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“Objects Worthy of Attention”: Modernism and the Travel Guide

Cover page for Cook’s Handbook to London, 1890. Image courtesy the British Library.
Fig. 1. Cover page for Cook’s Handbook to London, 1890. Image courtesy the British Library.

In her 1926 essay “Impassioned Prose,” Virginia Woolf seeks to distinguish herself from her Edwardian predecessors, writing that “they ignore [the mind’s] thoughts, its rhapsodies, its dreams . . . while prose itself . . . will be fit . . . to write nothing but the immortal works of Bradshaw and Baedeker.”[1] Like her fellow modern novelists E. M. Forster and Henry James, like Mina Loy with her Lost Lunar Baedeker or T. S. Eliot with his “Burbank with a Baedeker; Bleistein with a Cigar,” Woolf mentions the famously popular Baedeker travel guides of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Woolf here seems unconcerned with what the Baedekers and similar guidebooks have to say about changing patterns of tourism and travel, or about how they mediate the relationship between cultures. The content of travel guides—what Roland Barthes sees as the “disease of essence,” the tendency to reduce cultures to “types”—is not the issue for Woolf.[2] Instead, Woolf uses the Baedekers to characterize the language of Arnold Bennett and John Galsworthy: a language perfect for the simplest forms of communication, but unsuited to creative expression. The “Bradshaw” to which Woolf refers is probably the Bradshaw railway guide—a textual form reduced to a list of times and city names. Bradshaws and Baedekers impart information, but they don’t express; they don’t, as she says, dream. Woolf defines the modern novel against the travel guide, yet the persistent invocation of guidebooks in fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries points to a deeper connection between them. While the modernist novel and the travel guide both claim to be totalizing genres that can more fully represent the reality of cities or countries, they each confront the limits of that endeavor. Both genres are characterized, I argue, by their selectiveness rather than by their expansiveness. While they attempt synecdochally to construct an encyclopedic portrait of a nation or metropolis, they are faced with the need to choose which people or places or events should be focused on, or, in the words of the Bradshaw, what “objects” are “worthy of attention.”[3]

Travel guides were themselves a relatively new genre in the early twentieth century, having only achieved widespread prominence in England in the 1860s and 1870s. And as befits a new genre, the form of the travel guide was still in flux in the interwar period. How should a guide be organized—by list, by geographic area, by landmarks—and what should it emphasize—history, basic logistical information, itineraries, or larger demographic data about city or country? The Baedeker model wound up winning out, becoming the popular choice at the time and the model for the travel guide of today, but if we return to the period of modernism we can see that the question of the proper form for the travel guide was still undecided. The guidebook, in the course of its evolution and in the enduring form that the Baedeker perfected, remains defined by the tension between objective totalizing knowledge and the need for a more personal selection.

That conflict accounts for why so many modernists were drawn to but reacted against the Baedeker—for the modernist novel likewise rests on its need to pick out, like a travel guide, the “objects worthy of attention” for the reader. Yet writers like Woolf and Joyce remain deeply uncomfortable with that process of selection, seeking consistently to justify or compensate for their choices by incorporating excess details or excess characters. In Jacob’s Room and Mrs. Dalloway, in particular, the very form of the travel guide comes to stand for a constraining, regulatory, and potentially imperial impulse that Woolf simultaneously emulates and seeks to condemn. The guidebook becomes a symbol of Henry James’s “difficult, dire process of selection” in the construction of a novel and a warning against the dangers of prescriptiveness and over-selection.[4]

As such, the travel guide reveals many of the tensions surrounding the encyclopedic goals of much of modernism. Sprawling modernist novels, according to Paul K. Saint-Amour, “looked not to the epic but to the encyclopedia as a template” in seeking to provide “counterportraits to the one offered by total war.”[5] Yet while Saint-Amour focuses on the encyclopedia as an inspiration for modernism’s totalizing ambitions—the “genre’s massive scale, its radical inclusivity, or its ambitions to paint a comprehensive picture of national life”—the travel guide actually offers a more appropriate model (Tense Future, 185).[6] While encyclopedias date from the eighteenth century, the travel guide was invented and popularized nearly at the same time as the rise of modernism. The guidebook rose to prominence in the late nineteenth century with the expansion of leisure time and transportation technologies that made mass tourism possible. In turn, it served as a handbook for those traveling from metropole to colony. Thus even more than the encyclopedia, it registers the specific forces of technological modernity and imperialism that also influenced the development of modernist literature. In fact, at least retrospectively, the travel guide has more direct ties to total war than does the encyclopedia, given the famous Baedeker raids of World War II, in which Germans sought to bomb all British landmarks that had received three stars in the Baedeker guides. The travel guide both influenced modern novelists—with Forster, James, and Woolf explicitly referring to the Baedeker guides—and responded to many of the same larger cultural and economic histories as the modern novel.

Guidebooks retain the scale, inclusivity, and comprehensiveness of the encyclopedia and the epic, but focus more intently and specifically on history and geography, two elements that are central to the modernist novel. While encyclopedias engage in a process of selection in terms of what entries to include, the travel guide’s creation of hierarchies of attention and of geographic space—what to see and what not to see, where to go and where not go—closely mirrors the balance of comprehensiveness and judgment that defines the modernist novel. In Jacob’s Room, for instance, Woolf in invoking the Baedeker grapples with the question of how expansive or how focused her novel should be in terms of locations and characters, struggling with how to justify the novel’s choice to focus on Jacob himself. As Woolf’s narrator laments, “we must choose. Never was there a harsher necessity!” Through her simultaneous contempt for and fascination with Baedekers and Bradshaws, Woolf confronts the inevitability of judgment and selection even as she seeks to forge a more encyclopedic form of novel.

To borrow a phrase from Jacob’s Room, the modernists seem consistently “pestered by guides.”[7] Their constant supposed rejection of the genre of the travel guide only serves to make plain the underlying tensions—between data and narrative, comprehensiveness and selection—shared between the guidebook and the modern novel. Like a travel guide, modernist novels like Ulysses, Jacob’s Room, and Mrs. Dalloway seem to strive for an encyclopedic totality by incorporating an excess of characters, descriptions, and locations.  But this sense of totality is only an illusion, serving actually to authorize their choice to focus on one or two characters, and a handful of significant objects or locations, above all others. For the literary tourists retracing Bloom’s steps through Dublin, or Clarissa’s through London, Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway do function as travel guides, and uncovering the competing organizational strategies of the travel guide in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveals the deeper connections between these two uniquely modern forms. Counterintuitively, in both genres totalization and selection work in tandem. By choosing certain objects or locations above others, by acknowledging that the world is too vast to be fully represented, guidebooks and modern novels produce the sense of totality that they outwardly disavow. 

“Useful Statements”

Travel guides initially seem to symbolize for the modernists, as for Woolf in “Impassioned Prose,” a particularly superficial form of writing. As Woolf discusses in her later BBC talk “Craftsmanship” (1937), the new “language of signs” in the Baedeker and Michelin guides is a “language perfectly and beautifully adapted to express useful statements.”[8] The travel guide, in her view, reduces hotels to “one gable; two gables; three gables” and “the whole of art criticism” to one star, two star, or three stars. Such a view of the travel guide as expressing a simplified form of communication—whether through symbols or through writing—was quite common at the time, expressed also by Bertrand Russell. In describing his ideal writing style, Russell writes, “I wished to say everything in the smallest number of words in which it could be said clearly. Perhaps, I thought, one should imitate Baedeker rather than any more literary model. I would spend hours trying to find the shortest way of saying something without ambiguity, and to this aim I was willing to sacrifice all attempts at aesthetic excellence.”[9] Again, the Baedeker becomes the model for brevity and clarity, as opposed to the “literary” and the “aesthetic.”

The notion of Baedekers as expressing only a simple, surface level of meaning applies not only to their language, as Woolf and Russell describe, but also to the subject of the Baedeker guides themselves: other countries. For E. M. Forster, famously, the Baedekers and other travel guides embody the simplistic, touristic first encounter with another culture that must be transcended to allow for a truer, deeper understanding. As Miss Bartlett says in A Room with a View, “Tut, tut! Miss Lucy! I hope we shall soon emancipate you from Baedeker. He does but touch the surface of things. As to the true Italy—he does not even dream of it.”[10] Just like Woolf, Forster contrasts the Baedeker’s superficial meaning with the world of “dream[s].” Similarly, in Italian Hours, Henry James observes that “It is behind the walls of the houses that old, old history is thick and that the multiplied stars of Baedeker might often best find their application,” again linking the Baedeker with the surface of outside meaning, while the real sense of history is inside or “behind.”[11]

Indeed, anti-Baedeker or anti-travel guide literature is as old as travel guides, with Miss Bartlett’s and James’s critique a commonplace: travel guides are too routinized, creating hordes of tourists blindly following Baedeker.[12] As Suzanne Hobson argues, the travel guide serves as a contrasting textual form against which modernist writers could define their own novels and their own differing relationship to travel: “The guidebook often functions as a badge marking the tourist as distinct from the traveler, or . . . it becomes the textual equivalent of the tourist’s own supposed failings, manifesting in written form the same tendency to surface-skim, to rush too quickly from one sight to another.”[13] The travel guide becomes a crutch for the tourist, despite the fact that the Baedeker was designed to combat these problems, “to keep the traveler at as great a distance as possible from the unpleasant, and often wholly invisible, tutelage of hired servants and guides . . . to assist him to stand on his own feet, to render him independent, and to place him in a position from which he may receive his own impressions.”[14] Despite these intentions, the Baedeker in its representation in novels has devolved into a means of dependence.

The modernist writers thus seem contemptuous of Baedekers—or, at least, present them as opposed to their own novels. Writers transcend the superficialities of the Baedeker; while the opening sentence of A Passage to India“Except for the Marabar Caves—and they are twenty miles off—the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary”—imitates the language of the travel guide, Forster’s novel goes on to critique that dismissive and imperialist judgment and uncover the more complex reality.[15] But if Baedekers are so different from the novel, why would Forster write that “I have always respected guidebooks—particularly the earlier Baedekers and Murrays” in a travel guide that he himself wrote: his Alexandria: A History and a Guide?[16] To answer this question we need to move beyond the style of the travel guide—the focus of Woolf and Russell—to look more closely at the overall genre of the guidebook: its organizing principles, its formal structures, and the tensions and contradictions that arise in the competing travel guides of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Modernist travel literature has gained newfound attention in recent years, with numerous critics seeking to trouble the distinction the modernists sought to draw between themselves and tourists. Alexandra Peat, for instance, links the tourist with the modernist pilgrim, David Farley sees the “fragmented forms, montage techniques, and streams of consciousness” of modernism as owing “much to the foreign scenes, exotic locales, wrenching perspectives, and uncanny displacements . . . enlivened by foreign travel,” and Stan Smith compares modernist “bricolage” to “cultural tourism.”[17] Other scholars like Anna Snaith and Joyce E. Kelley have shifted the focus from the travels of canonical English modernists to colonial writers venturing to and writing about London.[18] Recent work like Bridget Chalk’s Modernism and Mobility, on the implementation of the passport, has also begun to examine the impact of changes in how travel was regulated in the modernist period.[19] Yet despite this burgeoning interest in travel writing, far less attention has been paid to the ubiquitous guidebooks which helped to make those travels possible, structuring what tourists or travelers saw, both for those journeying from London to the colonies and from the colonies to London.[20]

Network to Node

Any contemporary reader first encountering a Baedeker guide will recognize its form. In most cases, the guides consist of a section of basic logistical information—currency, train travel, post offices—followed by a brief historical excursus, with the bulk of the book devoted to introductions to various towns or neighborhoods in a city, with ratings and descriptions of hotels, landmarks, and museums. In other words, these are guidebooks quite similar to the Fodor’s or Lonely Planet of today. This was the format of the Baedeker, more or less, from its beginnings in 1838 in Germany under Karl Baedeker, and of the Murray guides, which began to appear in 1836 in England. First translated into English in 1861, the Baedeker guides rapidly expanded their publications and popularity between 1870–1910 under the direction of Karl Baedeker’s sons, only declining in popularity in the 1930s.[21] Because of the central and pioneering importance of the Baedekers and the Murrays, they’ve become synonymous with the travel guide itself, but looking back at the full range of late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century guidebooks reveals that the form of the Baedeker was once not the only way of organizing a travel guide. In the evolutionary struggle for the most appealing form for the guidebook, the structure of the Baedeker, if not the Baedeker brand itself, eventually won out over its rivals. But these other false starts and competing formats, in the Cook, A. A., Bradshaw, and Michelin guides of the early twentieth century, reveal the tensions between personality and impersonality, between data and narrative, between what to include and what not to include, that define the guidebook and likewise serve as some of the central aesthetic questions of the modern novel.

What’s striking about late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century guidebooks is how varied they are—different organizational strategies are used both by different companies but even within the travel guides of the same company. Guidebooks structured along the lines of the Baedekers existed as early as the 1830s and 40s, but they existed alongside other models. The evolution of the form of the travel guide is a slow, uneven, and subtle one, with the Michelin Guides—which would eventually supplant the Baedekers as the guidebook of record by the 1930s—providing the best example. The Michelin company is primarily interested in selling tires, and thus the vast majority of each book was devoted to information related to “motoring.” The third edition of the guide to England, from 1913, for instance, includes barely more than descriptions of routes and garages where cars might be repaired, coupled with step-by-step instructions on how to change a flat tire. There is no information about points of interest at all, not even in list form, and barely a description of the surroundings readers might view were they to take the routes recommended by the Guide. For instance, a typical description, in this case of Wordsworth’s Lake District: “Ambelside—Keswick 17m.-- = 1, skirt Rydal Water and the picturesque Grasmere lake, on 1., Wordsworth’s Cottage = 3 ½ (1. for Grasmere), =4, long asc. to boundary stone between Westmoreland and Cumberland at 7 ¼, desc., turning to !, v. pict along bank of Thirlmere.”[22] Description here is relegated to one word; the pleasure here seems to derive from motoring itself, not the places where one is motoring. Only the ratings of hotels—with their famous one gable, two gable, three gable system—look forward to the Michelin Guides of later in the century.

It takes until the eighth edition for the Michelin Guide to gesture towards the formal organization of Baedekers and other guidebooks by geographically arranging lists of hotels and restaurants under the various neighborhoods of London. And it’s not until the ninth edition that the Guide begins a clear shift away from its origins as basically a motoring manual towards a travel guide layout of the kind we would recognize today.[23] Even then, the changes are subtle. While it retains the in-depth listings of motoring routes, the ninth edition eliminates what had been the focal point of earlier guides: an inventory of garages in each town. While the guide retains lists of automobile “Manufacturers and Concessionaries,” the space provided by cutting the garage data can be filled with information about points of interest. But even those lists—broken down by Buildings and Monuments, Churches, Museums, Markets, etc.—consist of simply a one-sentence description of each sight, with sometimes the price of admission and opening hours included. For instance, the entry for the Royal Albert Hall lists the address and the following: “Opened 1871. Contains largest organ in the world.”[24] That’s it. The guide remains largely uninterested in representing the details of London.

A typical page of the Michelin Guide, 1926 or 1927.
Fig. 2. A typical page of the Michelin Guide, 1926 or 1927.  

The Michelin Guide is quite typical of the driving-focused guidebooks of the time, with the Automobile Association guidebooks likewise organized around charts of the best routes from city to city. To take a characteristic passage from the A. A. Road Book of England from 1925: “Featureless country on the earlier part, numerous hills with gradients 1-8 to 10, and a narrow bridge approaching Tregaron. Thence easier, but a descent 1-10 on Alltwalis Hill. Scenery in general bare, but some pleasant spots in the valleys” (fig. 3).[25] This approach is taken to its extreme in the “Contour” Road Book of England, which consists of little more than elevation maps of roads.

A typical page of the AA Road Book, 1925.
Fig. 3. A typical page of the AA Road Book, 1925.

The Bradshaw guides that Woolf mentions in “Craftsmanship” represent the ultimate example of this focus on transportation data over description or narrative. Reflecting the variable forms of guidebooks in the period, Bradshaw had been offering a guide to London since 1861, one that, in its organization by neighborhood and categories of interest, parallels in many ways the Baedekers and looks forward to modern guidebooks. But the Bradshaw brand was most known for its railroad timetables, published in Bradshaw’s Descriptive Railway Guide and Bradshaw’s Monthly General Railway and Steam Navigation Guide, the latter lasting from 1843 to 1961. The Bradshaw guides were attempts to compile accurate railway timetables from the various railroad companies serving England at the time. As such, they exclude description entirely and consist only of tables.

A typical page of the Bradshaw’s Monthly Railroad and Steam Navigation Guide, January 1863.
Fig. 4. A typical page of the Bradshaw’s Monthly Railroad and Steam Navigation Guide, January 1863.

While railway timetables and travel guides are of course very different forms, the boundaries between the two were fluid in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with Bradshaw publishing both guidebooks and timetables and Woolf connecting Bradshaws with Baedekers. The Michelin Guide and its development likewise demonstrates the tension between travel guides oriented around lists, data, and practical information and the Baedeker model. Or, in other words, the Michelin Guide charts a slow shift from network to node: from a focus on the transportation links themselves to the cities and towns that those transport networks connect. Instead of emphasizing trains in the Bradshaws or motoring in the Michelin and A. A. guides, they look instead at the destinations to which one could travel by train or by car. This shift is often marked explicitly: the 1858 Bradshaw’s Descriptive Railway Guide attempts to expand upon mere railroad schedules to include some practical information on sights to see or specific trips to take. As the introduction states, “to obviate the objections of the uninteresting tabular form in which railway information is usually given, this Hand-Book contains descriptions of the great arterial or trunk lines, and of the principal towns in connexion with them, illustrated with views of some of the most remarkable objects of attraction.”[26] This is not a shift the Michelin Guides took for another seventy years. Likewise, in the A. A. Guide of 1925 the dry and practical information on motoring begins to be supplemented both by brief narrative synopses of the most interesting routes in each region and then, in the “Gazetteer” section, by capsule descriptions of each town mentioned in the guide, ranging from a single line of map references to a couple of paragraphs of description. While disparate organizational strategies for the guidebook persist during this period, increasingly over the course of the early twentieth century the travel guide as a whole evolves towards the Baedeker model, moving away from the bare presentation of data to become a more comprehensive attempt to represent a city or country in print. As such, it begins to share at least some of the goals of the novel, not merely presenting information but seeking to represent experiences.

Personal and narrative elements start to crop up in guidebooks as they evolve towards a focus on towns and cities over roads and railways. Before the late nineteenth century and the advent of the Cook, Murray, and Baedeker guides, most popular travel writing was personal—the narratives and observations of one individual on his or her travels (and of course this genre remains popular to this day). The influence of this form persists into certain of the more modern travel guides, like France for the Motorist, from 1927. While, like the Michelin Guide, France for the Motorist, as its title suggests, focuses on driving itineraries throughout France and practical information for motoring, it also includes personal essays and observations about the various routes taken, it is implied, from the author’s personal experiences. Indeed, unlike most guidebooks from this period, France for the Motorist is explicitly authored, credited to Charles L. Freeston (and published under the auspices of the British Automobile Association).[27] Likewise, while the Baedeker removes the personal anecdotes of travel writing, it nonetheless continues to posit Herr Baedeker as its imagined author (unlike the A. A. and Michelin guides, which are completely authorless), providing the reader with his supposedly unique recommendations of sights and hotels, based on “personal visits to the places described.”[28] While clearly the information in each travel guide is cobbled together from a variety of sources and authors, the decision to credit all of the Baedeker guidebooks to Karl Baedeker (who died in 1859, before his guides achieved full popularity) reflects a desire to retain that sense of personal authorship—of an individual’s distinct preferences—even within a new genre that has been removed from any one person’s experience.[29] Karl Baedeker functions as a kind of personal tour guide for the reader.

The guided tour thus provides the solution to this tension in the travel guide between the competing goals of presenting objective data and narrating personal experiences. This idea of the “itinerary”—or the narrative of a journey, whether one that has been taken by the author or one that the reader him/herself should take—increasingly becomes central to the format of the guidebook. For instance, the A. A. Guide from 1925 arranges its eight-page section on London in itinerary form, as a narrative or guided tour—in this case a walking tour—of the metropolis and its sights. These itineraries are often seen explicitly as supplementing the objective presentation of practical information embodied by the Bradshaws and the early Michelin guides. As Edward Mendelson explains:

Most guidebooks, he [Karl Baedeker] observed, suffered from one of two opposing defects. Either they offered bare lists of landmarks without any practical advice or historical instruction, or they provided such detailed and evocative accounts of anything worth seeing, and of the emotions to be felt on seeing it, that the traveler was effectively spared the trouble of going to see it for himself. Karl Baedeker chose a middle way. (Mendelson, “Baedeker’s Universe,” 389)

Thus,  while the Baedeker often arranges information in the forms of lists or categories—more nearly emulating forms like the Bradshaw timetables—it also presents cities or countries via guided tours, routes, and itineraries, which function not as a grand, totalizing vision of a city or country but more as the personal, idiosyncratic, street-level view we might associate with older forms of travel writing. Indeed, the great innovation of the Baedeker guides to countries was to organize the cities and towns along various “routes.” This tendency is taken to an extreme in the Cook Guide to Paris from 1924, which is organized not around categories but entirely through itineraries and walks, with information about places of interest included only within each guided itinerary.[30] In this turn to the itinerary the travel guide parallels developments in travel writing in the modernist period more generally, as Stacy Burton argues: “Leaving the ‘God’s-eye view’ for the ‘traveller’s view,’ writers challenge the travel narrative’s rigid conventions and devise new ways of representing Europeans’ experiences abroad” (Travel Narratives, 31). The guidebook, though, strives to include both “God’s-eye view” and “traveller’s view” at the same time.

In its focus on the itinerary, the guidebook also increasingly represents history through the personal experience of the individual tourist. While the Baedeker incorporates an “Outline of History” in its opening pages, those chronological accounts are extremely brief, with the bulk of the historical information provided in the entry on each landmark or, in passing, as part of the guided itineraries. This model becomes extremely common for guidebooks. As the A. A. Road Book of England states: “London is not a city to be taken at a gulp; it is a province. It is too big a job to tell its history, and indeed it is unnecessary, for its relics tell the story in no uncertain way; and as the sights and scenes of the London that was are seen in the buildings and monuments that remain, some good idea of the page it had written in British history will be gained. Turn east, turn west, historical interest is on every hand” (364). While guidebooks are rarely this explicit, this passage effectively encapsulates the aesthetic of the guidebook, the idea that the built environment can communicate to the tourist the history of the place and, indeed, that it is precisely the guidebook’s job to provide that historical context for the visitor’s peregrinations through the city. The guidebook abandons the possibility of a complete or comprehensive history in favor of a history revealed in scraps through its traces in the present.[31] Again, from the 1861 Bradshaw guide to London: “It will be a far pleasanter task to the reader than wading through the dry details of antiquity—which would be little more than a mere string of dates as we should be compelled to present them—if we glance instead at the City under its more graphic aspects, and by that means contrive to invest the information we are able to afford with a few points of acknowledged general interest” (7). The writer here explicitly contrasts the dry, chronological history (which the guidebook also provides) with an experienced, “graphic” form of historical knowledge provided by geography and the guided itinerary.

A typical page of the 1911 London Baedeker.
Fig. 5. A typical page of the 1911 London Baedeker. 

Through the juxtaposition of historical events and geography through these itineraries, the travel guide, like modern novels, creates a palimpsestic sense of history. Just as for Woolf and Joyce contact with the environment of the city prompts an engagement with societal or personal histories—evoking memories and calling up in Mrs. Dalloway visions of “when London is a grass-grown path”—so in the guidebook each street and each landmark is linked with its past associations.[32] This elision of contemporary London and its past is a frequent modernist move: as Woolf writes in Jacob’s Room, “St. Paul’s swells white above the fretted, pointed, or oblong buildings beside it. The cross alone shines rosy-gilt. But what century have we reached? Has this procession from the Surrey side to the Strand gone on for ever? That old man has been crossing the Bridge these six hundred years” (113). A description of a familiar London landmark gives us temporary access into the distant past. Similarly, to take just one example from the London Baedeker: “In its N portion (formally little Queen St) is the new Roman Catholic Church of SS Anselm and Cecilia, built to replace the Sardinian Chapel (see below); and on the opposite (W.) side stands Trinity Church, now being rebuilt, on the side of the house in which Mary Lamb killed her mother in a fit of insanity (1796)” (Baedeker, London and its Environs, 80) (fig. 5). Like the modern novelist, the Baedeker guide functions as a kind of archeologist, revealing the layers of history behind what the tourist sees. Today literary tourists are frequently those archaeologists, with modernist novels like Mrs. Dalloway and Ulysses functioning specifically as travel guides, with travelers re-tracing the itineraries of their protagonists through their city’s streets. This connection makes sense; in their focus on the itinerary or guided tour, in their expression of history through geography, in their tension between the comprehensive and the particular, we can see clear parallels between the guidebook and the modernist city-novel, which through the wanderings of its characters through the streets of a city seeks to create a personal portrait of the histories of both country and character.

A Totalizing Genre?

Like the guidebook, the modern novel is also frequently seen, by Paul Saint-Amour and others, as a more totalizing genre than previous fiction. The modernist novel often strives for a new and fully comprehensive form to represent the reality of the modern city, embodied by Joyce’s famous assertion that Ulysses could provide so complete a picture of Dublin that “if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.”[33] In Finnegans Wake Joyce refers to Ulysses as “the usylessly unreadable Blue Book of Eccles,” aligning his novel not only with the Blue Books produced by the British Office for National Statistics but also with the Blue Guides, another line of travel guides.[34] The travel guide similarly displays an encyclopedic attention to the fabric of the city in all its aspects: its hotels and neighborhoods and attractions certainly, but also its infrastructure: its railroads, its money, its drainage and lighting systems, its traffic, even its customs—from how to tip, to the observation that “the English forms of politeness are . . . by no means so minute and ceremonious as the French.”[35] It summarizes all the essential information a traveler needs to know about a particular place or society. To provide a list of a few of the chapter headings of the London Baedeker: “Money. Expenses. Season. Passports. Custom House. Time.” Or “Cabs. Omnibuses. Tramways. Coaches.” Or “Divine Service.” Or “Topography and Statistics.” Like Ulysses, travel guides seem to be striving for a complete mimesis. At times—and the Bradshaw railway guides are the extreme example—these genres approach that of the census or the table of statistics, like Thom’s Irish Directory, whose street and census data Joyce adapted for his novel. Like the travel guide, Ulysses frequently flirts with the genre of the anatomy: just as the London Baedeker is organized by the above categories, so in the Linati schema, Ulysses is broken down by organ, by color, by science, etc. Of course, these anatomizing impulses are always in tension with the central narrative; indeed, that tension is built into the novel, with Bloom both the hero of his own personal story but also the incarnation of an encyclopedic array of other wanderers, from Odysseus to the Wandering Jew to Sinbad the Sailor to Robinson Crusoe.

The first two pages of the Table of Contents for the 1911 London Baedeker.
Fig. 6. The first two pages of the Table of Contents for the 1911 London Baedeker.

Yet if a novel like Ulysses creates the illusion of an impersonal totality, that totality is only an illusion, as the novel, like the travel guide, involves a systematic process of selection or judgment in terms of what or what not to include. As the 1861 Bradshaw’s Guide Through London describes,

The present edition has been remodeled in the form of an Itinerary, and is divided into such portions or routes through each district of London as the reader will be able to visit in a given time. Every object worthy of attention in the great metropolis is distinctly noticed, and each day’s routes are so carefully and clearly arranged that the confusion and unnecessary fatigue incidental to an irregular and discursive wandering hither and thither will be obviated. (Blanchard, Bradshaw’s Guide, 1)

This passage encapsulates the contradictory goals of the travel guide. On the one hand, the Bradshaw wants to provide travelers not merely with facts, but with a guided tour—or choice of guided tours—through the “great metropolis” of London. The focus on walking recalls characters like Bloom in modernist city novels, but the guidebook also wants to restrict that sense of freedom and choice that it provides, fighting against the “irregular and discursive wandering hither and thither” of the modernist hero. Instead, the Bradshaw sets out prescribed routes and delimits what should be noted as “worthy of attention” for the traveler. As this passage reveals, travel guides are not in fact a totalizing genre; they are defined precisely by their not representing the totality of a city or country. Travel guides create the illusion of totality, the fantasy that Herr Baedeker knows all there is to know about a culture or a city. But travel guides pride themselves on including only that which is worthwhile for the traveler to choose, on picking out—as in the above quotation—what routes are worthwhile and what objects are “worthy of attention.” They create a character—Herr Baedeker, or, in our own time, Rick Steves—who is both the voice of objectivity and a personal guide, who’s seen it all and so can tell you what you need or need not see.  As the introduction to the 1911 London Baedeker declares, “it has not been the Editor’s purpose to write an exhaustive account of so stupendous a city, but merely to describe the most important objects of general interest contained in it” (London and its Environs, iv). Selectivity, not totality, is the explicit characteristic of the travel guide. Or rather, the guidebook produces the illusion of encyclopedic totality that authorizes the personal—or at least corporate—selections made by the writers of the guide.   

This tension between totality and selection explains the ambivalent fascination with Baedekers on the part of many modernists, as that same tension animates so many modernist novels, which consistently foreground the problem of selection, what Henry James calls the “difficult, dire process of selection and comparison, of surrender and sacrifice” (Art of the Novel, 7). For as the travel guide develops, the role of the author in selecting and comparing and surrendering and sacrificing neighborhoods or restaurants in favor of others continues to expand. Rather than a comprehensive and objective focus on one aspect of the country—the road or rail network—the guidebook, in seeking to create a totalized portrait, increasingly turns to selection and judgment, choosing “every object worthy of attention,” “the most important objects of general interest,” “remarkable objects of attraction,” or “a few points of acknowledged general interest.”

Travel guides thus dramatize the question of how to choose what to include and what to leave out in a novel, since, as Henry James—who refers frequently to Baedekers—famously claims, “Really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw, by a geometry of his own, the circle within which they shall happily appear to do so” (Art of the Novel, 6).[36] The travel guide as both a totalizing and a harshly selective form comes to embody that tension between the endless possibilities of the world and the necessity for a potentially coercive and personal selection, a closing off of those possibilities.

This tension between the comprehensive and the selective defines the fraught relationship to “encyclopedism” in the modernist novel. Saint-Amour argues that “a truly counter-totalizing work” like the modernist novels he discusses “avows the partiality of its totality claims without renouncing them, taking up totalization under the sign of its impossibility” (Tense Future, 10). Yet the travel guide reveals that totalization and partiality are two sides of the same coin; like the Baedeker, modern novels use the partial to stand for the whole, and the illusion of a whole to justify their selection of the partial. Saint-Amour describes a totalizing representation as both “necessary and impossible,” but I would go further, and argue that totality is produced by that very impossibility (185). Totality is not something that must be vainly striven for; rather, the acknowledgment that the world is too vast to be fully represented, but rather can only be represented partially through selection, counterintuitively creates the impression of a comprehensive world. The individual choices of what to represent or not represent do not substitute for the whole, but rather construct it. And in turn, that illusion of a fully represented world serves to authorize those selections. Indeed, this is precisely how Edward Mendelson defines the encyclopedic novel:

Because they are products of an era in which the world’s knowledge is vastly greater than any one person can encompass, they necessarily make extensive use of synecdoche. No encyclopedic narrative can describe the whole range of physical science, so examples from one or two sciences serve to represent the whole scientific sector of human knowledge.[37]

In other words: the encyclopedic novel, like the travel guide, is not truly comprehensive, but creates that illusion of totality through metonymy and synecdoche.

Imperial Bradshaws

The selectiveness of travel guides, however, remains disturbing to the modernists who invoke them. Modernists might seem to critique the guidebook for its totalizing impulses, for its sacrificing of focus on personal or subjective experience to the need to anatomize a city or country. But in practice they critique Baedekers precisely for the opposite reason; they reject travel guides not for being too drily encyclopedic, but for being too sparsely selective. Stylistically, Woolf and others call attention to the pared down, functional language of travel guides, and Forster and James argue that Baedekers really give us too little of a culture or city—the superficial or given view and not its more complex and buried reality. They tell the reader or traveler what he or she must pay attention to, and this is the offense modernist writers can’t forgive. This characteristic of the travel guide might offer a clue as to why, in Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf names one of the villains of the novel Sir William Bradshaw. As we’ve seen, Woolf links Bradshaw’s railway guides or handbooks to the Baedekers, with both being a form of impoverished prose. But what also links them is that they all seek to regulate movement, behaviors, and experiences, by delineating either the correct railway times or the correct places to visit in a foreign city, thus preventing “irregular and discursive wandering hither and thither.”

In Woolf’s novel, Bradshaws and Baedekers are thus aligned with the forces of “Proportion” and “Conversion” with which Dr. Bradshaw is associated. For like a travel guide, Bradshaw explicitly seeks to enforce on his patients a sense of “proportion”: the proper way of behavior, the proper way of interacting with society. Indeed, Woolf links Bradshaw’s sense of proportion to time itself, describing how “dividing and subdividing, the clocks of Harley Street nibbled at the June day, counselled submission, upheld authority, and pointed out in chorus the supreme advantages of a sense of proportion” (Mrs. Dalloway, 102). Likewise, the Baedeker and Bradshaw guides explicitly seek to divide and subdivide, anatomizing railway lines into charts or cities and countries into lists of hotels, itineraries, and sights to see. And they also reinforce the authority of Herr Baedeker or the other anonymous authors of the guides. The potential link to the Bradshaw railway timetable encodes that connection among time, submission, and proportion into Bradshaw’s name. For the railway timetable is the pre-eminent example of time as regularized, as divided and subdivided, far more so even than the Harley Street clocks. Indeed, the railroads represented the most important development in the standardization of time, and Woolf’s choice of name yokes Bradshaw to the notions of time as temps that the novel, in its opposition to the clock-time of Big Ben, explicitly rejects.

This Proportion that Bradshaw worships, as Woolf proclaims, has “a sister, less smiling, more formidable, a Goddess even now engaged—in the heat and sands of India, the mud and swamp of Africa, the purlieus of London . . . in dashing down shrines, smashing idols, and setting up in their place her own stern countenance. Conversion is her name and she feasts on the wills of the weakly, loving to impress, to impose” (100). Through the connection between Dr. Bradshaw and the Bradshaw guides, Woolf calls attention to the link between travel guides and imperial power.

The process of selection that is the very basis of the travel guide becomes for Woolf a lesser adjunct of the larger structures of domination, both within England and in the Empire. The practice of telling others how to behave, of dividing and proscribing, of regulating and recommending, of setting up hierarchies of space and knowledge, provides a link between metropole and colony, a link expressed through the Baedeker itself, which published guides both to India and to England.

Edward Said and Frederic Jameson have both argued for a similar connection between the imperial and the domestic when it comes to the modern novel.[38] For Said, imperialism seems to require a more encyclopedic novel, “a form that draws attention to itself as substituting art and its creations for the once-possible synthesis of the world empires” (Culture and Imperialism, 189).[39] Said defines imperialism as being fundamentally about the “primacy of geography,” with imperialism making “possible the construction of various kinds of knowledge, all of them in one way or another dependent upon the perceived character and destiny of a particular geography” (Culture and Imperialism, 78). The guidebook, whether about India or about London, is fundamentally about “a particular geography”—about exerting control over it and defining its “perceived character.” The form of the guidebook links domestic and imperial spaces; indeed, this conjunction is precisely what Woolf is arguing for in the link between Proportion and Conversion and the invocation of the Bradshaw guides.[40] Conversion for Woolf involves the violent imposition or impression of sameness, emblematized by the British in India, and while the travel guides lack that violence, like Proportion they are simply a milder version of the same. This connection between small acts of domestic oppression and larger international hegemony looks forward to Woolf’s linkage of patriarchy and fascism in Three Guineas. As she writes, “There we have in embryo the creature, Dictator as we call him when he is Italian or German, who believes that he has the right . . . to dictate to other human beings how they shall live; what they shall do.”[41] Bradshaw is one of those Dictators, and thus the travel guides with which he is associated become linked with his prescriptive aims; Rezia, describing Holmes and Bradshaw, concludes, “Judges they were; who . . . saw nothing clear, yet ruled, yet inflicted. ‘Must’ they said’” (Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, 148). Bradshaw, like the travel guide, serves as an embodiment of judgment, telling others what or what not to do. And yet, when it comes to her own novels and their characters, Woolf cannot resist the need to judge and select. 

Distinction in Jacob Room’s 

This issue is crystallized in Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, which reflects—within the context of a representation of the modern city—on the problem of selection and over-selection in the novel. Describing the crowd in an opera house, Woolf’s narrative voice flits from character to character, settling quickly next to one figure and then another before concluding that, despite her desire to know all these people, “we must choose. Never was there a harsher necessity!” (Woolf, Jacob’s Room, 69). Otherwise, “the observer is choked with observations” (68). The problem for Woolf in this section is not her usual grappling with whether the narrator can know the inmost core of her characters, but the larger issue of how and whether the novelist should select one character to represent above others. This quandary has always been inherent to the novel form, embodied most notably in Middlemarch by George Eliot’s interjection, “One morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea—but why always Dorothea?” [42] However, in the works of the modernists the question of why to represent one character over another becomes more pressing and self-conscious. Through new opportunities for tourism and travel, the representable world expands and becomes more difficult to capture within the form of the novel. As an outgrowth of that more interconnected world, the travel guide both reflects the transformations of society that helped shape the modernist novel and directly influences many of those novels.

Woolf in Jacob’s Room addresses the problem of who to choose to represent in a novel in two conflicting ways. Firstly, in the fifth chapter of the novel, as if in compensation for its previous focus on Jacob Flanders, Woolf radically opens up the novel to the experience of others: eleven characters are mentioned in the first four and a half pages, and most of these are dwelt on for a paragraph and then never mentioned again. Reflecting the model of Joyce’s “Wandering Rocks,” with which Woolf engages, Woolf de-centers Jacob by expanding the range of personages, in a more radical way than in the rest of the novel. As Sam Alexander has written with regard to Joyce’s focus on censuses and population in “Wandering Rocks,” “this proliferation of characters indicates a deep anxiety surrounding the process of character selection.”[43] This anxiety is even more explicit in Woolf than it is in Joyce—for Woolf seems not, like Joyce, to be democratically expanding the novel, but to be focusing on additional characters in order to justify her own choice in selecting Jacob. While the novel provides capsule descriptions of random wanderers through London—old Spicer, Mrs. Lidgett, Mr. Charles Budgeon—the descriptions emphasize the indistinctness of those individuals, how they blend in with one another. These personages quickly merge into a mass of “innumerable overcoats” (Jacob’s Room, 66–67), with identity merging with clothing in a way that Woolf, when it comes to representing individual characters, explicitly rejects. Likewise, the narrator notes that “Nothing could appear more certain from the steps of St. Paul’s than that each person is miraculously provided with coat, skirt, and boots; an income; an object” (66). On the level of fundamentals, it seems, “each person” is quite similar. But Woolf continues, “Only Jacob, carrying in his hand Finlay’s Byzantine Empire, which he had bought in Ludgate Hill, looked a little different” (66). While Woolf goes out of her way to represent an unexpected profusion of other characters here, she nonetheless concludes by asserting that Jacob is worthy of the extra level of representation that the novel provides—or attempts—because of his difference from others. While the process of choosing is a harsh necessity, Woolf takes pains to justify that choice.

Indeed, as the chapter continues, she stresses Jacob’s “distinction” (70). This word not only exposes Woolf’s class biases—Jacob is different and worthy of representation because he is slightly above the mass of humanity—but also reflects on this process of selection. For “distinction” also means difference, apartness, and so it is precisely that difference that Woolf must stress in order to justify her choice to represent Jacob and not the other figures swirling around him. Indeed, distinction is precisely what Woolf condemns in Three Guineas, writing, “He is interfering now with your liberty; he is dictating how you shall live; he is making distinctions not merely between the sexes, but between the races” (122). The drawing of distinctions is for Woolf potentially racist and patriarchal, allied with the prescriptiveness of Sir William Bradshaw, and yet when it comes to her novel writing, she knows that she has no choice but to focus on distinct and distinctive individuals like Jacob.

In other words, Jacob must be portrayed as an “object worthy of attention.” And the fifth chapter of Jacob’s Room, moreover, is also the one that most closely resembles a Baedeker guide. We get close attention to the Underground and omnibus routes, and extended descriptions of two sites “worthy of attention” to a reader of the Baedeker or any other guide to London: St. Paul’s and the Opera House. Indeed, the chapter even includes the historical excursus that is characteristic of the guidebook: “Long ago great people lived here, and coming back from Court past midnight stood, huddling their satin skirts, under the carved door-posts . . . The bitter eighteenth-century rain rushed down the kennel. Southampton Row, however, is chiefly remarkable nowadays for the fact that you will always find a man there trying to sell a tortoise to a tailor” (64). Woolf seems here not only to be emulating the style of the guidebook—“Southampton Row, however, is chiefly remarkable nowadays”—but also the rapid movement between geographical past and present so typical of the Baedeker. Thus at the very moment in the novel when Woolf foregrounds the problem of selection, she turns to a genre—the travel guide—that is similarly preoccupied with that very issue.

Jacob’s Room as a whole is not only Woolf’s novel most concerned with this issue of selection, but also the one most engaged with travel guides, as her mention of the Baedeker guide itself during Jacob’s trip to Greece makes clear. Like any good tourist, Jacob in Greece is “looking at the statues with his Baedeker” (149). Indeed, the novel is oddly focused on world-historical sites—Versailles, the Parthenon, St. Paul’s, and the British Museum all make repeated occurrences—the very landmarks that the Baedekers judge worthy of attention and are lavished with pages and pages of description. And in those moments when Jacob visits these sights, he is often haunted by this question of what to look at. In his trip to the Parthenon:

He noted the slight irregularity in the line of the steps which “the artistic sense of the Greeks preferred to mathematical accuracy,” he read in his guide-book.

He stood on the exact spot where the great statue of Athena used to stand, and identified the famous landmarks of the scene beneath.

In short he was accurate and diligent; but profoundly morose. Moreover he was pestered by guides. (149)

Woolf’s description in this passage emphasizes the Baedeker’s role in identifying “the famous landmarks of the scene below.” In other words, the guidebook aids the traveler in distinguishing or picking out that which is famous and thus worthy of attention from the mass which surrounds it. Yet this process of selection produces a feeling of profound moroseness in Jacob; he  is “pestered by guides,” with “guides” meaning both people and books. The need to choose what to look at is just as unsettling for Jacob as it is for Woolf. We might thus see much of Woolf’s later career as a series of experiments in how to select characters while avoiding this need for “distinction”: from the more expansive focus of Mrs. Dalloway to the choice of six relatively equally represented characters in The Waves (characters that often seem less than fully distinct from each other). For Woolf, that moment of choice, when the novelist has to decide what object or character to focus on, remains, throughout her career, deeply fraught.

The Problem of Selection

This process of selection, and of letting those selections imply a larger whole,  functions not simply for characters in the modernist novel, but also, as the travel guide reveals, for objects and places more generally. Franco Moretti has argued that Ulysses’s stream-of-consciousness represents an inclusive form of possibility: “Every narrative imposes choices, or exclusions—while the stream of consciousness seeks to keep the field of the possible wide open . . . None of them is placed in the foreground; and none is excluded from the foreground.”[44] In other words, Joyce does not select or privilege details in order to isolate moments or objects of epiphany or revelation, but rather Bloom is characterized by his absent-mindedness, his lack of focus on significant objects.[45] Like the narrator of Jacob’s Room he is “choked with observations,” resulting in a world that lacks “attention, clarity, concentration” (Moretti, Modern Epic, 134). And yet, Moretti admits that some motifs in the novel are indeed given special significance:

When things and individuals from the city of Dublin, places and gestures and words, begin to reappear . . . well, their return makes Ulysses feel like a world you can live in. Its extent remains vast, and its laws almost incomprehensible. At the same time, however—just as in a big foreign city—here and there the first fixed points are established: a bee sting, a cake of soap, a phrase from Mozart. (159)

Moretti’s description could apply to a travel guide: these moments in Ulysses help us “get our bearings,” he says. If Ulysses lacks moments of revelation—a highly debatable point—it certainly doesn’t lack moments of attention. Indeed, these moments are exactly what Bloom emphasizes when he describes ads, asking for “Just a little per calling attention.”[46] While Ulysses certainly distinguishes far less than other novels between foreground and background, significance and non-significance, it still works persistently to call attention to particular objects and characters. As such, Moretti’s rhetoric of orientation and attention is unintentionally appropriate; like a travel guide, the comprehensive information and impressions of the modern city serve to set off those privileged moments of attention and symbolic meaning to which the novel returns. What Moretti perceives as a blurring between the significant and the insignificant in the novel is simply an illusion; the totalizing aspects of Ulysses work both to authorize and to obscure the particular choices and selections that Joyce makes in writing the novel. “Wandering Rocks,” with its myriad characters “wandering hither and thither” through Dublin, emphasizes that the novel-world encompasses many other stories that it could, but chooses not to, tell.

Woolf, Joyce, and Forster in their novels produce an excess of extraneous details or characters out of which the author can pick a handful that will be repeated and developed and marked as particularly important or significant—as “objects worthy of attention,” be they a lighthouse or a man in a mackintosh or the Marabar Caves. Indeed, the opening sentence of Forster’s A Passage to India, mentioned above,  highlights this contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary, the mundane and the significant: “Except for the Marabar Caves—and they are twenty miles off—the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary” (3). In other words, Forster’s narrator implies, he’s seen all of Chandrapore and thus can say with authority that we need only visit the Marabar Caves. While Forster may critique this attitude, the novel goes on to utilize the same logic of selection. Just as travel guides focus on which objects and places—monuments, palaces, train stations—to see or not see, so the modernist novel selects and justifies its hierarchy of attentions not only about characters, but also about geographies. Woolf begins the fifth chapter of Jacob’s Room by remarking (like Bloom talking about his advertisement needing “just a little per calling attention”) “what the gentry wants is something singular to catch the eye” (64). The modern novel consistently focuses on these privileged moments of attention, of singularity, be they characters like Jacob, places like the Marabar Caves, or other “objects worthy of attention.” But those moments that “catch the eye” are made possible by the illusion of a totally catalogued world with which they are contrasted. If Joyce and other modernists are committed to choosing objects or people as particularly meaningful, in elevating them above the vast morass of extraneous details or characters, then they are consistently uncomfortable with that moment of choice, packing their novels with other details so as to justify or mitigate this process of selection. In other words, it makes sense that the modernist novel could be both more selective—in its obsessive focus on the interior lives of only a few characters—and more totalizing, lavishing attention on the infinite minutiae of the world. These developments, as the travel guide reveals, go hand in hand.

 

Notes

[1] Virginia Woolf, “‘Impassioned Prose,’” in Selected Essays, ed. David Bradshaw (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 55–62, 56.

[2] Roland Barthes, Mythologies, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 2012), 135. For more on British travel guides and imperialism, see John M. MacKenzie, “Empires of Travel: British Guide Books and Cultural Imperialism in the 19th and 20th Centuries,” in Histories of Tourism, ed. John K. Walton (Clevedon, UK: Channel View, 2005), 19–38.

[3] E. L. Blanchard, Bradshaw’s Guide Through London and its Environs (London: W. J. Adams 1861), 1.

[4] Henry James, The Art of the Novel (New York: Scribner, 1962), 6.

[5] Paul K. Saint-Amour, Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, and Encyclopedic Form (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 9.

[6] Saint-Amour traces the internal self-contradictions and tensions within even the seemingly objective and totalizing genre of the encyclopedia: “Internal compartmentalization, conflicted discursive zones and organizational schemata, self-contradictory systems of internal cross-reference—these are the means by which the genre delimits and impedes the project it nonetheless cannot refuse to undertake. . . . [T]his repertoire of necessary–impossible negotiations is encyclopedism” (Tense Future, 186). Replacing “encyclopedism” with “travel guides” would work equally well here. Saint-Amour similarly characterizes the encyclopedia by its “understanding [of] itself as disproportionate, transitory, and full of the wrong accounts of the wrong things,” a description that again perfectly describes the travel guide, a genre which was constantly updated and which, in the case of the Baedeker, explicitly called upon readers to write in to correct its mistakes (189).

[7] Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room (San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1922), 149.

[8] Virginia Woolf, “Craftsmanship,” The Death of the Moth and Other Stories (New York: Harcourt, 1942), 126–31, 200.

[9] Bertrand Russell, The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (London: Routledge, 2009), 35.

[10] E. M. Forster, A Room With a View (New York: Signet, 2009), 21.

[11] Henry James, Collected Travel Writings: The Continent (New York: The Library of America, 1993), 356.

[12] For more on the contempt for travel guides and tourism more generally, see Helen Carr, “Modernism and Travel,” in The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, ed. Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 70–86; Jonathan Culler, “The Semiotics of Tourism,” in Framing the Sign (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 153–67.

[13] Suzanne Hobson, “‘Looking all lost towards a Cook’s guide for beauty’: The Art of Literature and the Lessons of the Guidebook in Modernist Writing,” Studies in Travel Writing 19, no. 1 (2015): 30–47, 31.

[14] Edward Mendelson, “Baedeker’s Universe,” Yale Review 74, no. 3 (1985): 386–403, 387–88; Karl Baedeker, Deutschland (Leipzig: Karl Baedeker, 1858).

[15] E. M. Forster, A Passage to India (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1924), 3.

[16] E. M. Forster, Alexandria: A History and a Guide (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1961), xv.

[17] See Alexandra Peat, Travel and Modernist Literature: Sacred and Ethical Journeys (New York: Routledge, 2011); David Farley, Modernist Travel Writing: Intellectuals Abroad (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2010), 1; Stan Smith, “Burbank with a Baedeker: Modernism’s Grand Tours,” Studies in Travel Writing 8, no. 1 (2010): 1–18, 14. As Smith writes, “Pound’s citations, decorating his verse with cultural artefacts, treasures, quotations, snippets of allusion, constitute a form of cultural tourism which corresponds to the cruder predations of the ordinary middle-class traveller, collecting souvenirs for the mantelpiece and display cabinet” (14).

[18] See Anna Snaith, Modernist Voyages: Colonial Women Writers in London, 1890–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) and Joyce E. Kelley, Excursions into Modernism: Women Writers, Travel, and the Body (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2015).

[19] See Bridget T. Chalk, Modernism and Mobility: The Passport and Cosmopolitan Experience (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

[20] For older, classic works on modernism and travel, see Barbara Korte, English Travel Writing (New York: St. Martins, 2000); Orvar Lofgren, On Holiday: A History of Vacationing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); Paul Fussell, Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).

[21] For an elegant introduction to the history and characteristics of the Baedeker, see Mendelson, “Baedeker’s Universe.”

[22] Michelin Guide to the British Isles, 3rd edition (London: Michelin Tyre Company, 1913), 79.

[23] We can see how extreme this change becomes by looking at the later Shell Guides, edited by John Betjeman. Shell Oil, like Michelin, is interested in encouraging driving, and yet the Shell Guides include basically no information about motoring of the kind the earlier Michelin Guides provided. The guide to Devon from 1936, written by Betjeman, provides one page of hills and elevations along roadways, but otherwise all the space is taken up with descriptions of towns and aspects of the local culture. By the 1930s, the format of the guidebook had become far more clearly descriptive as opposed to informational. See John Betjeman, Devon Shell guide (London: Architectural Press, 1936).

[24] Michelin Guide to the British Isles, 9th edition (London: Michelin Tyre Company, 1926 or 1927), 517.

[25] A. A. Road Book of England (London: Automobile Association, 1925), 89.

[26] Bradshaw’s Descriptive Railway Guide and Illustrated Hand-Book of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, No. 18 (London: W.J. Adams, June 1858), v.

[27] See Charles L. Freeston, France for the Motorist (London: Cassel and Company and the Automobile Association), 1927.

[28] Karl Baedeker, London and its Environs, 16th edition (Leipzig: Karl Baedeker, 1911), v.

[29] In this fiction of the personal author with universal knowledge, the guidebook parallels Stacy Burton’s characterization of the nineteenth-century travel narrative: “Like the realist novel, the nineteenth-century travel narrative rests on the premise that narrative can represent peoples and places with unsurpassed fidelity. Central among the genre’s conventions is the privileged narrator whose representations rely on firsthand experience yet claim to transcend the limitations of individual perspective” (Travel Narratives and the End of Modernity [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014], 27). Herr Baedeker likewise claims to rely on firsthand experience but, as a corporate entity, is certainly unbound by the “limitations of individual perspective.”

[30] And yet, in a marker of just how in flux the form of guidebooks was in this period, the Cook guide to London of 1921 provides the starkest contrast with its guide to Paris: unlike the Baedeker, or the Blue Guide of 1920—both arranged by neighborhood—the Cook guide ignores geography in favor of category: palaces, public buildings, art galleries, bridges and tunnels, homes of celebrities, etc. Within each category, we get similar descriptions of Buckingham Palace or the National Gallery or St. Paul’s, but these are not anchored to particular sections of the city, but rather organized strictly by function. Even within the same company’s guidebooks, the form can differ wildly. See Cook’s Guide to Paris (London: Thos. Cook and Son, 1924); Cook’s Handbook to London (London: Thos. Cook and Son, 1921).

[31] Indeed, that history is often literary history and heritage, as Eric Bulson and Andrea Zemgulys have recently argued. See Eric Bulson, Novels, Maps, Modernity: The Spatial Imagination, 1850–2000 (London: Routledge, 2009); Andrea Zemgulys, Modernism and the Locations of Literary Heritage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

[32] Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, (San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1981), 16.

[33] Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 69.

[34] James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (New York: Viking Press, 1945), 179.26–27.

[35] Karl Baedeker, London and its Environs, 16th edition (Leipzig: Karl Baedeker, 1911), 62.

[36] For James’s allusions to Baedekers, see, to take just a few examples, The Golden Bowl, Vol. II (New York: Scribner, 1909), 285; The Wings of the Dove, Vol. 1 (New York: Scribner, 1902), 316, and Collected Travel Writings: The Continent, 329, 356, 498.

[37] Edward Mendelson, “Encyclopedic Narrative: From Dante to Pynchon,” MLN 91, no. 6 (1976): 1267–75, 1269.

[38] Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993), 188.

[39] Similarly, Fredric Jameson contends that we might define modernism by its acknowledgment of the inability of conceptualizing the “unrepresentable totality” of city or country because imperialism has shifted the site of economic production away from the metropole (Fredric Jameson, The Modernist Papers [London: Verso, 2007], 161).

[40] Woolf’s “Conversion” thus parallels Forster’s “Imperial” in Howards End, which Jameson argues similarly looks both inward towards England and outwards to the colonies. See Jameson, The Modernist Papers, 162–63.

[41] Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (Orlando: Harcourt, 2006), 65.

[42] George Eliot, Middlemarch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 261.

[43] Sam Alexander, “Joyce’s Census: Character, Demography, and the Problem of Population in Joyce’s Ulysses,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 45, no. 3 (2012): 433–54, 434. As Alexander writes, the Ithaca episode returns “insistently to the question of the unselected—of what is “unnarrated but existent by implica­tion” in Ulysses, including the population that lies outside its pages. The episode tries to imagine what would be required to represent an entire population rather than just a few characters” (442).

[44] Franco Moretti, Modern Epic (London: Verso, 1996), 146–47.

[45] As Moretti writes, “Up and down the Dublin streets, between advertising and stream of consciousness, the hero of Ulysses is learning a new art: to see, and not to see. Bloom notices everything, but focuses on nothing . . . Not an ‘increased awareness,’ but instead an increased absentmindedness” (Modern Epic, 137).

[46] James Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Random House, 1986), 7:156–57.

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