The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

Gaskell Society president Shirley Foster shares a reading list to accompany her 2024 Conference talk, ‘Visits and Records: nineteenth-century women travellers and their writings.

There has been much recent critical interest in nineteenth-century women travellers and the challenges they met – and overcame. Many of these women wrote about their experiences, in letters, diaries or longer accounts, and these were often subsequently published and widely read. The genre of travel literature, in fact, was one of the most popular of the period. Elizabeth Gaskell herself, though not usually thought of as a travel writer per se, contributed to this literature in her novels, short stories and non-fiction journal pieces.

Shirley Foster’s paper, presented at our 2024 Conference,  consisted of three sections: a general introduction to the phenomenon of women’s  travel in the nineteenth century; a brief consideration of the characteristics of female travel writing, including how far such writing may be considered gender specific (a frequent topic of debate in contemporary feminist criticism); and examination of examples of what may be considered Gaskell’s travel writing, with focus particularly on ‘Cumberland Sheep Shearers’ and ‘French Life’.  
Shirley promised a list for further reading and we’re delighted to share it with you.

Visits and Records: suggested further reading

Aitken, Maria, A Girdle Round the Earth (London, 1987)

Allen, Alexandra, Travelling Ladies: Victorian Adventuresses (London, 1980)

Birkett, Dea, Spinsters Abroad: Victorian Lady Explorers (Oxford, 1985)

Birkett, Dea and Sara Wheeler (eds),  Amazonian: The Penguin Book of Women’s New Travel Writing (Harmondsworth, 1998)

Foster, Shirley, Across New Worlds: Nineteenth-century Lady Travellers and Their Writings (Hemel Hempstead, 1990)

Foster, Shirley and Sara Mills, An Anthology of Women’s Travel Writing (Manchester, 2002)

Middleton, Dorothy, Victorian Lady Travellers (London, 1965)

Morris, Mary, The Virago Book of Women Travellers (London. 1994)

Robinson, Jane, Wayward Women: A Guide to Women Travellers (Oxford, 1990)

Robinson, Jane (ed) Unsuitable for Ladies: an Anthology of Women Travellers (Oxford, 1995)

Russell, Mary, The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt (London. 1986)