5. Characteristics of British Travel Narratives

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, circa 1717,
in traditional Turkish dress

The primary feature of the travelogue is the recreation of encounter. Combining the modes of reportage, documentary, narrative, and self-reflection, travelogues translate the experienced encounter with place and person into a textual account of that encounter, albeit rife with mediation, edition, censorship, and restructuring.[1] Described as a hybrid or “androgynous literary form” because of its inclusion of correspondences, sketches, recollections, reports, and guidebook and tourist elements, the travelogue is able to reconstruct the travel experience to some degree.[2] At the very centre of the travelogue is a narrative, which serves to delight and entertain the reading audience.[3] Like the picturesque mode, a visual feast that the viewer may find delight and instruction within, the travel writer seeks to entertain and instruct its readers, but, again like the picture, recreating the travel event is also subject to the reordering of the event to fit within the frame that the genre dictates. The result, consequently, has less to do with accuracy of the event that transpired, and more to do with the writer’s preference and the aesthetics of the mode itself, resulting in a text that offers only a limited reconstruction of the event as it actually transpired.[4] 

 Thompson, Travel Writing, 62.
[2] Korte, English Travel Writing, 9.
[3] Korte, English Travel Writing, 7, 9.
[4] Thompson, Travel Writing, 62.