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Exploring Victorian Travel LiteratureDisease, Race and Climate$
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Jessica Howell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748692958

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748692958.001.0001

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‘Climate proof’:Mary Kingsley and the Health of Women Travellers

‘Climate proof’:Mary Kingsley and the Health of Women Travellers

(p.109) Chapter 4 ‘Climate proof’:Mary Kingsley and the Health of Women Travellers
Exploring Victorian Travel Literature

Jessica Howell

Edinburgh University Press

Mary Kingsley was well aware that her unusually strong health during her African travels could be a source of authority and narrative power when writing her book Travels in West Africa (1897). Therefore, she contrasts her own disease resistance with the vulnerability of the other white subjects she encounters. Her life circumstance, humour and light-hearted constitution all work together to make Kingsley seem at home in the climate of Africa. This chapter traces how Victorians perceived the risk of ‘fever’, especially in the context of West Africa, in order to establish how Kingsley uses this malleable group of illnesses to stimulate readers’ worries. In contrast, Kingsley creates a vision of a healthy, white female body in the tropics, impervious to the negative influences of climate because it is already ‘in sympathy’ with them.

Keywords:   fever, West Africa, humour, women explorers, female health

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