While googling around in a (fruitless) effort to find any information about Jarrold Baedeker, the putative author of so many latter-day “Baedekers” (the mystery was solved by the primitive expedient of consulting an actual copy of a guide, which informed me that the original German edition was copyright Baedeker, the English-language one copyright Jarrold and Sons Ltd), I discovered a history (pdf; HTML link, without photos) by Edward Mendelson (originally published in the Yale Review of Books) of Karl Baedeker and the firm he founded; it was of great interest to me as a frequent user of old Baedeker guides (and a proud owner of the 1905 edition of the Austria-Hungary guide, purchased at the very Complete Traveller Antiquarian Bookstore on whose website the article is hosted), but as a language blogger the following passage particularly caught my attention:

Under Fritz Baedeker’s direction, the handbooks’ prose grew more efficient and compressed, and by far the most striking element of the new style was a device that deserves to be recognized in handbooks of rhetoric as “the Baedeker parenthesis.” One of its many functions was to juxtapose, without irony, the poetical and the practical. The best example of a Baedeker parenthesis was written not by Baedeker but by E. M. Forster in imitation of Baedeker. In Where Angels Fear to Tread, while Mrs. Herriton “was not one to detect the hidden charms of Baedeker… Philip could never read ‘The view from the Rocca (small gratuity) is finest at sunset’ without a catching at the heart.” Philip might have been overcome had he read these sentences about the Frankenburg, near Aix, in the 1878 edition of The Rhine:

The pond surrounding the castle was once a large lake, in which, according to tradition, was sunk the magic ring of Fastrada (p. 130), the last wife of Charlemagne. Attracted to this spot by its influence, the monarch is said to have sat here for days, gazing on the lake, and mourning for his lust consort. – (As far as the Gillesbach, near the Frankenburg, ordinary cabfare is charged.)

Baedeker used the parenthesis most often as a rapid indicator of the quality of hotels and restaurants, as in these descriptions of small towns chosen at random from the 1896 Southern Italy: “Pescara (Alb. Rebecchino, near the station, with trattoria, clean; Railway Restaurant, mediocre), a fortified town with 5000 inhab., is situated in an unhealthy plain”; or “Sala Consilina (Alb. Morino, dirty; cab to the town, 50 c.), the seat of a sub-prefect, picturesquely situated on a slope, overlooked by a medieval castle and the wooded summits of the Monte Cavallo.” It was this sort of economy and precision that Bertrand Russell had in mind when he identified Baedeker as one of the two major influences on his prose style. (The other was Milton.)

The essay continues with an anecdote about legal troubles caused the firm by one such parenthesis which (to borrow a standard phrase from a rival guidebook) vaut le détour. (And yes, that Rhine quote says “his lust consort”—a most unfortunate, or fortunate if you prefer, typo.)


  1. I really think that Voltaire had more influence on Russell’s style than Milton.

  2. Curious. I think Baedeker is an influence on my own style then, since I find myself inserting a surfeit of such parentheses. Perhaps the influence is through the Third Earl Russell, though. Lust for last? Ah yes: as in Lust Tangle in Paris.

  3. Lust for lost, I believe, as in In Search of Lust Time.

  4. Ah yes, LH. Mourning for his lost consort. I was reading in an excess of promiscuity that the text did not warrant. Good that you make this correction, lest we think he had a whole list of them.

  5. marie-lucie says:

    I read the (interesting) article – it is not just “lust” for “lost”, but several times “must” for “most”, and once “sun” for “son”. There most be something wrung with sumeune’s typing (how do you get italics on this screen?).

  6. Sun for son? Such a sin. Sans sense! And they messed up with must for most? Massed mistakes. So ein Mist!
    Marie-Lucie, get italics (and bold) in the usual HTML way.

  7. marie-lucie says:

    why, thank you, Noetica!
    [Note: The above showed up simply as a blank comment until I fixed the HTML, hence Noetica’s response. –LH]

  8. ” ”
    You’re very quiet today, Marie-Lucie!

  9. marie-lucie says:

    I looked up your HTML reference and followed the instructions for writing in italics, and I thought I was saying to you, but obviously nothing happened! Let’s see if this is .

  10. marie-lucie says:

    the above is what happened when I tried to follow instructions. I will have to do without italics – I was saying “Thank you” … Let’s see if this is “the end of the sentence”.

  11. Marie-Lucie, I can’t see why you are having this persistent trouble. Sorry, I can help no more!
    LH, what other tags are available here?
    I mean, other than tags enabling:


    and links?
    I note that underline is not implemented (though it would be quite handy, in fact). I know that strikethrough is implemented, but I don’t know how to do it here. Not in the usual HTML, that’s certain.

  12. m-l: You need to put i in angle brackets before what you want in itals, and /i in angle brackets afterwards. I fixed your HTML in the “thank you” comment above, but I didn’t see anything to fix in the “Let’s see” one.
    Noetica: strikethrough is s between angle brackets; isn’t that standard? I’ve always used it, anyway.

  13. … strikethrough is s between angle brackets; isn’t that standard? I’ve always used it, anyway.

    It’s not, though I believe one of the early browsers supported it, and it may have been retained for backwards-compatibility. The standard is strike between angle brackets. Neither works in preview, here; perhaps it’s different if one hits Post straight away. This text is between s and /s; this text is between strike and /strike.

  14. Strike

  15. [s]Strike[/s]

  16. Italics

  17. Strike doesn’t work for me, LH. The s and \s flanked by angle brackets get stripped away.

  18. O, I meant /s, not \s. Same thing, though. They don’t work.

  19. Nor do strike and /strike.

  20. How about strike and /strike in Baedeker parentheses? That might do the trick.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    Let me try again: [i]thank you, everybody![/i]
    The HTML link used not [ ] when I tried before.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    once again, problems! I meant that the HTML link used the arrows not the angle brackets – it did not print the arrows obviously.
    Incidentally, the arrows are used extensively in historical linguistics, for instance if you mean that English [i]lady[/i] is from Old English [i]hlaefdige[/i], you can write a left-pointing arrow instead of “is from”, and conversely the right-pointing arrow goes from the older to the newer term – very handy, especially if you list some intermediate forms. Let try to see if this works: OE hlaefdige > ModE lady (if there is a blank, you will know why).

  23. Strike

  24. Nothing works for strike. Italics is

  25. Italics is left-pointing-arrow plus “i” plus right-pointing-arrow, with “/” added to turn it off.

  26. Woops, sorry everybody, I didn’t realize strikethrough (like underscore) isn’t available in comments. I have no idea what the set of usable HTML is; I guess we just find out by trial and error.
    m-l: By “angle brackets” I mean < and > (I have to use HTML code & lt ; and & gt ; to represent them, because if I just type the brackets they’re taken as code and don’t show).

  27. marie-lucie says:

    LH: I see now why my attempts at italics did not work – I did use arrows and they and the words they were bracketing did not show.
    Let me try again with your suggestions: & lt ;some of my best friends actually call me m-l& gt ;

  28. marie-lucie says:

    <one more try and I quit>

  29. Marie-Lucie, I am mystified concerning the difficulty you are having with italics, and with the article I pointed you to. If you cut and paste the example they give of the code for italics, you get this:
    Have you tried such a cut and paste? I suggest you do so, and see what you get! Then it is a simple matter to replicate what they have with your own inout from the keyboard, hmm? Unless you have some non-standard keyboard set-up: but then, at least that should become obvious as you follow my suggestion.

  30. A parallel to the Baedeker parenthesis might be the Zagat quote. This “charming” eatery features “unusual, exotic” specialties in a “warm and welcoming” setting, etc.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    (hope springs eternal)
    hope springs eternal
    >i<hope springs eternal>i/<

  32. marie-lucie says:

    Yeah! one of the methods worked, Thanks especially to Noetica, mille mercis!
    (LH, I must have got your instructions backwards)
    and the page also gives the instructions for umlaut, accents, etc – that’s where they come from! Thank you to everyone who has responded to my problems in the past.

  33. Baedeker paren, in the paren-parent. Are it the book-red often ouf tysk, i so vidare.

  34. You want arrows?
    &larr; = ←
    &rarr; = →
    OE hlaefdige → ModE lady

  35. HP, I cannot thank you enough for showing me ← and →. I have often wanted them but been too lazy to look them up in a Unicode table. It never occurred to me that there might be ordinary entities for them.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    HP, this is just great. The arrows look just right. Historically minded linguists will thank you.

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