Miss Jemima’s Swiss Journal

“On the 26th June 1863, sixty-four excited ladies and gentlemen left London Bridge Station on the very first tour of Switzerland arranged by Thomas Cook, the excursionist. This was the beginning of a tourist movement which now involves millions taking their holidays abroad.”

Among the sixty-four were the seven members of the Junior Alpine Club: Miss Eliza, Miss Mary, Miss Jemima, Miss Sarah, Mr William, Mr Tom and Mr James.

Miss Jemima was charged with preparing a record of the trip for the clubs archives, and maybe even for publication.

What the club thought of Miss Jemima’s writings, what came after the trip to Switzerland is unknown. 

But, of course, that isn’t the end of the story …

In 1943 an old tin box was found in the rubble of a blitzed warehouse in the East End of London. And in that box were Miss Jemima’s notebooks, drawings and souvenirs.

Miss Jemima has never been identified, but her work was finally published almost a century after she visited Switzerland.

It makes a lovely book, recording everything that the group saw and did over the course of the tree weeks that they spent in Switzerland.

Well, nearly everything. There are only fleeting references to accommodation, meals, and fellow-travellers. Miss Jemima is clearly focused on the country and on the journey.

But it is still clear that seven members of the Junior Alpine Club fell in love with Switzerland. A sense of enjoyment and fun permeates the pages.

And such an appetite for adventure. Mule-back journeys? Dawn departures? Mountaineering in crinolines? All are undertaken with gusto!

Towns, villages, mountains, glaciers, valleys, lakes … All wonderful!

The prose is simple, clear and informative, and though there is much detail it flows quite beautifully.

And the text is accompanied by some lovely drawings and photographs.

Reading Miss Jemima’s Journal was like hearing about the trip of a lifetime from an articulate friend.

6 responses

  1. It’s an utterly charming little book. There’s an unspoken sense of wonder in books like this that I love.

    • Not in print sadly but there was a reissue as recently as 2000, so hopefully there are some used and library copies out there.

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