Passage to America : Celebrated European Visitors in Search of the American Adventure
by Gloria Deak
Editor: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
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America was a source of fascination for Europeans when it arrived in the 19th century.At first glance, the New World was very similar to the societies they left behind in their countries of origin, but in many aspects of politics, culture and society, the American experience was very different – therefore, almost – from the Europe of the Old World.The Europeans were surprised that America could survive without a monarch, a permanent army and a very hierarchical society, which has always dominated Europe.Some travelers, such as actress Fanny Kemble, were truly convinced that America would finally return to a monarchy; others, such as Frances Wright and even Oscar Wilde, took their opinions further and tried to correct the aspects of America – described in 1827 by the young Scottish captain Basil Hall, as “one of England’s” Occasional Failures “.Many brand visitors in the United States have recorded their responses to this nascent society in their diaries, letters and newspapers; and many of them, like the dazzling Frances Trollope, have been brutally and offensively honest in their accounts of the new world.They provide information about an America that is barely recognizable today, while their writings establish a diverse and animated assortment of personal travel stories.This book compares the impressions of an enlightened and visible group of Europeans from the cultural sphere – writers Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and Oscar Wilde – with music and theatre personalities such as Tchaikovsky and Fanny Kemble.Their reactions to the new world are also revealing of the European and American worlds, as they are colourful and varied, offering a unique perspective on the experiences of 19th century travellers in America.
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