Laura Seymour

Of all the girl characters that Priscilla creates in her writings Laura Seymour one of the characters in the Juvenile Travellers is one of the most significant in terms of gender roles. At the beginning of the family’s European tour Theodore and his father embark on a number of side trips together leaving Laura and her mother as the recipients of letters describing their activities. Part way through the book the family are caught up in a massive earthquake. Laura is buried under rubble and rescued while Theodore is swept away by a tsunami and believed to be drowned. At the end of the book Theodore is found and reunited with his family but, in the duration, Laura becomes her father’s companion and eagerly embraces the activities and information that he shares with her.

In all her travel books this central position of the role of the girl traveller is not repeated. Neither is the number of letters by a single female travel character. Laura Seymour is different and maybe it is no accident that this book was Priscilla’s most successful.

Did she see herself in Laura or was she modelled on one of her sisters? Possibly Lucy who died in 1796? Or was this character a reaction to the criticism of Reflections by setting Laura on a path of education and useful activities.

A detailed analysis of the gender roles in Juvenile Travellers can be found in:

Theresa A. Dougal, ‘Teaching Conduct or Telling a New Tale?: Priscilla Wakefield and The Juvenile Travellers’, In Eighteenth-Century Women: Studies in Their Lives, Work and Culture, 1 (2001): 299-319.

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment  

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