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book jacket

A Tale of Two Journeys

Joseph and Katharine Fry

The Fry diaries: France and Belgium in the early 1800s

A Tale of Two Journeys is the transcript of travel diaries kept by two members of the family of Elizabeth Fry, the famous Quaker prison reformer — her husband Joseph and eldest daughter Katharine. The incarceration of Napoleon Bonaparte on Elba had given a sudden window of opportunity for British tourists, who now crossed the Channel in droves. Joseph Fry joined them, chartering a sloop to take his carriage and party to Calais.

His diary begins on 7th October 1814 and tells of their tour to Bruges, Ghent and Brussels, ending with ten days in Paris. Joseph records their experiences and the hazards of early nineteenth-century travel — rapacious landladies, corrupt customs officials, blocked roads, fleas — with engaging good humour and shrewdness.

In Paris, when not dining with Frederick Faber, the banker, or breakfasting with the Hanburys, Joseph sets about sightseeing in earnest. He reports with pleasure on everything from the animals in the Jardin des Plantes to underground cafes, from the Sevres factory and Versailles to the Catacombs and warm baths.

I cannot help liking Paris. I am getting to feel very much at home here. One thing I have no doubt has more effect than I am aware of, which is that the air & diet, & even water (filtered) unquestionably agree with me better than those of England, & I awake in a morning more refreshed, & freer from headaches. NB. I think I have once or twice felt a flea, in the day time, since I came to Paris, a week tomorrow — but except that, I have neither seen or felt any species of Vermin.

Falaise Castle

Thirteen years later, it is the turn of Joseph’s daughter Katharine to keep a travel diary. In 1827 she takes her brother and sister, William and Richenda, to Normandy, crossing from Southampton to Le Havre. Her journal is a mix of moods — enthusiastic descriptions of sightseeing and visits to orphanages, hospitals and prisons in Caen alternate with deep anxiety about her sister’s health. The hysterical nature of Richenda’s illnesses is carefully obscured, however: Katharine’s young sister seems fatally attractive to men and has a tendency to fall unsuitably in love.

The two journals offer first-hand accounts of the English abroad in the early nineteenth century. Joseph’s, written in the year that Mansfield Park was published, has the light-heartedness of the Regency period. By the time Katharine visited Normandy, Lord Byron was dead and the face of Britain was about to be changed by the arrival of the railways and the quickening pace of industrialisation. The era of romantic adventure would slowly be replaced by the Victorian ideals of enterprise and duty. Published for the first time in 2005, these Fry diaries are a valuable resource for historians and an engaging read for anyone interested in travel and society in the early nineteenth century.

cover
hardback
dimensions
170x120mm, viii + 152 pp
list price
£14.95
ISBN
978 1 902173 207