Synopsis of The Diary of an Ennuyee
The Diary of an Ennuyee was originally published anonymously in 1826 and called A Lady’s Diary. The text was widely read as the actual travel biography of a young, heartbroken English lady travelling through Europe for the first time. The writer is suffering from an illness and a recurring melancholy that she often mentions and that often appears to impair her enjoyment of her travels. The last twenty pages of the text see the ‘writer’ becoming increasingly ill and dying. The London publisher of the work, Henry Colburn, published on the pretext that this was a true account; there is an introductory note to the readers that states that the diary was published as it was found after the death of the author.
The text begins with the writer’s journey to Paris and her observations of the characters she encounters there. The writer claims that she is keeping this diary because that is what one must do on an excursion to the Continent. We are then told the story of Genieve, a beautiful and wealthy orphan who made an unfavourable wedding match. We are then taken to Italy, first to Venice then on to Florence, Rome, Naples and Turin. Her weary state often seems to moderate the writer’s enjoyment and she often needs time to rest. The people she is travelling with are never directly mentioned.
The diary is hoped to bring insight to the mindset of a woman and her ‘natural and feminine feeling’. It is evident was this text could have been perceived as an authentic piece of travel writing. Throughout the text Jameson omits the names of people the lady stays with; some very personal poems are included; and asterisks marks places in the diary where pages have been torn out (not what one might expect in a piece of fiction by a serious writer). The inclusion of a meeting with Lord Byron in Venice, lasting for several pages, may have helped this work to be seen as authentic. Jameson actually went on to have a long and close relationship with Byron’s wife Lady Byron, until the friendship ended abruptly in 1854.When it was revealed to the public that the author Anna Jameson was actually alive and well, and engaged to be married, many readers felt disappointed that their hearts and minds had been engaged in the suffering of the diarist only to discover later that she was completely fictional.
Anna Jameson had written the text when she was travelling in Europe with the family to whom she was governess. She may indeed have been suffering at the time because she and her fiancé Robert Jameson had temporarily broken off their engagement. This was Jameson’s first published work and there is an evident development in the style and prose of her later work. However, the diary has some interesting observations on European sights and character descriptions.
It is also interesting to read this work knowing that it is a piece of fiction, and observe how it could be read very differently if (like many of Anna Jameson’s contemporary readers) you believed the journal’s events to be true. The book ends with the Ennuyee’s frail condition increasing, and the editor’s note claiming that she died shortly after her last entry.