WILLIAM WORDSWORTH AND THE INVENTION OF TOURISM, 1820-1900 by Saeko Yoshikawa, Reviewed by Paul Westover

By Saeko Yoshikawa
(Ashgate, 2014) xii + 268
Reviewed by Paul Westover on 2014-10-04.

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This book makes two principal claims: first, that Wordsworth's rising Victorian reputation owed a good deal to the work of Lake District guidebooks (as distinct from the efforts of critics, editors, and biographers); second, that the guidebook versions of Wordsworth and his Lakeland shaped the larger development of mass tourism. Various critical trends thus converge in this study, which maps the intersection of literary geography and poetic afterlives. The enabling influence of Stephen Gill's work on Wordsworth's Victorian reception is apparent throughout, as is the groundwork of tourism scholars such as Ian Ousby, Nicola Watson, and others who, in Scott Hess's phrase, have considered the invention of the Lake District as a "landscape of genius." Alongside another new Ashgate title, The Making of a Cultural Landscape (ed. John K. Walton and Jason Wood, 2013), Yoshikawa's book offers the fullest account now available of "Wordsworthshire" and its archive.

This book's thoroughness sets it apart. Yoshikawa's bibliography is in itself a noteworthy resource, as is her appendix, a chronological list of key texts (ranging in publication date from 1752 to 1900) related to the development of Wordsworthian tourism. Historians will want this reference on the shelf alongside Peter Bicknell's indispensible The Picturesque Scenery of the Lake District, 1752-1855 (1990).

Yoshikawa's insights enrich the findings of scholars who approach the reception of Wordsworth from other directions. For instance, while several critics have reminded us that the list of Wordsworth poems most popular among Victorians differed substantially from the canon constructed by twentieth-century critics, Yoshikawa shows that the earlier list was essentially the canon of tourists. In fact, guidebook publishers often got out ahead of professional critics and editors by introducing unpublished Wordsworth material, reflecting and prompting shifts in taste, and modeling new modes of response. (However, it is probably worth noting that the scholars and the tour promoters were sometimes the same people; William Knight is only the most famous example).

After a brief preface and introduction, Yoshikawa's first chapter presents a recent discovery: a book of hitherto unpublished drawings made in August 1850, just weeks after the poet's death. This sketchbook, donated to the Wordsworth Trust in 2006, may be the first, though hardly the last, project of its kind--a pictorial topo-biography of Wordsworth created in the field by a literary pilgrim. Though the name of the artist awaits discovery (perhaps by another researcher building on Yoshikawa's substantial spade work), he or she shows more than the average tourist's familiarity with Wordsworth's life, haunts, and writings. Drawing on the journal of Sarah Hutchinson, Mary Wordsworth's niece (not to be confused with her sister Sara), Yoshikawa ingeniously reconstructs the days in which the anonymous sketchbook was created, filling in details of weather, family life, local activities, and so forth. Though Yoshikawa might be accused of over-reading at times, especially when speculating about the artist's intentions, her discussion of the album aptly introduces her study, which traces the history of touring the Lake Country in search of Wordsworthian associations and of recording and promoting such travel. Indeed, the album, simply titled Wordsworth, exemplifies what became a major transatlantic phenomenon of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: projects of do-it-yourself literary devotion, ranging from amateur sketches of "Scott-Land" to Louis Arthur Holman's collection of papers and images relating to Keats and Herbert W. Gleason's Thoreau Country (1982), a book of photographs. Yoshikawa shows us how guidebooks arouse participatory literary appreciation. Viewing landscapes through the words of a particular author, readers set out to document their experiences for the pleasures of recollection and reenactment.

After a composite prologue made up of the preface, introduction, and first chapter, Part I ("Wordsworth in the Guides") begins in earnest with Chapter 2, "From Picturesque to Poetic." Over the course of the nineteenth century, Yoshikawa argues, the Lake Country came to be seen in a literary light. Already favored by connoisseurs of picturesque landscape during Wordsworth's boyhood, it became so charged with Wordsworthian associations that picturesque codes gave way to literary tourism. Other scholars have summarized this story, but Yoshikawa nails down its chronology, noting the earliest references to Wordsworthian color in the guidebooks, detailing the invention of tourist sites, and tracing the whole evolution of literary tourism up to the poet's death. At the same time, she contends that the democratization of Lakeland travel and the growth of tourism produced new readers of Wordsworth's poetry. In other words, she argues, tourism could drive reading practices as much as reading could provoke tourism.

En route, she addresses various questions: When and why did pilgrims begin to descend upon Rydal Mount? Which of Wordsworth's writings provoked the most tourist traffic, and why? How did the poet's Guide to the Lakes, respected but never a bestseller, come to exercise its well-attested influence? Why did the poet's gardens matter so much to tourists? To what extent did De Quincey's "Lake Reminiscences" shape tourist practice? How did the advent of local train service, which Wordsworth resisted, end up accelerating the growth of thoroughly Wordsworthian tourism? Together, such lines of inquiry shed light on the mechanisms by which landscape became saturated by literary culture.

Turning to 1850, when Wordsworthian tourism became a form of posthumous appreciation, Chapter 3 examines the rapid establishment of Wordsworth's grave as a pilgrimage destination. Handily complementing Samantha Matthews' chapter on "The Churchyard among the Mountains" in Poetical Remains: Poets' Graves, Bodies, and Books in the Nineteenth Century (2004), Yoshikawa shows how tourists came to link Rydal Mount and the burial ground at St. Oswald's Church as garden spaces sanctified by the poet. (Only later would Dove Cottage meaningfully enter this picture.) Then, from the 1860s forward, Wordsworth's domain attracted photographers. Together with excerpts from The Prelude that newly appeared in the travel literature, photographs helped produce new modes of seeing Lakeland through Wordsworthian eyes. While copyright restrictions slowed the seeping of The Prelude into the guidebooks, it eventually became essential to tourists. Yet as Yoshikawa shows, nineteenth-century travel literature gradually moved away from long poems like The Prelude and The Excursion (except for certain favorite excerpts) and toward lyrics that could serve, along with images, as convenient topographical illustrations. In Yoshikawa's view, tourists' growing preference for short lyrics foreshadows the editorial interventions manifest in Matthew Arnold's Poems of Wordsworth (1879).

Cockermouth: Wordsworth's birthplace

Dove Cottage

Rydal Mount

So ends Part I. Part II, "Wordsworth's Four Principal Houses in the Lake District," shows how Wordsworthian tourism was assimilated by the Victorian homes and haunts industry. While earlier guidebooks had stressed the local (mostly outdoor) settings of the poems, later guides made the sites of writing more important--despite the ironic fact that Wordsworth never owned a home, but lived in rental lodgings throughout his life. "So how," Yoshikawa asks, did these rented houses become so tenaciously Wordsworth's?" (95). Yoshikawa tells the story of each one, blending amusing anecdotes of local contingency, ritual, opportunism, and occasional controversy.

The four houses examined here (others might have emerged as landmarks) are Rydal Mount, the Grasmere dwelling known today as Dove Cottage, the Cockermouth birthplace, and the lodgings (never definitively identified) from Wordsworth's Hawkshead school days. While Chapter 4 treats Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, where Wordsworth lived and wrote as an adult, Chapter 5 probes Cockermouth and Hawkshead, the sites of his mythologized youth. Here again, Yoshikawa shows how tourism and criticism interact: late-nineteenth-century enthusiasm for Dove Cottage coincided with a growing preference for the poetry written there (though, as she notes, it also reflects the practical fact that Rydal Mount was closed to the public at that time). Meanwhile, interest in the birthplace--relatively late to develop--indicates the increasing cultural importance of Wordsworth's poems about childhood.

Part III, "The Popular Reception of Wordsworth," is a catch-all to address other practices, genres, and media that shaped the public imagination of Wordsworth Country. These include the late-nineteenth-century fad for collecting reminiscences of Wordsworth among Lake District residents (the main subject of chapter 6) and the contributions of painters, illustrators, and photographers toward making the Lake District thoroughly Wordsworthian in its iconography and imaginary atmosphere (chapter 7). Especially useful are Yoshikawa's reflections on blended fact and fancy "matur[ing] into cultural memory," reflecting tourist desire but also the vagaries of fading recall and changing times (170). Tourist literature and art, she notes, took a conservationist turn as modernity threatened to erase the environment that Wordsworth knew. Illustrators and photographers rushed to document what must shortly vanish, ironically applying cutting-edge image-making technologies to the project of arresting time in ways that Helen Groth has taught us to appreciate in Victorian Photography and Literary Nostalgia (2004). More than ever, Wordsworth became a symbol for an idyllic, unspoiled, pre-modern past.

Though Yoshikawa's final chapter, "By the Lakes: Through the Eyes of a Japanese Traveller," follows the others a little uncomfortably, it effectively shifts the reader's gaze to the twentieth-century history of Wordsworthian tourism and its twenty-first-century future: namely, to the conversion of Wordsworth Country into a global tourist destination. In marking this shift, the chapter (really an epilogue) aligns the author with literary tourists of the past even as it shrinks the temporal and affective gap between them and latter-day readers. Yoshikawa recalls the 1925 pilgrimage of Ichinosuke Takagi, a scholar of classical Japanese literature who loved Wordsworth's poetry and found a way to escape to the Lakes after a season at Oxford. This story has special resonance because Yoshikawa herself is based in Japan and comes to Wordsworth, so to speak, in Takagi's footsteps. Insofar as her epilogue prompts us to consider how today's non-native Wordsworth scholar sees Wordsworth Country, it proves once again Oscar Wilde's maxim that criticism is the only civilized form of autobiography.

As Yoshikawa presents him, Takagi reflects on both the foreignness and the familiarity of Wordsworth Country, leading us to ask what is truly local about the poetry and what, despite its roots in place, is internationally portable. Takagi clearly finds something familiar on his journey, and what is truly impressive in Yoshikawa's account of him is the intensity of his response to Wordsworth's poetry and the relentlessness with which he projects it on what he sees. Yet in most ways, Takagi resembles other modern travelers: he ponders, for instance, the friction between the ideal and the real and the difference between true (Wordsworthian) pilgrims and mere tourists. To this extent, his story would be right at home in James Buzard's The Beaten Track. Of course, today's Wordsworthians and would-be Wordsworthian tourists--I won't distinguish between them--are as likely to publish a blog as to write an old-style travel book. In ending with brief thoughts on the Web-propagation of Wordsworth-love, Yoshikawa gracefully brings her narrative into the present.

This book does have a few lapses: minor inaccuracies in footnotes, organizational troubles (it is not always clear why material appears in one chapter rather than another, and some elements repeat), and gaps in its treatment of secondary sources. Though these flaws do not significantly injure the book, it suffers more seriously from a reluctance to theorize about its findings. Indeed, it does not seem fully aware of how good it is, or how good it could be. Too often it fails to explain why its arguments matter or how they contribute to recent critical conversations about literary travel, material culture, and memory. Had Yoshikawa grappled more often with this body of work, she would have strengthened the impact of her book, which nonetheless presents a wealth of information.

A book review does not allow space to capture what for me provides the greatest reading pleasure in Yoshikawa's study: its multitudinous little tales of author-love and quirky workings of the culture industry. Would you care to learn about an imposter who rented Rydal Mount and sent fake locks of Wordsworth's hair around the country, or about tourists plucking leaves from a laurel that Wordsworth supposedly transplanted from Virgil's grave (or was it Petrarch's, and did it matter?)? Do you care to know how daffodils became the Lake District's signature flower, how accounts of Wordsworth "booing" his verses became local legend, how a rock by Rydal Water became "Wordsworth's Seat," or how Green End Cottage at Colthouse got cut out of the tourist business, superseded by Ann Tyson's cottage on Hawkshead's Vicarage Lane? If you would care to learn any of these things, this book will entertain and instruct you.

In the end, it is hard to come away from this book unconvinced. With the help of others, Wordsworth managed finally to create the taste by which he would be judged, and that taste encompassed more than reading; it included the habit of exploring "nature" in Wordsworthian terms, and especially the tradition of visiting, drawing, and writing about the landscape most closely linked to his life and work.

Paul Westover is Associate Professor of English at Brigham Young University, Utah, U.S.A.

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