Amours de Voyage is a novel in verse and is arranged in five cantos, or chapters, as a sequence of letters. It is about a group of English travellers in Italy: Claude, and the Trevellyn family, are caught up in the 1849 political turmoil. The poem mixes the political (‘Sweet it may be, and decorous, perhaps, for the country to die; but,/On the whole, we conclude the Romans won’t do it, and I sha’n’t’) and the personal (‘After all, do I know that I really cared so about her?/Do whatever I will, I cannot call up her image’). The political is important but the personal dilemmas are the crucial ones.
Claude, about to declare himself, retreats, regrets. It is this retreat, his scruples and fastidiousness, that, like a conventional novel, is the core of Amours de Voyage. The poem thus contributed something important to the modern sensibility; it is a portrait of an anti-hero; it is about love and marriage (the difficulties of); and it is about Italy.
The language is general colloquial, and this gives a very modern feel to a narrative poem written in the mid19th century. A world-weary upper-class Englishman travelling in Italy finds himself unexpectedly falling in love. Through his own attempt to stay detached, he and the woman he loves are separated in their travels, and in the latter part of the poem he seeks to catch up with her. In the background is Garibaldi's campaign to create an independent united Italy.