Painting: Travelling Companions (1862)

Readers reading #6

The Travelling Companions (1862) – By Augustus Egg (1816 –1863). Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Oil on canvas. 65.3 x 78.7 cm

The Travelling Companions *oil on canvas  *65.3 x 78.7 cm  *1862
The Travelling Companions *oil on canvas *65.3 x 78.7 cm *1862

What strikes most people first is that the two young women look almost like a mirror image of each other. There is a post on doppelgängers in Victorian art here. However these women may be sisters, and a doppelgänger would not usually be related.

Perhaps the women represent two elements of the character of one woman? Possibly the painting illustrates a popular Victorian theme – everyone has a choice, idleness (left) and industry (right).

One is sleeping, the other reading. Reading what, I wonder? A little context – the following were published in 1862:


  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Lady Audley’s Secret
  • Wilkie Collins – No Name
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky – The House of the Dead (Записки из Мёртвого дома, Zapiski iz Myortvogo doma, book publication)
  • George Eliot – Romola (serialisation)
  • Gustave Flaubert – Salammbo
  • Victor Hugo – Les Misérables
  • Henry Kingsley – Ravenshoe
  • William Makepeace Thackeray – The Adventures of Philip
  • Anthony Trollope – Orley Farm (publication completed)
  • Ivan Turgenev – Fathers and Sons
  • Mrs. Henry Wood – The Channings

Children and young people

  • Frances Freeling Broderip – Tale of the Toys, Told by Themselves
  • F. W. Farrar – St. Winifred’s or The World of School
  • Henrietta Keddie (as Sarah Tytler) – Papers for Thoughtful Girls, with illustrative sketches of some girls’ lives


  • Henrik Ibsen – Love’s Comedy (Kjærlighedens Komedie, first published)


  • Henrik Ibsen – Terje Vigen
  • George Meredith – Modern Love
  • Christina Rossetti – Goblin Market and other poems


  • Thomas De Quincey – Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets
  • Julia Kavanagh
    • English Women of Letters
    • French Women of Letters
  • Leo Tolstoy – “The School at Yasnaya Polyana”

And on a final note. Supposedly Augustus Egg’s The Travelling Companions (1862) influenced a John Tenniel illustration for Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). Alice is sitting opposite Benjamin Disraeli reading, alongside a bespectacled sleeping goat. But why is Disraeli wearing a paper hat? And what is the man with the binoculars up to? Curiouser and curiouser.

John Tenniel illustration for Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

The ‘Readers reading’ series on this blog (this list last updated, 12th March 2017).

Readers reading #1. A Girl Reading In A Sailing Boat (1869) By Alfred Corbould.

Readers reading #2 The Bookworm (1850) Carl Spitzweg.

Readers reading #3 A Pleasant Corner (1865) – By John Callcott Horsley.

Readers reading #4 The Novel Reading (1841) – By Josef Danhauser.

Readers reading #5 The Poor Poet (1839) – By Carl Spitzweg.

Readers reading #6 The Travelling Companions (1862) – By Augustus Egg.

Readers reading #7 The Breakfast (c.1911) – By William McGregor Paxton.

Readers reading #8 Answering the Emigrant’s Letter (1850) – By James Collinson.

Readers reading #9 The Love Letter (1808) – By Willem Bartel van der Kooi.

Readers reading #10 The Day Dream (1880) – By Dante Gabriel Rossetti.


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