The Grand Tour
Three Views of the Grand Tour
The Grand Tour was an extended
educational journey through Europe undertaken
by aristocratic men in their late teens or
early twenties, who were accompanied by their
tutors. While women including Mary Wollstonecraft,
Maria Edgeworth, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and
Lady Anna Miller undertook tours of Europe
similar to the Grand Tour and wrote interesting
accounts of their travels, the idea of the
Grand Tour did not occupy the same central
position in a woman's education that
it did in a man's education. Grand Tours
typically lasted from two to three years.
The usual itinerary included stops at European
cities including Calais, Paris, Turin, Venice,
Naples, Florence, and Rome, although the
Tour could be contracted or expanded to include
Tutors, known as "bearleaders" — a
title that hints at the unruly behavior of
their charges — were supposed to inculcate
lessons along the way, pointing out the most
important buildings, paintings, views, and
historical sites of note to the young men.
In addition, tutors had the task of watching
over their students' recreation, to see
that they did not gamble away their inheritances
or contract syphilis by pursuing unwise amours.
Ideally, a young man sent on the Grand Tour
would return home not just with souvenir
portraits painted against a backdrop of Roman
but with new maturity, improved taste, an understanding of foreign cultures,
and a fresh appreciation of the benefits of being born British. However,
bearleaders were often poor but well-educated men who hoped for preferment
or places in the church from their patrician students, a circumstance that
may have compromised their ability to enforce their pupils' good behavior.
The selections below offer
three views of the way that gentlemen on
the Grand Tour engaged with English literature
and language. First, extracts from a letter
written by Lord Chesterfield to his son Philip
Stanhope outline a parent's hopes and
fears for his son's education while on
the Grand Tour. Second, an enthusiastic letter
from young William Beckford demonstrates
the kind of synergistic educational convergence
of literature and place that the Tour was
designed to promote. The last inclusion is
an excerpt from The Gentlemans Pocket
Companion, For Travelling into Foreign parts,
a practical guidebook for those undertaking
the Tour, complete with maps and handy travelers' dialogues
in any of the five foreign languages that
a gentleman might encounter on his way. Enjoy
View 1: A Parent's Fears
Philip Dormer Stanhope, Fourth
Earl of Chesterfield, from Letters Written
by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer
Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son,
Philip Stanhope (1774)
The letters of Philip Dormer
Stanhope, Fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773)
to his illegitimate son Philip Stanhope (1732–1768)
were not originally intended for publication,
but they quickly became classics of conduct
literature when they were published by Stanhope's
widow in 1774 as Letters Written by the
Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope,
Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son, Philip
Stanhope, Esq.; Late Envoy Extraordinary
at the Court of Dresden. The quantity
of advice dispensed in the letters is daunting:
Chesterfield wrote over four hundred letters
to Philip during his son's lifetime.
Here, Lord Chesterfield writes
from London to Philip, who is in Turin with
his bearleader, Mr. Harte. Walter Harte (1709–1774)
was an Oxford scholar, a poet, and a friend
of Alexander Pope. Chesterfield counsels
his son on the proper behavior of an Englishman
abroad, concluding with the cry, "Adieu,
my dear child! Consider seriously the importance
of the two next years, to your character,
your figure, and your fortune" (212).
Young Philip — who was being groomed
for a career in courtly diplomacy — is
not the only man addressed; observe Chesterfield's
covert hints to his son's tutor, Mr.
Harte, about his duties to both father and
From Letter XCVII; London, May 15, 1749
This letter will, I hope, find you settled
to your serious studies, and your necessary
exercises, at Turin, after the hurry and
dissipation of the Carnival at Venice.
>> note 1 I
mean, that your stay at Turin should, and
I flatter myself that it will, be an useful
and ornamental period of your education;
but, at the same time, I must tell you,
that all my affection for you has never
yet given me so much anxiety as that which
I now feel. While you are in danger, I
shall be in fear, and you are in danger
at Turin. Mr. Harte will, by his care,
arm you as well as he can against it; but
your own good sense and resolution can
alone make you invulnerable. I am informed,
there are now many English at the Academy
at Turin; and I fear those are just so
many dangers for you to encounter. Who
they are I do not know, but I well know
the general ill conduct, the indecent behaviour,
and the illiberal views of my young countrymen
abroad; especially wherever they are in
numbers together. Ill example is of itself
dangerous enough, but those who give it
seldom stop there; they add their infamous
exhortations and invitations; and, if these
fail, they have recourse to ridicule; which
is harder for one of your age and inexperience
to withstand, than either of the former.
Be upon your guard, therefore, against
these batteries, which will all be played
upon you. You are not sent abroad to converse
with your own countrymen; among them, in
general, you will get little knowledge,
no languages, and, I am sure, no manners.
I desire that you will form no connections,
nor (what they impudently call) friendships,
with these people; which are, in truth,
only combinations and conspiracies against
good morals and good manners.
The length or shortness of your stay at
Turin will sufficiently inform me (even though
Mr. Harte should not) of your conduct there;
for, as I have told you before, Mr. Harte
has the strictest orders to carry you away
immediately from thence upon the first and
least symptom of infection
>> note 2 that
he discovers about you; and I know him
to be too conscientiously scrupulous, and
too much your friend and mine, not to execute
them exactly. Moreover, I will inform you
that I shall have constant accounts of
your behaviour from Comte Salmour, the
governor of the Academy, whose son is now
here, and my particular friend. I have
also other good channels of intelligence
of which I do not apprise you. But, supposing
that all turns out well at Turin, yet,
as I propose your being at Rome for the
jubilee at Christmas, I desire that you
will apply yourself diligently to your
exercises of dancing, fencing, and riding,
at the Academy; as well for the sake of
your health and growth, as to fashion and
supple you. You must not neglect your dress
neither, but take care to be bien mis
>> note 3
View 2: A Young Man's Letter
William Beckford, from Dreams,
Waking Thoughts and Incidents, in a Series
of Letters, fromVarious Parts of Europe (1783)
William Beckford (1760–1844)
was the son of the lord mayor of London,
and no expense was spared in his education.
To cite just a few examples of the resources
available to this young man, one could note
that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was his music
teacher, Sir William Chambers instructed
him in architecture, and that Beckford had
pursued travels in Switzerland where he met
Voltaire, who encouraged him to write, even
before embarking on his Grand Tour. Beckford,
an early reader of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, was
entranced by Oriental
tales, and went on to write several,
the best known of which is Vathek (1787).
Beckford was clearly attracted
to men, and it may be that his Grand Tour
was designed by his family to interrupt his
homoerotic relationship with eleven-year-old
William Courtenay. His family also appears
to have endeavored to suppress the publication
of Beckford's romantic travelogue. The
letters were published anonymously as Dreams,
Waking Thoughts and Incidents, in a Series
of Letters, from Various Parts of Europe in
1783, and received wider appreciation when
revised in volume one of Beckford's Italy;
with Sketches of Spain and Portugal (1834).
In this letter, Beckford juxtaposes the splendid
imaginative visions he has conceived of Rome
from his classical education with the prospect
of the city itself.
From Letter XXII. Rome, October 29, 1780
We set out in the dark. Morning dawned over
the Lago di Vico; its waters of a deep ultramarine
blue, and its surrounding forests catching
the rays of the rising sun. It was in vain
I looked for the cupola of St. Peter's
upon descending the mountains beyond Viterbo.
Nothing but a sea of vapours was visible.
At length they rolled away, and the spacious
plains began to show themselves, in which
the most warlike of nations reared their
seat of empire. On the left, afar off, rises
the rugged chain of Apennines, and on the
other side, a shining expanse of ocean terminates
the view. It was upon this vast surface so
many illustrious actions were performed,
and I know not where a mighty people could
have chosen a grander theatre. Here was space
for the march of armies, and verge enough
for encampments. Levels for martial games,
and room for that variety of roads and causeways
that led from the capital to Ostia.
>> note 4 How
many triumphant legions have trodden these
pavements! how many captive kings! What
throngs of cars
>> note 5 and
chariots once glittered on their surface!
savage animals dragged from the interior
of Africa; and the ambassadors of Indian
princes, followed by their exotic train,
hastening to implore the favour of the
During many ages, this eminence commanded
almost every day such illustrious scenes;
but all are vanished: the splendid tumult
is passed away; silence and desolation remain.
Dreary flats thinly scattered over with ilex;
>> note 6 and
barren hillocks crowned by solitary towers,
were the only objects we perceived for
several miles. Now and then we passed a
few black ill-favoured sheep feeding by
the way-side, near a ruined sepulchre,
just such animals as an ancient would have
sacrificed to the Manes.
>> note 7 Sometimes
we crossed a brook, whose ripplings were
the only sounds which broke the general
stillness, and observed the shepherds' huts
on its banks, propped up with broken pedestals
and marble friezes. I entered one of them,
whose owner was abroad tending his herds,
and began writing upon the sand, and murmuring
a melancholy song. Perhaps the dead listened
to me from their narrow cells. The living
I can answer for: they were far enough
I could have spent the whole day by the
rivulet, lost in dreams and meditations;
but recollecting my vow, I ran back to the
carriage and drove on. The road not having
been mended, I believe, since the days of
the Caesars, would not allow our motions
to be very precipitate. "When you gain
the summit of yonder hill, you will discover
Rome," said one of the postillions:
up we dragged; no city appeared. "From
the next," cried out a second; and so
on from height to height did they amuse my
expectations. I thought Rome fled before
us, such was my impatience, till at last
we perceived a cluster of hills with green
pastures on their summits, inclosed by thickets
and shaded by flourishing ilex. Here and
there a white house, built in the antique
style, with open porticos, that received
a faint gleam of the evening sun, just emerged
from the clouds to discover themselves in
the valley, and St. Peter's to rise above
the magnificent roofs of the Vatican. Every
step we advanced the scene extended, till,
winding suddenly round the hill, all Rome
opened to our view.
A spring flowed opportunely into a marble
cistern close by the way; two cypresses and
a pine waved over it. I leaped up, poured
water upon my hands, and then, lifting them
up to the sylvan Genii of the place, implored
their protection. I wished to have run wild
in the fresh fields and copses above the
Vatican, there to have remained till fauns
might creep out of their concealment, and
satyrs begin to touch their flutes in the
twilight, for the place looks still so wondrous
classical, that I can never persuade myself
either Constantine, Attila or the Popes themselves
have chased them all away. I think I should
have found some out, who would have fed me
with milk and chestnuts, have sung me a Latin
ditty, and mourned the woeful changes which
have taken place, since their sacred groves
were felled, and Faunus ceased to be oracular.
Who can tell but they might have given me
some mystic skin to sleep on, that I might
have looked into futurity?
Shall I ever forget the sensations I experienced
upon slowly descending the hills, and crossing
the bridge over the Tiber; when I entered
an avenue between terraces and ornamented
gates of villas, which leads to the Porto
del Popolo, and beheld the square, the domes,
the obelisk, the long perspective of streets
and palaces opening beyond, all glowing with
the vivid red of sunset? You can imagine
how I enjoyed my beloved tint, my favourite
hour, surrounded by such objects. You can
fancy me ascending Monte Cavallo, leaning
against the pedestal which supports Bucephalus;
>> note 8 then,
spite of time and distance, hurrying to
St. Peter's in performance of my vow.
I met the Holy Father in all his pomp returning
from vespers: trumpets flourishing, and a
legion of guards drawn out upon Ponte St.
Angelo. Casting a respectful glance upon
the Moles Adriani,
>> note 9 I
moved on till the full sweep of St. Peter's
colonnade opened upon me, and fixed me,
as if spell-bound, under the obelisk, lost
in wonder. The edifice appears to have
been raised within the year, such is its
freshness and preservation. I could hardly
take my eyes from off the beautiful symmetry
of its front, contrasted with the magnificent
though irregular courts of the Vatican
towering over the colonnade, till, the
sun sinking behind the dome, I ran up the
steps and entered the grand portal, which
was on the very point of being closed.
I knew not where I was, or to what scene
transported. A sacred twilight concealing
the extremities of the structure, I could
not distinguish any particular ornament,
but enjoyed the effect of the whole. The
perfume of incense was not yet entirely dissipated.
No human being stirred. I heard a door close
with the sound of thunder, and thought I
distinguished some faint whisperings, but
am ignorant whence they came. Several hundred
lamps twinkled round the high altar, quite
lost in the immensity of the pile.
>> note 10 No
other light disturbed my reveries but the
dying glow still visible through the western
windows. Imagine how I felt upon finding
myself alone in this vast temple at so
late an hour, and think whether I had not
It was almost eight o'clock before I
issued forth, and, pausing a few minutes
under the porticos, listened to the rush
of the fountains: then traversing half the
town, I believe, in my way to the Villa Medici,
under which I am lodged, fell into a profound
repose, which my zeal and exercise may be
allowed, I think, to have merited.
View 3: Encountering Borders
From The Gentleman's
Pocket Companion, For Travelling into Foreign
The Gentlemans Pocket Companion,
For Travelling into Foreign parts is
a guidebook for Grand Tourists, published
in the early 1720s, though the flyleaf
of this particular volume is signed "H
Stanley, 1760," which may indicate
its continued usefulness over a longer
period. The Companion contains maps,
and is bound together with another volume
containing dialogues of "Necessary
Conversation" for travelers.
The dialogues are printed across
the page in columns: English, French, Italian,
German, Spanish, and Flemish, as can be seen
in this illustration:
The English dialogue in the
far left column, which appears below, is
meant to be read vertically to form a narrative.
Each horizontal line of the dialogue is a
small phrase that may be combined with other
small phrases, and arranged into new sentences
in order to communicate. For example, one
could take the short phrase "What News" and
combine it with the short phrase "Of
the Family" to create the new sentence "What
news of the family?" The conversation
below takes place between a landlord and
a gentleman traveler, in an inn where the
weary Grand Tourist has stopped for the night.
From "Common Talke in an Inn"
|B. [the landlord character] Will you
to give me
leave to ask
A. [the traveler] My name is Sampson.
B. Of what family are you?
A. Of the Family
of the Scholars.
B. That is right: now
I begin to call you to
mind. How do you?
A. As your friend,
B. I thank you
for your good will.
from beyond the Sea?
A. No. I come from France,
B. What News
A. Truly none good.
B. How so?
A. They are so incens'd
against one another,
that I do not care
to talk of it.
B. God deliver us
from civil wars,
a great Punishment;
but we must have patience,
we shall have peace
when God pleases.
A. What news have
you in this place?
Is there any that is good?
B. All goes well; but as
for news I have none.
A. By your leaves,
I find myself somewhat
if you are not well,
go take your rest,
your chamber is ready.
make a good fire
in his chamber,
and let him want for nothing.
is my bed made?
Is it good?
J. Yes, Sir,
it is a good
are very clean.
A. Pull off my stockings,
and warm my bed,
for I am
much out of order.
I shake like a leaf
on a tree.
for my head
and bind it well. Gently,
you bind it too hard,
bring my pillow,
and cover me well;
draw the curtains,
and pin them together.
Where is the
Where is the privy?
J. Follow me
and I will
show you the way.
Go strait up
and you will
on your right hand;
if you see it not
you will soon smell it.
do you want
any thing else?
Are you well?
A. Yes, my dear,
put out the candle,
and come nearer to me.
J. I will put it out when
I am out of the room;
what is your will?
are you not well
A. My head lies too low,
raise up the
bolster a little,
lie so low.
give me one kiss,
sleep the better.
J. Sleep, sleep,
you are not sick,
since you talk
I had rather die
than kiss a man
in his bed,
or any other place.
Take your rest in God's
name. God give you
a good night,
and good rest.
A. I thank you,