The Smell of the Continent

James Munson

Richard Mullen

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01 August 2013
400 pages


‘I remember being much amused last year, when landing at Calais,’ wrote Mrs Frances Trollope in her 1835 book, Paris and the Parisians, ‘at the answer made by an old traveller to a novice … making his first voyage. “What a dreadful smell!” said the uninitiated stranger … “it is the smell of the continent, sir!” replied the man of experience. And so it was.’

Historians James Munson and Richard Mullen examine just what it was about the smell of the continent that so attracted British travellers in the hundred years from the fall of Napoleon to the outbreak of the First World War. It was the first time in history that the British, en masse, set out to discover Europe. Drawing on contemporary accounts, diaries and letters, Munson and Mullen offer a compelling portrait of the Victorians abroad, many of them convinced that their country was not only vastly superior but also the envy of the world.

'Pure charm' A.N. Wilson, Reader's Digest

'An entertaining and sometimes surprising, thought-provoking history' Sunday Times