« VorigeDoorgaan »
N° 57. TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 1779
No thinking man will deny, that travelling into foreign countries is, in certain situations, attended with many and great advantages. It polishes the mantic 's of the courtier, enlarges the views of the statesman, and furnishes the philosopher with a more extensive field of observation, and enables him to form more certain conclusions with regard to the nature and character of man. At the same time, I have often been disposed to doubt, how far it is an eligible thing for a private gentleman, without ta. lents and inclination for public life, to spend much of his time abroad, to acquire a relish for foreign manners, and a taste for the society of a set of men, with whom neither his station nor his fortune entitle him to associate in the after-part of his life. The following letter on this subject may perhaps be ac eeptable
to my readers.
To the AUTHOR of the MIRROR.
SIR, Most of your predecessors have favoured the public with speculations on travelling ; and they have been at pains to point out the abuses of it that from time to time have prevailed among us. In the Spectator, the absurdity of a fond mother and mother's own son going together to make the tour of Europe, in order to learn men and things, is exposed in a very masterly manner. If I have not been misinformed, that admirable essay was the production of a young man, who afterwards, by his great talents and eminent virtues, added dignity to the highest office in the law of England, which he filled many years
with the entire approbation of all good men.
In the World, the folly of sending an ignorant booby to travel, who looked with contempt on the French and Italians, because they did not speak English, is held up to ridicule in a vein of wit, and with an elegance of expression, that mark the compositions of
the Earl of Chesterfield. A correspondent in your own paper has pointed out the fatal effects of a practice, unknown till within these few years, of sending boys to foreign schools, or academies, where, according to his account of the matter, they learn nothing but vice and
Although travelling has proved equally fatal to me, my case is very different from any of those I have mentioned : I shall, therefore, take the liberty to give an account of myself, from which and your readers will be best able to judge, whether making what is called the grand tour, be an adviseable thing for persons in my circumstances and situation.
I am the only son of a gentleman of fortune and family. My father, who was himself a man of let. ters, wished to give me a liberal education, and was desirous to unite the solidity of the ancient system with that ease and grace, which, of late, have been cultivated so much, and which, by some, have been thought the most essential of all acquirements. Soon after my twentieth year, my father died, leaving me possessed of a family estate of a thousand pounds a-year, and (I hope I may say it without vanity) with as great a share of knowledge as any of my contemporaries could boast of. The tour of Europe was the only thing wanting to complete my education. Intimately acquainted with the celebrated characters of antiquity, and an enthusiastic admirer of their virtues, I longed to visit Italy, to see the spot where Scipio triumphed, where Cesar fell, where Cicero harangued. Full of these ideas, I set out on my travels ; and, after passing some time in France, I proceeded to Rome. For a while, antiquity was my great object, and every remain of Roman greatness attracted my attention. Afterwards music, of which I had always been a lover, and painting, for which I acquired a taste in Italy, occupied much of my time; but, whilst engaged in these favourite pursuits, I did not neglect any opportunity of mingling in society with the natives, and of observing their manners and customs. I lived too on the most intimate footing with the British at the different courts I visited; and I doubted not that the friendships I then formed with men of the first distinction in my own country, would be as lasting as they appeared to be warm and sincere. If the pleasures in which we indulged, and which, by degrees, came to occupy almost the whole of my time, sometimes bordered on the licentious, they were at least at.
tended with an elegance, which, in some measure, disguised the deformity of vice..
Various reasons, which it is needless now to men. tion, at length constrained me to return home. As I approached my seat in the county of I felt a tender satisfaction at the thought of revisiting those scenes where I had spent so many happy days in the early morn of life,' and of seeing again the companions of my youthful sports, many of whom I knew had settled in the country, and lived on their estates in my neighbourhood. My arrival was no sooner known than they focked to welcome me home. The friends of my father, and their sons, my old companions, were equally sincere and warm in their compliments ; but, though I was pleased with their attachment, I could not help being disgusted with the blunt plainness of their manners. Their conversation usually turned on subjects in which I could not possibly be interested. The old got into keen political debate, or dissertations on farming ; and the young talked over their last fox. chase, or recited the particulars of their last debauch. If I attempted to give the conversation.a different turn, they remained silent, and were alto. gether incapable to talk of those subjects on which I had been accustomed to think and to speak. If I mentioned the Gabrielli, or the Mignotti, they were as much at a loss as I was when they joined in praising the notes of Juno or of Jowler; if the proportions of the Venus de Medicis were talked of, one would perhaps ask, what a dead beauty was good for another would swear, that, in his mind, Polly was a better-made girl than any heathen goddess, dead or alive.
By degrees my neighbours gave me up altogether. They complained that I was a strange fel. low, who hated company, and had no notion of life. I confess I was rather pleased with their neglect, and in my own mind, preferred solitude to such society; but solitude at length became irk. "some, and I longed again to mingle in society. * With that view I went to the races at Edinburgh, where I was told I should meet with all the polite people of this country. The night I arrived, I accompanied to the assembly a female relation, almost the only acquaintance I had in town. If you, Mr. MIRROR, be a frequenter of public places, I need not tell you how much I was struck on entering the room. Dark, dirty, mean, offensive to every sense, it seemed to resemble a large barn, rather than a room allotted for the reception of polite company, I had no sooner entered, than I was hurried along by the crowd to the farther end of the hall, where the first thing that caught my eye was an old lady, who, it seems, presided for the night, and was at that instant employed in distributing tickets, to ascertain the order in which the ladies were to dance. She was surrounded by a cluster of persons of both sexes, all of whom spoke at the same time, and some of them, as I thought, with a voice and gesture rather rough and vehement.
This important part of the ceremonial being at length adjusted, the dancing began. My conductress asked me, if I did not think the ladies, in general, handsome? I told her (and that without any compliment) that I thought them more than commonly beautiful; • but methinks,' added I, the gentle, * men are not, either in dress or appearance, such as
I should have expected.'--Oh, replied she, ! have a little patience, the men of fashion are not yet come in ; this being the first day of the races, they • are dining with the stewards. I had not time to make any observation on the propriety of al-. lowing ladies to go unattended to a public place,