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English Lit/Lang Anthology [Isabella Bird] Cheat Sheet by

A Level English Lit/Lang [OCR Exam Board] This has not yet come up in the anthology exam.

Portrait of Isabella Bird

About this letter

This text is an extract from Isabella Bird's letters to her sister, Henrietta, regarding her travels in the Rocky Mountains.

The letters were subseq­uently published as a book in 1879.

Bird was a prolific and intrepid 19th century female traveller who became well-known through her published journals, magazines and travel books.

Due to her being a missionary and explorer who travelled all over the world, her occupation different to that of many women in the 19th century England.

She travelled to a vast amount of places, including Canada, Scotland, Australia, Hawaii, Colorado (which this extract was about), India, Tibet, The Persian Gulf, Japan, Chica, Korea and Morocco.

She wrote 5 books from 1856-99, and was the first woman to be rewarded an honorary fellowship by the royal Scottish Geogra­phical Society (1890). She was also the first female member of the Royal Geogra­phical Society (1892).


Genre: Letter
Register: Informal
Audience: Her sister, the public.
Mode: Personal letter, travel­/au­tob­iog­rap­hical style of writing.
Purpose: Initially to inform her sister, eventually to educate and inspire Victorian Women.


Introd­uction to her letter fits the frame of expect­ation for the letter and also tells us she is recoll­ecting in the letter. Fits the conven­tions of a letter.

Archaic reference to a woman "got up" in "­pai­nt" shows Bird's condes­cending tone, combined with the tricolon of opulence "­emerald green velvet, brussels lace, and diamon­d" shows Bird's contempt to frivolous women.

Use of "­inu­nda­ted­" shows that Bird looks down on this form of "­vul­gar­ity­" and suggests she shows contempt to those who dress like the women she mentioned earlier.

"­Inu­nda­ted­" gives connot­ations of an overwh­elming nature to the people, as if Bird could feel trapped by their presence.

"I was a salient point for the speaker's next sally" gives a colloquial nature to the letter due to its inform­ality. The sibilance in this line suggests that Bird could feel contempt towards this speaker, as if she is hissing out these words.

"A ladylike Englis­hwo­man­" this subclause places power in the notion of an "­Eng­lis­hwo­men­" reinfo­rcing Bird's contempt to "­vul­gar­" American woman.

"The neighb­ourhood and its wild beasts, especially bears."­ "I dreamt of bears so vividl­y" Bird's litotes when discussing the "­bea­rs", used throughout the whole letter, shows her confid­ence, which is very incong­ruous due to her being a solitary female traveller.

"­Furry death hug at my throat, but feeling quite refres­hed­" The nonchalant tone and oxymoron of the "­furry death hug" and her "­feeling quite refres­hed­" reinforces her lack of fear and her confidence due to her experience as an explorer.

"­Cin­nam­on-­col­oured bear with two cubs" This allite­ration of the "­cin­nam­on-­col­oured bear" emphasises her descri­ption of the bear, making it vivid as she uses "­cin­nam­on" rather than a more subjec­t-s­pecific colour word like "­bro­wn".

"The mother might acquit me of any designs upon her lolloping childr­en" use of formal "­acq­uit­" and condit­ional "­mig­ht" makes light of the danger these bears pose, could also be slight overco­nfi­dence, but she has extensive experi­ences with bears as she had travelled to 4 different places this trip.

"­Ung­ainly, long haired partly crossed the river" emphasises inhuman nature to the animals, tone implies she looks upon the animals as improper due to their "­ung­ain­ly" nature. Person­ifi­cation of the "­par­ty" emphasises her high expect­ations of these animals to be prim and proper.


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