Following the onset of European colonial expansion, Europeans developed a thirst for knowledge about foreign cultures and destinations, especially that which could not be experienced in their native countries. To satisfy their curiosities, they embarked on journeys that could last for several years.
When they returned home, these travelers and explorers wrote about their journeys in travel accounts that detailed their discoveries. Those who returned with new knowledge, objects and experiences that could only be experienced in the place where he or she traveled tried to publish their travel accounts, and those who were successful were able to become elite and well-known figures in their respective academic fields and generate a significant profit from sales (François 77, 81).
These societal and commercial opportunities inspired people who visited foreign destinations for the purpose of “leisure” to write about and attempt to publish their accounts (François 71). This led to, for example, the creation of the Grand Tour, which was a predetermined itinerary for British travelers who desired to explore the rest of the European continent. The creators and proponents of this standard itinerary argued that one who followed this itinerary would maximize the amount of new and “novel” knowledge and experiences only able to be acquired abroad (François 71). This itinerary was often “blindly followed by travelers,” as some critics of the Grand Tour argued, but other travelers strayed from the established itinerary and explored other unknown destinations (Young 5). Through written works, those who had explored alternative landmarks from those recommended by Grand Tourists expressed their overall “dissatisfaction” with the Grand Tour, stating that there are better sites to visit to have “novel” experiences than those in the Grand Tour’s official itinerary (François 77). The number of published travel guides skyrocketed as travelers who discovered these unexplored sites felt obligated to share their experiences with others, and in order to obtain an elite reputation in the travel industry and profit from their written accounts, travel writers had to express their discontentment with the Grand Tour and convince readers to adopt their travel recommendations. Those who were successful published accounts with unique presentation format and writing styles that distinguished themselves from other writers.
One traveler who was able to present her travel experiences in a way that distinguished her from other writers during the nineteenth century is Mary Shelley. Shelley, who traveled to France and Switzerland, shared “ghost stories” based on the emotions and feelings evoked by her personal experiences and surroundings in said locations with her travel companions. One of these stories became the famous published tale Frankenstein (Shelley x-xi). While the novel can simply be read as a ghost story, applying a traveler’s lens allows readers to focus on Victor’s and some of the other characters’ life journeys, travels, and the lessons learned on these journeys and infer that Frankenstein is Mary Shelley’s unique way to present her discontent with following the standard itinerary of the Grand Tour.
This map presents several different travel routes undertaken by travelers during the time period. The standard itinerary of the Grand Tour, beginning in Dover, England, is outlined in red. It shows the path that British travelers would follow, as well as the destinations that they would visit as recommended by the Grand Tour. In order to understand how Frankenstein is Mary Shelley’s way of uniquely presenting her travel experiences and discontent with standard travel itineraries, this map also shows Victor Frankenstein’s, the main character of the novel, and his travel companion’s, Henry Clerval, travel route that they took during their trip through Europe, which will reflect Mary Shelley’s opinions surrounding the proper and improper ways that one should travel. This route is outlined in green. Begin in Geneva, Switzerland. Other travel writers who did not support adopting standard itineraries are also included in the map to show landmarks about which readers of travel guides were unaware, which helped these writers become highly regarded in the travel community. The alternative landmarks that they visited are outlined in purple and blue.
François, Pieter. “If It’s 1815, This Must Be Belgium: The Origins of the Modern Travel Guide.”
Book History, vol. 15, 2012, pp. 71–92., www.jstor.org/stable/23315044.
Goldsworthy, Vesna. “The Balkans In Nineteenth-Century British Travel Writing.” Travel
Writing in the Nineteenth Century: Filling the Blank Spaces, edited by Tim Youngs,
Anthem Press, London, 2006, pp. 19–36. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1gxpbpw.7.
Murray, John. Hand-Book for Travellers in France. A. & W. Galignani Co., Stassin and Xavier,
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. Edited by J. Paul Hunter. 2nd ed., W.W. Norton &
Young, Arthur, Arthur Young’s Travels in France During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789. Matilda
Betham-Edwards, ed. 1909. Library of Economics and Liberty. 26 February 2018.