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date: 17 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The development of new technologies of travel in the nineteenth century dramatically increased the mobility of people of all classes. The rapid expansion of railway networks throughout Britain, the introduction of steamship routes across the Atlantic, the independence offered to individual commuters by bicycles, and the new vistas opened up through the aerial perspective seen for the first time from hot-air balloons: all of these developments had an effect on the evolution of the realist novel. This essay examines each of these technologies through the lens of novelists’ representations of travelers and travel. The railway appears in novels by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Bram Stoker, Conan Doyle, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon as an emblem of modernity, energy, and control. Boat travel, by contrast, is used in the novels of William Thackeray, Jerome K. Jerome, and others to evoke a more leisured form of travel that is already disappearing. In the late-century works of George Gissing, Jerome, and Doyle, the bicycle is a source of individual agency and mobility that opens up new possibilities for the “New Woman” of the period. And finally, a look at the landscape descriptions generated by the craze for hot-air balloon travel leads to a discussion of the way in which panoramas, stereoscopes, and other representations of place allowed the Victorians to supplement and recreate their travels with a kind of virtual travel across the landscapes of the imagination.

Keywords: Railways, Steamships, Hot-air balloons, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, George, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Bram Stoker, A Conan Doyle, William Thackeray, Modernity, Industrialization

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