Academic journal article The Byron Journal

£Ucja Rautenstrauchowa: A Polish Admirer of Lord Byron

Academic journal article The Byron Journal

£Ucja Rautenstrauchowa: A Polish Admirer of Lord Byron

Article excerpt

WAlpach i ça Alpami or In and Beyond the Alps (1847) was Lucja Rautenstrauchowa's last full-length literary work. She had made her debut in 1821 with a sentimental romance, Emmelina i Arnolf [Emmeline and Arnolph] and, in the following year, brought out a pamphlet entitled Mysli o wychowaniu kobiet [Thoughts on Female Education] in which she demonstrated a reformatory spirit, proposing several radical ideas surrounding the importance of female education.1 In 1830 and 1831, Rautenstrauchowa produced two novels, both influenced by the Gothic tales of Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis: Ragana cçyliplochosc [Ragana, or Flightiness] and Przepnaczenie [Fate]. Overcomplicated plots meant, however, that they were not very popular with the reading public.2 As a writer Rautenstrauchowa fared somewhat better with her travel writing, publishing several travelogues, including Wspomnienia moje o Francyji [My Memories of France] (1839), Ostatnia podróz do Francyji [A Recent Trip to France] (1841) and the partly domestic Miasta, góry i doliny [Towns, Hills and Valleys'] (1844).

By the time of In and Beyond the Alps, her only text ever to be republished, her reputation in the field of travel literature in Poland was well established.3 In three volumes of roughly two hundred pages each, In and Beyond the Alps documents Rautenstrauchowa's 1844-1846 Italian journey, which follows a rather standard itinerary from Piedmont, Turin, Pisa, Florence and Rome (volume 1), Rome's surroundings, Naples, Sorrento (volume 2), to Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, back to Rome again, then Bologna, Padua and Venice, already visited four years before (volume 3). The final stopping point is Trieste, after which no details of the journey home are provided. The text uses a conventional epistolary format, and is based on authentic letters and notes written during the author's actual Italian journey.4 What makes it stand out from the many Italian tours written in Europe at the time is its sentimental approach to the journey, attributable to European influences that were belatedly affecting Polish culture in the first half of the nineteenth century. This is visible in an affected narrative manner and, primarily, in an entirely fictional romance plot, which runs throughout the three volumes.5 What also makes it stand out is the frequent references to Byron, many of which offer a Polish readership a different version of the poet from the one with which they were accustomed.

As is well known, the first half of the nineteenth century was a period of Europe 's fascination with all things Italian. Trips to Italy were undertaken by crowds of travellers for a number of reasons, including health (the mild Italian climate was believed to prevent tuberculosis), education, or exposure to ancient culture and religion (popular with Roman Catholics). Given the Anglomania, which also raged in contemporary Europe, to many Europeans the spirit of Romanticism was epitomised by the figure of Lord Byron. Polish Romanticism (the dates for which are usually given as 1822-1863) also featured a prominent heritage of Anglomania and came to embrace a Byronic Italophilia as early as the 1820s.6 Most Polish readers became fascinated with Italy thanks to French-language translations of Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and Byron's legend likewise reached Poland mainly via French-language texts, including translations from the Lausanne-based Bibliothèque Universelle.7 In the field of Italian tours, this manifested itself in a couple of translations of English-language Italian tours, including the 1805 Warsaw edition of Patrick Brydone's 1773 A Tour Through Sicily and Malta: In a Series of Letters to William Beckford, Esq. of Somerly in Suffolk.8 A popular element of Italian tours was retracing the steps of famous Romantics, Byron in particular, who became a 'moving tourist attraction', exciting the curiosity of voyeurs.9 Even after his death, Byron and his legend drew many a traveller to Italy and the neighbouring Switzerland. …

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