Friday, November 18, 2011
The Grand Tour, Part 1: Planning
First, I’m very pleased to announce that Beebs won my second chance copy of An Honorable Gentleman. The Random Number Generator does not lie, even though its choice was oddly fitting since she also guessed right but lost out in the first chance! Beebs, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, and I’ll send it right out to you.
During our birthday house party, Lo suggested that we talk about activities on the Continent, such as the Grand Tour. As the Grand Tour was rather, well, grand, I’m planning for the topic to take a few posts to relay, and I’ll be sprinkling them in between now and spring.
To start out with, the Grand Tour came to be the term used for a trip a young man took to complete his education in the nineteenth century, sort of the senior road trip some take today. Only this trip took considerably more than roads to accomplish!
The general purpose of the Grand Tour was exposure. By traveling to foreign climes, the young man would see art, architecture, manners, customs, and cultures different from his own and come back better informed and better able to take part in his own society. The young men were generally gentry or aristocrats, and most often British, although youths from Northern European countries sometimes traveled as well, and there are accounts of Americans and South Americans joining the party.
On your trip, you were expected to view the other cultures, partake only to a certain extent that was proper, and somehow memorialize your impressions, whether through painting, writing a journal, or carting home representative books, artwork, or tokens that would then be displayed with pride the resulting years of your life.
So how did one go about preparing for a Grand Tour? I imagine there was a lot of dreaming involved, discussions with fathers, uncles, and older friends who had gone. Then, as you were finishing Oxford, say, and were between 17 and 20 years of ago, your family would look for a suitable guide to escort you. This guide would be a gentleman of some learning or pretension to the arts who could serve as companion, chaperone, and bodyguard. This paragon came to be called a bear-leader. Your parents paid the bear-leader to take you on your tour and ensure you had an educational, enjoyable, and not too enthusiastic time and that you came home safely, mind expanded, all limbs still intact. If you were wealthy enough, you had your own guide; otherwise you might share with one or two other young men.
The Grand Tour could take several months, or several years, depending on the itinerary and your family’s wealth and willingness to have you away from home. The most common itinerary included time in France (when Britain was not at war with it), Switzerland, and Italy (Rome, Venice, Naples), but might extend to the German States, Spain (when it was not at war), and Greece (if you weren’t afraid to brave the Ottoman Empire). As the nineteenth century wore on, and train travel became more available, more people began to take their own Grand Tours, whether young men from mercantile families or even well-chaperoned young ladies.
So, your families had the good sense to hire you two ladies with reasonable credentials and some experience with literature (cough, cough, Regina and Marissa). Think about where you’d like to go on your Grand Tour, ladies, and perhaps we can plot out an itinerary for the next few months.