Holman’s Journal publishes intimate snippets on blind experience from the writings of James Holman, the Blind Traveller. Curated, edited and narrated by Joe Rizzo Naudi.
what’s this all about?
James Holman (1786 - 1857) was a blind English sailor, adventurer and author. He lost his sight in 1811 at the age of 25, undertook his first solo trip abroad in 1819, and went on to become one of the most travelled people in recorded history.
Holman wrote three books documenting his travels. They are lengthy, meticulously compiled travelogues, heavy with facts, figures and practical guidance for contemporary travellers. But his writings also include a whole world of insight into his experiences as a visually impaired voyager.
It’s these blind morsels that I want to present on Holman’s Journal, the times when Holman drops his fact-gathering persona and invites the reader into his sensory, emotional and social experience: the obstacles he faces; the intimacies he nurtures; the icy lows; the unexpected, cockle-warming joys.
Holman’s Journal is an attempt to revive his writing for a 21st century audience, dust it off, read it aloud and resuscitate it from cold obscurity. Because I think his work - and Holman himself - deserves it.
It won’t all be plain-sailing, though: Holman was a man of his time, and his books carry with them a full complement of early Victorian perspectives on gender, sexuality, race, class and (of course) disability. I look forward to plumbing these intersectional complexities in the comments section.
I aim to publish one extract per week. We’ll start with Holman’s account of his first trip abroad after losing his sight, The Narrative of a Journey through France, &c. (1822).
Why not join me on the journey? To receive new posts and support the project, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
With a view to accessibility, continuity and a little pruning, I have edited and abridged the majority of extracts published here. In some cases I have updated Holman’s language to aid comprehension.
about James Holman
Jason Roberts' excellent biography of James Holman. The first book-length work on the life of the Blind Traveller, it is a thorough, engaging tour of his life, travels and social context, backed up by stacks of original archival research. It was the book that sparked my interest in the Blind Traveller back when I was a lost young blind person in search of role models.
For a quick fix, Wikipedia provides a good overview of his life.
You can find public domain PDF versions of Holman’s original texts here:
I’m a writer from London working mostly on fiction, narrative non-fiction and theatre projects. Check out my other publications:
/ Black Cane Diary - on my experiences as a visually impaired person
Cane Research Project - researching mobility cane use by people with visual impairments, funded by Arts Council England.
You can follow me on Twitter.