Clumsiest People in Europe: Or, Mrs. Mortimer's Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World

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Overview

"A hoot, even if you do feel guilty for laughing."—Entertainment Weekly

Caustic, cranky, and inadvertently hilarious, the bestselling Victorian author Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer rarely left the house—but that didn't stop her from writing several successful travel books. With volumes on Europe, Asia, and Africa and America, Mrs. Mortimer had something nasty to say about your ancestors, no matter where they had the misfortune of living. Todd Pruzan has assembled three of Mrs. ...

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Overview

"A hoot, even if you do feel guilty for laughing."—Entertainment Weekly

Caustic, cranky, and inadvertently hilarious, the bestselling Victorian author Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer rarely left the house—but that didn't stop her from writing several successful travel books. With volumes on Europe, Asia, and Africa and America, Mrs. Mortimer had something nasty to say about your ancestors, no matter where they had the misfortune of living. Todd Pruzan has assembled three of Mrs. Mortimer's very forgotten classics into one volume, The Clumsiest People in Europe, a wild tour through the comically and horrifyingly misinformed prejudices of a unique Victorian eccentric.

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Editorial Reviews

Henry Alford
To the modern eye, Mortimer's work -- by turns unsettling and hilarious -- is nothing short of a revolution in guidebook writing: here, at last, is irritable-bowel-syndrome-as-travelogue.
— The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Equal-opportunity bigot Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer (1802-78) takes a trip around the world, in a collection of excerpts from guides originally written for Victorian children. One day while browsing in a bookstore on Martha's Vineyard, freelance magazine writer/editor Pruzan stumbled across Mortimer's work and, in a moment of inspired literary archeology, took it home to chuckle over its phrasings and outlook with friends and family. From those serendipitous beginnings, he became increasingly fascinated with the foul-tempered Mortimer. She turned out to be a British bestselling children's author, and although in her entire life she never traveled beyond Paris, Brussels and Edinburgh, she presented herself as an authority on all the cultures of the world. Here, Pruzan provides highlights from three of her works: The Countries of Europe Described; Far Off: Asia and Australia Described, and Far Off, Part II: Africa and America Described, all published between 1849 and 1854. Explanatory text at the beginning of each section describes relevant contemporary political and social events, a very useful bit if context, particularly for such countries as Tartary, Circassia and Prussia. No land escapes Mortimer's acid pen, though she has a few kind words for Denmark-whose chief asset is its resemblance to England. Of the whole of Africa, she declares, "There are more ignorant people there than anywhere else." In Asia, she notes that "the Chinese are very selfish and unfeeling." After all this bile, it's intriguing to arrive at her thoughts on the American South, particularly slavery. Mortimer observes that although some people say that slaves are happy to labor as they do, "the slaves show plainly thatthey do not think themselves happy, by often running away."An absorbing resurrection of English worldviews widely held during the mid-1800s: strangely entertaining and surprisingly educational.
Chicago Tribune
"Weirdly appealing. At once, fascinating, hilarious and furious but always maddeningly entertaining."
Entertainment Weekly
"A hoot, even if you do feel guilty for laughing."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641907234
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Todd Pruzan is an editor at the bimonthly design journal Print and has been an editor and writer at several other magazines. He was born in Washington, D.C., and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Table of Contents

A brief introduction : to Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer
Pt. I The clumsiest people in Europe; selections from the countries of Europe described, 1849
Pt. II The drunkest labourers in Asia; selections from Far off : Asia and Australia described, 1852
Pt. III The wickedest city in the world; selections from Far off, Part II : Africa and American described, 1854
Heartfelt thanks from Mr. Pruzan
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