Thursday, 4 October 2007

The Clumsiest People in Europe and other slurs

Via Metafilter, I just ran into the works of Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer. A Norfolk-based evangelical children's author who died in 1878, she wrote prolifically about worldwide travel and culture. The only problem was that she had never been further than Brussels, and appears to have disliked nearly everyone and everywhere. Generally, the nearest she gets to liking something is disliking it the least (e.g. "All the religions of China are bad, but of the three the religion of Confucius is the least foolish"). Her details of local colour are essentially accurate, but seen through a filter of Victorian prejudice - with the faint mitigation that she was a product of her time and suffered from depression, which might account for her jaundiced view of the world.

Todd Pruzan reissued some of her work in 2005 as The Clumsiest People in Europe: Mrs. Mortimer's Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World after finding a copy in a secondhand bookshop. You can read some samplers at 'The Clumsiest People in Europe' and the The rudest travel book ever written.

Addendum: Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer's original books are now online at the Internet Archive. The pertinent ones are:
- Ray

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