Monday, June 6, 2011

The Miseries of Travel 1806

Monday, June 6, 2011
Loretta reports:

James Beresford’s The Miseries of Human Life, originally published in 1806, was reprinted many times.  And I’ve offered excerpts many times: here, here, and here.  This one is from the section, The Miseries of  Traveling.
A coach-window-glass, that will not be put up when it is down, nor down when it is up.
On arriving, with a foundered horse, at a lone inn, with the intention of taking a bed,—every room occupied; so that you are under the necessity of passing a frosty night in a chair by the side of a sullen fire, while you solace yourself, hour after hour, with a succession of abortive attempts to feed it into a blaze;—
 . . .
In travelling on horse-back through an uninhabited country, enquiring your way, as you proceed, of different rustics, each of whom, besides giving you unintelligible directions as to your road, represents the place in question as many miles farther off than it had been reported by the last; thus making you seem to recede in your progress;—not to mention your expence of time and temper, from their anxious and useful enquiries as to the point from which you started, together with their rigmarole wonderings and lamentations at the number of miles which you have travelled out of your way.
After having, with the utmost difficulty, closed, and locked, and corded, your crammed trunk— being obliged to undo all, in order to get at something which lurks at the very bottom :— this, two or three times over.
Attempting to pencil memoranda in a curricle, on a single piece of paper placed in the palm of your left hand :—cross road.
The moment of discovering that you have dropped a highly-valued hereditary whip or stick out of an open carriage, without knowing when or where.

Both illustrations courtesy Ancestry Images:
Thomas Rowlandson, "Doctor Syntax loosing his way"  from the second edition of The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, by William Coombe, 1812.
Isaac & George Cruikshank, "Bull & Mouth Inn. Bob bidding adieu to his friends & Life in London," from Life in London, 1822.


Alice said...

Gotta love Dr. Syntax.

The spirit of these observations still rings true about road trips, I feel! I wonder how the author would feel about the hassles of air travel...

Joanna said...

I was surprised to see your mention of Dr Syntax. There is a pub in Prudhoe, Northumberland called Dr Syntax. Strangely my husband, my sister and I were talking about it yesterday. We were giving directions to my sister who is to do some supply teaching at Prudhoe High School. My husband sometimes visited this pub when he worked at the paper mill in Prudhoe.

Carrie Callaghan said...

I love this! What a great reminder about the common agonies of our human experiences. :) Made me giggle.

nightsmusic said...

The moment of discovering that you have dropped a highly-valued hereditary whip or stick out of an open carriage, without knowing when or where.

Kind of like when you're on a family vacation and one of the kids loses your cell phone they were playing a game on, out the window and then doesn't tell you for 10-12 miles for fear of retribution...

Some things never change :o)

katie eggeman said...

Travel on the open road has not changed much over the centuries. #19 is always a challenge on a road trip and #20 the challenge of texting with no service available!

Hels said...

I think everyone who has been caught on an Italian railway station on the very day that the trains go on strike, or gets to their hotel in Prague and finds their booking was taken by someone else.. will know about the miseries of travel.

It struck me even more acutely when I was writing about 19 year old Grand Tourists in the 18th century. Food that was rancid, fleas in the carriage, landlords that ripped them off, unexpected injury etc etc. It could all happen at home, of course, but at least the traveller can speak the language at home.

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