A Selected Class of Traveller: Canadian Magazines and the Culture of Aspiration

Michelle Smith, Postdoctoral Research Associate
School of Humanities (English Studies)
University of Strathclyde

Paris, according to the advertisements and travel features of inter-war, English-language mainstream Canadian magazines, was a destination promising luxury, delight, and exclusivity. To reach it, one took a cruise liner offering “ultra-spacious apartments, perfectly appointed salons, unobtrusive service anticipating your wants, and the companionship of distinguished fellow-travellers,” after which one could reside temporarily at a hotel such at l’Hôtel Prince de Galles, located “in the most exclusive quarter of Paris just off the Champs-Elysees” and intended for “that selected class of experienced travellers who will appreciate freedom from the vexations of ordinary hotel life.” From there, one could venture out to experience “the delight of spending one’s first day at The Louvre,” browse the “exquisite quality of French fashions,” and much more.

This paper explores how ideas and images about Paris in Canadian magazines such as Mayfair and Maclean’s served up an uneasy mixture of fantasy, memoir, and practical advice on how best to enjoy leisure travel. In the 1920s and 1930s, Paris was one of the most advertised and discussed destinations, with advertisements and articles playing suggesting that Canadians wishing to possess true “savoir-faire” ought to cross the Atlantic. Making this journey meant that they could experience the highlights of the modern world (ranging from the new technology of the luxury cruise liner to the pleasures Paris’ art galleries to participation in smart society) in a so-called “old-world” setting. Understanding how the magazines portrayed a visit to Paris is, then, a way into understanding social aspiration – even snobbery – and how such aspiration was underwritten by certain types of material and cultural consumption.

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