Category Archives: Travel Literature

Item of the Day: A Gloomy Catastrophe (1805)

Found In: A Northern Summer; or Travels round the Baltic, through Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Part of Germany, in the Year 1804. By John Carr, Esq. London: Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge Street, Blackfriars, by T. Gillet, Salisbury square, 1805.




IT is with deep regret that I approach the delicate and awful subject of this chapter. Humanity would gladly cover it with the pall of oblivion; but justice to the memory of an unhappy monarch, and to the chief of the august family of Russia, demand a candid though careful developement [sic] of the events which preceded the fall of the last Emperor. The original source of my information is from one who beheld the catastrophe which I am about to relate, whom I can neither name nor doubt; a catastrophe which is too near the period in which I write, not to render an unrestrained disclosure of all the particulars with which I  have been furnished, unfair if not imprudent. The causes that first created those well-known prejudices which Catherine II. cherished against her son, have perished with her; but all the world knows, that, during the many years which rolled away between the Grand Duke’s arrival at the age of maturity and his elevation to the throne, his august mother never admitted him to any participation of power, but kept him in a state of the most abject and mortifying separation from the court, and in almost total ignorance of the affairs of the empire. Although Paul, by his birth, was generalissimo of the armies, he never was permitted to head a regiment; and although, by the same right, grand admiral of the Baltic, he was interdicted from even visiting the fleet at Cronstadt. To these painful privations may be added, that when he was recommended, that is offered, to travel, during his absence Catherine seized and sent to Siberia one of his most cherished friends, because she discoverd that he had informed her son of some inconsiderble state affair. Thus Paul beheld himself not only severed from the being who gave him birth, but from all the ordinary felicities of life. The pressure of his hand excited suspicion; peril was in his attachment, and in his confidence guilt and treason. He could not have a friend, without furnishing a victim.

A gentleman nearly connected with me, now no more, a man of talent and acute observation and veracity, had several years since the honour of spending a short period at the little secluded court of Gatchina, upon which, as the dazzling beams of imperial favour never shone, the observer was left in the tranquillity of the shade, to make a more calm, steady, and undiverted survey. At this time, Paul displayed a mind very elegantly inclined, without being brilliant, highly cultivated, accomplished and informed, frank and generous, brave and magnanimous, a heart tender and affectionate, and a dispositon very sweet, though most acutely and poignantly susceptible: his person was not handsome, but his eye was penetrating, and his manners such as denoted the finished gentleman. In his youth he was seen by the bed-side of the dying Panin, the hoary and able minister of Catherine, and his tutor, kissing and bathing his hand with tears. As an evidence of his intellectual vigour, let the elaborate and able ukase, by which he settled the precedence and provision of the imperial family, unquestionably his own unassisted composition, be referred to. He loved his amiable princess, and his children, with the most ardent, the most indulgent fondness, and it was the labour of their love, as well as of his servants, who were devotedly attached to him, to requite his affections and graciousness, and to endeavour to fill up with every endearing, every studied attention, the gloomy chasm which had been formed by an unnatural and inexplicable neglect; but this chasm was a bottomless abyss, upon the brink of which his wounded spirit was ever wandering! Paul possessed a high martial inclination, and, reflecting that he might one day mount the throne of a military empire, he made the art of war the principal object of his studeis; but neither this pursuit, so copious, so interesting, nor the endearments of those who surrounded him, could expel from his mind the sense of his injuries. He beheld himself, the second personage the the destined ruler of the empire, postponed to the periodical favourite of his mother, the minister of her unbounded voluptiousness, not unfrequently elevated to the presidency of the Hermitage from the ranks, with no other pretensions than vigorous health and a mighty frame; whilst, on the other hand, the bleeding shade of his father was for ever, in his morbid imagination, pointing to his wound, and whispering revenge. Thus exiled from the heart of his mother, is it a matter of surprise that he should exclude her from his own?

Catherine more than once observed, that her son would not long occupy the throne after her decease; and it has been the fashion to say, that her alienation from him was justified by the events which succeeded her death. With this prophetic spirit, she devoted all her care to the education of her grandsons, Alexander and Constantine, and exercised all the powers she possessed towards the consummation of her prediciton. She foretold that the flower which she had planted would wither early: she shook it till every blossom fell, and shaded it so, that the dew of Heaven should never visit it more: she pressed and pierced the delicate and ardent mind of her son until she subverted it. Was it then a proof of inspiration, to prognosticate the brevity of his reign over an empire, the history of which has too often and fatally proved, that however despotic its government, and there is not one under heaven more absolute, a cautious and dexterous cultivation of the interest, feelings, prejudices, and affections of the people is inseparable from the safety of the ruler? . . .



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Filed under Culture, Europe, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Journal During a Residence in France (1794)

Full Title: A Journal During a Residence in France, from the Beginning of August, to the Middle of December, 1792. To which is added, An Account of the Most Remarkable Events that Happened at Paris from that Time to the Death of the Late King of France. By John Moore, M.D. A New Edition Corrected. Vol. I. London: Printed for G. G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row, 1794.


August 8

A debate of geat expectation took place this day in the National Assembly —A committee of twelve members were some time since apointed to deliberate on the conduct of M. de la Fayette. —Jean de Brie made the report, in which he greatly blamed the conduct of the General, in having calumniated and menaced the National Assembly; in having had the design to march his army against Paris; and in having assumed unconstitutional power: and the reported concluded by proposing a decree of accusation.

The discourse of Jean de Brie was greatly applauded by the audience in the tribunes. M. Baublanc made an able and eloquent defence of the General’s conduct; but when he proposed the previous question on Jean de Brie’s motion, the people in the galleries raised the most vilent exclamations and murmurs, which were, however, balanced by the applause of the majority of the Assembly.

Brissot spoke next, and added new force to the reasoning of Jean de Brie. When the decree of accusation was put to the vote, it was rejected by a majority of near 200.

This occasioned fresh murmurs in the galleries, and violent agitation in the Assembly.

As this was considered as a trial of strenght between the parties, it is to be presumed that the majority of the Assembly is with the Court; and that in future debates it will rather augment than dimish, as is usually the case in the British Houses of Parliament after a very great majority in favour of either party. The minority, however, seem to have the people with them. I am told indeed that those noisy people in the galleries are hired; but this does not account to me for the cry being all on one side. The partisons of the Court, one would imagine, might hire applauders as well as the other. . . .


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Filed under 1790's, France, French Revolution, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Bougainville’s Voyage (1772)

Full Title:  A Voyage Round the World.  Performed by Order of His Most Christian Majesty, In the Years 1766, 1767, 1768, and 1769.  By Lewis De Bougainville, Colonel of Foot, and Commodore of the Expedition in the Frigate La Boudeuse, and the Store-ship L’Etoile.  Translated from the French by John Reinhold Forster, F. A. S.  Dublin:  Printed for J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, J. Potts, W. Sleater, D. Chamberlaine, E. Lynch, J. Williams, R. Moncrieffe, T. Walker, and C. Jenkins.  MDCCLXXII.

A Voyage Round the World.  Part the First.  Departure from France–clearing the Straits of Magalhaens. 

Chap. I.

Departure of the Boudeuse from Nantes; puts in at Brest; run from Brest to Montevideo; junction with the Spanish frigates, intended for taking possession of the Malouines, or Falkland’s islands.

In February 1764, France began to make a settlement on the Isles of Malouines.  Spain reclaimed these isles as belonging to the continent of South America; and her right to them having been acknowledged by the king, I received orders to deliver our settlement to the Spaniards, and to proceed to the East Indies by crossing the South Seas between the Tropics.  For this expedition I received the command of the frigate la Boudeuse, of twenty-six twelve pounders, and I was to be joined at the Malouines by the store-ship l’Etoile, which was intended to bring me the provisions necessary for a voyage of such length, and to follow me during the whole expedition.  Several circumstances retarded the junction of this store-vessel, and consequently made my whole voyage near eight months longer than it would otherwise have been. 

In the beginning of November, 1766, I went to Nantes, where the Boudeuse had just been built, and where M. Duclos Guyot, a captain of a fireship, my second officer was fitting her out.  The 5th of this month we came down from Painbeuf to Mindin, to finish the equipment of her; and on the 15th we sailed from this road for the river de la Plata.  There I was to find two Spanish frigates, called le Esmeralda and le Liebre, that had left Ferrol the 17th of October, and whose commander was ordered to receive the Isles Malouines, or Falkland’s islands, in the name of his Catholic majesty.

The 17th in the morning we suffered a sudden gust of wind from W. S. W. to N. W. it grew more violent in the night, which we passed under our bare poles, with our lower-yards lowered, the clue of the fore sail, under which we tried before, having been carried away.  The 18th, at four in the morning, our fore-top-mast broke about the middle of its height; the main-top-mast resisted till eight o-clock, when it broke in the cap, and carried away the head of the main mast.  This last event made it impossible to continue our voyage, and I determined to put into Brest, where we arrived the 21st of November.

This squall of wind, and the confusion it had occasioned, gave me room to make the following observation upon the state and qualities of the frigate which I commanded.

1. The prodigious tumbling home of her top-timbers, leaving too little open to the angles which the shrouds make with the masts, the latter were not sufficiently supported. 

2. The preceding fault became of more consequence by the nature of the ballast, which we had been obliged to take in, on account of the prodigious quantity of provisions we had stowed.  Forty tons of ballast, distibuted on both sides of the kelson, and at a short distance from it, and a dozen twelve-pounders placed at the bottom of the pump-well (we had only fourteen upon deck) added a considerable weight, which being much below the center of gravity, and almost entirely rested upon the kelson, put the masts in danger, if there had been any rolling.   

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Filed under 1770's, Explorations, France, Posted by Matthew Williams, South America, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Kalm’s Travels (1772)

Full Title:

Travels into North America; Containing Its Natural History, and a Circumstantial Account of its Plantations and Agriculture in General, With the Civil, Ecclesiastical and Commercial State of the Country, the Manners of the Inhabitants, and several curious and important Remarks on various subjects.  By Peter Kalm, Professor of Oeconomy in the University of Aobo in Swedish Finland, and Member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences.  Translated into English by John Reinhold Forster, F. A. S.  Enriched with a Map, several Cuts for the Illustration of Natural History, and some additional Notes.  The second edition.  In Two Volumes, Vol. I.  London: Printed for T. Lowndes, No. 77, in Fleet-street. 1772.

November 1748.  New York.

The port is a good one: ships of the greatest burthen can lie in it, quite close up to the bridge: but its water is very salt [sic], and the sea continually comes in upon it; and therefore is never frozen, except in extraordinary cold weather.  This is of great advantage to the city and its commerce; for many ships either come in or go out of the port at any time of the year, unless the winds be contrary; a convenience, which, as I have before observed, is wanting at Philadelphia.  It is secured from all violent hurricanes from the southeast by Long Island, which is situated just before the town: therefore only the storms from the south west are dangerous to the ships which ride at anchor here, because the port is open only on that side.  The entrance however has its faults; one of them is that no men of war can pass through it; for though the water is pretty deep , yet it is not sufficiently so for great ships.  Sometimes even merchant ships of a large size have, by the rolling of the waves and by sinking down between them, slightly touched the bottom, though without any bad consequences.  Besides this, the canal is narrow; and for this reason many ships have been lost here, because they may be easily cast upon a sand, if the ship is not well piloted.  Some old people, who had constantly been upon this canal, assured me, that it was neither deeper nor shallower at present, than in their youth.

The common difference between high and low water, at New York, amounts to about six feet, English measure.  But a certain time in every month, when the tide flows more than commonly, the difference in the height of the water is seven feet.

New York probably carries on a more extensive commerce, than any town in the English North American provinces; at least it may be said to equal them: Boston and Philadelphia however come very near up to it.  The trade of New Yok extends many places; and it is said they send more ships from thence to London, than they do from Philadelphia.  They export to that capital all the various sorts of skins which they buy of the Indians, sugar, logwood, and other dying woods, rum, mahogany, and many other goods which are the produce of the West Indies; together with all the specie which they get in the course of trade.  Every year they build several ships here, which are sent to London, and there sold; and of late years they have shipped a quantity of iron to England.  In return of these, they import from London stuffs, and every other article of English growth or manufacture, together with all sorts of foreign goods.  England, and especially London, profits immensely by its trade with the American colonies; for not only New York, but likewise all the other English towns on the continent, import so many articles from England, that all their specie, together with the goods which they get in other countries, must altogether go to Old England, in order to pay the amount, to which they are however insufficient.  From hence it appears how much a well-regulated colony contributes to the increase and welfare of its mother country.

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Filed under 1770's, Colonial America, Commerce, Eighteenth century, Geography, Posted by Matthew Williams, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Lesseps’ Travels in Kamtschatka (1790)

Full Title:

Travels in Kamtschatka, During the Years 1787 and 1788.  Translated from the French of M. De Lesseps, Consul of France, and Interpreter to the Count de la Perouse, Now Engaged in a Voyage Round the World, By Command of His Most Christian Majesty.  In Two Volumes.  Volume I.  London: Printed For J. Johnson, St. Paul’s Church-Yard.  1790.

Travels in Kamtschatka, &c.

I have scarcely completed my twenty-fifth year, and am arrived at the most memorable era of my life.  However long, or however happy may be my future career, I doubt whether it will ever be my fate to be employed in so glorious an expedition as that in which two French frigates, the Boussole, and the Astrolabe, are at this moment engaged; the first commanded by count de Perouse, chief of the expedition, and the second by viscount de Langle.

The report of this voyage round the world, created too general and lively an interest, for direct news of these illustrious navigators, reclaimed by their country and by all Europe from the seas they traverse, not to be expected with as much impatience as curiosity.

How flattering is it to my heart, after having obtained from count de la Perouse the advantage of accompanying him for more than two years, to be farther indebted to him for the honour of conveying his dispatches over land into France!  The more I reflect upon this additional proof of his confidence, the more I feel what such an embassy requires, and how far I am deficient; and I can only attribute his preference, to the necessity of choosing for this journey, a person who had resided in Russia, and could speak its language.

On the 6 September 1787, the king’s frigates entered the port of Avatscha, or Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at the southern extremity of the peninsula of Kamtschatka.  The 29, I was ordered to quit the Astrolabe; and the same day count de la Perouse gave me his dispatches and instructions.  His regard for me would not permit him to confine his cares to the most satisfactory arrangements for the safety and convenience of my journey; he went further, and gave me the affectionate counsels of a father, which will never be obliterated from my heart.  Viscount de Langle had the goodness to join his also, which proved equally beneficial to me.   

Let me permitted in this place to pay my just tribute of gratitude to the faithful companion of the dangers and the glory of count de la Perouse, and his rival in every other court, as well as that of France, for having acted towards me, upon all occasions, as a counsellor, a friend, and a father. 

In the evening I was to take my leave of the commander and his worthy colleague.  Judge what I suffered, when I conducted them back to the boats that waited for them.  I was incapable of speaking, or of quitting them; they embraced me in turns, and my tears too plainly told them the situation of my mind.  The officers who were on shore, received also my adieux: they were affected, offered prayers to heaven for my safety, and gave me every consolation and succour that their friendship could dictate.  My regret at leaving them cannot be described; I was torn from their arms, and found myself in those of colonel Kasloff-Ougrenin, governor general of Okotsk and Kamtschatka, to whom count de la Perouse had recommended me, more as his son, than an officer charged with his dispatches. 

At this moment commenced my obligations to the Russian governor.  I knew not then all the sweetness of his character, incessantly disposed to acts of kindness, and which I have since had so many reasons to admire.  He treated my feelings with the utmost address.  I saw the tear of sympathy in his eye upon the departure of the boats, which we followed as far out as our sight would permit; and in conducting me to his house, he spared no pains to divert me from my melancholy reflections.  To conceive the frightful void which my mind experienced at this moment, it is necessary to be in my situation, and left alone in these scarcely discovered regions, four thousand leagues from my native land: without calculating this enormous distance, the dreary aspect of the country sufficiently prognositicated what I should have to suffer during my long and perilous route; but the reception which I met with from the inhabitants, and the civilities of M. Kasloff and the other Russian officers, made me by degrees less sensible to the departure of my countrymen. 

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Filed under 1790's, Eighteenth century, Explorations, Posted by Matthew Williams, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Travels through Syria and Egypt (1805)

Full Title: Travels through Syria and Egypt, in the Years 1783, 1784, and 1785. Containing the Present Natural and Political State of those Countries, Their Productions, Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce; with Observations on the Manners, Customs, and Government of the Turks and Arabs. By M. C-F. Volney. Translated from the French, and illustrated with Copper-plates. The Third Edition. Vol. I. London: Printed for g. Robinson, Paternoster-Row, 1805.



Of Egypt in general, and the City of Alexandria.

IT is in vain that we attempt to prepare ourselves, by the perusal of books, for a more intimate acquaintance with the customs and manners of nations; the effect of narratives upon the mind, will always be very different from that of objects upon the senses. The images the former present, have neither correctness in the design, nor liveliness in the colouring; they are always indistinct, and leave but a fugitive impression, very easily effaced. This we more particularly experience, when we are strangers to the objects to be laid before us; for the imagination, in that case, finding no terms of comparison ready formed, is compelled to collect and compose new ideas; and, in this operation, ill directed and hastily executed, it is difficult not to confound the traits, and disfigure the forms. Ought we then to be astonished, if, on beholding the things themselves, we are unable to discover any resemblance between the originals and the copies, and if every impression bears the character of novelty?

Such is the situation of a stranger who arrives, by sea, in Turkey. In vain has he read histories and travels; in vain has he, from their descriptions, endeavoured to represent to himself the aspect of the countries, the appearance of the cities, the dresses and manners of the inhabitants: he is new to all these objects, and dazzled with their variety: every idea he has formed to himself vanishes, and he remains absorbed in surprise and astonishment.

No place is more proper to produce this effect, and prove the truth of this remark, than Alexandria, Egypt. The name of this city, which recalls to memory the genius of one of the most wonderful of men; the name of the country, which reminds us of so many great events; the picturesque appearance of the place itself; the spreading palm-trees; the terraced houses, which seem to have no roof; the lofty slender minarets; all announce to the traveller that he is in another world. A variety of novel objects present themselves to every sense; he hears a language whose barbarous sounds, and sharp guttural accents, offend his ear; he sees dresses of the most unusual and whimsical kind, and figures of the strangest appearance. Instead of our smooth shaved faces, our side curls, our triangular hats, and our short and close dresses; he views with astonishment tanned visages, with beards and mustachios; large rolls of stuff wreathed round their bald heads; long garments, which, reaching from the neck to the feet, serve rather to veil than clothe the body; pipes of six feet long, which every one is provided; hideous camels, which carry water in leathern sacks; and asses, saddled and bridled, which lightly trip along with their riders in sloppers: he observes their markets ill supplied with dates, and round flat little loaves; a filthy drove of half starved dogs roaming through the streets; and a kind of wandering phantoms, which, under a long drapery of a single piece, discover nothing human but two eyes, which show that they are women. Amid this crowd of unusual objects, his mind is incapable of reflexion; nor is it until he has reached his place of residence, so desirable on landing after a long voyage, that, becoming more calm, he reflects on the narrow ill paved streets; the low houses, which, though not calculated to admit much light, are still more obscured by lattice work; the meagre and swarthy inhabitants, who walk bare-footed, without other clothing than a blue shirt fastened with a leathern girdle, or a red handkerchief; while the universal marks of misery, so manifest in all he meets, and the mystery which reigns around their houses, point out to him the rapacity of oppression, and the distrust attendant upon slavery.

But his whole attention is soon attracted by those vast ruins which appear on the land side of the city. In our countries, ruins are an object of curiosity. Scarcely can we discover, in unfrequented places, some ancient castle, whose decay announces rather the desertion of its master, than the wretchedness of the neighbourhood: in Alexandria, on the contrary, we no sooner leave the New Town, than we are astonished at the sight of an immense extent of ground overspread with ruins. During a walk of two hours, you follow a double line of walls and towers, which form the circumference of the ancient Alexandria. The earth is covered with the remains of lofty buildings destroyed; whole fronts crumbled down, roofs fallen i, battlements decayed, and the stones corroded and disfigured by saltpetre [sic]. The traveller passes over a vast plain, firrowed with trenches, pierced with wells, divided by walls in ruins, covered over with ancient columns and modern tombs, amid palm-trees and nopals, and where no living creature is to be met with but owls, bats, and jackalls [sic]. The inhabitants, accustomed to this scene, behold it without emotion; but the stranger, in whom the recollection of ancient ages is revived by the novelty of the objects around him, feels a sensation which not unfrequently [sic] dissolves him in tears, inspiring relexions which fill his heart with sadness, while his soul is elevated by their sublimity. . . .


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Filed under 1780's, Culture, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Carr’s Travels (1805)

Full Title: A Northern Summer; or Travels round the Baltic, through Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Part of Germany, in the Year 1804. By John Carr, Author of The Stranger in France, &c. &c. London: Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge Street, Blackfriars, by T. Gillet, Salisbury-square, 1805.



IT was on the 14th of May, 1804, that, impelled by an ardent desire of contemplating the great and interesting volume of man, and by the hope of ameliorating a state of health which has too often awakened the solicitude of maternal affection, and of friendly sympathy, the writer of these pages bade adieu to a spot in which the morning of life had rolled over his head, and which a thousand circumstances had endeared to him. I cannot quit England without casting a lingering look upon my favourite little town of Totnes, where, as a characteristic, family alliances are so carefully preserved that one death generally stains half the town black; and where Nature has so united the charms of enlightened society, to those of romantic scenery, that had a certain with but tasted of the former, he would have spared the whole country in which it stands, and would not have answered, when requested to declare his opinion of the good people of Devon, that the further he travelled westward, the more persuaded he was that the wise men came from the east.

The angry decrees of renovated war had closed the gates of the south; the north alone lay expanded before me; if she is less enchanting, thought I perhaps she is the less known, and whereever [sic] man is, (women of course included) there must be variety: she has hitherto been contemplated, clad in fur, and gliding with the swiftness of a light cloud before the wind, upon her roads of shining snow. I will take a peep at her in her summer garb, and will endeavor to form a nosegay of polar flowers.

There is always a little bustle of action and confusion of ideas, when a man, about to slip from his friends, is in the agonies of packing up. My mind alternately darted from my portmanteau, to the political appearances with which I was surrounded; and, with all the vanity which generally belongs to a traveller, I resolved to commemorate the period of my flight, by a cursory comment upon the state of my country, which, by the time the last strap was buckled, was simply this: A great man had succeeded a good one in the direction of its august destinies, and another being who may be considered as the wonder of the west, was preparing amidst the blaze of brilliant novelties to mount the throne of a new dynasty; amongst them was a threat to cover the shores of England, with his hostile legions. Nine hundred and ninety-nine Englishmen, out of one thousand, had started into martial array, on the sound of the haughty menace—patriotism, with the bright velocity of a wild-fire, ran through the valley and over the mountain, till at last it was discovered that we might be invaded whenever we pleased. Ministers were more puzzled by their friends, than their enemies; where streams were expected to flow, torrents rolled headlong, and whatever may be our animosities, we are at least under an everlasting obligation to the French, for having enabled us to contemplate such a spectacle of loyalty. How I happened to leave my country at this time, it may be proper to explain: Devonshire offered, to her lasting honour, twenty thousand volunteer defenders of their homes and altars, nine thousand were only wanted or could be accepted; in the later, a spirited body of my fellow-townsmen, who honoured me by an election to command them, were not included; after encountering (and it was equal to a demi-campaign) the scrutinizing eye of militia-men, and the titter of nursery-maids, until awkwardness yielded to a good discipline, and improvement had taught our observers to respect us, we found that our intended services were superfluous, and I was at full liberty to go to any point of the compass; so, after the touching scene of bidding adieu to an aged and beloved mother, whilst she poured upon me many a half-stifled prayer and benediction, I hastened to the capital, where, having furnished myself with the necessary passports and letters of introduction to our embassadors [sic] from the minister of foreign affairs, a circular letter of credit and bills from the house of Ransom, Morland, and company, upon their foreign correspondents, and with a packet of very handsome letters of private introduction, which were swelled by the kindness of Mr. Gill, the Swedish consul, and a passport (indispensably necessary to the visitor of Sweden) from the baron Silverhjelm. the enlightened and amiable representative of a brave and generous nation, I proceeded to Harwich, and at midnight passed under the barrier arch of its watch-tower, which was thrown into strong picturesque varieties of shade, by the propitious light, which from the top flung its joyous lustre over many a distant wave, so gladdening to the heart of the homeward mariner. . . .


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Filed under 1800's, England, Europe, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration, in the United States and Canada (1833)

Full Title: Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration, in the United States and Canada, Made During a Residence There in 1832. By the Rev. Isaac Fidler . . . New-York: Published by J. & J. Harper, no. 82, Cliff-Street; and sold by the principal booksellers throughout the United States, MDCCCXXXIII.


Reasons for abandoning the idea of teaching the Eastern languages in the United States — Day-schools — Insubordination of Pupils — Anecdote of the blind teacher — Of an Irish classical teacher — Sad tale of a village schoolmaster — American insensibility — Farther opinions concerning American schools.


WHEN I had held two or three conversations with a gentleman, to whom I had a letter of introduction from London, with reference to my plan of teaching, particularly the languages of the East; he told me that, in his opinion, my best measure would be to go back to England. “The Americans do not yet want any thing with the East Indies. They are not colonizing other countries, but peopling their own; and have more need of being taught how to handle the axe or spade, than how to read the Hindoostanee. Had you been a strong active hardy ploughman, you might have been worth encouragement, but as it is, I can give you none.” What this gentleman and his family told me, I found to be perfectly correct. The attempt would be useless and absurd to persuade a people, in love with money, and with themselves; doating upon their own perfections, and their superiority love all nations of the earth, in learning, arts, and arms; and despising, or pretending to despise, the English most heartily, that an individual from Great Britain had arrived in their country to teach them languages they do not know. It would be equally useless, to attempt inducing them to pay for information, which they could not at once convert to purposes of gain. A little further inquiry among those, with whom my letters and introductions brought me in contact, soon induced me to abandon the intention of opening a school for instruction in Eastern languages. Dr. Milnor himself thought the attempt could be only futile and followed by disappointment. He imagined, however, that another kind of school might be opened, which would be more likely to succeed. A day-school, with liberal terms, he said, might answer my expectations.

As the same thing had been suggested by other gentlemen of some consideration, it became worthy the attention of one, circumstanced like myself, to investigate more closely the character of day-schools in general, and the mode of conducting them. I soon found, that a common schoolmaster, in that country, is not regarded with much respect; and that education, in such schools, is on a contracted scale. It is true, that high claims to skill are advanced by teachers, and parents are flattered with reports that their sons are in such and such classes, and have studied such and such books.

The hours of attendance in day-schools are about five and a half each day, for four days, and four for the remaining two days of the week. In some seminaries there are sixty or eighty pupils, taught by one, or at the most, by two masters. Such schools, generally close at three in the afternoon. Here insubordination prevails to a degree subversive of all improvement. The pupils are entirely independent of their teacher. No correction, no coercion, no manner of restraint is permitted to be used. It must be seen, from this picture, that general education is at a low ebbe, even in New-York. Indeed, all who know any thing of teaching, will see at once the impossibility of conveying extensive knowledge, in so few hours per day, and upon such a system. Parents also have as little control over their offspring at home, as the master has at school; and the leisure hours of idle boys are, in all countries perhaps alike unproductive of improvement.

Two or three anecdotes were related, to convey to me an idea of American schools. The best teacher whom the United States could ever boast of was a blind athletic old man, who was so well acquainted with the books he taught, as to detect immediately the the slightest incorrectness of his scholars. He was also a great disciplinarian; and, though blind, could from constant practice, inflict the most painful and effective chastisements. From the energetic mental and bodily powers of this teacher, his pupils became distinguished in the colleges and universities of America. They were generally, at their admission into public seminaries, so far in advance of other students, that, from the absence of inducements to steady application, they there, for the first time, contracted habits of idleness. They also became less obedient and subordinate to collegiate regulations than the other scholars, when the hand of correction, of which they formerly had tasted, was no longer extended over them. Thus, a two-fold evil was produced by the discipline and skill of this blind teacher. Since that time, corporal punishment has almost disappeared from American day-schools; and a teacher, who should now have recourse to such means of enforcing instruction, would meet with reprehension from the parents, and perhaps from his scholars. . . .


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Filed under 1830's, Education, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States

Item of the Day: Imlay’s Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America (1797)

Full Title: A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America: Containing A succinct Account of its Soil, Climate, Natural History, Population, Agriculture, Manners, and Customs. With an ample Description of the several Divisions into which the Country is partitioned . . . By Gilbert Imlay, A Captain in the American Army during the War, and Commissioner for laying out Lands in the Back Settlements. Illustrated with correct Maps of the Western Territory of North America; of the State of Kentucky, as divided into Counties, from actual Surveys by Elihu Barker; a Map of the Tenasee [sic] Government; and a Plan of the Rapids of Ohio. The Third Edition, with Great Additions. London: Printed for J. Debrett, 1797.





THE task you have given me, however difficult, I udnertake with the greatest pleasure, as it will afford me an opportunity of contrasting the simple manners and rational life of the Americans, in these back settlements, with the distorted and unnatural habits of the Europeans: which have flowed, no doubt, from the universally bad laws existing on your continent, and from that pernicious system of blending religion with politics, which has been productive of universal depravity.

While ignorance continued to darken the horizon of Europe, priestcraft seems to have forged fetters to the human mind, and, in the security of its own omnipotence, to have given a stamp to the writings and opinions of men, that rivetted the tyranny of those ingenious sophists — The consequence has been lamentable in the extreme.

There are aeras favourable to the rise of new governments; and though nature is governed by invariable laws, the fortunes of men and states appear frequently under the dominion of chances: but happily for mankind, when the american [sic] empire was forming, philosophy pervaded the genius of Europe, and the radiance of her features moulded the minds of men into a more rational order.

It was the zenith of your power, and the inflated grandeur of visinary plans for dominon, which the remains of gothic tyranny produced, that gave occasion to the rise of our independence. We claim no merit or superior wisdom in avoiding the complication of laws which disgraces the courts of Great Britain, as well as the rest of Europe. We have only approprated the advantages of new lights, as they have shone upon us; which you have an equal chance of doing; and your not doing it, must remain a monument of your folly, calculated to excite the astonishment and indiganation of a more manly progeny. However, I shall leave this subject for the present, and proceed in order in the history, &c. which you request; hoping that you will be content to receive my remarks by letter, from time to time, as I may find an opportunity of sending them.

The vestiges of civilizatin described by Carver and others on this side of the Allegany mountains, are entirely imaginary. Every mark that is human has the feature of barbarism, and in every comparison of the natives and animals, with those of the old world, tends to confirm the opinion of those sensible men (some of whom wrote more than a century agao) who thought that America was peopled from Scythia, by the streights of Kamtschatka: which opinion has been followed by your judicious natural historian Pennant, in his preface to his Arctic Zoology. They say, first, “America has always been better peopled on the side towards Asia, than on that towards Europe: Secondly, The genius of the Americans has a greater conformity to that of the Tartars, who never applied themselves to arts: Thirdly, The colour of both is pretty much alike; it is certain that the difference is not considerable, and is perhaps the effect of the climate, and of those mixtures with which the Americans rub themselves: Fourthly, The wild beasts which are seen in America, and which cannot reasonably be supposed to have been transported thither by sea, could only have come by the way of the Tartary.” An addition to these arguments is, that the bison of Scythia, and what is called the buffalo in America, are precisely the same species of animal; besides, the animals of both countries bear the strongest resemblance to each other.

Every thing tends to convince us, that the world is in an infant state. If it is subject to change only from the gradual wear which the operations of the elements necessarily produce, and which is so insensible as to require us to contemplate the immensity of time and space to comprhend a cause for the alterations we discover, still the various phaenomena, which are everywhere to be found, both on the surface and in the bowels of the earth, afford sufficient proof that there has been a recent alteration upon the face of the globe. Whether or not mankind came originally from the East, signifies little. It is however certain, that Europe was in its infancy three thousand years ago; and that America was still less advanced to maturity, I believe also will be acknowledged; though the barbarism of the one, and the comparative civiliztion of the other, is no argument: for, let our hemisphere have been peopled as it would, it had the disadvantage of having no polished country in the neighbourhood of its vast extent of dominion; and if it received emigrants from Tartary, they wer equally savage with themselves; or if from the wreck of a chinese or japanese vessel, they seem to have been too rare (if ever) to have been productive of much good to the Americans. The idea of the incas in Peru being of chinese origian merits no consideration.

That man possesses from nature the talents necessary to his own civilization, and that perfection of philosophy and reason which dignifies his nature, admits, I should conceive, of no dispute.

In all the countries that wear the marks of age, men seem always to have been advancing their improvements for the comfort and order of society. Adventitious circumstances have rapidly increased them in modern times in the old world, while they have retarded them in the new, among the natives. The improvements in navigation led to the overthrow of two empires in America which had attained considerable improvements; and if the natives which still remain are barbarous, we must, in justice to human nature, allow that the contempt with which the whites have always treated them, and the nefarious policy of encourageing their fury for intoxication, have proved the only cause of it. They produced such an effect, that the population of the indian nations had decreased more than a twentieth nearly a century ago, according to the account of Charlevoix. . . .


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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States

Item of the Day: Wansey’s Excursion to the United States (1798)

Full Title: An Excursion to the United States of North America, in the Summer of 1794. Embellished with the Profile of General Washington, and an Aqua-tinta View of the State-House, at Philadelphia. By Henry Wansey. Second edition, with additions. Salisbury: Printed and sold by J. Easton; sold also be G. Wilkie, No. 57, Paternoster-Row, London, 1798.



A DESIRE of knowing something of the United States, of which we hear so much, and know so little, together with some occurrences in business, induced me to make a trip thither during the last Summer. I have been highly gratified: and as my account is chiefly founded on my own actual experience and observation, and different in many respects from any other account, I am induced by these motives, as well as by the request of many friends, to send my Journal forth into the world. It is published in the same order in which it was written in the spot, which I hope will be an excuse for the want of method, and the errors and occasional repetition to be found in some places.

 In Narratives of this kind, the world is generally better pleased with plain matter of fact, than abstract disquisitions, or the Author’s own sentiments obtruded too much on the Reader.

Most of the modern accounts of the United States have been published under the influence of prejudice. While some have rated them too highly in the class of nations, others have depreciated them too much, even to contempt. Imlay’s is the puff direct, and Cooper’s the puff oblique. On the other hand, the Author of Letters on Emigration, lately published by Kearsley, has viewed every thing with a jaundiced eye. I took Brissot’s Travels in my hand, and passed over the same ground as he did, from Boston through Connecticut to New York, and afterwards to Philadelphia, and frequently stopt at the same inns. His account is tolerably accurate: however, in a period of five years, some considerable alterations and improvements have taken place. His book gives much real information. His account of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Wadsworth, and of the President, agrees with my own observations, as I was in company with, and at the table of each of them.

Brissot justly observes of the Northern States, (particularly Connecticut) that the ease and abundance universally reign there: for industry is sure to receive the reward of independency.

But he has exceeded the truth respecting the success of a vineyard, at Spring Mill, twenty miles from Philadelphia, which, he says, (page 252) succeeds well, and produces much good wine. The fact is, it does not succeed at all. The Frenchman who began it, does not make it answer, nor can any vineyards succeed, while there remain such immense flights of birds and insects.

His meteorological account for Pennsylvania, is far less in the extreme than the fact, (page 256).

The present appears to me, a good point of time to take a sketch of America, and to mark its progress since it began to rank among the nations of the earth. This government is raising itself in a new system, — without Kings — without Nobles — without a Hierarchy. Religion is left to its own intrinsic worth and evidence, and we now shall see whether it can support its due influence among men, without acts of parliament to inforce it; and whether it is essential to Religion, that its eminent men “should rear their mitred fronts in Courts and Parliaments.” It will be grateful to posterity to mark the beginnings of an Empire, not founded on conquest, but on the sober progress and dictates of reason, and totally disencumbered of the feudal system, which has cramped the genius of mankind for more than seven hundred years past.

In these States, you behold a certain plainness and simplicity of manners, which bespeak temperance, equality of condition, and a sober use of the faculties of the mind — the mens sana in carpore sano. It is seldom you hear of a mad man, or a blind man, in any of the States; seldom of a felo de se, or a man afflcited with the gout or palsy. There is, indeed, at Philadelphia, an hospital for lunatics. I went over it, but found there very few, if any, who were natives; they were chiefly Irish, and mostly women. The disorders in the United States, arise chiefly from external causes. A bilious remittent fever is common on the south and middle States, about the close of every hot summer, owing to the increased exhalations, at that season, of the stagnant waters, which abound. But this evil is lessening in proportion to the cultivation of their soil, which tend to render the climate itself more temperate.

The Author of Letters on Emigration, amongst other objections, observes, “That there does not exist a more sordid, penurious race, than the Captains of passage and merchant vessels.” I returned from America with one of them, and found it quite otherwise — plenty of all kinds of provisions, fresh as well as salted; a cow on board, which afforded us milk every day for our coffee and tea; we had good Port, sherry, porter, and beer, daily with our dinner; as well as oranges, nuts, almonds, and raisins, very frequently, by way of desert. Many of the native American Captains being used to live with extreme frugality themselves, do not think much about the provisions necessary for the passengers; in such cases, they must look into it themselves, and see that every thing proper is provided, before they go on board. The Author also remarks on the uncomplying temper of the landlords of the country inns, in America; they will not, indeed, bear the treatment we, too often, give ours at home. They feel themselves, in some degree, independent of travellers, as all of them have other occupations to follow; nor will they put themselves into a bustle on your account, but, with good language, they are very civil, and will accommodate you as well as they can. The general custom of having two or three beds in a room, to be sure, is very disagreeable: it arises from the great increase of travelling within the last six years, and the smallness of their houses, which were not built for houses of entertainment. The last mentioned book appears to be written purposely to check emigration, as much as Cooper’s and Imlay’s are to encourage it; and perhaps both in the extreme.

With regard to emigration thither, and how far it is eligible to Englishmen; I answer, that it is a question every person must resolve for himself, as it depends on how he can bear changes of any kind in society, modes of life, customs, and manners. I have stated matters of fact, as far as I could collect, so that every prson, by reading these occurrences, may form a judgment for himself. The sacrifice of pleasant and well-established connections, is undoubtedly great; such a sacrifce must be peculiarly distressing to a mind whose habits of attachment have been long formed, and feels not that uneasiness which results from stritened circumstances. If, however, troubles should arise in this country on political accounts, or persecutions for mere matters of opinion, I know of no country that would afford the sufferer a more happy asylum than America, if he is not a man of luxury.

The arts and imrovements proceed very slow in America, from the want of that patronage so prevalent in England. The Americans being, many of them descendants of the English, are partial to their manners and customs; yet, it must be acknowledged, that in the interior of the country, things appear, at least, half a century behind them in point of comfort.

Salisbury, 1795.


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Filed under 1790's, Early Republic, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States