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,


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