William Wordsworth and the invention of tourism: new book launched

A book which hails William Wordsworth’s role in the invention of tourism has been published by a Japanese professor and launched at his former home in the Lake District.

The work stems from a visit by the author, Saeko Yoshikawa, to Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount where she was shown a Victorian album of pencil sketches by the curator, Peter Elkington.

Prof Yoshikawa, of the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies in Japan, is an expert on Wordsworth and tourism in the English Lake District.

In trying to identify the artist of the sketches, many showing scenes associated with the poet, she researched how he had been received by some of his early readers, and what poems were popular among tourist-readers.

The result is this study* of the opening of the English Lake District to mass tourism where she examines Wordsworth’s role in the rise and development of the region as a popular destination. “For the middle classes on holiday, guidebooks not only offered practical information, but they also provided a fresh motive and a new model of appreciation by associating writers with places,” says Prof Yoshikawa.

“The nineteenth century saw the invention of Robert Burns’s and Walter Scott’s Borders, Shakespeare’s Stratford, and the Brontë Country as holiday locales for the middle classes.” Investigating the international cult of Wordsworthian tourism, Prof Yoshikawa shows both how Wordsworth’s public celebrity was constructed through the tourist industry and how the cultural identity of the Lake District was influenced by the poet’s presence and works.

Wordsworth has been seen as an opponent of tourism, notably in his opposition to the proposed development of the railway line beyond Windermere. Says Prof Yoshikawa: “Wordsworth certainly frowned on some kinds of tourists, but as he himself wrote a guidebook, he could not have been totally negative. After all, he had come to Grasmere as a ‘stranger’ in the first place.”

In some of his poems, he guides readers to actual spots in the Lake district: in An Evening Walk a footnote advises the reader to visit Rydal lower waterfall; Michael invites readers to turn their steps up Greenhead Gill; and The Wishing-Gate describes a traveller reclining on the moss-grown bar of the gate, which became a popular tourist spot in the later nineteenth century. “His poems explicitly encouraged visits to the district” says Prof Yoshikawa.

Welcoming Prof Yoshikawa at a reception to mark the launch of the book, curator Peter Elkington said: “Wordsworth actively encouraged tourists when he lived here. He was known to stand and chat with them at the gate, and – if he liked them well enough – would invite them to come and look around.”

He added: “I think this is a remarkable book which is clearly going to have a significant impact for students of literature and tourism.”

The book is the winner of the 2014 Fukuhara Award from the Memorial Fund for the Study of English and American Literature.

Kobe City University of Foreign Studies promotes the study and teaching of foreign languages and cultures, to instil in students a deeper understanding of international affairs and foreign countries. The English faculty includes many distinguished scholars and eminent researchers with doctoral degrees who are committed to excellence in teaching. Prof Yoshikawa has delivered papers previously to the Grasmere Wordsworth Summer conferences.


*William Wordsworth and the Invention of Tourism 1820-1900 (Ashgate Press).





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