Recommended for: anyone who wants some contemporary background on travelling culture of ladies of the middle- and upper-classes during the last decade or two of the nineteenth century
The original edition of Hints to Lady Travellers was written by Lillias Campbell Davidson, and published in 1889. This was about the time when ladies travelling alone had mostly ceased to be shocking; this is a handbook for the lady who wishes to travel (even to such wild, remote places as Wales or Scotland) but isn’t quite sure how to go about it, what she should take with her (or not), and what she might might encounter on her travels. It is therefore for the ‘ordinary’ lady traveller – not the adventurous explorer intending to journey to Patagonia or China. This edition, however, does have quotes from the writing of such adventurous lady explorers and travellers as Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (Hindustan – lots of turbans, not many stockings); Mary H. Kingsley (West Africa – husband considered necessary equipment for traversing rapids); Lady Florence Caroline Dixie (Patagonia – take a sheath knife and a revolver; mules are more useful than horses).
Some of the advice is now completely outdated, such as the advice, in case of emergency, to leave a member of the “stronger sex” [i.e., a man] to manage matters “without the hampering interference of feminine physical weakness.” Or the advice that, when travelling by steamer, it’s useless to have one’s maid travel third class while one travels first. One should either dispense with the maid entirely, or defy convention by upgrading her to first class.
On the other hand, some of the advice has definitely stood the test of time, such as the advice, on taking a room or apartment, to note any damage to the room or fittings and bring it to the attention of the landlady in order to avoid being charged for damage that was already there (the authors states that she knows of “one bedroom carpet, stained by the overflow of a bath two years ago, which has since been charged to the account of, and paid for by, some ten or twelve consecutive occupants of that self-same room.”
This book is fascinating, though, because it’s a window into a world which no longer exists. A world where travelling by railway (or by tricycle) could be an exciting and somewhat scary adventure, and where rival railway companies, if they were quarrelling, might deliberately act to make passengers miss their connections. It’s also a world where, although women were starting to move beyond the confines of the home, they still saw themselves as fundamentally weaker than, less capable than, and in many respects inferior to, men.