As the Bank Holiday weekend approaches, thoughts might well be turning to travel and holidays. Travel has been a part of the human experience for centuries and as a journey recommends itself to record keeping, the travel journal was one of the earliest types to become a recognised genre. In his 1625 essay Of travel Francis Bacon gave directions for diary keeping by young men on their Grand Tour— that educational rite of passage for males of British nobility and wealthy gentry.
While Bacon’s thoughts were mainly on profit to be gained from travel experiences, the wish to create a permanent record of journeys is a very real one. The archive and rare book collections at Southampton attest to this wish. Within the archive collections are a large number of diaries and journals, together with photographs, sketches, charts and plans, menus and other souvenirs relating to travel in its various guises. This is complemented by a fine range of rare book material, including the Henry Robinson Hartley Collection, about exploration and journeys across the globe.
Although not relating to a Grand Tour, the travel journals of the second Viscount Palmerston nevertheless provide a fascinating account of his journeys across Europe in search of art and culture. In this entry for 25 April 1793 he describes a visit to Italy:
“Walked to see the cathedral of Terracina which is built on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo. There are some of the old walls some parts of fluted columns and some of cornices and mouldings on the side and back part of the temple. The front towards the place has a portico made up of old columns and fragments of antique buildings. There is an inscription relating to Theodorick and a face of granite sarcophagus under the porch. In the church are some granite columns and a rich antique mosaick….”
[MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR15/16]
In contrast, the travel journal kept by Major General Sir John St George in 1868 of his land journey to Russia focuses on the more practical concerns of his comfort and his fellow travellers:
“We reached Minden at 12′ 9 am [9 minutes past 12] and I got out as we were to stay a few minutes. I had not taken due note of my carriage and could not contrive to find it when I returned and … as the train was on the move I was bundled into the open door of a second class carriage where were 4 … noisy Germans smoking furiously. I had left my comfortable temporary couch and had neither cravat nor overcoat, nor pocket handkerchief, not any requisites for comfort, and I feared I should take cold. One of the men, after their laughter at my forlorn condition had ceased, lent me a rug and I did not suffer. When we reached Hanover I succeeded in finding my carriage…”
[MS 59 A528/6/3]
For those seeking accounts of a more stylish and comfortable mode of transport, the Special Collections hold a range of material recording journeys by luxury liners. Menus are from the cabin (first class) dining room of the Queen Mary during her first year on the transatlantic crossing show just over 800 cabin class passengers enjoying seven course meals, with food supplies for a typical voyage including 50,000lbs of fresh meat, 50,000 eggs and 14,500 bottles of wine.
Want to know about encounters with polar bears or hostile locals, or navigating unexplored regions of Latin America or Africa? Then look no further. The journals of the Southampton born sailor William Mogg recount exploration in the Arctic (polar bears included) and on board HMS Beagle in South American waters, while the papers of Louis Arthur Lucas (1851-1876) provide a glimpse into his explorations in Africa, 1875-6. From his base in Khatoum, Lucas set out to explore areas of the Congo as well as Lake Albert, then known as Albert Nyanza, one of the great lakes of Africa.
Proving that adventure does not have to take you to far shores, the trial journey from London to Bath of Goldworthy Gurney’s steam carriage in July 1829 provided quite a tale. This marked the first journey at a maintained speed made by a locomotive on land or rail, pre-dating George Stephenson’s Rocket by over a year. Beset by various challenges, the intrepid travellers were finally met by a hostile mob outside Bath who stoned the carriage.
So, however you choose to travel this Bank Holiday, we wish you happy travelling!