Past Perfect: In Undiscovered Country
An English Romantic travels a thousand miles up the Nile
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As a young woman, Amelia Edwards (1831–1892) won fame and fortune writing popular novels. She spent her twenties and thirties producing lurid, best-selling tales of romance, like the 1864 saga of bigamy, Barbara’s History. In the final decades of her life, however, this British author assumed a new identity—as an antiquarian. In 1873 Edwards was commissioned to write a travel guide to ancient Egypt. Joining a handful of British adventurers on a 1,000-mile odyssey up the Nile, she traveled from Cairo to the Nile’s Second Cataract in a dahabiyah (a small, flat-bottomed sailboat), visiting numerous archaeological sites along the way. As she roamed, Edwards …

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