s. The volume consists of a preface followed by 49 letters, each signed by one of seven initials (with one letter unsigned); of the three principal letter writers, Henry is almost certainly ‘H’, Martha ‘M’, and Martha’s sister, Anne Attersoll, ‘A’. The preface gives the rationale:
The differences of sentiment and opinion which appear in the course of these pages are the natural consequence of their being a joint production; and may be considered as affording the reader a more favourable opportunity of forming an impartial judgment. A family-party is so completely the world in miniature, that the best and only means of ensuring harmony is by “agreeing to disagree”15.
This dialogic ‘world in miniature’ harmonizes gendered and national subject positions: male and female, English and Irish. Yet even as its authors explain their aim to observe ‘the details of domestic life [...] not worthy to become matters of history’, both the Quarterly Review and Blackwood’s worked to make it historical, embedding the book within larger discussions on the state of Ireland in 1828, establishing its presence within a network of political commentary in which the pros and cons of Catholic Emancipation were debated16.
By contrast, reviewers were nonplussed by the politics of Elizabeth Broughton’s retrospective travelogue on her family’s residence in Algiers from 1806 to 1812, some twenty-seven years previous to the publication of Six Years Residence in Algiers (1839) (no. 7). The daughter of the British consul in Algiers during a period when European powers sought curbs on Barbary piracy through unbinding treaties with North African potentates, Broughton edits and writes a narrative that both reproduces her late mother’s diary from the period and interweaves it with her own childhood reminiscences, the latter gradually displacing the former completely. More than a posthumous edition, but not quite a jointly written work (her mother would not have known her diary would be put to this use), the work is an experiment in genre and the only example of a ‘collaboration’ between two women in the checklist. As I argue elsewhere, its function is less descriptive than autobiographical and historical, replacing and reproducing the nearly forgotten history of the Blanckley consulship by women’s testimony.
Of Author/Contributor combinations (category 2), mention has already been made of Lady Morgan’s inclusion of work by her husband, Sir Thomas Charles Morgan, in appendices. The only other female author in this category is Sarah Belzoni, whose work appeared as ancillary to her husband’s Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs, and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia (1820) (no. 9), neither mentioned on the title page nor alluded to in Giovanni Belzoni’s grub-staking preface: ‘As I made my discoveries alone, I have been anxious to write my book by myself […]17’. This positioning belies the fact that Sarah’s ‘Trifling Account of the Women of Egypt, Nubia, and Syria’ comprises a good deal of her own ethnological travels in Egypt, and includes an account of her solo voyage to the Holy Land from around March to November 1818, when she visited Jerusalem, Jordan, and Nazareth, often dressed in men’s clothing and at times passing for a man. Though Giovanni mentions her when she is of his travelling party, and she him, the two accounts are less a joint enterprise than a joint platform from which both assert their independence and single-minded determination, with Sarah’s account being one of the few travel narratives besides Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796) to detail a journey in which a woman travelled alone.
The largest body of collaborative travel writing comprise volumes in which women were editors, or authors edited by others, sometime posthumously (categories 3 and 4). As we have seen from the example of Maria Graham, authorial relationships in edited volumes can extend farther than meets the eye when editors take on additional roles, such as co-author or translator. As with jointly authored works, the majority of edited travel volumes involve family members (14 of 20 titles). Among the more unusual variations on this theme is Dawson Turner’s edition of his daughter Harriet Turner Gunn’s Letters Written during a Four Days’ Tour in Holland (1834) (no. 16). An antiquarian and collector of books and art, Turner trained his entire family to extra-illustrate and catalogue manuscript material, and their joint projects included his Account of a Tour in Normandy (2 vols., 1820) which, though published under his own name, included engravings by his wife and drew on journal material from his travel companions, the artist John Sell Cotman and two of his daughters18. While the Normandy tour subsumes a network of travellers into a unified, masculine authorial voice, the privately printed Letters presents a dialogue between editor and author (Harriet’s letters are all addressed to her father) in which gendered subjectivity is a given: Dawson Turner affirms that his daughter would have been ‘the first to interpose her veto’ on the publishing project, taken out of her hands by her ‘fond father’ who apparently had the volume printed without her knowledge. Whether or not this is entirely true, in the text Harriet pleads her ignorance of artistic connoisseurship when describing Rembrandt, Rubens, and Paulus Potter at museums in Amsterdam and the Hague, deferring frequently to what she describes as her interlocutor’s better knowledge, and concludes the volume with a postscript that similarly expresses her inability to fulfil her father’s request for ‘general remarks on the country19’. In a manner equally typical of this body of writing, Harriet Gunn demonstrates what she decries: her intimate awareness of aesthetic appreciation (like her sisters, she was tutored by John Crome and later Cotman); her fine eye for architecture, music, and manners; her command of Latin, French, and polite literature; and her mastery of the travel letter genre itself.
Among posthumously edited works, family relations not surprisingly figure as well, and their interventions into source material are not always easy to gauge without access to the manuscripts on which editorial decisions were made. Nevertheless, some editors are more forthcoming than others. Matthew Guthrie’s preface to his wife’s A Tour, Performed in the Years 1795-6, through the Taurida, or Crimea (1802) (no. 20), for example, reveals that he was not only the recipient of the original letters that make up the tour, but he also translated them from the French and, at his wife’s express request, interpolated historical matter into her descriptions of modern cities. Again, we have only his word, but the preface would strongly suggest that his posthumous edition doubles up as a jointly written book. A similar complexity of intervention is evident in the example of Sarah Bowdich’s edition of Thomas Bowdich’s Excursions in Madeira and Porto Santo (1825) (no. 23). While Sarah claims she has ‘not presumed to make the slightest alteration, not even by compressing the Supplement into the body of the work20’, she nevertheless supplies A Narrative of the Continuance of the Voyage and illustrates the entire volume with engravings from her drawings – cumulatively, one of the best examples in the checklist of a title that might be placed in several categories, including Jointly written works and Author/Contributor combinations. With these examples before us, then, we might think twice before accepting on face value the self-effacing statements of female spouses who edit their late husbands’ works, including those of Amelia Heber (no. 24), Elizabeth Prinsep (no. 25), and Mary Rich (no. 26, 30). A more unusual case is that of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck’s edition of a seventeenth-century Jansenist text of the Port-Royal controversy, Claude Lancelot’s Narrative of a Tour Taken in the Year 1667, to La Grande Chartreuse and Alet (1813) (no. 22). In her preface it becomes clear that Schimmelpenninck not only translated the original, but modernized it for a ‘protestant public’ by suppressing passages she deems would not be of interest and, while preserving the ‘sentiment’, taking ‘entire liberty … as to the expression21’. One half the content, we learn, was eliminated and as much added with recourse to other writers; ‘it seemed preferable to interweave into the text’, explains Schimmelpenninck, ‘all that […] appeared requisite to render it intelligible22’. The work, she concludes after noting yet further departures from the original, is ‘a faithful representation of what the writer believes M. Lancelot’s work would have been, had it been addressed to an English instead of a French reader23’.
The final category to be discussed briefly here, Author/Artist combinations, concerns letterpress plate books, a form of writing in which writers supply historical and descriptive content to match engraved plates. Sometimes these were published serially and afterwards collected into volumes (nos. 33, 34, 36, 38), sometimes intended for a volume (nos. 35, 37); sometimes they were weighted towards the pictorial (nos. 32, 33), and sometimes towards the descriptive matter (nos. 31, 35, 37)24. Louise Twamley Meredith, for example, a young Birmingham miniature painter and poet, was commissioned by her publisher to supply Wye river descriptions for the first (and last) number of The Annual of British Landscape Scenery, a publication designed to enter a market place in which picturesque steel engravings accompanied by original descriptions were in vogue25. While her text often refers to the engravings interleaved, it does much more, comprising a consecutive narrative built up from several personal tours and a good deal of reading in Wye valley guidebooks and narratives. Already an experimenter with interart relationships in her earliest work (she was known for her flower poems and drawings), the Landscape Annual finds her exploring the relationship between what she calls ‘pictures of memory’ and engraved landscapes, a Wordsworth-inspired merging of picturesque description and drawing in a single art form.
Out of all the entries on the checklist, truly joint collaborations – in which the language of one contributor cannot be distinguished from the other or in which separate writings are interlinked parts of a common narrative whole – are rare, but we can see approximations of this in the work of the Radcliffes, the Blakes, and the Shelleys, not to mention the Broughton-Blanckleys and the Guthries. Only John Yeardley and Martha Yeardley’s Extracts from the Letters […] Whilst on a Religious Visit to Some Parts of the Continent (1835) (no. 6) can be said to have consciously merged their authorial voices. The ‘extracts’ are rendered in journal form, avoiding ascription to one or the other and steadfastly adopting the first person plural ‘we’ (pace Radcliffe). When one or the other of the authors is mentioned, it is always in the third person. But as this discussion and the checklist below demonstrate, collaborative partnerships can take many forms. For women travel writers, already hemmed in by the gendered expectations of readers and reviewers, collaborative travel writing in all of its guises gives rhetorical opportunities to domesticate travel even while ensuring a hearing for their venturing far off the beaten track. Yet, one must not underestimate the experimentation which also occurs under this cloak, and the evolution of readers towards recognizing women as important producers of travel writing, whether or not they appear as the actors in it.