• British women’s travel writing, 1780-1840: Bibliographical reflections

      Colbert, Benjamin (Taylor & Francis, 2016-07-29)
      Launched online in 2014, the Women’s Travel Writing database provides full and accurate bibliographical records for all the known books of travel published in Britain and Ireland by women between 1780 and 1840. This article critically and statistically reflects on these 204 titles, the authors who wrote them, and the patterns and trends that they suggest when considered together during the period in which women first gained a firm foothold in a genre traditionally considered men’s territory. The database reveals patterns of women writing on the generic borders between scribal and print culture, conforming to and manipulating rhetorical conventions in prefaces and advertisements (the “modesty topos”), while striking a balance between assertions of authorial independence and expressions of gendered reticence. Overall, the database reveals a sharp upward trend in the rate at which women published travel writings during the census dates, with 74 titles appearing in the 1830s compared to 5 in the 1780s. In considering the bibliographical nuances of women’s increasing presence in the travel writing marketplace, this article also poses questions about the insights and limitations of statistical approaches to cultural analysis.