An American in Victorian Cambridge
Charles Astor Bristed's 'Five Years in an English University'
Edited by Dr. Christopher Stray
Publication date:02 March 2015
Length of book:448 pages
PublisherUniversity of Exeter Press
Charles Astor Bristed (1820-1874) was the favourite grandson of John Jacob Astor (the first American multi-millionaire, and the Astor of the Waldorf-Astoria). After gaining a degree at Yale, Bristed entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1840, graduating in 1845. "An American in Victorian Cambridge" is a richly detailed account of student life in the Cambridge of the 1840s. The rationale for the book, which is as appealing today as it was then, is that this is pre-eminently a book about an American student at an English university. The book belongs to a fascinating C19th trans-Atlantic publishing genre: travel accounts designed to describe British culture to Americans and vice-versa.
In this new edition, some substantial additions have been made: the Foreword and Introduction both help to contextualise the work, and point to its significance as an important historical source and as a fascinating memoir of life in Victorian Cambridge; annotation helps to identify the individuals who appear in Bristed’s text; and an index allows full use to be made of the text for the first time.
‘Bristed’s account provides under a new title an unusual and frequently very funny snapshot of Victorian Cambridge.’ ‘His intelligence and wit, and the peculiar sympathy of his character, make this an invaluable reprint of a unique and accessible account.’ (The Times Literary Supplement. No 5529, March 20, 2009)
‘Christopher Stray has done a brilliant job of unburdening and illuminating Bristed’s text. (…) Drawing copiously on his own expert knowledge both of Classics and Cambridge, his introduction and notes give ample context fro most of Bristed’s introverted obsessions and turn them into useful evidence for a better understanding of elite education in Victorian Britain.’ (Times Higher Education, 26, February 2009)
‘With much patience and skill, Stray has performed a…resurrection upon Bristed’s forgotten literary classic, and he has further refreshed it with the addition of contemporary illustration by John Lewis Roget (son of Thesaurus Roget). Roget’s pen and ink renderings, such as this oft-repeated…reinforce the literary portraiture with a simplicity of line that anticipates later English illustrators E.H. Shepard and C.G. Harper’ (Carlyle Studies Annual, 25, June 2010)