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In 1807 the poet, reviewer and translator Robert Southey published a pseudonymous account of a journey made through England by a fictitious Spanish tourist, ‘Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella’. Letters from England(1807) relates Espriella’s travels from his arrival in Falmouth, through the West Country to London, the Midlands, Lake District, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and back to Cornwall again for the voyage home. On his journey Espriella comments on every aspect of British society, from fashions and manners, to political and religious beliefs.
Letters from England blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction to produce a complex work of literary merit – there is no other prose work of its kind during the Romantic period. Southey’s commentary is shrewd and lively, and provides the reader with a close-up view of early nineteenth-century culture and society. Among the topics covered are: provincial customs; political intrigues; theatre and sports; religious sects; poverty and criminality in urban centres; scientific and medical progress; Georgian London; social change; and the state of the army and navy.
The edition will be of interest to all scholars of Romantic literature and culture.