Tuesday, September 05, 2006
The Beauties of England
One of my oldest books and one of my most treasured is this little travel guide to “The Beauties of England” which was printed in 1757. Just before I set out on a tour to the North of England next Sunday I thought it might be a good idea to compare travelling now with travelling in the 18th Century.
The only people who could afford to travel any distance away from home were the gentry and nobility and it was for them that this book was written. There were coaching inns but these are not mentioned in the book and one’s attention is drawn to the list at the end of the pages for each county of the “Seats of the Nobility and the Gentry.” And so like using a hotel guide today, our 18th century noble traveller with his coach and pair of horses would write a letter in advance to [for instance] the Earl of Carlisle at Castle Howard in Yorkshire asking for the favour of a visit en route to his own lands in Scotland. He would have to give an approximate date of arrival and give the numbers of his party, the numbers of his servants and his horses in order that the Noble Earl can delegate his staff to make suitable arrangements. What a carry-on!
Having arranged the accommodation, our traveller would then pay attention to the beauties and curiosities of the areas to be visited. I quote as an example: -
Near Sandbeck, in a Field called Cuckold’s Haven, is a remarkable Ewe-tree of a greenifh Colour, and very fingular form; its Branches rife one above another in natural Circles of Dimenfions as exact as if they were a Production of Art, and more beautiful; ‘tis hedged in, being efteemed a very great Curiofity. I will try and find if is there still – yew trees tend to live for hundreds of years.
There are hundreds of other little anecdotal snippets of information in the book, useful then in the 1750’s but I doubt if the Noble Earl will be welcoming me and my Ford to his country seat later this month. Note if you would, that the lower case letter s, if used at the beginning or in the middle of a printed word uses a font giving it the appearance of an f. Thus Yorkshire looks like Yorkfhire, Island becomes Ifland and Chester becomes Chefter.