Gender, Class and Walking: Dorothy Wordsworth and John Clare



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.


Domestic Journal Travel Writing Neighbourly Love Ideological Constraint Pedestrian Travel 
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Copyright information

© Robin Jarvis 1997

Authors and Affiliations

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

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