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|Title:||A Tale of Two Diaries: Robert Hart’s Encounter with “Mont Blanc Albert” in Canton, Sept. 1858|
Department of English, NTNU
|Abstract:||When still a junior official in the British Consular Service in Canton, Robert Hart (1835-1911), who would later achieve fame as the Inspector General of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, met Albert Richard Smith (1816-60), the mid-Victorian comic writer and diorama presenter, who was traveling in China to collect material for a stage show. Though both reported on Smith’s visit to Canton in their respective diaries, Hart’s brief interlude with Smith has never been discussed and the relevant passages in their diaries have not been cross-examined. Yet, close reading the respective diary entries next to one another for the first time some one hundred and fifty years after they were composed can achieve several objectives. First, the diaries provide some raw material for the biographical understanding of the young Robert Hart, which is important considering that more than a hundred years following his death there is as of yet no complete biography of “the most powerful Westerner in China” (Jonathan Spence). Second, they illustrate the generic and stylistic differences between a diary which is meant to be published and one which is conceived as a purely private “closed book” diary. Third, they shed light on two different modes of seeing/narrating China—the sightseeing tourist Smith and the long-term expatriate resident Hart—and, thus, contribute to our understanding of the British imaginary of China during the heyday of empire.|
|Appears in Collections:||Concentric: Studies in English Literature and Linguistics|
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