A peasant in peaked hat and blue shirt, with trousers rolled up high above his bare knees, crossed the road and silently examined the tricycle. “You have a good horse,” he then said; “it eats nothing.” —from An Italian Pilgrimage
The 1880s was an exhilarating time for cycling pioneers like Elizabeth and her husband Joseph. As boneshakers and high-wheelers evolved into tandem tricycles and the safety bike, cycling grew from child’s play and extreme sport into a leisurely and, importantly, literary mode of transportation. The illustrated travel memoirs of “those Pennells” were—and still are—highly entertaining. They helped usher in the new age of leisure touring, while playfully hearkening back to famous literary journeys. In this new edition, Dave Buchanan provides rich cultural contexts surrounding the Pennells’ first two adventures. These long out-of-print travel memoirs will delight avid cyclists as well as scholars of travel literature, cycling history, women’s writing, Victorian literature, and illustration.
About the authors
Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855–1952) and Joseph Pennell (1857–1926), a married couple from Philadelphia, collaborated on numerous books as writer and illustrator.
Dave Buchanan teaches in the English Department at MacEwan University in Edmonton. His current research explores the first generation of cycle-travel literature from the 1880s and 1890s. He blogs about the semi-serious cycling life at dustymusette.blogspot.ca.
"[T]he books and articles penned by the Pennells rise to the level of literature. Elizabeth did most of the writing, while Joseph, a lithographer, contributed detailed illustrations of their wanderings."
AETHLON: The Journal of Sport Literature
"In the airy, self deprecating style of Robert Louis Stevenson, an American couple captured the imaginations of UK and US readers through the five illustrated cycle-travel books they created beginning in the 1880s. Yes, bikes existed back then—they were all the rage, in fact—and Elizabeth and Joseph Pennell succeeded in bringing the leisure touring idea to the forefront through their jaunts aboard a tandem tricycle outfitted with luggage racks.... Cycling historian Dave Buchanan contributes an enlightening introduction which grounds the couple in the literary/art world of the late nineteenth century and gives a gearhead sense of bicycling history. But Elizabeth’s delightful prose steals the show..."
"Cycling historian Dave Buchanan contributes an enlightening introduction which grounds the couple in the literary/art world of the late nineteenth century and gives a geared sense of bicycling history."
"A Canterbury Pilgrimage/An Italian Pilgrimage is a beautifully illustrated quick read that gives the reader a wonderful sense of how cycling used to be. I was particularly interested in their description of cycling from Florence through Tuscany via Siena as I’ve pedaled these hills myself. Moreover, Dave Buchanan’s extensive (57-page) introduction puts the Pennells’ cycling stories into the perspective of the time. If you are looking for a diversion, this is a great little book that is both interesting and beautiful." [Full post at https://nicolaross.ca/a-boneshaking-ride-on-a-velocipede-the-beginning-of-cycle-touring]
Nicola Ross, 01/10/2022