Monday, May 11, 2015

A German Lady Travels to Matlock in Jane Austen's Time

Monday, May 11, 2015
Matlock Tor by Moonlight
Loretta reports:

Those familiar with Pride & Prejudice will remember Elizabeth Bennett’s trip to Derbyshire, when she fell in love with Mr. Darcy’s house.

Johanna Schopenhauer (mother of the philosopher) traveled to Derbyshire early in the first decade of the 1800s. Her account of her travels was published in German, but not translated into English until the 1980s. If you understand German, you might want to listen to the audio version here.

The following excerpt is from Ruth Michaelis-Jena and Willy Merson’s A Lady Travels: The Diaries of Johanna Schopenhauer, the translation that helped me time travel as I wrote Miss Wonderful.
This lovely valley, friendly yet vast, lonely yet full of life, is one of the most beautiful in Britain.  It may be that Matlock’s springs are not very effective, but this is not necessary to the finding of new energy and vitality in this heavenly place ...

The actual spa consists of three large inns and two lodging-houses, with the village of Matlock about a mile and a half away. It is impossible to describe the charm of this valley in mere words: it is so peaceful, so intimate, with the Derwent flowing through it, surrounded by high cliffs which stand rugged and bare against the sky, yet usually looking friendly, as their summits are crowned with beautiful trees.

We took a boat on the Derwent as far as it is navigable, which is only a short stretch. After that it becomes a wild torrent, full of rapids and whirlpools ...
Opposite us was the highest cliff in the neighbor hood, which the local people call the High Tor. We climbed it easily, up a shaded path, and from the top we could see on one side the narrow valley in all the glory of its rich vegetation, with the river running through the center. ON the wooded rocks opposite were the fine buildings of the spa, providing a friendly picture of pleasant social life ... On the other side we saw a second valley, looking as if no human foot had ever trod there, so remote and silent was it, enclosed by green hills ... Nowhere else had we seen the wild, simple beauty of nature more happily combined with civilization than here on the banks of the Derwent.
Image above: Joseph Wright of Derby, Matlock Tor by Moonlight (1777-80), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. Note: This work is part of the splendid exhibition, The Critique of Reason: Romantic Art 1760-1860, very well worth seeing.

Image below: Joseph Wright of Derby, Matlock Tor by Daylight, ca 1785, from the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK, via Wikipedia.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Chris Jones said...

A very useful account of early 19th century Britain. I was checking it further on-line and came across a review of another travelers account in North American Review vol 17. The second traveler had included an extract from Schopenhauer but "common delicacy has forced us Americans to omit the reference, which MS makes, towards the end of her description of an English dinner, to a custom, which though practised by English gentlemen and reported by German ladies, cannot even be named by us". I thought you might like this example of American delicacy.

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