Preparing for the Grand Tour

21 11 2006

Paulo Monaldi, 1720-1799

The Grand Tour was a European travel itinerary that flourished from about 1660 until the arrival of mass rail transit in the 1820s. It was popular amongst young British upper-class men and served as an educational rite of passage for the wealthy. Its primary value lay in the exposure both to the cultural artifacts of antiquity and the Renaissance and to the aristocratic and fashionable society of the European Continent. A grand tour could last from several months to several years.

The idea of travel for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 18th century. With John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) it was argued, and widely accepted, that knowledge comes entirely from the external senses, that what one knows comes from what physical stimuli one has been exposed to. Thus one could “use up” the environment, taking from it all it had to offer, requiring a change of location. Travel therefore was an obligation for the person who wanted to further develop the mind and expand knowledge. The typical 18th century sentiment was that of the studious observer traveling through foreign lands reporting their findings on human nature for those less fortunate who stayed at home. Traveling observation became a duty, an obligation to society at large to increase its welfare. The Grand Tour flourished in this mindset.[2]

The Grand Tour not only provided a liberal education, it provided those who could afford it the opportunity to buy things that were otherwise not available at home, and thus to increase prestige and standing. Grand Tourists would return with crates of art books, pictures, sculpture and other items of culture which would be displayed in libraries, cabinets, gardens and drawing rooms. The Grand Tour became a symbol of wealth and freedom.

Critics of the Grand Tour derided its lack of adventure. “The tour of Europe is a paltry thing”, said one 18th century critic, “a tame, uniform, unvaried prospect”. The Grand Tour was said to re-enforce the old preconceptions and prejudices about national characteristics, as Jean Gailhard’s Compleat Gentleman (1678) observes: “French courteous. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish.”

After the arrival of mass transit around 1825 the custom of a Grand Tour continued, but it was of a qualitative difference – cheaper to undertake, less risky, easier, open to anyone. During much of the 19th century, most educated young men of privilege took the Grand Tour. Later, it also became fashionable for young women. A trip to Italy with a spinster aunt as chaperone was part of the upper-class lady’s education.

Thomas Coryat’s travel book Coryat’s Crudities (1611) was an early influence on the Grand Tour. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the term (and perhaps its introduction into the English language) was made by Richard Lassels in his book An Italian Voyage (1670).

Some contemporary sociologists view the Grand Tour as the prototype for modern tourism.

(from Wikipedia)

Packing for the Grand European Tour

Each year when we went camping I would make a huge list of things to take with us. But this list for the Grand European Tour is the mother of all lists.

Sheets, pillows, blankets, and towels
Pistols preferably double barreled, pocketknife, and swords
Fork, spoon, and knife- eating utensils taken along for daily purposes
Soup, tea, salt, sugar chest, tea caddy, mustard, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, oatmeal, sago, and a box of spices and condiments- the food on the Grand Tour is very different from what one is used to at home, be prepared.
Plenty of medicine including powdered bay salt for the stomach and remedies against seasickness
Pocket door bolt, usually no key or lock exists on the doors in foreign countries
The Gentlemen’s Guide in his Tour through France, Letters From Italy (1792-1798), and The Grand Tour containing an exact Description of most of the Cities, Towns, and Remarkable Places of Europe, by Thomas Nugent- three popular guidebooks referred to often when traveling.
Book of Protestant Prayers and Hymns
Notebooks, Crayons, and pocket inkstand- to record experiences and activities
Lice proof attire
Linen overall to be worn over bed clothing
Broad brim hat
Passport holder with name, rank, and family name
Eye preservers
Waterproof buckskin breeches and at least a dozen strong shirts capable of withstanding horrendous treatment of the European washers, and any other clothing that you find appropriate. However, be sure to include at least one formal outfit.
Pocket sundial or watch
A tinder box to light a fire
Inflatable bath with bellows
Be sure to pack wisely!

What will you bring with you on the tour?




2 responses

26 11 2006

I love this list of things. It makes me think of adventure.

30 11 2006

I was right there with you until we got to the inflatable bath with bellow! What the heck is that?

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