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“Far From the Haunts of British Tourists”: Amelia Edwards’s Ghostly Critique of English Tourism, by Indu Ohri, University of Virginia

Victorians Institute Journal Digital Annex


1  Edwards and North developed a close friendship after they first met in 1870, though North’s frequent travels meant they rarely saw each other in person (Moon More Usefully Employed 76-79). Bentham-Edwards was Edwards’s first cousin who became well-known for her travel writings about France (Moon More Usefully Employed 27-29).

2  According to Kuehn, Edwards refuses to define herself as an English tourist due to her “hostility towards the British tourists she found everywhere along her route and who, to her, represented the worst face her mother country could show abroad” (n.p.). Keck observes that “Edwards, witnessing the advent of Thomas Cook’s tours, looked askance to these new travelers, but also lamented the impact that tourist practices were beginning to have upon Egypt’s ancient monuments; in doing so, her writings looked ahead to twentieth-century complaints tourism was destructive for local environments, ecologies and societies” (295).

3  O’Neill downplays the influence that Edwards’s European travels had on her work, stating “[p]erhaps because of her greater appreciation for the complexity of human effort than the powers of nature, Edwards’s trip to Egypt was to have far more profound effects than her adventures in the Dolomites” (57). Likewise, Moon declares that she “had visited many a Roman ruin on the continent of Europe without a similar urge to collect or preserve. The difference seems to have been the splendor, remoteness, and profusion of Egyptian remains, and the indifference of the majority of the local population to their loss or deterioration” (“Amelia Edwards” 180). Without discounting the enormous impact her trip to Egypt exerted on Edwards’s later career and writings, I want to draw attention to how her interest in maintaining Europe’s natural environment greatly shaped her early supernatural tales.

4  One of the few critics to apply ecocritical theory to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ghost stories is David Punter. He argues that in Algernon Blackwood’s supernatural tales “there is a kind of euphoria, a kind of rapture in the visions which conclude may of Blackwood’s stories, when the curtain inside the mind is torn back and we find ourselves exposed to ‘natural’ forces vaster than we can comprehend” (45). Nonetheless, Punter expresses unease with attributing an ecocritical position to Blackwood: “We might indeed say that at the heart of Blackwood’s discourse of nature there lies something recognizable in contemporary terms as ‘ecology,’ but I should perhaps say that my view of ‘ecology’ is not a word with which we should feel particularly comfortable. There is a standing danger (of which some critics are aware) that it can come to signify a static condition, or at least a bounded, non-randomized one, a possibility that while obviously, all manner of evolution will continue, nonetheless there is the possibility of control over the courses it may take” (47).

5  As a matter of fact, Coleridge never saw Mount Blanc in person. Instead, he adapted a poem by Friederike Brun that she composed after viewing the Alps in 1791, but his refusal to cite his source led to accusations of plagiarism (Hansen 133). By referring to Coleridge’s poem, Edwards invokes a Romantic sensibility toward nature as well as a literary tradition of travelers paying homage to the beauty of the Alps, which reinforces her point about how tourism is ruining one of the most famous natural landmarks in Europe.

6  See Bate, Kerridge, and Parham for in-depth discussions of these authors and their relationship to Victorian ecocriticism.


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