Walking with John Howard: itineracy and romantic reform

Cervantes, G. and Porter, D. (2021) Walking with John Howard: itineracy and romantic reform. Romanticism, 27(1), pp. 4-15. (doi: 10.3366/rom.2021.0488)

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This essay identifies a new source for the politicization of walking in the final decades of the eighteenth century, John Howard's The State of the Prisons (1777). Howard made a case for reforming prisons in Britain and across Europe based on evidence collected on his wide-ranging travels, during which he made a practice of stepping into spaces of incarceration where others – including jailors themselves – refused to tread. As we show, Howard was celebrated for the seemingly global reach of his humanitarian mission, but in the work of poets and biographers he also became an icon for the levelling potential of walking into spaces occupied by the legally, socially and economically disenfranchised. Howard's text, however, presents a tension between asserting common humanity with prisoners and exercising patrician benevolence. As we show in conclusion, this tension persists in early nineteenth-century literary representations of both prison reform and walking by Wordsworth and De Quincey, whose texts trouble the (by then established) assumption that walking constituted a politically radical act of social levelling.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Porter, Dr Dahlia and Cervantes, Dr Gabriel
Authors: Cervantes, G., and Porter, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies
College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Romanticism
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press
ISSN (Online):1750-0192
Published Online:17 March 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © Edinburgh University Press 2021
First Published:First published in Romanticism 27(1): 4-15
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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