On tour in England and France, a young American documents her experiences, expenses, and intended reading
England, France: July - September 1888.
England, France: July - September 1888. Contemporary quarter cloth over marbled boards, measuring 165 x 105mm and containing 103 pages manuscript in a single hand. Written by Frederica King Davis as she traveled Europe during her 19th year. The bulk of the diary contains vivid and dense descriptions of her travel route, means of travel, companions, sites visited, and observations on art and culture; toward the rear, she meticulously documents her allowance received, her expenditures, and the list of books she aims to read as a result of her trip (these revealing a curiosity about the deeper history and context surrounding her). A research rich piece, it gives insight not only into the type of grand tour provided to well-off 19th century American women; it also offers opportunities for researching the history of tourism, the history of transport, the history of artistic exhibits and art criticism, women's education in domestic accounts and budgeting, traditions in women's gift-giving and charitable contributions, the history of women's fashion, and the history of friendship and courtship etiquette. It is also a reminder of the level of financial dependency women like Davis had first on their fathers and then on their husbands, in a world that limited their own abilities to work full time or maintain their own property.
As Frederica travels through cities such as Paris and London, she records her visits to many of the expected locales. Her observations are honest, suggesting that this is not a performative document. While a young woman might have been expected to express awe at places like St. Sulpice, L'Eglise du Invalides, or Versailles she is less interested in their architecture or gardens than she is about the historical figures who walked them and how they document current historical attitudes or knowledge. "By far the most interesting that I have seen" she writes in an early entry, "Napoleon's tomb is interesting seeing though he was truly 'a little vulgar upstart,' the figures around the sarcophogous are very fine." Similarly, though she notes the rich furnishings at Versailles, she is fascinated by the placement and situation of the staircase by which Marie Antoinette escaped rioters. Such observations continue throughout her trip. And her reading list includes Sir George Trevelyan's Life of Macaulay and the Histoire de la Revolution Francaise alongside a list of libraries visited (including All Souls, Mirton, and the Bodleian).
Throughout, Frederica pays close attention to how villages and cities are laid out; she records the ease or difficulty of traveling through them. In addition to documenting the people she meets or travels with, she also comments on the locals and their daily lives. In York, for example, she mentions coming "upon a Salvation Sunday School" and visiting the "children of the blind school next door, out in the garden." Though her content more often describes the privileged (or evidences her own, as she purchases fine stockings, gloves, and jewelry), moments like these, as well as several charitable contributions to "beggars" listed in her budgeting, suggests she sees and feels empathy for those differently situated than herself.
In all, the diary offers scholar numerous avenues of study, including but not limited to the history of tourism and travel, women's fashion, historical reading practices, women's accounting and domestic economics, social relationships and courtship, etiquette, and paleography. (Item #5656)