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Highways and Byways in Sussex

Highways and Byways in Sussex by E. V. Lucas

Highways and Byways in Sussex by E. V. Lucas

A very personal and opinionated wander through the Sussex of around 1900, illustrated with anecdotes, literary and poetic quotations, gravestone epitaphs and a gentle sense of humor. The author colors the countryside with his nostalgia for times past and regret for the encroaching future, his resentment of churches with locked doors, and his love of deer parks, ruined castles and the silent hills.

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Scrambles Amongst the Alps

Scrambles Amongst the Alps by Edward Whymper

Scrambles Amongst the Alps by Edward Whymper

Scrambles Amongst the Alps is one the great classics (some would say the greatest) of early mountaineering literature, and Edward Whymper one of the leading figures of the early years of Alpine climbing. He is best known, of course, for his many attempts on the Matterhorn, and for the loss of four members of his climbing party after the successful first ascent of the peak in July, 1865. Although the Matterhorn stands in ways in the center of his book, there are descriptions of many other ascents as well, in the Alps of France and Italy, as well as those of Switzerland.

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A Voyage to the South Sea

A Voyage to the South Sea by William Bligh

A Voyage to the South Sea by William Bligh

A Voyage to the South Sea, undertaken by command of His Majesty, for the purpose of conveying the Bread-fruit tree to the West Indies, in His Majesty’s ship The Bounty, commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh. Including an account of the Mutiny on board the said ship, and the subsequent voyage of part of the crew, in the ship’s boat, from Tofoa, one of the Friendly Islands, to Timor, a Dutch settlement in the East Indies.

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Faces and Places

Faces and Places by Sir Henry W. Lucy

Faces and Places by Sir Henry W. Lucy

Faces and Places is a collection of articles on nineteenth century travel, events and personalities by the British journalist Henry Lucy, who wrote for the Daily News, a London newspaper. His open letter To Those About to Become Journalists rings as true today as when it was written.

The first article, “Fred” Burnaby, includes a lively account of a balloon trip, while Night and Day on the Cars in Canada and Easter on Les Avants relate Lucy’s experiences of rail travel at that time. Other travel tales (A Night on a Mountain, Mosquitoes and Monaco, and Oysters and Arcachon) provide an insight into the Victorian Englishman’s attitude to Europe.

Three of the pieces, With Peggotty and Ham, A Cinque Port and Christmas Eve at Watts’s, concern the county of Kent, where Lucy had a country house. Christmas Eve at Watts’s contains an interesting exposé of Dickens’ short story The Seven Poor Travelers.

Other articles are of historical interest: A Wreck in the North Sea is an account of the wreck of the ship “Deutschland” in 1875; A Historic Crowd describes the massive popular interest in the 1871 trial of the Tichborne Claimant; The Battle of Merthyr contains an eye-witness account of the Merthyr Riots of 1831; The Prince of Wales paints a portrait of the future King Edward VII.

Lucy, who also wrote as “Toby, M.P.” for the satirical magazine Punch, loved to poke gentle fun, particularly at the establishment, and this is especially evident in A Peep at an Old House of Commons.

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An Antarctic Mystery

An Antarctic Mystery by Jules Verne

An Antarctic Mystery by Jules Verne

An Antarctic Mystery is a two-volume novel by Jules Verne and is a response to Edgar Allan Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. It follows the adventures of the narrator and his journey from the Kerguelen Islands aboard Halbrane.

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The Wreck of the Titan

The Wreck of the Titan by Morgan Robertson

The Wreck of the Titan by Morgan Robertson

This novel was published a full 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic, but listeners may be surprised at how many parallels this fictional tale has with subsequent true events.

The Titan is the largest and most technologically advanced steamship of her time. She is considered unsinkable. Her full speed crossings of the Northern Lane Route carry her rich passengers in the highest standards of luxury and comfort. The less well-off travel in rougher quarters but still benefit from the speed of travel. These crossings, however, are fraught with navigational hazards, the greatest of which is ice.

Unlike the ship, one member of her crew is not of the highest standard. At least, not anymore. John Rowland is a broken man who drinks to forget his past. However, when the Titan crashes into an iceberg during her attempt to break a speed record, he is forced to confront his past. Can he overcome his enemies and escape as the ship begins to sink? And can he make his way back to civilization and find self-respect once more? Adventure and soul-searching await Rowland, with a surprise ending.

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Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, Vol. II.

Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, Vol. II. by John L. Stephens

Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, Vol. II. by John L. Stephens

The year is 1838. The scene is the dense Honduran forest along the Copán River. Two men, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, are about to rediscover Mayan civilization. Their guide, slashing through the rampant growth with his machete, leads them to a structure with steps up the side, shaped like a pyramid. Next they see a stone column, fourteen feet high, sculptured on the front with a portrait of a man, “solemn, stern and well fitted to excite terror,” covered on the sides with hieroglyphics, and with workmanship “equal to the finest monuments of the Egyptians.” Stephens records these discoveries and also his travels in Central America, where he had been sent by President Van Buren as special ambassador to the ill-fated Republic of Central America. The republic being engulfed in civil war when Stephens arrives in Guatemala, he finds himself dodging revolutionary armies while he hunts for a “legitimate government” to which to present his credentials. Catherwood, meanwhile, directs his immense artistic talent to illustrating views of Mayan architecture. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan was a best seller in its day and has been called an “Indiana Jones” saga by modern reviewers.

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The Marble Faun – Volume 2

The Marble Faun - Volume 2 by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Marble Faun – Volume 2 by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Marble Faun is Hawthorne’s most unusual romance. Writing on the eve of the American Civil War, Hawthorne set his story in a fantastical Italy. The romance mixes elements of a fable, pastoral, gothic novel, and travel guide. Hawthorne was inspired to write his romance when he saw the Faun of Praxiteles in a Roman sculpture gallery. The theme, characteristic of Hawthorne, is guilt and the Fall of Man. The four main characters are Miriam, a beautiful painter who is compared to Eve, Beatrice Cenci, Lady Macbeth, Judith, and Cleopatra, and is being pursued by a mysterious, threatening Model; Hilda, an innocent copyist who is compared to the Virgin Mary; Kenyon, a sculptor, who represents rationalist humanism; and Donatello, the Count of Monti Beni, who is compared to Adam, resembles the Faun of Praxiteles, and is probably only half human.

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The Innocents Abroad

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

When you dive into Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, you have to be ready to learn more about the unadorned, ungilded reality of 19th century “touring” than you might think you want to learn. This is a tough, literary journey. It was tough for Twain and his fellow “pilgrims”, both religious and otherwise. They set out, on a June day in 1867, to visit major tourist sites in Europe and the near east, including Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, “the Holy Land”, and Egypt. What Twain records, in often humorous, sometimes grotesque but always fascinating detail, are the day-to-day ups and downs of discovering the truth about people and places. The truths they learn are often far different than their education and rumor have made them preconceive.

This is a voyage of discovery. It’s long and, in places, tiresome. But it’s revelatory about so much. As with some of his other works, Twain includes popular prejudices of his time, which are today considered socially unacceptable. His references to “Indians”, “Negroes” and “infidels” come to mind.

Beyond the lows, though, there are the highs of Twain’s cutting wit and insight as he guides us along the bumpy and often dangerous voyage.

No need to buckle up. Just take it slow, and steady…like the journey itself.

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Life on the Mississippi

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

Life on the Mississippi is a memoir by Mark Twain detailing his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War. A good portion of the work also deals with his post-war visit to the “old haunts”.

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