By William Henry Davenport Adams, 1828-1891.
London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Lim., 1882; 9th edition, 1906.
By Lady Florence Dixie, 1855-1905.
London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1880.
By Alice Lee Moqué 1863-1919.
New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1914.
With summer coming to the Northern Hemisphere, many people are planning summer travels. For the last three months I've been republishing a trail of women travellers. April featured "Celebrated women travellers of the nineteenth century" (c1882). While reading that, I was reminded of Lady Florence Dixie's "Across Patagonia" (1880), and released it in May. For June, Alice Lee Moqué describes "Delightful Dalmatia" not long before the first world war swept over the area. I hope you will enjoy these books, and whatever summer travels you are undertaking!
Most of the "Celebrated women travellers" were physically intrepid and incurably curious, but the editor, William Adams, also applauds women whose "titles to distinction" included "a vigorous writer and a liberal thinker". He quotes Dora D'Istria, who says: "It has always seemed to me,… that women, in travelling, might complete the task of the most scientific travellers; for, as a fact, woman carries certain special aptitudes into literature. She perceives more quickly than man everything connected with national life and the manners of the people. A wide field, much too neglected, lies open, therefore, to her observation. But, in order that she may fitly explore it, she needs, what she too often fails to possess, a knowledge of languages and of history, as well as the capability of conforming herself to the different habitudes of nations, and the faculty of enduring great fatigues. "
Considering why women travel, Adams writes: "Fettered as women are in highly civilized countries by restraints, obligations, and responsibilities, which are too often arbitrary and artificial, their impatience of them is not difficult to be understood; and it is natural enough that when the opportunity offers, they should hail even a temporary emancipation." Madame de Hell, traveling with her husband from 1838 to 1848, voices a similar sentiment: "What happiness it is to escape from the prosaic details of every-day life, from social obligations, from the dull routine of habit, to take one's flight towards the almost unknown shores of the Caspian!"
Escaping mental restrictions could, however, be at least as difficult as escaping physical restrictions. Dora D'Istria was determined to adopt men's clothing to climb mountains. She describes the difficulty she faced: "I breakfasted in haste, and assumed my masculine dress, to which I found it difficult to grow accustomed. I was conscious of my awkwardness, and it embarrassed all my movements. I summoned Pierre, and asked him if I could by any means be conveyed as far as the valley. He sent, to my great satisfaction, for a sedan-chair. Meanwhile, I exercised myself by walking up and down my room, for I feared the guides would despair of me if they saw me stumble at every step. I was profoundly humiliated, and only weighty reasons prevented me from resuming my woman's dress." Thankfully, once away from the village, she was able to overcome her discomfort and mount the heights without difficulty.
Lady Florence Dixie is an iconic explorer-traveller, who met challenges with energy and enthusiasm. "Palled for the moment with civilisation and its surroundings", she gathered up her husband (Sir Alexander Beaumont Churchill Dixie, 11th Baronet), her older brother (John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry), her twin brother (Lord James Douglas), and a friend (Mr. J. Beerbohm), and escaped to Patagonia, "precisely because it was an outlandish place and so far away." Their party of ten people, nine dogs, fifty horses, and three mules set off to explore the "mysterious recesses" of "the barren plains of the Pampas" and the surrounding mountains. Everyone in the party had to work, Florence included. They gathered and carried with them the wood for their cooking fires, and depended on hunting guanaco (a deer-like mammal), ostrich, and birds for their food. Of one ostrich-chase, Florence writes: "Unconscious of anything but the exciting chase before me, I am suddenly disagreeably reminded that there _is_ such a thing as caution, and necessity to look where you are going to, for, putting his foot in an unusually deep tuca-tuca hole, my little horse comes with a crash upon his head, and turns completely over on his back, burying me beneath him in a hopeless muddle." Luckily game was abundant for much of the trip (although they ran out near the end) and Florence was undetered by any number of perils including Fire! Earthquakes! Stumbling horses! Crashed carriages! Lost horses and Lack of food!
Fifty years later, Alice Lee Moqué is clearly a tourist and not an explorer. Alice, born around 1861, married her second husband John Oliver Moque on June 27, 1894. (Her first husband, inventor Walter Comonfort Snelling, had died a year previously.) While she refers to her explorations of Dalmatia as "a wedding tour," she also explains that it is her ninth, since they take one "every year". Their main concerns are those of tourists: finding food means locating a decent restaurant and making oneself understood when ordering. Alice worries whether that "Dear Box", the bane of her trip, will arrive with its mementos intact. She complains that her feet hurt. And sadly, as a tourist, Alice can not truly escape the fetters of civilization. Ongoing sections of her account are devoted to the question of whether she behaves appropriately. Is it possible that she is "a little too lively" and hasn't "a particle of discretion"?
Nonetheless, Alice Lee Moqué was "a vigorous writer and a liberal thinker" in real life. Though she disclaims "expert" knowledge in her account, she is clearly well-read in history and familiar with classical languages and technical terms in architecture and art. She was a newspaperwoman, a suffragist, a progressive on sexual education for children, and during World War I, worked with the Women's Volunteer Aid of the Motor Corps! She writes in outrage at the condition of Dalmatian women: "I'm so glad I wasn't born a Dalmatian – or I feel sure I would be a bomb-throwing, acid-pouring, Croatian suffragette!" Thankfully, she is also a painstaking observer whose descriptions are packed with solid detail. That she is describing Dalmatia just before the first World War adds extra interest to her account. Signs read: "The taking of photographs of the shore where there are fortifications is strictly prohibited!" She tries to take some anyway.
Enjoy your travels!