Thursday, February 27, 2014

View from the Coachman's Seat

Thursday, February 27, 2014
View at source here
Loretta reports:

Stanley Harris is one of several late 19th century authors of books about the golden age of coaching, which he says reached a state of perfection from 1820-40.  Thomas De Quincey was a fan of riding outside the coach. Others were not. Here’s the view from the coachman’s seat, pro and con.
…The box-seat in those days was a seat of honour: in a good, stout double-breasted coat, and with a good whip to handle the ribbons by your side, with rattling-bars, and with fair weather and a fine country, what could be more delightful!  Instead of tunnels and cuttings we had hills and dales; one saw the country and its inhabitants. The driver of a coach had his privileges in those days, as the following story, told by Lord William Lennox, will show:

'When we stopped to change horses at Slough, I saw the faithless Lothario [the coachman's wife had given him a bunch of violets at starting] present the pretty barmaid of the Red Lion with the bunch of violets, which she placed near her heart. Nay, more, if my optics did not deceive me, he implanted a kiss on the rosy lips of the blooming landlady, who faintly exclaimed, "For shame, you naughty man!"'

All this shows the bright side of coach-travelling; but there is another picture, and one equally true. 

View at source here
The outside of a coach in mid-winter, with darkness and cold mist such as eats into the very marrow, or with biting wind or pitiless continuous rain, is not pleasant, and is well exchanged for the inside of a railway carriage. What avails scenery when you can only discern the horses' heads through mist by aid of the coach-lamps? Though, when the air was steady, the night bright, and the roads firm, life on the box was not undesirable. The little villages, with lights shining through the diamond panes of the cottages, the odd weird shape of the trees, the interchange of conversation at any stoppage, were pleasant things enough.
—Stanley Harris, The Coaching Age

Upper left: Charles Cooper Henderson, Mail Coaches on the Road: the Louth-London Royal Mail progressing at Speed (between 1820 and 1830) Oil on canvas, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.  Lower right:

James Pollard, The mail coach in a thunderstorm on Newmarket Heath, Suffolk, 1827, courtesy Wikipedia.


Anonymous said...

Outside passengers also froze to death.

Helena said...

What lovely images are conjured up by the quotations you chose! There are relatively few days when it's warm and dry enough in England to travel on the outside of a coach, I think. And it must have been pretty terrifying at night, I think, unless there was a good moon.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog, thanks! My gt grandfather painted a series of coaching scenes which you might like to see

GSGreatEscaper said...

Old Sturbridge offers coach rides in summer now for a nominal price - altho you only go around the common, one can imagine how uncomfortable a long ride with passengers packed together like sardines, over dusty roads, on hot or cold days, wearing heavy clothing.....

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