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Chapter 3 - Revising Republicanism: Revolutionary-Period Travel Writing on Switzerland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2022

Patrick Vincent
Affiliation:
Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
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Summary

Chapter 3 explores the genre of travel writing to illustrate the transformation of the Swiss myth from a progressive to a more conservative narrative. After briefly reviewing the Whig ideology of the Grand Tour, I look at how William Coxe’s various editions of his Sketches of Swisserland responded to two French translations by the republican writers Louis Ramond de Carbonnières and Théophile Mandar, and to a competing travelogue by the radical British expatriate Helen Maria Williams, all of whom struggled to redefine the meaning of republicanism. I argue that these three works exploited the contradictions in Coxe’s text in order to modernize his Whiggish ideal of liberty, and in Williams’s travelogue at least, to make the case for revolution in Switzerland. Centering my analysis on the aristocratic republic of Bern and on the rural democracies of central Switzerland, I look at the various textual strategies that enabled these writers to make Swiss liberty a Whig, then radical, and finally Tory political trope.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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