Friday, September 2, 2011

-- Travellers during the Regency

Regency folk were intrepid travelers. Under conditions that would keep me comfortably and safely at home, they traveled the world. Bad inns, worse roads, bandits, shipwrecks, and wars could not prevent them from packing their possessions and setting off to see how the rest of the world lived.
A britzka traveling in Russia, early 1800s
Even a quick glance at the periodicals of the day displays a huge quantity of travel memoirs published every year. The Peninsular and continental Napoleonic Wars may have imposed restrictions, but still people traveled. In 1811 as war raged on the continent, among others, the following books were published:
- Mr. Hooker's Journal of a Tour in Iceland
- Valemberg's Journey in Lapland
- Pike's Exploratory Travels in North America
- Morrier's Journey through Persia, Asia Minor, etc.

When in 1814 Napoleon was exiled to Elba, the British flooded into Europe. The result was that publishing schedules were crowded with travel accounts such as:
- Miss Starke's Letters from Italy
- A Voyage to Cadiz and Gibraltar by Lieutenant-General G. Cockburn
- Salt's Voyage to Abyssinia
- Clarke's Travels in Greece, Egypt, etc.
- A Narrative of the Travels of the Rev. John Campbell in South Africa

And the travel publishing continued in the following years with examples like "Travels from Calcutta to Babylon" by Captain Lockett published in 1816 and in 1826 "Travels in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc." by W. R. Wilson.

A bretchka
When Regency folk traveled they used post-chaises, private four-in-hand coaches, stagecoaches, the 'diligence' in France and its equivalent in other countries. If they were really serious travelers, and well-to-do, they might have their own 'britzka'. The name came from the Polish, German and Russian, and there were many spellings. However you spelled it, the britschka was considered a cozy and comfortable method of transportation. It has been called the motorhome of the 1800s. Basically it was a phaeton, or chaise, with an extended body. Because of the additional length, it was possible to include beds in the body, as well as a desk, or a dressing table, or almost anything else the traveler desired. If you could not do without your favourite foods, you could install a locker to contain them in your britzka. There was room for extra luggage, books, all the comforts of home, in fact.

The only thing I cannot understand is how the britzka could be considered secure with only a hood covering half of the carriage body. Would not a coach, fully enclosed, be more secure in countries that abounded with bandits, beggars and bad weather? Even the presence of a coachman, a guard, and presumably a footman or two on the rear jump seat, would not compensate me for the lack of a full roof.

Nothing kept the people of the Regency era from their travels however, and one can see why they embraced the steam trains and steamboats being developed even as they crossed and re-crossed the world.

'Til next time,



Anonymous said...


Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Thanks for visiting, Suzan! I've always found the idea of the britska interesting, but I still can't believe it wasn't fully enclosed. :)