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The Travelers' Charleston

Accounts of Charleston and Lowcountry, South Carolina, 1666-1861

edited by Jennie Holton Fant



Published: Jan 13 2016


Published: Jan 31 2016

OA Ebook
Published: Jan 31 2016


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

The Travelers' Charleston is an innovative collection of firsthand narratives that document the history of the South Carolina lowcountry region, specifically that of Charleston, from 1666 until the start of the Civil War. Jennie Holton Fant has compiled and edited a rich and comprehensive history as seen through the eyes of writers from outside the South. She provides a selection of unique texts that include the travelogues, travel narratives, letters, and memoirs of a diverse array of travelers who described the region over time. Further, Fant has mined her material not only for validity but to identify any characters her travelers encounter or events they describe. She augments her resources with copious annotations and provides a wealth of information that enhances the significance of the texts.

The Travelers' Charleston begins with explorer Joseph Woory's account of the Carolina coast four years before the founding of Charles Town, and it concludes as Anna Brackett, a Charleston schoolteacher from Boston, witnesses the start of the Civil War. The volume includes Josiah Quincy Jr.'s original 1773 journal; the previously unpublished letters of Samuel F. B. Morse, a portrait artist in Charleston between 1818 and 1820; the original letters of Scottish aristocrat and traveler Margaret Hunter Hall (1824); and a compilation of the letters of William Makepeace Thackeray written in Charleston during his famous lecture tours in the 1850s. Using these sources, combined with excepts from carefully chosen travel accounts, Fant provides an unusual and authoritative documentary record of Charleston and the lowcountry, which allows the reader to step back in time and observe a bygone society, culture, and politics to note key characters and hear them talk and to witness firsthand the history of one of the country's most distinctive regions.

Jennie Holton Fant is a South Carolina native, writer, and librarian who served for a decade on the staff of Duke University Libraries. She has published articles in Charleston Magazine, View, Charleston Place, Sporting Classics, Preservation Progress, Duke Library Magazine, and the State and Post and Courier newspapers, and she has served on a variety of editorial staffs. She lives in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

"Excellent scholarship and enjoyable narrative."—The Journal of Southern History

"Jennie Holton Fant has given us an illuminating selection of visitors' accounts of Charleston and the Lowcountry. Seen by many as a place of curiosity, these writings reveal outsiders' impressions of slavery, architecture, politics, and daily life, revealing a complex portrait of an often contradictory city: simultaneously beautiful and ugly, elegant and coarse, charming and menacing."—Maurie McInnis, vice provost for Academic Affairs, University of Virginia

"Visitors see what residents no longer notice. In Jennie Holton Fant's collection, The Travelers' Charleston, we encounter scenes of life in the metropolis of slavery completely absent in the reportage of Charlestonians. Indeed in John Benwell's account (that includes a visit to a free black organizing a school for slaves) we see the mechanisms used to repress views sympathetic to African Americans and opinions critical of the slave system. Yet politics is not the whole matter here. The fabric of the city, the contents of kitchen gardens, the diversions of Charlestonians of every caste, the architecture, the street hucksters (including drawings of peanut vendors), the conversations of the elite tables and street corner—they're all here. While some of the sources—John Lawson, Josiah Quincy Jr., Harriet Martineau—are familiar to students of southern history, others are not, and the eloquence of John Davis, the acid of Margaret Hunter Hall, and the dispassionate acuity of John Stuart make these pages as pleasurable as they are informative."—David S. Shields, Carolina Distinguished Professor, University of South Carolina

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