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Albert Smith, the Alpine Club, and the Invention of Mountaineering in Mid-Victorian Britain

Albert Smith, the Alpine Club, and the Invention of Mountaineering in Mid-Victorian Britain <jats:p>On August 12,1851, Albert Smith, a middle-aged journalist and entertainer, reached the summit of Mont Blanc with three Oxford students and sixteen guides. Smith and his companions were not the first people to climb Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. In 1786, two Chamonix natives climbed the peak, but over the next sixty-seven years the ascent of Mont Blanc was repeated only forty-five times. Yet after Albert Smith's dramatic account of this ascent made mountain climbing popular among the middle classes of Victorian England, Mont Blanc was climbed eighty-eight times in a five-year span. In 1852, John Murray's <jats:italic>Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland</jats:italic>, the bible for English tourists abroad, noted that the ascent “of Albert Smith, in 1851, has effectually popularized the enterprise.” While this could be construed as praise of Smith, it sounded very faint indeed when Murray asserted, “it is a somewhat remarkable fact that a large proportion of those who have made this ascent have been persons of unsound mind.” By 1858, however, Murray mentioned that twenty or thirty people now made the ascent each year, thanked Albert Smith for his help with the text, and purged all references to the mental health of mountaineers.</jats:p><jats:p>Over the next decade, Murray's <jats:italic>Handbook</jats:italic> recorded numerous first ascents in the Alps during what later became known as the “Golden Age” of mountaineering. This article attempts to explain why mountaineering became popular during these years and to suggest the broader significance of mountaineering to the construction of new middle class and imperial cultures.</jats:p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of British Studies CrossRef

Albert Smith, the Alpine Club, and the Invention of Mountaineering in Mid-Victorian Britain

Journal of British Studies , Volume 34 (3): 300-324 – Jul 1, 1995

Albert Smith, the Alpine Club, and the Invention of Mountaineering in Mid-Victorian Britain


Abstract

<jats:p>On August 12,1851, Albert Smith, a middle-aged journalist and entertainer, reached the summit of Mont Blanc with three Oxford students and sixteen guides. Smith and his companions were not the first people to climb Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. In 1786, two Chamonix natives climbed the peak, but over the next sixty-seven years the ascent of Mont Blanc was repeated only forty-five times. Yet after Albert Smith's dramatic account of this ascent made mountain climbing popular among the middle classes of Victorian England, Mont Blanc was climbed eighty-eight times in a five-year span. In 1852, John Murray's <jats:italic>Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland</jats:italic>, the bible for English tourists abroad, noted that the ascent “of Albert Smith, in 1851, has effectually popularized the enterprise.” While this could be construed as praise of Smith, it sounded very faint indeed when Murray asserted, “it is a somewhat remarkable fact that a large proportion of those who have made this ascent have been persons of unsound mind.” By 1858, however, Murray mentioned that twenty or thirty people now made the ascent each year, thanked Albert Smith for his help with the text, and purged all references to the mental health of mountaineers.</jats:p><jats:p>Over the next decade, Murray's <jats:italic>Handbook</jats:italic> recorded numerous first ascents in the Alps during what later became known as the “Golden Age” of mountaineering. This article attempts to explain why mountaineering became popular during these years and to suggest the broader significance of mountaineering to the construction of new middle class and imperial cultures.</jats:p>

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Publisher
CrossRef
ISSN
0021-9371
DOI
10.1086/386080
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<jats:p>On August 12,1851, Albert Smith, a middle-aged journalist and entertainer, reached the summit of Mont Blanc with three Oxford students and sixteen guides. Smith and his companions were not the first people to climb Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. In 1786, two Chamonix natives climbed the peak, but over the next sixty-seven years the ascent of Mont Blanc was repeated only forty-five times. Yet after Albert Smith's dramatic account of this ascent made mountain climbing popular among the middle classes of Victorian England, Mont Blanc was climbed eighty-eight times in a five-year span. In 1852, John Murray's <jats:italic>Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland</jats:italic>, the bible for English tourists abroad, noted that the ascent “of Albert Smith, in 1851, has effectually popularized the enterprise.” While this could be construed as praise of Smith, it sounded very faint indeed when Murray asserted, “it is a somewhat remarkable fact that a large proportion of those who have made this ascent have been persons of unsound mind.” By 1858, however, Murray mentioned that twenty or thirty people now made the ascent each year, thanked Albert Smith for his help with the text, and purged all references to the mental health of mountaineers.</jats:p><jats:p>Over the next decade, Murray's <jats:italic>Handbook</jats:italic> recorded numerous first ascents in the Alps during what later became known as the “Golden Age” of mountaineering. This article attempts to explain why mountaineering became popular during these years and to suggest the broader significance of mountaineering to the construction of new middle class and imperial cultures.</jats:p>

Journal

Journal of British StudiesCrossRef

Published: Jul 1, 1995

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