AMERICANS ABROAD:  Centuries of European Travel by Foster Rhea Dulles

AMERICANS ABROAD: Centuries of European Travel

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Americans Abroad is one of those rare studies that supposedly had to be written (for national self-enlightenment) but is more interesting if read backwards. The American travellers in postwar Europe are given a pale survey quite without leavening anecdote; they resemble figures in a report by the Departments of Commerce or State. Of the period between wars we are given a hasty estimate of travel statistics, a glance at the expatriates and Dodsworth and, in two pages, pass from Lindbergh's 1927 flight to September 1939 and Hitler's strike into Poland. As we get away from the present, the sheer facts of travel become brighter, even if the humor and romance are merely expressed and not communicated. For the Gilded Age up to WWI, Author Dulles' coverage of wealth and society reads like a newspaper microfilm of the Social Page, columns anent the Vanderbilts and Astors and Carnegies. Those post-Civil War tourists, Twain and James, breathe welcome life onto Dulles' page. Perhaps the most interesting figure mentioned at length is Margaret Fuller, who saw through the surface skim of the Grand Tour and joined the cause of the Italian Risorgimento. American naivete; patterns of shipboard life during transatlantic travel; early modes of transportation and varieties of hotel accommodations; the trips abroad of Irving, Cooper, Longfellow, Franklin, --all serve for momentary insights and are enjoyable in a book otherwise shy of wit, urbanity or a provocative word. Perhaps social commentary evades Dulles' sound capabilities as an historian.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1964
Publisher: University of Michigan