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The Clumsiest People in Europe

3.34  ·  Rating Details ·  232 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
In the middle of the 1800s, Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer set out to write an ambitious guide to all the nations on Earth. There were just three problems. She had never set foot outside Shropshire. She was horribly misinformed about virtually every topic she turned her attention to. And she was prejudiced against foreigners. The result was an unintentionally hilarious masterpiec ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 4th 2007 by Random House Books (first published June 6th 2005)
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Mrs. Favell Lee Bevan Mortimer was a bitterly unhappy, possibly suicidal Victorian matron who never traveled anywhere--not even to Wales, although the Welsh border was nine miles from her front door. It is not certain whether by the end of her life she was insane or merely very eccentric. (Such a shame about the drowned parrot.) Naturally, she was a prolific author of history and geography textbooks for young people.

Todd Pruzan was poking around a used-book sale when he found one of Mrs. Mortime
It's kind of fascinating to read this. Poor Mrs. Mortimer is so incredibly earnest in her complete and total lack of respect for any culture that isn't identical to her own. Is this a glimpse into the mind of the average, middle class, Victorian era Englishwoman? Her works apparently sold quite well, so maybe so. After fifty pages or so, it did start to drag. I get it, she hated every country, especially the ones she'd never seen. And it's the same thing over and over. If you believe her, nearly ...more
There is a long interesting intro by Todd Pruzan - he is the one that has taken these outrageous snippets from the three volume instruction, written by Mrs Mortimer.

I cannot help but think the Xenophobic Guide series owes much to Mrs Mortimer.
As Pruzan says in his introduction, "No matter where your ancestors had the misfortune of living--no doubt smoking too much, or taking snuff, or reading useless novels--Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer had something nasty to say about them." Mrs. Mortimer had a successful, forty-year career writing Victorian children's books. Here's an example of her style from her bestselling The Peep of Day or a Series of the Earliest Religious Instruction the Infant Mind is Capable of Receiving:
"God has covered your
Jul 17, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
There's something delightful in the uneasy mix of appalling opinions and charming writing.
I picked up this travel guide/insight to Victorian culture from the local library, thanks to Inner Stickler's recommendation over at the SDMB.

Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer (1802 - 1878), despite only having twice left her native England (and those trips were brief), penned multiple travel guides aimed toward children, using various (and perhaps questionable) sources. She drew on her expertise as an Evangelical/Moralist children's book author, as well as her own (and her society's) prejudices of the
Jason Mills
Jul 11, 2010 Jason Mills rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History and sociology buffs, Daily Mail readers
Recommended to Jason by: Fortean Times
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer wrote prim, 'instructive' books for children in Victorian times. Three of her books formed a sort of guide to the world - though at the time of writing them she had only left England once, getting no further than Paris and Brussels. Consequently her perceptions are gleaned from other, unspecified sources.

Todd Pruzan in 2005 gathered a selection of her commentaries into this single volume. He introduces each country with his own potted picture of its circumstances at the
Jan 22, 2010 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought the republishing of this book was clumsy! While it was quite interesting to read the original author's vitriol -- and very entertaining in a macabre way -- the "new" author didn't seem to do much at all. The chapter introductions about each country were worthless. This was a great topic wasted. Where was the insightful commentary? The introduction was a good start but I think the author fell asleep or something.
In the vein of Daisy Ashford's The Young Visiters, here is an unintentional Victorian gem. Mrs. Mortimer, who has a (usually negative) opinion about everything she encounters while traveling on the Continent is hugely funny to read, along with Pruzon's comments, in our "enlightened" age. How someone so bad tempered can be so funny is the chief charm of this droll book.
Tamara Rose
Mar 28, 2012 Tamara Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture, history
Antique xenophobia from an armchair world traveler. Misanthropy was never more hilarious.
Christopher Roth
A dizzyingly misanthropic tour of the world by a bitter, sexually frustrated, angry, bigoted Victorian woman who never left Great Britain, written for children but with adult levels of intolerance and vitriol. Mortimer is the epitome of the "wogs begin at Calais" Weltanschauung, with a more than medium dose of apopleptic anti-Papism, the result being a text of high comedic and camp value. The editor provides a useful, entertaining, and well-researched introduction. I wish that this had been a co ...more
Nostalgia Reader
This is essentially an edited and snipped version of Mrs. Mortimer's original travel guides. Pruzan's introduction was amusing and certainly sets the tone for the book, but the rest of it is all Mrs. Mortimer's proper, Protestant, incredibly cynical "guide" to the countries and continents of the world. As is expected from a lady of the time (England, mid-1800s), she had never actually travelled the world, instead compiling most of her information from other (many outdated) travel guides, encyclo ...more
Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer wrote Sunday school tracts for young children in mid-19th century England. She traveled abroad but twice in her life: once to Brussels and Paris, and once to Edinburgh. However, that did not stop her from writing children's geography books that covered the world, according to her world view. On the Italians: " What sort of people live in Italy? They are very dark, because the sun shines so much. They have dark hair and eyes,--not those bright, merry black eyes you see in ...more
Thomas Hale
A collection of passages from the titular Mrs Mortimer's geography books, aimed at children, from the mid-19th Century. Famously (as the book's lengthy and interesting introduction tells us) she only left England twice in her life, and cobled together her opinions on the outside world from books, journals and popular hearsay. As a result, what the reader gets is a breezy tour of the globe through the eyes of a grouchy and virulently Protestant middle-aged English woman, with all the xenophobia, ...more
Zachary Rawlins
This was a fun little discount read. A well-organized collection of the writings of the utterly bizarre Mrs. Mortimer - a Victorian lady from England who, though she never traveled, wrote extensively on travel, foreign countries and people. And how much she hated them. And how dirty they were.

Which is striking, because she never even went to Wales, a few miles from her home. Aside from a childhood visit to Belgium and a short term to Edinburgh, the woman hardly left her house. Oh, and she also w
This travel book is quite amusing and entertaining though it was not written to be comedic. Mrs. Mortimer's Victorian pronouncements are so absurd and inaccurate that we in the modern era can only laugh at what she has to say. No country mentioned in the book escapes her poison. She has something to say about each country's level of cleanliness, its work ethic, its morality, its attractiveness, its children, etc. What's most remarkable is she writes with such conviction about places she hasn't v ...more
This is one of the more amusing books to give to your friends - especially if they happen to be from anywhere other than Britain. It is in the tradition of a number of books that have kernels of truth and even larger nuggets of popularly held beliefs about "Johnny Foreigner"
The description of Swedish Character is wonderfully illuminating: "Almost everyone can read. In every little town there is a bookseller', and sometimes there are more booksellers than butchers. It is never so in America
Aug 23, 2008 Lrosenow is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not for those lacking a sense of humor or who take political correctness too seriously
Charming introduction given by the book's editor/discoverer to this unintentionally amusing travel guide written by a Victorian curmudgeon, who, it turns out, left her native England only twice, making it as far as Brussels, Paris, and Edinburgh. This, however, did not prevent her from sharing her views of other places, including, for example, Turkey:

p.85: "This land is very differnet from all the other countries in Europe-and this is the reason: it has a different religion. All the other count
Celia Yost
Probably the judgiest travel guide ever written, by a woman living in 1840s England. Parts are funny, especially Mrs. Mortimer's conviction that every other place in the world is full of murders and robbers (she never actually traveled to any of the places she wrote about). Also, a fascinating/horrifying look into English Victorian mindset into all the ways other countries/peoples were inferior and just really needed a WASP to show them the error of their ways. As a bonus, it's written for child ...more
Ash Bruxvoort
Dec 30, 2009 Ash Bruxvoort rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently finished The Clumsiest People in Europe: Or, Mrs. Mortimer's Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World edited by Todd Pruzan. The book is a collection of "travel writing" by Mrs. Mortimer, a crotchety Victorian woman. She was able to cover the entire world even though she only traveled outside of England twice. Hmmm...

I really shouldn't have laughed at several of the sections, but I could not help it. The table of contents is even titled by snarkiest comment she makes about each count
Oct 25, 2010 Isabel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, classic
In the mid 19th century Mrs. Mortimer was apparently a widely known author of both children's books and also books about foreign countries and their people.
This small volume is a short version of the three books she wrote about those countries.

Mrs. Mortimer was a very religious woman who had only set foot twice outside of England, once to Italy (I think) and once to Scottland but who felt to be expert enough to judge other peoples. Veryracist in today's terms.

And while it was funny i
Sep 22, 2013 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
維多利亞時代的英國童書作家Mrs Mortimer一生只去過布魯塞爾、巴黎、愛丁堡三處旅遊,卻寫了三本介紹世界各國風土民情的地理書。這些書絕版多年後,被 Todd Pruzan 發現,稍微編輯和加入插圖及簡單說明後重新出版,變成了這本書。相隔了150年,原先嚴肅、no-nonsense的地理書現在讀起來不可思議地好笑。

"The Greeks do not bear their troubles well; when they are unhappy, the scream like babies."
"The religion of Budha teaches men to act like idiots."
"The worst quality in any character is hypocrisy, and this is to be found in the Egyptian."

嘲笑Mrs Mortimer的無知時,她的傲慢與偏見也同時令人嘖嘖稱奇;每個國家、每個地區似乎都有令她唾棄之處,她的用詞又是如此直接且不留情面。

儘管如此,這樣不多見的"奇文" 還是值得欣賞一下。
Jun 13, 2014 Bronwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unintentionally funny book written by a racist loon in the 19th century. Meant to be a travelogue of sorts but the writer never actually left her English home. Nonetheless, she felt free to describe the citizens of other countries in great detail - how filthy their homes were, how dim the men are, and *shock horror* how Catholic they were. Modern sensibilities will allow this book to be seen as nothing but hilarious and offensive but it is also sad. The writer really felt that she was doing a ...more
Dec 13, 2009 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could not resist this book after reading the flyleaf. Poor Mrs. Mortimer truly had a low opinion of humanity, and I am sure that she was pleased to die and go to what she believed was a better place. Reading her descriptions of populations around the world (none of which she personally experienced!) alternately made me gasp in horror and laugh aloud. The truly sad thing, however, is how many of the stereotypes that she cites persist in this day and age - showing that maybe we aren't much more ...more
Mar 22, 2016 Samantha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was okay, kinda repetitive. I'm not one to enjoy straight up history books, as I prefer more historical fiction. It was interesting to read how England viewed the outside world, especially while finding something negative to say about literally every country discussed. All and all, I might have enjoyed this a little bit more if I wasn't in such a time crunch to finish it and would probably recommend to those interested in the Victorian world.
Mrs. Mortimer must have been one of the crankiest women in Europe and vented her ill tempered beliefs about other countries in this unearthed Victorian relic. Mrs. Mortimer apparently didn't get out much, but that doesn't stop her from having something bad to say about every country known at the time. With unwavering confidence she systematically points out the dirty, immoral and ungodly in a bevy of different places.
Feb 24, 2015 Erika_kartmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
Frau Mortimer beschreibt in der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts die Geografie, Sitten und Gebräuche und Sehenswürdigkeiten von Ländern, in denen sie niemals gewesen ist.
Alle, ausnahmslos alle Länder kommen dabei äußerst schlecht weg und für mich blieb nur das Vergnügen übrig. Ja, ich gebe es zu: Ich habe mehr als einmal herzlich gelacht. Manches Mal blieb mir das Lachen auch im Halse stecken, manchmal traute ich mich nur, ein wenig zu grinsen.
Aug 06, 2008 Summer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good lord, what a strange book. It's a reprint of selected material by an extremely xenophobic woman from 19th century England describing the peoples of the world in less-than-stunning terms. Moreover, the contents were originally written for a juvenile audience. The most amazing part of it for me was how she managed to be both stunningly racist and critical of America's system of slavery at the same time.
Never having left England, Mrs. Mortimer wrote a guide book to the world for Victorian readers. It is alternately laugh out loud about the outrageousness and cry in despair over the bigotry. Mrs. Mortimer was some else. We could use self righteous, bitter, caustic, rude, bigoted, among many more.

Man, this is one heck of a prejudiced old woman. Some of the descriptions about the European countries are downright laughable, and others make you open your mouth in shock that someone could actually get away with writing this stuff. If you're looking for an amusing bent on the European world from a couple hundred years ago, this is def the book to read. The little bigot!
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Victorian children’s writer Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer was a woman of deep piety--and of even more profound prejudices. Born a Quaker in London in 1802, she converted to Evangelicalism at age 25 and devoted her life to the proper religious development of children, a task that involved extolling the virtues of Protestantism and denouncing as corrupt or evil every other form of faith and practice.
More about Favell Lee Mortimer...

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