Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Sporting Tour 1804

 In 1804, Colonel Thomas Thornton published an accounting of his extensive tour of northern England and the Highlands of Scotland.

 The tour, it appears, took place in about 1786 the year in which the portrait below of Thornton may have been painted. A brief but comprehensive entry on Colonel Thornton may be found on Wikipedia. He was a most unusual man who lived a varied and uncommon life.

But it is his book that is my topic here. As interesting in its way as the diaries of Parson Woodforde and even Samuel Pepys, the journal is detailed and exhaustive, and very entertaining. It contains countless descriptions of 'sport'--that is, fishing, shooting, hunting and hawking. He would shoot, it seemed, anything that moved, and fished endlessly. One can only hope that the spoils of this orgy of killing were distributed to the needy of the areas through which the Colonel's party passed. Certainly there was too much foodstuff caught to be eaten by his fellows alone.

The sporting tour was planned with the precision of a military campaign, though I don't believe Thornton ever saw active service.

 There was a plethora of supplies ordered.
Ordered in two large chests of biscuits, several Cheshire and Gloucester
Besides the accounts of 'sport', which can become a little tedious unless you are as devoted to them as Thornton was, the Colonel had a fine, poetical turn of phrase in describing the countryside through which his party passed.  
 In order to record his epic tour, Thornton hired an artist, George Garrard (31 May 1760 – 8 October 1826), who was just coming into prominence with talented landscape and animal studies. Garrard produced numerous drawings and paintings during the tour and sixteen were engraved for inclusion in the book.
 Thornton waxed poetic on the many lochs of the Highlands and Garrard painted them.

 In addition Colonel Thornton commented on the social activities and social conditions he encountered on his trip,
and some unusual local pursuits. He encountered Golf at Glasgow on July 21.

And Mr. Garrard continued to draw and paint:

So, nearly twenty years after the trip, Thornton (in common with many British travellers in the 1800s) published a record of his excursion. His work is entertaining and as he says in his conclusion
I cannot better repay my obligations to that romantic country, for the amusement it has afforded me, than by recommending its highly-varied charms to the notice of future travellers...
The Sporting Tour by Colonel Thomas Thornton may be downloaded from Google Books. Enjoy!

'Til next time,


Friday, May 15, 2020

"A melancholy accident"

Please be warned--this is not a cheerful topic today! But it is, I think, quite fascinating. I have been looking at carriage accidents.

We might tend to think longingly of the quieter life of Regency England; the slower pace of everything, including horses and carriages. But as these newspaper clippings show, carriage, cart and coach traffic was as dangerous as your local freeway and accidents could be deadly.

Inattentive drivers, equipment failure, speed and impairment all caused accidents, then as now. And there was the additional wild card of the horse--a temperamental, easily startled, sensitive creature entrusted with lives.

These clips require no explanation; they offer an interesting perspective on day to day life in Regency England.

Leicester Chronicle - Saturday 15 November 1817
Cambridge Intelligencer - Saturday 15 November 1800

Gloucester Journal - Monday 23 November 1801

Morning Advertiser - Monday 20 March 1809

Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 10 June 1809

Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 17 January 1807

Stamford Mercury - Friday 21 October 1814

Star (London) - Saturday 06 October 1804

Windsor and Eton Express - Sunday 04 February 1816
The facts speak for themselves--transportation traffic is dangerous and always has been. Although one hesitates to benefit from the tribulations of the people involved in these accidents, there is much material for story-telling in these newspaper clippings.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The "other" people - England 1812

Regency authors tend to write about the upper classes of British society--at least the gentry, if not the lesser nobility, and far too often, dukes. But there were many more people inhabiting the Regency world.

In October and November 1812, Ackermann's "Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, etc.", itself a journal for the middle and upper classes, published a quantity of drawings for the following purpose:

As stated, these drawings were 'etched from the life', and so provide us with a fairly accurate portrait of the appearance of country people during the Regency period.

The following were described as 'cottagers':

Then there was a section of 'gleaners':

And finally a selection of 'shepherds':

This commoditization of the rural poor, treating them as no more than 'picturesque' adornments for the landscape drawings of the upper classes, is a shocking depersonalization.

The situations of these country folk are romanticized--their feet are shod and their clothing is not ragged. They were likely not so well off. They were suffering through the job losses caused by industrialization and the repercussions of the Peninsular War and the War of 1812. Work was hard, food was expensive.

 Nevertheless these representations give us a hint of the day-to-day life of many in the Regency era. Despite the somewhat cold-hearted reason for their creation, they are of benefit to us, two hundred years later, in understanding their time.

'Til next time,