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THE DECADENCE OF THE GRAND TOUR.

During the several generations when the Stuarts communicated their love of France to the aristocracy of England, there was, as we might suppose, a steady undercurrent of protest against this Gallic influence. A returning traveller would be pursued by the rabble of London, who, sighting his French periwig and foreign gestures, would pelt his coach with gutter-dirt, squibs, roots and rams-horns, and run after it shouting “French Dogs! French Dogs! A Mounser! A Mounser!" Between the courtiers and the true-born Englishman there was no great sympathy in the matter of foreign culture. The courtiers too often took towards deep-seated English customs the irreverent attitude of their master, Charles II. known to remark that it was the roast beef and reading of the holy Scriptures that caused the noted sadness of the English. The true-born Englishman retorted with many a jibe at the “gay, giddy, brisk, insipid fool,” who thought of nothing but clothes and garnitures, despised roast beef, and called his old friends ruffians and rustics; or at the rake who “has not been come from France above three months and here he has debauch’d four women and fought five duels.” The playwrights could always secure an audience by a skilful portrait of an “English Mounsieur” such as Sir Fopling Flutter, who “went to Paris a plain bashful English Blockhead and returned a fine undertaking French Fop."

There had always been a protest against foreign influence, but in the eighteenth century one cannot fail to notice a stronger and more contemptuous attitude than ever before. England was feeling her power. War with France sharpened the shafts of satire, and every victory over the French increased a strong insular patriotism in all classes. Foote declared residence in Paris a necessary part of every man of fashion’s education, because it “Gives ’em a relish for their own domestic happiness and a proper veneration for their own national liberties." His Epilogue to The Englishman in Paris commends the prudence of British forefathers who

“Scorned to truck for base unmanly arts,
Their native plainness and their honest hearts."

It was not the populace alone, or those who appealed directly to the populace, who sneered at Popish countries, and pitied them for not being British. As time went on Whigs of all classes boasted of the superiority of England, especially when they travelled in Europe.

“We envy not the warmer clime that lies
In ten degrees of more indulgent skies ...
’Tis Liberty that crowns Britannia’s Isle
And makes her barren rocks and her bleak mountains smile."

Addison’s travels are full of reflections of this sort. The destitution of the Campagna of Rome demonstrates triumphantly what an aversion mankind has to arbitrary government, while the well-populated mountain of St Marino shows what a natural love they have for liberty. Whigs abroad were well caricatured by Smollett in Peregrine Pickle in the figures of the Painter and the Doctor. They observed that even the horses and dogs in France were starved; whereupon the Governor of Peregrine, an Oxonian and a Jacobite, sneered that they talked like true Englishmen. The Doctor, affronted by the insinuation, told him with some warmth that he was wrong in his conjecture, “his affections and ideas being confined to no particular country; for he considered himself as a citizen of the world. He owned himself more attached to England than to any other kingdom, but this preference was the effect of reflection and not of prejudice.”

This growing conviction of England’s superiority helped to bring about the decadence of travel for education. Travel continued, and the eighteenth century was as noticeable as any other for the “mal du pays” which attacked young men, but travel became the tour of curiosity and diversion with which we are familiar, and not an earnest endeavour to become “a compleat person.” Many changes helped this decadence. The “policy” of Italy and France, which once attracted the embryo statesmen of Elizabeth, was now well known and needed no further study. With the passing of the Stuarts, when the king’s favour ceased to be the means of making one’s fortune, a courtly education was no longer profitable. High offices under the Georges were as often as not filled by unpolished Englishmen extolled for their native flavour of bluntness and bluffness. Foreign graces were a superfluous ornament, more or less ridiculous. The majority of Englishmen were wont to prize, as Sam Johnson did, “their rustic grandeur and their surly grace,” and to join in his lament:

“Lost in thoughtless ease and empty show,
Behold the warrior dwindled to a beau;
Sense, freedom, piety refined away,
Of France the mimick and of Spain the prey."

A large section of society was inimical to the kind of education that the Earl of Chesterfield prescribed for his son. The earl was well aware of it, indeed, and marked with repugnance divers young bucks of his day with leathern breeches and unpowdered hair, who would exclaim; “Damn these finical outlandish airs, give me a manly resolute manner. They make a rout with their graces, and talk like a parcel of dancing masters, and dress like a parcel of fops; one good Englishman will beat three of them."

Even during the height of the Grand Tour in the latter half of the seventeenth century, thoughtful minds, observing the effects of a foreign education as seen not only in the courtiers of Charles II., but in the dozens of obscure country gentlemen who painfully sought to acquire the habit of a Parisian Marquis by education abroad, noticed the weak points of such a system. The Earl of Clarendon thought it pernicious to send boys abroad until after they had gone through Oxford or Cambridge. There was no necessity for their getting the French accent at an early age, “as if we had no mind to be suspected to be Englishmen.” That took them from their own country at just the age when they ought to have severe mental discipline, for the lack of which no amount of social training would make them competent men. “They return from travel with a wonderful confidence which may very well be called impudence ... all their learning is in wearing their clothes well; they have very much without their heads, very little within; and they are very much more solicitous that their periwigs fit handsomely, than to speak discreetly; they laugh at what they do not understand, which understanding so little, makes their laughter very immoderate. When they have been at home two or three years, which they spend in the vanities which they brought over with them, fresh travellers arrive with newer fashions, and the same confidence, and are looked upon as finer gentlemen, and wear their ribbons more gracefully; at which the others are angry, quit the stage, and would fain get into wiser company, where they every day find defects in themselves, which they owe to the ill spending that time when they thought only of being fine gentlemen."

When these products of a French education could not remain in town, but were obliged to live on their estates amid rough country squires, it went hard with them. “They will by no means embrace our way,” says The Country Gentleman in Clarendon’s Dialogue of the Want of Respect Due to Age, “but receive us with cringes and treat us with set speeches, and complain how much it rains, that they cannot keep their hair dry, or their linnen handsome one hour. They talk how much a better country France is and how much they eat and drink better there, which our neighbors will not believe, and laugh at them for saying so. They by no means endure our exercises of hunting and hawking, nor indeed can their tender bodies endure those violent motions. They have a guitar or some other fiddle, which they play upon commonly an hour or so in their beds before they rise, and have at least one French fellow to wait upon them, to shave them, and comb their periwig; and he is sent into the kitchen to dress some little dish, or to make some sauce for dinner, whom the cook is hardly restrained from throwing into the fire. In a word, they live to and within themselves, and their nearest neighbors do not know whether they eat and drink or no."

Not only were the recreations of their country neighbours violent and unrefined, according to the English Messieurs, but that preoccupation with local government, which was the chief duty of the country gentleman, was beyond the capacity of those who by living abroad had learned little of the laws and customs of their own country. Clarendon draws a sad picture of the return of the native who was ashamed to be present at the public and private meetings for the administration of justice, because he had spent in dancing the time when he might have been storing knowledge, and who now passed his days a-bed, reading French romances of which he was tired.

Locke also set forth the fallacies of the Grand Tour in his Essay of Education. He admitted that fencing and riding the Great Horse were looked upon as “so necessary parts of breeding that it would be thought a great omission to neglect them,” but he questioned whether riding the Great Horse was “of moment enough to be made a business of." Fencing, he pointed out, has very little to do with civil life, and is of no use in real warfare, while music “wastes so much of a young man’s time, to gain but a moderate skill in it, and engages often in such odd company, that many think it much better spared." But the feature of travel which was most mercilessly analysed by Locke was the Governor. He exposed the futility of sending a boy abroad to gain experience and to mingle with good society while he was so young as to need a guardian. For at the age when most boys were abroad that is, from sixteen to twenty-two they thought themselves too much men to be governed by others, and yet had not experience and prudence enough to govern themselves. Under the shelter of a Governor they were excused from being accountable for their own conduct and very seldom troubled themselves with inquiries or with making useful observations of their own.

While the Governor robbed his pupil of life’s responsibilities on one hand, he hampered him, on the other, in any efforts to get into good company:

“I ask amongst our young men that go abroad under tutors what one is there of an hundred, that ever visits any person of quality? much less makes an acquaintance with such from whose conversation he may learn what is good breeding in that country and what is worth observation in it.... Nor indeed is it to be wondered. For men of worth and parts will not easily admit the familiarity of boys who yet need the care of a tutor: though a young gentleman and stranger, appearing like a man, and shewing a desire to inform himself in the customs, laws, and government of the country he is in, will find welcome, assistance and entertainment everywhere."

These, and many comments of the same sort from other observers, made for the disintegration of the Grand Tour, and cast discredit upon it as a mode of education. Locke was not the only person who exposed the ineffectiveness of governors. They became a favourite subject of satire in the eighteenth century. Though even the best sort of “maitre d’ours” or “bear-master,” as the French called him, robbed travel of its proper effect, the best were seldom available for the hosts of boyish travellers. Generally the family chaplain was chosen, because of his cheapness, and this unfortunate was expected to restrain the boisterous devilment of the Peregrine Pickle committed to his care. A booklet called The Bear-Leaders; or, Modern Travelling Stated in a Proper Light, sums up a biting condemnation of “our rugged unsocial Telemachuses and their unpolished Mentors,” describing how someone in orders, perhaps a family dependent, is chosen as the Governor of the crude unprepared mortal embarking for a tour of Europe. “The Oddities, when introduced to each other, start back with mutual Astonishment, but after some time from a frequency of seeing, grow into a Coarse Fondness one for the other, expressed by Horse Laughs, or intimated by alternate Thumps on the Back, with all such other gentle insinuations of our uncivilized Male Hoydens."

Small wonder, therefore, that a youth, who returned from driving by post-chaise through the principal towns of Europe in the company of a meek chaplain, returned from his tour about as much refined, according to Congreve, “as a Dutch skipper from a whale-fishing." The whole idea of the Grand Tour was thrown into disrepute after its adoption by crude and low-bred people, who thought it necessary to inform all their acquaintance where they had been, by a very unbecoming dress and a very awkward address: “not knowing that an Englishman’s beef-and-pudding face will not agree with a hat no bigger than a trencher; and that a man who never learned to make a bow performs it worse in a head of hair dressed a L’aille Pidgeon, than in a scratch wig."

In many other ways, also, travel lost its dignity in the eighteenth century. It was no longer necessary to live in foreign countries to understand them. With the foundation of the chairs of modern history at Oxford and Cambridge by King George the First in 1724, one great reason for travel was lost. Information about contemporary politics on the Continent could be had through the increasing number of news-journals and gazettes. As for learning the French language, there had been no lack of competent teachers since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 sent French Protestant refugees swarming across the channel to find some sort of living in England. Therefore the spirit of acquisitiveness dwindled and died down, in the absence of any strong need to study abroad, and an idle, frivolous, darting, capricious spirit controlled the aristocratic tourist. Horace Walpole on his travels spent his time in a way that would have been censured by the Elizabethans. He rushed everywhere, played cards, danced through the streets of Rheims before the ladies’ coaches, and hailed with delight every acquaintance from England. What would Sir Philip Sidney have thought of the mode of life Walpole draws in this letter:

“About two days ago, about four o’clock in the afternoon ... as we were picking our teeth round a littered table and in a crumby room, Gray in an undress, Mr Conway in a morning-grey coat and I in a trim white night-gown and slippers, very much out of order, with a very little cold, a message discomposed us all of a sudden, with a service to Mr Walpole from Mr More, and that, if he pleased, he would wait on Mr Walpole. We scuttle upstairs in great confusion, but with no other damage than the flinging down two or three glasses and the dropping a slipper by the way. Having ordered the room to be cleaned out, and sent a very civil response to Mr More, we began to consider who Mr More might be."

In the tour of Walpole and Gray one may see a change in the interest of travel; how the romantic spirit had already ousted the humanistic love of men and cities. As he drifted through Europe Gray took little interest in history or in the intricacies of human character. He would not be bothered by going to Courts with Walpole, or if he did he stood in the corner of the ballroom and looked on while Walpole danced. What he cared for was La Grande Chartreuse, with its cliffs and pines and torrents and hanging woods. He is the forerunner of the Byronic traveller who delighted in the terrific aspects of nature and disdained mankind. Different indeed was the genial heart of Howell, who was at pains to hire lodgings in Paris with windows opening on the street, that he might study every passerby, but who spoke of mountains in Spain in a casual way as “not so high and hideous as the Alps,” or as “uncouth, huge, monstrous Excrescences of Nature, bearing nothing but craggy stones."

With the decline of enthusiasm over the serious advantages of travel, there was not much demand for those essays on the duties of the student abroad which we have tried to describe. By the eighteenth century, hand-books for travellers were much the same as those with which we are to-day familiar; that is, a guide-book describing the particular objects to be inspected, and the sensations they ought to inspire, together with exceedingly careful notes as to the price of meals and transportation. This sort of manual became necessary when travel grew to be the recreation of men of moderate education who could not read the local guide-books written in the language of the country they visited. Compilations such as the Itinerarium Italiae of Schottus, published at Antwerp in 1600, and issued in eleven editions during the seventeenth century, had been sufficient for the accomplished traveller of the Renaissance. France, as the centre of travel, produced the greatest number of handy manuals, and it was from these, doubtless, that Richard Lassels drew the idea of composing a similar work in the English language, which would comprise the exhortation to travel, in the manner of Turler, with a continental guide to objects of art. The Voyage of Italy by Lassels, published in Paris in 1670, marks the beginning of guide-books in English.

Still, in succeeding vade-mecums there are some occasional echoes of the old injunctions to improve one’s time. Misson’s A New Voyage to Italy, maps out some intellectual duties. According to Misson a voyager ought to carry along with him a cane divided into several measures, or a piece of pack-thread well twined and waxed, fifty fathom long and divided into feet by knots, so as to be able to measure the height of the towers and the bigness of pillars and the dimensions of everything so far as he is able. This seems sufficiently laborious, but it makes for an easy life compared to the one prescribed by Count Leopold Berchtold in his Essay to Direct and Extend the Inquiries of Patriotic Travellers. He would have one observe the laws and customs of foreigners with a curiosity that would extend to every department of social and economic life, beginning with “Causes of the Decrease of Population and Remedies to prevent them”; proceeding to such matters as the state of the peasantry; to questions applicable to manuring, ploughing, and the housing of black cattle; or to an “Inquiry concerning Charitable Institutions such as one for recovering Drowned and Strangled Persons”; or to the “Extent of Liberty to Grown-up Young Ladies.” In case the traveller is at a loss how to conduct his investigation, a list of particular questions on the topics for study is added by the author. A few random examples of this list are:

“Which are the favourite herbs of the sheep of this country?”

“Are there many instances of people having been bit by mad animals?”

“Is the state of a bachelor aggravated and rendered less desirable? By what means?”

“How much is paid per day for ploughing with two oxen? With two horses?”

“Which food has been experienced to be most portable and most nourishing for keeping a distressed ship’s crew from starving?”

“What is the value of whales of different sizes?”

In addition to such inquiries Berchtold urges the necessity of sketching landscapes and costumes, and better yet, the scientific drawing of engines and complicated machines, and also of acquiring skill on some musical instrument, to keep one from the gaming table in one’s idle hours, preferably of learning to play on a portable instrument, such as a German flute. Journals, it goes without saying, must be written every night before the traveller goes to sleep.

It is not only the fact of their being addressed to persons of small intelligence which makes the guide-books of the eighteenth century seem ridiculous; another reason for their ignoble tone is the increased emphasis they lay on the material convenience of the traveller. Not the service of one’s country or the perfecting of one’s character is the note of Georgian injunctions, but the fear of being cheated and of being sick. Misson’s instructions begin at once with praise of fixed rates in Holland, where one is spared the exhaustion of wrangling. The exact fare from Cologne to Maintz is his next subject, and how one can hire a coach and six horses for three crowns a day; how the best inns at Venice are The Louvre, The White Lion, and The French Arms; how one can stay at The Louvre for eight livres a day and pay seven or eight livres for a gondola by the day, and so forth; with similar useful but uninspired matter. Next he discusses sea-sickness, and informs us that the best remedy is to keep always, night and day, a piece of earth under the nose; for which purpose you should provide a sufficient quantity of earth and preserve it fresh in a pot of clay; and when you have used a piece so long that it begins to grow dry, put it again into the pot, and take out some fresh earth.

Berchtold’s suggestions for comfort are even more elaborate. One should carry everywhere:

“A bottle of vinegar, de quatre voleurs.
Ditto best French Brandy.
Ditto spirit of Salmiac, against fits.
Ditto Hoffman’s Drops.”

At inns it is advisable to air the room by throwing a little strong vinegar upon a red hot shovel, and to bring your bed-clothes with you. As a guard against robbers it is advisable to have your servant sleep in the same room with you, keep a wax candle burning all night, and look into the chests and behind the bed before retiring. Pocket door-bolts in the form of a cross are easily obtainable; if not, put the tables and chair against the door.

There is something fussy about such a traveller, though robbers undoubtedly were to be feared, even in the eighteenth century, and though inns were undoubtedly dirty. A repugnance to dirt and discomfort is justifiable enough, but there is something especially peevish in the tone of many Georgian travellers. Sam Sharp’s Letters from Italy breathe only sorrow, disillusion and indignation. Italian beds and vermin, Italian post-boys and their sorry nags are too frequently the theme of his discourse. He even assures us that the young gentlemen whom he had always pictured as highly delighted by the Grand Tour are in reality very homesick for England. They are weary of the interminable drives and interminable conversazioni of Italy and long for the fox-hunting of Great Britain. Fielding’s account of his voyage to Lisbon contains too much about his wife’s toothache and his own dropsy. Smollett, like Fielding, was a sick man at the time of his travels, and we can excuse his rage at the unswept floors, old rotten tables, crazy chairs and beds so disgusting that he generally wrapped himself in a great-coat and lay upon four chairs with a leathern portmanteau for a pillow; but we cannot admire a man who is embittered by the fact that he cannot get milk to put in his tea, and is continually thrusting his head out of the window to curse at the post-boys, or pulling out his post-book to read to an inn-yard with savage vociferation the article which orders that the traveller who comes first shall be first served.

This is a degeneration from the undaunted mettle of the Elizabethans, who, though acquainted with dirty inns and cheating landlords, kept their spirits soaring above the material difficulties of travel. We miss, in eighteenth century accounts, the gaiety of Roger Ascham’s Report of Germany and of the fair barge with goodly glass windows in which he went up the Rhine gaiety which does not fail even when he had to spend the night in the barge, with his tired head on his saddle for a bolster. We miss the spirit of good fellowship with which John Taylor, the Water Poet, shared with six strangers in the coach from Hamburgh the ribs of roast beef brought with him from Great Britain. Vastly diverting as the eighteenth-century travel-books sometimes are, there is nothing in them that warms the heart like the travels of poor Tom Coryat, that infatuated tourist, chief of the tribe of Gad, whom nothing daunted in his determination to see the world. Often he slept in wagons and in open skiffs, and though he could not afford to hire the guides with Sedan chairs who took men over the Alpine passes in those days, yet he followed them on foot, panting.

So, in spite of the fact that travel is never-ending, and that “peregrinatio animi causa” of the sixteenth century is not very different from the Wanderlust of the nineteenth, we feel we have come to the end of the particular phase of travel which had its beginning in the Renaissance. The passing of the courtier, the widened scope of the university, the rise of journalism, and the ascendancy of England, changed the attitude of the English traveller from eager acquisitiveness to complacent amusement. With this change of attitude came an end to the essay in praise of travel, written by scholars and gentlemen for their kind; intended for him “Who, whithersoever he directeth his journey, travelleth for the greater benefit of his wit, for the commodity of his studies, and dexterity of his life, he who moveth more in mind than in body." We hope we have done something to rescue these essays from the oblivion into which they have fallen, to show the social background from which they emerged, and to reproduce their enthusiasm for self-improvement and their high-hearted contempt for an easy, indolent life.