Caroline Halsted’s Travels in the boudoir (1837)
In Travels in the boudoir (1837), Caroline Halsted (1803/4 – 1848) takes the young female reader on a world-wide Grand Tour via the everyday objects in her private sitting-room.
At the beginning of the book we meet Agnes, a young girl who is left at home while her brother, Walter, tours the Continent. Her mother does not address the disparity in the opportunities offered to the children but, instead, suggests that a tour of the home is better than the real thing: ‘it would take you a month to travel profitably even round my room!’. She begins her daughter’s education with the Kidderminster carpet in the school room: ‘I very much doubt if you could describe the process used in making it’.
From our modern viewpoint we may conclude that there is no substitute for travel and for experiencing the world at first-hand, but Agnes’ mother offers a different perspective:
… you are acquiring a desire of general knowledge, a feeling I wish to encourage, because one subject leads so insensibly to another, that by pursuing the chain of inquiries into which you will naturally be led, and gratifying the desire of information this will as gradually create, your mind will be enlarged, your character strengthened, and a habit of observation induced, which must in itself create a fund of amusement for future years…
The Monthly Review agreed:
… in short before the room is half circumnavigated, the handsome little volume is filled to overflowing with excellent matter – such also as is sure to attract the young mind. The work is, indeed, one of the best we have ever seen for exciting the curiosity of the persons for whom it has been composed, and this excitement, will meet with precious knowledge.
The Institution’s copy has evidently had a few adventures of its own! Will you help us conserve this extraordinary little book?