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Gender, Class and Walking: Dorothy Wordsworth and John Clare

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Abstract

In the early Romantic period, as we have seen, walking rapidly assumed the character of a voluntary, pleasurable activity: travel without the travail it had traditionally connoted. The loss of those socio-cultural significances, or the newly ironic manipulation of them, were indispensable to the emergence of a new form of masculine, middle-class self-fashioning. The vast majority of the early pedestrians I surveyed in the early chapters of this book fall within this latter categorisation, and William Wordsworth and Samuel T. Coleridge, on whom I have focused more attention, confirm the bias: both, though barely solvent at times during the 1790s, were respectable and expensively educated, confident of the privileges of their class and gender, and socially conditioned to seek intellectual rather than bodily labour. But what of those outside the ranks of the culturally empowered, for whom travel in general was not a natural prerogative, for whom geographical mobility was not the ready expression of their personal freedom, and for whom the choice of pedestrian transport did not, could not, perform the same values as it did for middle-class men? Labouring-class men, and women of whatever class, inhabited material contexts which impeded their participation in the age of pedestrianism, and where they nevertheless achieved distinction as writers through their walking, as did the two figures named in the title of the present chapter, it was against the pressure of very different ideological constraints.

Keywords

Domestic Journal Travel Writing Neighbourly Love Ideological Constraint Pedestrian Travel 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Sarah Hazlitt, ‘Journal of My Trip to Scotland’, University of Buffalo Studies, XXIV (1959) 208.Google Scholar
  2. 9.
    Jane Robinson, Wayward Women: A Guide to Women Travellers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990 ).Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    James Clifford, ‘Travelling Cultures’, in Cultural Studies ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula A. Treichler (London: Routledge, 1992) pp. 106, 105.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    Roy Porter, “‘All madness for writing”: John Clare and the asylum’, in John Clare in Context, ed. Hugh Haughton, Adam Phillips and Geoffrey Summerfield (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)p. 263.Google Scholar
  5. 17.
    Ronald Blythe, ‘Solvitur Ambulando: John Clare and Footpath Walking’, The John Clare Society Journal XIV (July 1995) 18.Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    See Meena Alexander, ‘Dorothy Wordsworth: The Grounds of Writing’, Women’s Studies, XIV (1988) 195–210; and Women in Romanticism (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989) esp. pp. 95–9, 172–8.Google Scholar
  7. 31.
    Anne K. Mellor, Romanticism and Gender (London: Routledge, 1993) pp. 159, 160.Google Scholar
  8. 52.
    George Deacon (ed.), John Clare and the Folk Tradition (London: Sinclair Browne, 1983) p. 285. I am indebted to John Goodridge for this reference.Google Scholar
  9. 59.
    See Jonathan Bate, Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition (London: Routledge, 1991), and ‘The Rights of Nature’, John Clare Society Journal XIV (July 1995) 7–15.Google Scholar
  10. 61.
    Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995) p. 267; but my commentary draws on different sections of the book.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robin Jarvis 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Head of Literary StudiesUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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