Middleton family divergence

The separation event that occurs on page 83 of A Family Tour as discussed below has attracted the interest of a number of researchers and can be considered from a number of perspectives. When A Family Tour is read in isolation this event stands out quite starkly but when considered in relation to books that came before and after it may take on an alternative explanation.

A family separation was also intrinsic to The Juvenile Travellers where Theodore and his father went off on explorations leaving Laura and her mother. And with the advent of the character of Sophia, who undertook her own travels, this separation increased the potential for the wider coverage of material using letters between the characters. This devise, that had been so successful in The Juvenile Travellers, could only be replicated if the Middleton family was also legitimately separated during the tour. In the next travel book Excursions in North America, Arthur Middleton travels while the remainder of the family stay at home. In A Family Tour the option to send letters home to family members was not possible as at the beginning of the book the whole family were travelling together.

On page 87 of A Family Tour Priscilla reverts to including a letter from Arthur to Catherine and Louisa in which he reports ‘Edwin and Mr Franklin are out botanising ; for the neighbourhood of this place is full of rare plants’. This letter from Arthur is followed by another from Edwin to his sisters. This book contains 13 letters from Edwin or Arthur to their mother or sisters. In the latter part of the book extracts from Catherine’s journal that she kept of their travels in Wales is introduced through Mrs Middleton but this seems to be a less successful approach.

What is evident between The Juvenile Travellers and A Family Tour is the contrast in the complexity of the multiple letter writing characters which is effectively a one-way activity. The expression of the female voice that was evident through the letters of Laura and Sophia is absent in the characters of Catherine and Louisa.  

Whether Priscilla processed these aspects we will never know. But possibly with pressure to publish another travel book after the success of The Juvenile Travellers and burdened by many family troubles she did what she could to satisfy her readers.

Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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