I inquired for a walk, and, mounting near two hundred steps made round a rock, walked up and down for about a hundred yards viewing the sea, to which I quickly descended by steps that cheated the declivity. The ocean and these tremendous bulwarks enclosed me on every side. I felt the confinement, and wished for wings to reach still loftier cliffs, whose slippery sides no foot was so hardy as to tread. Yet what was it to see? – only a boundless waste of water – not a glimpse of smiling nature – not a patch of lively green to relieve the aching sight, or vary the objects of meditation. (Letter XI)
I recently finished reading Wollestonecraft’s Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and I want to have something to say about it, but I find that I don’t. This is partially because it was one of the books I managed to misplace in December, but also because the creeping melancholy of the text – the ways in which travel was supposed to remedy despair and ultimately could not – warred with peevish descriptions of accommodations on the road,1 as Wollstonecraft patronized (from her standpoint of ‘superior culture’) and was patronized in turn (from the standpoint of greater local knowledge, including of language). It is unclear from the text whether Wollstonecraft was able to resolve Imlay’s business (the excuse for the excursion) – and that is perhaps its own answer.
- ‘The sleeping between two down beds – they do so even in summer – must be very unwholesome during any season; and I cannot conceive how the people can bear it, especially as the summers are very warm.’ (Letter V).