Comparisons of Helen Maria Williams' A Tour in Switzerland and Lady Morgan's Italy

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Comparisons of Helen Maria Williams' A Tour in Switzerland and Lady Morgan's Italy
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Both Helen Maria Williams and Lady Morgan are important representatives of the genre of Romantic travel literature. These two accounts were published more than twenty years apart, and while they regard different countries, thematic and stylistic parallels and contrasts can, not surprisingly, be established between the two works. Social and cultural commentary, as well political and historical criticism, are prominent in these two accounts. Another point of comparison is the theme of the relation of man with nature. Williams' style leans toward the sentimental tradition in travel writing; it is personalized and her perceptions tend to
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She stresses previous travel accounts of the passage of the Alps, and contrasts her own experience against them - accounts by Benvenuto Cellini, Lady Montagu, Horace Walpole, and others. While their accounts of the journey describe terrors and struggles, using "terms which seem to exhaust the details of possible danger" (31), her own passage was remarkably easy and comfortable. Unlike the personal dramatization of the encounter with the Alps that we find in Williams, Lady Morgan's encounter, though emotionally powerful, is situated as one in a series of travel accounts, continuing in an established tradition of travel writing. It is these previous descriptions rather than personal sensibilities that make it "a dreary thing to rise with the dawn" (32) on the day she is to cross the Alps.

Despite, or rather following from, this initial contextualizing, Morgan goes on to praise the immediacy of nature, and firsthand experience of nature, as against the unreliability of second-hand descriptions of that experience. She asserts that nature always surpasses whatever descriptions writers may grant it; she also seems to be reacting against previous travel accounts when she says, "Whoever has wandered far, and seen much, has learned to distrust the promises of books; and (in respect of the most splendid efforts of human labour) must have often felt how far the unworn expectation starts beyond its possible accomplishment. But nature never disappoints" (33). In this

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