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March 04, 2021, 04:45:28 AM

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  Grand Tour of England
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Author Topic: Grand Tour of England  (Read 212 times)
Storebought
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« on: February 22, 2021, 07:36:18 PM »

Background: Grand Tour

The article I linked specifically mentions wealthy English gentlemen taking tours of continental Europe for their 'education'. The article doesn't touch on the reverse: were there continentals taking tours of England during the same time period?

The only thing that comes close is in music history: Mendelssohn famously made trips to England. Chopin, already sick, complained about Scotland and its bluestockings who always and only said his playing was so beautiful "liek wader." But even this is a half century after the Grand Tour was at its height.

England itself seems to be remote from a continental perspective.
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Statilius the Epicurean
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2021, 04:32:20 PM »
« Edited: February 23, 2021, 04:47:52 PM by Statilius the Epicurean »

For your typical 18th century aristocrat there were two main attractions of the Grand Tour: to be educated in the monuments and artworks of especially Roman antiquity and the humanist outpouring of the Renaissance it inspired, and to be educated in the fashions and manners of refined French and Italian high society. England didn't really figure much here, being more bourgeois and with less of a classical heritage than southern Europe. So nothing to do with the Grand Tour really.

Does this mean England was "remote from a continental perspective"? Absolutely not. Anglophilia was huge in France and Germany for much of the century: Voltaire was exiled in Britain and published his Letters on the English comparing the mixed parliamentary constitution, religious toleration and science and industry of Britain favourably to that of absolutist, obscurantist France of the Ancien regime, and Montesquieu and Rosseau visited in his footsteps. Goethe and other German writers held up English literature (especially Shakespeare) as an inspiration to escape from under the tyranny of French classical models. Italian singers, musicians, painters and other artists swarmed over the channel to where there was obscene amounts of money to be made in London's burgeoning market economy that compared favourably to the courts of continental Europe, and a craze for all things foreign and sophisticated.

Then you have the phenomenon of Scottomania at the end of the century with Ossian, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels, with Romantic artists from across the continent tramping around the Highlands they imagined as the last wild frontier of Europe, more remote to people in Paris (and London and Edinburgh!) than Virginia or Bengal were.

I'm surprised you mention Chopin and Mendelssohn (Queen Victoria's favourite, even wrote an English oratorio Elijah that was his most popular piece during his lifetime) because music is about the most obvious example of what a magnet England was to the rest of Europe. Handel obviously moved there and became a British citizen, performing Italian opera with singers like the castrato Farinelli; JC Bach was known as "the London Bach" for his long stay at the royal court there; the child prodigy Mozart visited on his own "Grand Tour" (and I believe rejected an invitation to move to Britain as an adult); Haydn took London by storm and enjoyed the greatest success of his life in several year-long stays. It's practically a who's who of 18th century music, because as I said above foreign artists could make an absolute fortune in England, the richest country in Europe at the time and in awe of foreign musicians to the exclusion of its own talent.
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Storebought
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2021, 10:18:26 PM »
« Edited: February 24, 2021, 01:30:45 AM by Storebought »

For your typical 18th century aristocrat there were two main attractions of the Grand Tour: to be educated in the monuments and artworks of especially Roman antiquity and the humanist outpouring of the Renaissance it inspired, and to be educated in the fashions and manners of refined French and Italian high society. England didn't really figure much here, being more bourgeois and with less of a classical heritage than southern Europe. So nothing to do with the Grand Tour really.

Does this mean England was "remote from a continental perspective"? Absolutely not. Anglophilia was huge in France and Germany for much of the century: Voltaire was exiled in Britain and published his Letters on the English comparing the mixed parliamentary constitution, religious toleration and science and industry of Britain favourably to that of absolutist, obscurantist France of the Ancien regime, and Montesquieu and Rosseau visited in his footsteps. Goethe and other German writers held up English literature (especially Shakespeare) as an inspiration to escape from under the tyranny of French classical models. Italian singers, musicians, painters and other artists swarmed over the channel to where there was obscene amounts of money to be made in London's burgeoning market economy that compared favourably to the courts of continental Europe, and a craze for all things foreign and sophisticated.

Then you have the phenomenon of Scottomania at the end of the century with Ossian, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels, with Romantic artists from across the continent tramping around the Highlands they imagined as the last wild frontier of Europe, more remote to people in Paris (and London and Edinburgh!) than Virginia or Bengal were.

I'm surprised you mention Chopin and Mendelssohn (Queen Victoria's favourite, even wrote an English oratorio Elijah that was his most popular piece during his lifetime) because music is about the most obvious example of what a magnet England was to the rest of Europe. Handel obviously moved there and became a British citizen, performing Italian opera with singers like the castrato Farinelli; JC Bach was known as "the London Bach" for his long stay at the royal court there; the child prodigy Mozart visited on his own "Grand Tour" (and I believe rejected an invitation to move to Britain as an adult); Haydn took London by storm and enjoyed the greatest success of his life in several year-long stays. It's practically a who's who of 18th century music, because as I said above foreign artists could make an absolute fortune in England, the richest country in Europe at the time and in awe of foreign musicians to the exclusion of its own talent.

I am familiar with the musical examples. That was what piqued my interest in this.

Voltaire's Letters on the English do imply that at least at the beginning of the 18th century England was at least misunderstood, for a continental who didn't have commercial interests in London or attachments to the royal dynasty and that Voltaire himself could (re)shape opinion of the country.

That's interesting in itself, but I was looking more for contemporary literary travelogues of Britain (especially outside London) made by continental authors, in the style of Marquis de Custine's Letters from Russia but the subject being Britain. That was what made the musical examples before Mendelssohn seem incomplete -- Handel and Haydn never left behind first person accounts of their stays/travels/experience there. Can you recommend me any?

**

1. Nikolai Karamzin Letters of a Russian traveler 1789-1790. This is a classic in Russia, which means that it has only one translation in English.

2. German Travels to England 1550-1900 is an academic volume, but at least it's a start to a more systematic search.
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SecularGlobalist
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2021, 09:04:22 AM »

They just want to bang French chicks. 
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Storebought
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2021, 06:56:48 AM »
« Edited: March 01, 2021, 07:01:46 AM by Storebought »

There literally should be an anthologies -- plural -- of sources of foreign travelers (and merchants, if they are interesting enough) going through Britain in the 18th-early 19th century, but sources seem scattered. These are stray thoughts on the most interesting ones I've found from a weekend of searching.

1. Daniel Defoe A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1710s?) is likely the most comprehensive source. Defoe certainly has access to places that a foreigner could not have, but that is it's chief fault for me: what a native sees is never what an outsider sees, and that outsider's view is my chief interest.

2. Peter of Russia's Grand Embassy of 1697-98, attempting to drum up support for a coalition against Turkey, took him through England. Although Peter himself was most infatuated with Dutch society and his trip to England was literally an afterthought, a translated Russian source for this part of his trip would be interesting since it was more than just a diplomatic trip.

3. The Familie Mozart took a concert tour of Europe between 1763-66. Similar to Tsar Peter, their trip to England was unplanned. Here are tidbits from the Mozarts' stay in London:

Life in inner-city Soho obviously did not suit Leopold’s constitution and he became unwell. He decided to move the family out to a place where the air was cleaner and there were green fields. It’s a measure of how much bigger the city of London is now compared to the 18th century, because it was Chelsea that fitted the bill. They stayed at 180 Ebury Street, as a plaque on the wall of the house still bears testament. They arrived on 6 August and, before they left in September, Mozart had passed an important milestone: he had written his first symphony.

But it appears London had few redeeming features for Mozart’s father apart from its musical society. Leopold regarded England as a godless, expensive, culinary wasteland, and particularly deplored the English habit of ‘guzzling solidified fat’, by which he presumably meant dripping.

4. Joseph Haydn, after his famous invitation, made two tours in England in the 1790s. He had a far better time than the Mozart family did.

5. James Fenimore Cooper Gleanings in Europe: England is a section of his mammoth travel book through Europe ~1826-28. It's incidentally the first work of Cooper's that I've read.

The most interesting letters (essays) start from Letter IX onwards. In IX he has a dinner with Earl Grey and Whig grandees and notes by contrast how American manners are declining:

Quote
As the party around this table was composed of men of high rank, and still higher personal consideration, it would be unfair to compare them with the wine-discussing, trade-talking, dollar dollar, set that has made an inroad upon society in our commercial towns, not half of whom are educated, or indeed Americans; but I speak of a class vastly superior, which you know, and which, innovated on as it is by the social Vandals of the times, still clings to its habits and retains much of its ancient simplicity and respectability.

In Letter X he describes a session of the unreformed House of Commons in old St Stephen's Chapel, a drab edifice by the time Cooper saw it (if anything, plainer than even the modern House of Commons chamber). He sees two members fully asleep, stretched out on the row of benches behind the Speaker's throne-pulpit. Some awake members are seen with one or both feet resting on the backs of the benches. British observers of Congress, seeing congressmen with their feet on the desks, said that was a reflection of moral slackness induced by Americans' infatuation with democracy. Cooper said it was because

Quote
I am of opinion political systems have little to do with these tours de forces, but that there is rather a tendency in the Anglo-Saxon race to put the heels higher than the head.

At a later dinner with Sir Walter Scott and the elderly Coleridge, Cooper takes exception to the way Coleridge impugns the honor of Commodore Rodgers of the Little Belt Affair. That is one of the long list of abuses to national character Cooper has had to endure in his visit:

Quote
The following anecdote is also derived from the best authority. About the time nullification was rife in America, a gentleman, also in parliament, went from London to a dinner in the country. He found the Right Rev. Lord Bishop of (blank)., among the company.

"What news do you bring us from town, Mr (blank)?" asked the consecrated christian.

"No news, my Lord."

"No news! We were told there was good news."

"To What do you allude, my Lord?"

"Why, we were told there is every reason to expect a speedy dissolution of the American Union."

But you get the feeling Cooper acknowledges the British have the better argument. He clearly hates the commercial interests starting to infest the US (this was only in 1826) as much as the better classes in England do.

These are what I found in addition Karamzin's Letters of a Russian Traveler and the German academic source that I mentioned before. The latter book helped me understand a bit better why German sources of 18th/early 19th century tours Britain are scarce: Nationalistic and liberal German intellectuals of the time used Britain as a polemical/ideological ideal -- like Voltaire generations ago -- but they didn't comment on the country because they had nothing to compare it to from experience and literary Germans were an idealistic lot during the time period. A far, far cry from German Wanderlust at the end of the 19th to now (or when Germans emigrated from pure desperation starting from the Thirty Years' War).
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