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Travelers and Travelogues

Interestingly, one of the best represented genres of writing in and about the Caribbean is the travelogue. Often condescending in tone, the travelogue is nonetheless an invaluable resource for discovering contemporary perception of the Caribbean world and the conditions in which it existed.

Featured Items in this Collection: 



Written by an Englishman enlisted in the British Army, this three-volume set contains a series of notes describing the author's time deployed in the Caribbean, particularly his experience in Barbados. Also visiting St. Vincent and Grenada, in a variety of roles but particularly as a defender of British interests, the author offers the perspective of a foreigner traveler, inspecting and evaluating the state, condition, and function of the many islands he visits in the Caribbean.

Written in 1823-24, in a "fair, but illegible, Italian hand," the author of this narrative travels from London with her mother and a friend to the British West Indies in search of better conditions for her mother's health. Exemplary of one of the primary reasons individuals, especially the wealthy, chose to visit the Caribbean, this particular narrative also refreshes the typical travel narrative with a female perspective on the experience of visiting and living in the Caribbean.

Indicative of an emerging pattern in the genre of travelogues, this work takes the form of a series of letters written and addressed while traveling abroad. Writing entirely in Cuba in early 1828, the author describes his horseback travel, visiting primarily the cities of Matanzas and Havana. Contains myriad observations about public and private life in Cuba, from tobacco planting to “the music of the Negroes.”

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This narrative was written by a traveler and retired Navy sailor who, "having already visited many parts of the Old World," sought commission from the British Royal Geographic Society to collect information on a variety of regions of the "New" World. His voyage began in London, and the author visited South America and several Caribbean islands before making his way through North America. He visited many cities in the United States and Canada, including even Wheeling, Virginia. Although seemingly mostly inclined to proffer physical descriptions of the places he visited, the author also commented on the culture of the natives he encountered, military matters, and the condition of negroes. 

In the dedication, the author expresses a desire to cut off the profit incentive of the slave trade "at its source," and appeals to the Earl of Clarendon for support. Support of this cause is what makes this particular travelogue so distinctive, that the author happened to arrive on the island of Jamaica at the moment of "the disappearance of the last link in their chain." This item is featured here instead of with Emancipation and Abolition, because of its otherwise typical travelogue structure. The author did not set out to write a treatise advocating for full emancipation, but rather, as he writes, "It lay in my path, and I found it."

(In French) An intriguing entry in a catalog of travelogues - unlike most of the others on this list, it was not written to document a vacation or create exposure for a region of the Caribbean. Rather, the story of the travel related is a trip of scientific discovery, a botanist's journey through the West Indies and Mexico to study the Nopal cactus and Cochineal insect.

Written based on notes composed in Antigua, at the home of the British Governor-General of that island, as well as the rest of the Antilles, this volume is self-described as "domestic portraiture of the Islands and Islanders of the West Indian Archipelago." The author was one of many well-off Englishmen counseled to take in the Caribbean airs. His travels, much like J.A. Alexander's, extend to the United States, highlighting the interconnection and general interest in the region.

The author of this volume, a New York editor and writer, indicates he has not "written a book of travels," but the extent of his travels around the island and the visual descriptions thereof certainly seem to categorize it as such. This is not a vacation narrative, but rather an effort to explain the current state of affairs on the island. The author nevertheless finds it necessary for his investigation to venture out to Kingston, Spanish Town, and other cities to the Jamaican countryside, where what he sees forms the basis of his patronizing diagnosis.

Diluted by brief stints in the Bahamas and at Matanzas, the vast majority of the story related by this volume is that of the author's stay in Havana. Unlike most others in this collection, the author is a "pleasure-traveller" rather than one seeking medicinal qualities in the environment or serving some kind of commission. The author is another recognizable kind of tourist who brings an upper class woman's perspective to her description of 1860 Cuba. 

Featuring descriptions of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and Honduras, this volume contains the author's conclusions from a circuit of the Caribbean. With long visual descriptions of the natural features paying little attention to their geological characteristics, this reads as a travelogue in the classic sense, presenting the Caribbean region as one of immense beauty - like a work of art, meant to be enjoyed.

The author was better known for his work Two Years Before the Mast, which described a journey from Boston around Cape Horn to the coast of California. A founding member of the Free Soil Party, the author visited Cuba at a time when the United States Senate was considering annexing the Spanish territory. The narrative describes the sea voyage from the United States to Cuba, as well as providing detailed descriptions of the tobacco and sugar plantations the author visited, with special attention given there to the treatment and labor of negroes. 

The phrase pen pictures does not refer to actual visual depictions, but instead wonderfully evocative word pictures, verbal descriptions of travel, romance, and history. Beginning with an introductory scrap of history, the author goes on to describe the many pleasant episodes he encountered in his travels, ranging from boating down a river to meeting figures such as Cotabanama, the Giant King. The travel narrative helps reveal the attitudes of North Americans toward their southern neighbors, as well as the changing nature of voyages and vacations taking place in postCivil War America.

The American author embarks on a journey to visit three Caribbean islands, all in the Antilles, as well as "the principal capitals of South America." The Caribbean portion of the narrative really only takes up the first few chapters, but the author's depictions of the Antilles and of seafaring practices generally are descriptive of that world, while his circumnavigatory route is reminiscent of a generation of explorers whose travels united the "New World" in the eyes of Europeans.

A later, twentieth century imprint which includes photographic depictions of the Caribbean islands. The author visited more than ten islands in the Caribbean, offering geographical and natural descriptions of her observations. Some chapters describe places, such as Jamaica or Trinidad. Others lean into thematic groupings, such as "Birds" or "Caribbean Tragedies" or "Vaudouxism in Haiti."