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Environmental and ecological readings

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Philippe Laplace

Part I. Nature and the Environment: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

‘A Full Idea of your Own Country’: Paradise or Wilderness? Scottish Tourists on the Home Tour

Anne McKim

Texte intégral

Admiring Nature in her wildest grace,
These northern scenes with weary feet I trace;
O’er many a winding dale and painful steep,
Th’ abodes of coveyed grouse and timid sheep,
My savage journey, curious, I pursue,
Till fam’d Breadalbaine opens to my view.
The meeting cliffs each deep-sunk glen divides,
The woods, wild-scattered, clothe their ample sides;
Th’ outstretching lake, imbosomed ’mong the hills,
The eye with wonder and amazement fills;
The Tay meandering sweet in infant pride,
The palace rising on his verdant side;
The lawns wood-fringed in Nature’s native taste;
The hillocks dropt in Nature’s careless haste,
The arches striding o’er the new-born stream;
The village glittering in the noontide beam.

Poetic ardours in my bosom swell,
Lone wandring by the hermit’s mossy cell:
The sweeping theatre of hanging woods;
Th’ incessant roar of headlong tumbling floods

  • 1 Robert Burns, ‘Written with a Pencil over the Chimney piece, in the Parlour of the Inn at Kenmore, (...)

Here Poesy might wake her heaven taught lyre,
And look through Nature with creative fire;
Here, to the wrongs of Fate half reconcil’d,
Misfortune’s lightened steps might wander wild;
And Disappointment, in these lonely bounds,
Find balm to soothe her bitter rankling wounds:
Here heart-struck Grief might heavenward stretch her scan,
And injured Worth forget and pardon Man.1

1Burns’s poem, famously inscribed over the chimney piece of the Kenmore Inn, by Loch Tay, Perthshire records his response to what he called ‘Ossian’s country’ in a letter to his brother Gilbert, written the day after returning (17 September, 1787) from his first and only trip to the Scottish Highlands. In that letter the poet wrote, more prosaically:

  • 2 Robert Burns’s Tours of the Highlands and Stirlingshire, 1787, ed. by Raymond Lamont Brown (Ipswich (...)

I went through the heart of the Highlands, by Crieff, Taymouth the famous seat of Lord Breadalbine, down the Tay, along cascades & Druidical circles of stones, to Dunkeld seat of the Duke of Athole, thence across Tay and up one of his tributary streams to Blair of Athole another of the Duke’s seats, [where I had the honour of spending nearly two days with his Grace and Family, ] thence many miles through a wild country among cliffs grey with eternal snows and gloomy, savage glens till I crossed Spey and went down the stream through Straphspey so famous in Scottish Music, Badenoch, & c2

  • 3 The Grand Tour attracted British travellers to the continent between c.1550 and 1850. It was seen a (...)
  • 4 Among the accounts of English travellers to Scotland before the Union are those of Thomas Morer, an (...)
  • 5 Katherine Haldane Grenier cites Thomas Cook’s claim to have taken 40,000 tourists through Scotland (...)
  • 6 Betty Hagglund, Tourists and Travellers: Women’s Non-fictional Writing about Scotland. 1770-1830 (B (...)

2By the last quarter of the eighteenth century admiration for ‘Nature in her wildest grace’ led a growing number of tourists to the Highlands to feast ‘The eye with wonder and amazement’. As an alternative to the Grand Tour of Europe,3 the British home tour became increasingly popular in the course of the century. More English travellers ventured over the border into Scotland after the Union of the Parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707, and a few even toured the Highlands after the subjugation of the clans and the Jacobite defeat at Culloden in 1746.4 The trickle steadily increased in the nineteenth century.5 As Hagglund has pointed out, ‘The period of the increase in Scottish tourism was also the time in which picturesque tourism became established as a way of travelling and a way of viewing landscape and the development of both were intertwined.’6

  • 7 Ian Ross, ‘A Bluestocking over the Border: Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu’s Aesthetic Adventures in Scotlan (...)
  • 8 Malcolm Andrews, The Search for the Picturesque: Landscape Aesthetics and Tourism in Britain, 1760- (...)
  • 9 Julia Rak, ‘The Improving Eye: Eighteenth-Century Picturesque Travel and Agricultural Change in the (...)
  • 10 William Gilpin, Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, made in the year 1776: on seve (...)

3William Gilpin, the ‘self-appointed master of the picturesque’ defined picturesque as ‘a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture’.7 This was not a new idea, as tracing resemblances between art and nature had been around since the late seventeenth century,8 but Gilpin played a key role in encouraging travellers to apply ‘picturesque interpretative frames’ to landscapes and assumed prior acquaintance with the tradition of European painting.9 He toured the Highlands in 1776, and some years later (1789) published his Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, made in the year 1776: on several parts of Great Britain; particularly the Highlands of Scotland. In this work he coined the term ‘picturesque traveller’. In essence, he recommends the ‘picturesque beauty’, in the form of ‘picturesque’ compositions, that awaited the ‘picturesque traveller’ to the Highlands.10 He describes the same landscape celebrated by Burns as ‘wild and mountainous’ and ‘very noble’, and goes on:

The mountains retiring in different distances from the eye, marshalled themselves in the most beautiful forms, and expanded their vast concave bosoms to receive the most enchanting lights. The picturesque traveller indeed, if he finds the lights as we found them, will be sufficiently rewarded for his trouble in traversing this rough country. (Observations, p. 147)

4Such a traveller is promised the pleasure too of ‘sequestered haunts [that] are seldom interrupted by human curiosity’ (p. 150). The country traversed on the way to Taymouth is ‘uncommonly beautiful’ (p. 151). A mountain is singled out for special mention: ‘The conclusion only of this mountain could be introduced in a picture: but the whole was beautiful in nature’ (p. 152). In sum though, ‘the mountains, water, and wood combined with peculiar beauty in picturesque composition’ (p. 151).

  • 11 William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye and Several Parts of South Wales (London, 1791), p. 1 (...)

5Gilpin later recognised that such aesthetic appreciation, or ‘natural aesthetics’, is for the elite few. ‘The idea of a wild country, in a natural state, however picturesque, is to the generality of people but an unpleasing one. There are few, who do not prefer the busy scenes of cultivation to the grandest of nature’s rough productions.’11 Gilpin toured the Scottish Highlands only three years after the tour taken by James Boswell and Samuel Johnson.

  • 12 William Gilpin, Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, p. 119.

6The great doctor’s account, Journey to the Western Isles published in 1775, had clearly been read by Gilpin who dismisses Johnson’s ‘picture of Scotch landscape’ as ‘painted, I am sorry to say, by the hand of peevishness’.12 This picture was also painted by an Englishman whose response to Highland scenery was conditioned by the tamer landscapes to which he was accustomed. Johnson himself admitted:

  • 13 Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland in Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, A (...)

An eye accustomed to flowery pastures and waving harvests is astonished and repelled by this wide extent of hopeless sterility. The appearance is that of matter incapable of form or usefulness, dismissed by nature from her care and disinherited of her favours, left in its original elemental state, or quickened only with one sullen power of useless vegetation.
It will very readily occur, that this uniformity of barrenness can afford very little amusement to the traveller.13

  • 14 William Gilpin, Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, p. 120.
  • 15 James Gregory (1753–1821), physician and Professor of Medicine, University of Edinburgh, was a frie (...)

7Such an eye, argues Gilpin, ‘cannot be attracted by the great, and sublime in nature’.14 As a retort to Johnson, Gilpin quotes the ‘much more just, and good-natured’ Scottish writer, Dr James Gregory, on the same subject :15

We are agreeably stuck with the grandeur, and magnificence of nature in her wildest forms – with the prospect of vast, and stupendous mountains; but is there any necessity for our attending, at the same time, to the bleakness, the coldness, and the barrenness, which are universally connected with them? (Observations, p. 120)

  • 16 Following his three-month tour of Scotland in 1677, Thomas Kirke published a diatribe in which he w (...)
  • 17 Thomas Gray went on a tour of the Scottish Highlands in 1765, visiting Taymouth, Blair Atholl, and (...)
  • 18 Samuel Johnson, ‘A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland’, p. 96.
  • 19 ‘Trip to the North of Scotland as far as Inverness in May 1739’, National Records of Scotland, NAS (...)
  • 20 ‘Trip to the North of Scotland as far as Inverness in May 1739’, p. 89. Clerk kept a brief account (...)

8The ‘bleakness, the coldness, and the barrenness’ of the Scottish landscape had long been deplored by English travellers, often as soon as they crossed the border into the neighbouring country.16 Gilpin’s response to wild natural scenes, like Thomas Gray’s before him, illustrates a significant shift in attitudes to landscape and nature.17 Of particular interest are the responses of Gregory (1784/1785) and Burns to the Scottish Highlands: they indicate that Scots too appreciated ‘the great, and sublime in nature’ in their native land. The paucity of surviving travel accounts of Scottish tours by Scots makes it difficult to ascertain just how early this admiration was voiced. According to Dr Johnson, few Lowland Scots knew the Highlands and Islands at the time he travelled there in 1773.18 The north of Scotland was not readily accessed before the military roads were laid. When Sir John Clerk of Penicuik toured the Highlands in 1739 he expressed his appreciation of the new roads built, some of them only six years previously, under General Wade’s command.19 His previous travels north, in 1709, had been no further than Aberdeen. On the trip in the spring of 1739 Clerk was accompanied by his son, George, and his young friend, for he wished that they ‘should be a little better inform’d of the state of their country’.20

9Having recently edited the earliest surviving published tour of Scotland by a Scot, John Macky (d. 1726), I am well aware that in the early decades of the eighteenth century attitudes to nature and the environment were very different from those expressed by Burns and Gregory. I believe it may be possible to trace when this shift occurs.

  • 21 John Macky, A Journey through Scotland (1723), edited with an introduction by Anne M. McKim (Glasgo (...)

10Macky’s Journey through Scotland, first projected in 1713/14 as the third part of a three volume account of journeys through England, Wales and Scotland, finally appeared in 1723. A well-travelled Scot long domiciled in the South of England, Macky stressed that his account is based on his own first-hand observations, not derived from other books which, he says, are too often outdated or written by people who have never actually visited Britain. In his bid to provide what he calls ‘a full idea of your own country’ he admits that his description of the western and northern islands of Scotland are entirely drawn from the ‘accurate account’ prepared for the Royal Society and published twenty years earlier by Martin Martin, ‘a native of those islands’.21

  • 22 Preface to A Journey through England (London, 1714), pp. i-ii.
  • 23 See Anne McKim, ‘” Wild Men” and “Wild Notions”: Challenging prejudices about Scotland in early 18t (...)

11Macky dedicated his ‘journey’ books ‘To the Young Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain’ and presented them as guidebooks for young noblemen preparing to go on the Grand Tour of Europe. His view was that a full idea of their own country would enable them to converse knowledgeably about their native land with foreigners they met in Paris, Rome, and Vienna and ‘to make suitable parallels when [they] go to travel into other nations’.22 Macky’s readers are assured that these are the observations of a well-travelled and cultured gentleman, addressing other gentlemen. He also set out to refute the generally negative portrayals of Scotland – as a barren wilderness – in circulation at the time.23

  • 24 Daniel Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain, 2 vols, ed. by G.D.H. Cole and D.C. (...)
  • 25 Julia Rak, ‘The Impriving Eye’, p. 350. See also Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing (...)

12Macky’s focus on noble piles and improvement projects on Scottish estates irritated English author Daniel Defoe, who accused Macky of ‘scandalous partiality’ and the typical ‘northern vanity […] to think mighty well of his own country’.24 The irony is that Macky’s ‘ideology of improvement’ derived from ‘English ideas of agricultural improvement, which were accompanied by English ideas about landscape improvement’ imported and ‘enacted in Scotland’.25 Macky acknowledges that in Scotland ‘the nobility have of late run into parking, planting, and gardening, which are great improvements of their estates’ (Journey through Scotland, p. 112). He singles out a number of estates for special tribute. Drumlanrig Palace is one of these. After riding through ‘a most beautiful country’, the house itself becomes the chief focus of interest in his description. He praises the Duke of Queensbury’s great taste in building his seat in a seemingly bleak and unpromising situation, ‘on a rock, environ’d with high mountains on every side’ (p. 10).

13After touring Drumlanrig, Macky had the challenge of riding through Enterkin Path, a pass so steep and narrow, he reports, that only two can ‘go a-breast’ (p. 11). The precipice, he says, is ‘much more dreadful than Pennaenmawr in Wales’ (p. 11); this is not intended as praise. Finding himself in ‘the wildest, poorest country I ever saw’, is not a sublime or picturesque experience, and so he says: ‘I made haste out of this desart’ (p. 11).

14Macky did appreciate a good view on occasion and he rarely misses an opportunity to compare fine vistas in Scotland to the finest in England and Europe. For instance, he declares the views at Hopetoun House ‘prodigiously more extensive’ than those at Cannons, and with the potential grand tourists in mind, he raves about the view to the north from the terrace:

[T]he finest view I ever saw anywhere; far beyond Frascati near Rome, or St. Michael del Bosco, near Bolognia, for variety. Looking to the east you see all the islands of the Firth to its mouth; all the towns on the coast of Fife and Lothian as far as St. Andrews one way, and North-Berwick the other. Looking to the west you see all the rest of the Firth, Stirling and its castle, with the mountains of Perthshire, and Argyllshire; and looking north you have Dunfermline, and all the country round it, full in view; the Firth lying under you like a pond, which is here about two miles broad. There are also several vistas from each of the many walks that run from this parterre; some of them ending in a parish church, some in an old tower. And through the great avenue fronting the palace, your view terminates on North-Berwick Law, near the Bass, at thirty miles distance, appearing like a sugar-loaf’. (p. 100)

15It is notable that he singles out features of a developed and inhabited countryside, such as towns and castles. The mountains of Perthshire and Argyll receive only a passing mention, while the Firth of Forth is likened to a man-made water feature. The rocky hill, or crag, Berwick Law, resembles another manufactured product, a sugar loaf. Walks have been created to increase pleasure in views where the human presence is evident.

  • 26 For an examination of the potent influence of James Macpherson’s Ossian poems see Philippe Laplace, (...)

16When Macky describes the Highlands, he admits that parts of Aberdeenshire are ‘mountainous and stony’ (p. 59) but on passing into Banffshire he is gratifed to find a ‘pleasant little vale call’d Strathbogie’ (p. 61), and on crossing the river Spey he declares Moray to be ‘one of the beautifullest countries I had seen in Britain, which very much surprized me’ (p. 62). The beauty lies in the fertile even ground, which he compares to twenty-four miles of bowling green. Ross and Cromarty are ‘very mountainous, cover’d in most places with wood’ and the country ‘abounds with cattle, stags, roebucks, fallow-deer, and wild-fowl’ (p. 63). Once again though, the highest praise is reserved for cultivated countryside, so the Carse of Gowrie is ‘the beautifullest spot of ground in Scotland, being fourteen miles long, and from four to two miles broad on the north side of the River Tay, from Dundee to Perth, and all a perfect garden’ (p. 69). The area around Dunkeld, sought out by later travellers as the haunt of Ossian, is for Macky primarily the location of several noble residences.26

  • 27 Jemima, Lady Grey’s unpublished journal, ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, and her letters from Taymout (...)

17One of these noble piles, Taymouth, was the destination of Lady Jemima Yorke, Marchioness Grey (1722-1797) in July 1755, five years before James Macpherson’s Poems of Ossian burst upon the world. Lady Jemima was the daughter of John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane (c. 1696-1782) and Lady Amabel Grey (1698-1727). Her mother died when she was a child and Jemima was raised at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, the country seat of her maternal grandfather Henry Grey, Duke of Kent (whose title and estate she inherited in 1752). It appears that her ‘northern tour’, recorded in a journal and letters to her close friend, the author Catherine Talbot, and others, was her first return to her paternal home.27 Her unpublished travel journal provides a fascinating insight into changing attitudes towards Highland landscapes, not least because we can observe Marchioness Grey’s own shifting responses to the land of her Scottish forebears.

  • 28 Linda Cabe Halpern, ‘Wrest Park 1686-1730s: Exploring Dutch Influence’, Garden History Journal 30: (...)
  • 29 Laurence Gale, ‘Wrest Park Development’, Pitchcare Magazine 46 (January 2013), p. 82.

18Grey had a keen interest in landscape gardening. Raised at Wrest Park, she witnessed the extensive redesign of the parks by her grandfather in the 1720s and 1730s, work she continued ‘in line with the newer naturalistic taste’ when she inherited his title in 1740.28 The estate was further developed under her strict supervision by landscape gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, between 1758 and 1760. He was hired by the marchioness to make the boundary canals less formal and more natural, in line with the then fashionable style.29

  • 30 ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, Friday, July 11, 1755, pp. 16, 17.

19By the time she set off on her northern journey in 1755, Grey had clearly already developed a preference for a more informal landscape style. When she visited Studley Park en route to Scotland, she was dismayed to find that in the extensive gardens there ‘Art had done its Utmost Efforts to Spite, nay, destroy Nature’ and that the river running through the Park had been ‘tortured into those of numberless Canals, formed into Circles, half Circles, parts of Circles, strait Lines’.30 More to her liking was the valley in the park ‘which is left in its wild natural State encompassed with the finest thickest Woods’ (‘Journal’, p. 18). She favours ‘charming picturesque’ scenes (‘Journal’, p. 19) such as that further north where the Tees impresses her as ‘A wide River running through wooded winding Banks, – a Village above them, – a Bridge, – & more than all, – the Sun setting at that Instant & its Beams glistening upon a very pretty Reach of the River turned the Scene into a direct Claude’ (‘Journal’, p. 21). She expresses her appreciation of the scenery by invoking her acquaintance with the tradition of European painting. The scene is picturesque because it looked like a picture.

  • 31 ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, Wednesday, 16 July, 1755, p. 29.

20On crossing into Scotland, however, she encountered ‘a most dreadful barren Country; rocky Hills & waste Heaths that look quite horrid, & give no favourable Impression of Scotland’ (‘Journal’, p. 28). She attributes this to ‘Want of Culture & Inhabitants’, and proclaims an improvement in the scenery only after Dunbar ‘where it mends – that is – grows more humanized, though it is not yet a Country that pleased my Eye’.31 What does please her eye, as it had Macky’s, is Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh. She pronounces it ‘one of the sweetest Places’ she ever saw, situated in a ‘Spot, Retired & Romantic to the highest degree’ (‘Journal’, p. 41). She admires the ‘swift Stream running through a deep Valley the sides of which are cover’d with thick Wood. The whole River in one place tumbling in a Cascade over great pieces of Rock & murmuring along the Stones in the bottom’ (‘Journal’, p. 40), before surrounding ‘the Fields & Inclosures that are laid out with the neatness of English Improvements’ (‘Journal’, p. 41).

  • 32 ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, Saturday, 26 July, 1755, p. 49.
  • 33 Letter to Catherine Talbot, 15 August, 1755. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Office, re (...)

21It is possible to detect a shift in Grey’s responses to Scotland. Her preference for cultivated landscapes and ‘the neatness of English Improvements’ is certainly evident in her initial response to the countryside she travels through on the way to her father’s estate at Taymouth. After passing ‘many Miles through a Wild unpeopled Country with not a House or Tree to be seen’, she is vastly relieved to arrive at last ‘upon the Banks of the Tay & meet with Culture & Habitation. The barren Hills rise again immediately before you, but still the Valley looks pleasant & has Wood in it, & the River is very fine’.32 Loch Tay itself is deemed ‘the finest piece of Inland Water I have yet seen… & the Evening being very fine & still the Loch was quite a Looking Glass & the whole view exceedingly beautiful’ (‘Journal’, pp.50-51). However, an excursion to the Duke of Atholl’s estates at Blair and Dunkeld leads her to a new, unexpected appreciation of wilder landscapes. She confesses her surprise at her own response in a letter to her close friend, the writer Catherine Talbot: ‘And what has really surprized me, was the seeing as fine a Country (– fine I mean in Hilly Beauties) as can possibly be imagined.’33 Part of her surprise is in finding the Tay valley ‘wooded & Cultivated greatly beyond my Expectation’ (‘Journal’, p. 57). She seems even more astonished, however, by the wild beauty of the Pass of Killcrankie:

And a beautifully wild Place it is! – It is just a Mile long & consists of two Ridges of vast perpendicular Rocks cover’d with Wood & a Stream below that fills all the space between them. The Road lies along the Side of One of the Hills, & is not less pleasant for Driving by some little Parapet Walls the D: of Athol had just put up, (tho’ it is One of the King’s Roads) at the Desire of the Ladies of his Family in some places where the Look-Down was pretty steep: – You may now unconcernedly admire from your Chaise the Wild Beauties round you. (‘Journal’, pp. 59-60)

22While she is impressed by the ‘Planting & Cultivating this Duke has introduced, having converted the most barren Heaths & Hills round him into Farms, divided his Fields with Hedge-rows & c. Yet still his Highland Neighbours, – the Rocks are very craggy & barren’ (‘Journal’, p. 59), she admits that:

The finest thing I saw at Blair, or indeed have met with anywhere, is a most delightful Romantic Cascade at some distance from the House, in a Wood hardly accessible, but to which an Access was going to be made, that you might see it without hazard of breaking your Neck. – If you please you may imagine a winding Stream over a very rocky Channel (as usual) between two immense perpendicular rows of Rocks (as usual) cover’d with thick Woods from top to bottom, & Promontories of Rock starting out among the Trees, & at least ten falls of Water down the side of One of these Hills into the Burn below. This Part is not quite so usual, though not uncommon in some degree in this Country, but I am really sorry both for You & Myself that I cannot find different Words to describe the same Objects that occur so often. Rocks, Vallies, Woods, & Waters cannot have different Names given them, & yet (what is provoking) those bare Names will by no means convey the Idea to you how much they are diversified, & what different Forms & various Beauties they appear with in these Wild Countries, where Nature seems to have exerted her utmost Art in the Representations both of Horror & Beauty. – So Imperfect & so Absurd is all Attempt to Description! (‘Journal’, pp. 60-62)

23She attempts a word picture in which she not only describes what she has seen but depicts the astonishing scene so that her friend ‘may imagine’ it too, although ‘bare Names will by no means convey the Idea to you’ (‘Journal’, p. 61). Nature is identified as the artist who has painted forms and beauties so diverse – ‘Representations both of Horror & Beauty’ – that her attempted description is rendered ‘Imperfect’ and ‘Absurd’ (‘Journal’, p. 63).

  • 34 Betty Hagglund, Tourists and Travellers, p. 21.

24Gilpin could not have had a better pupil. Yet Grey’s responses were written thirty-four years before his Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty was published, and two years before Edmund Burke published his A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful in which he distinguished between the ‘beautiful’, those objects that could be characterised by their delicacy, smoothness, smallness, variety and subtlety and the ‘sublime’ objects which were characterised by vastness, power, obscurity and the ability to inspire fear and awe in the onlooker.34

  • 35 Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, p. 259. See also Malcolm Andrews, The Search for the Pictu (...)

25Grey’s own observations on the Scottish Highland landscape attest the beginning of a momentous change from the more usual expressions of disgust at wild barren topography to the kind of high aesthetic admiration expressed by ‘picturesque travellers’.35 This striking transformation in taste over the course of the century was remarked by Hugh Blair (1718-1800), first Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at Edinburgh University. He asked in the 1760s:

  • 36 Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ed. with an Introduction by Linda Ferreira-Buc (...)

What are the scenes of nature that elevate the mind in the highest degree, and produce the sublime sensation? Not the gay landscape, the flowery field, or the flourishing city; but the hoary mountain, and the solitary lake; the aged forest, and the torrent falling over the rock.36

  • 37 William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye and Several Parts of South Wales, p. 166.
  • 38 Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, p. 262.

26Yet as late as 1791 Gilpin believed that the majority of people favoured ‘busy scenes of cultivation’ to ‘wild country in its natural state’.37 The ‘rage for mountain scenery’ only took hold late in the eighteenth century, partly as a reaction against agricultural improvements that had enclosed so much of England. Changing fashion in landscape gardening contributed to a new aesthetics too, according to which natural forms, curves rather than straight lines, and a subtle merging of gardens into surrounding countryside rather than a sharp distinction between the cultivated and the wild, came to be admired.38

  • 39 Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Office, L30/9/60/4. Her other letters to her mother can (...)
  • 40 e.g. L30/9/60/17 written in August, 1773.
  • 41 ‘I have taken some Sketches in the Highlands tho not so many so I could wish’, sent from Marchmont (...)

27While Grey’s travels in Scotland may not have led her to ‘a full idea’ of her own country, her journey to Taymouth in 1755 certainly gave her a fuller one. Other Scots soon made the home tour too. In 1772, a year before James Boswell accompanied Dr Johnson to the Western Isles, Lady Grey’s daughter, Amabel Hume-Campbell (1751-1833), followed her mother’s route to Scotland, on her bridal tour. (She had married Alexander Hume-Campbell, Lord Polwarth, on 16th July 1772.) On Sunday, 20 September, 1772 she wrote of her pleasure in arriving at last at Taymouth, ‘this Place which I have so long been desiring to see [… .] I am as much charm’d as I expected with the Beauties of this Place which I really think is not surpassed by any I ever saw.’39 She visited Taymouth again in 1773 and 1774 and wrote to her mother and sister about her enjoyment of the Highland scenery.40 Her letters home echo her mother’s earlier responses to the Scottish landscape. We also learn from one of her letters to her mother that Amabel, a talented amateur artist, made sketches of Highland scenery which may have survived in a private collection.41 The picturesque Highlands were thus captured in pictorial form.

Notes

1 Robert Burns, ‘Written with a Pencil over the Chimney piece, in the Parlour of the Inn at Kenmore, Taymouth’ in Burns Poems and Songs, ed. by James Kinsley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971, rep. 1978), pp. 279-80.

2 Robert Burns’s Tours of the Highlands and Stirlingshire, 1787, ed. by Raymond Lamont Brown (Ipswich: Boydell Press, 1978), p. 24. Burns’s Highland tour inspired more poems, including the famous song: ‘My heart’s in the Highlands’ (published in 1789): ‘Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, | The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.’ (Burns Poems and Songs, ed. by Kinsley, p. 418).

3 The Grand Tour attracted British travellers to the continent between c.1550 and 1850. It was seen as completing the education of young, usually male, aristocrats, by introducing them to the art and culture of France and Italy through a leisurely tour that included stays at Paris, Florence, Venice, Naples and Rome. The standard study of this phenomenon is by Jeremy Black, The British and the Grand Tour (London: Croom Helm, 1985).

4 Among the accounts of English travellers to Scotland before the Union are those of Thomas Morer, an English chaplain to a Scottish regiment who travelled through Scotland in 1688- 1689, and later used his notes from that expedition to compose A Short Account of Scotland, published in London in 1702. James Brome, a tutor whose travels over England and Wales were first published in 1694, later toured Scotland and added an account of his tour to a new edition of his travels in 1700, An Account of Mr. Brome’s Three Years Travel Over England, Scotland, and Wales (London, 1700); this was reissued on the passing of the Act of Union in 1707. Joseph Taylor, a London barrister, rode to Edinburgh with two friends and recorded his impressions in A Journey To Edenborough in Scotland (1705), first printed by William Cowan (Edinburgh: W. Brown, 1903). Englishwoman Celia Fiennes (c.1702) ventured over the border at Carlisle, but soon turned back, dismayed by the poor roads, lack of travellers’ inns, and terrible cooking, all recurrent complaints in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English travel accounts of Scotland. In fact, the majority of travellers to Scotland, and even within Scotland, in the first half of the eighteenth century, did not venture to the highlands and islands; many did not venture beyond Edinburgh.

5 Katherine Haldane Grenier cites Thomas Cook’s claim to have taken 40,000 tourists through Scotland between 1846 and 1861. Tourism and Identity in Scotland, 1770-1914 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), p. 1. Christopher Smout ‘guesses’ that ‘In the early nineteenth century there might be scores, later hundreds, by the middle of the century conceivably a thousand or so’ who toured the Highlands. ‘Tours in the Scottish Highlands from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries’, Northern Scotland 5 (1983), 99-121, p. 120.

6 Betty Hagglund, Tourists and Travellers: Women’s Non-fictional Writing about Scotland. 1770-1830 (Bristol, UK & Tonawanda, New York: Channel View Publications, 2010), p. 25. The ‘search for Ossian’ brought an influx of travellers in the late eighteenth century who came to see the Highland landscapes they associated with Ossian (Hagglund, p. 24). Hagglund also notes the ‘growing English interest in Scotland and in Scottish history, culture and landscape‘ in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Scott’s novels in particular were popular with English readers. ‘Even beyond the Ossianic fervour that had existed in the 18th century, and partially enabled by the improvements in physical and cultural amenities, 19th-century visitors rushed to see the scenes and scenery depicted by Scott.’ (p. 30)

7 Ian Ross, ‘A Bluestocking over the Border: Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu’s Aesthetic Adventures in Scotland, 1766’, Huntingdon Library Quarterly 23: 3 (1965), 213-233, p. 221. William Gilpin, An Essay upon Prints: Containing Remarks upon the Principles of Picturesque Beauty (London, 1768), p. x.

8 Malcolm Andrews, The Search for the Picturesque: Landscape Aesthetics and Tourism in Britain, 1760-1800 (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1989), p. 39.

9 Julia Rak, ‘The Improving Eye: Eighteenth-Century Picturesque Travel and Agricultural Change in the Scottish Highlands’, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 27 (1998), 343-364, p. 344.

10 William Gilpin, Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, made in the year 1776: on several parts of Great Britain; particularly the Highlands of Scotland [1789]), Part 1, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, p. 147.

11 William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye and Several Parts of South Wales (London, 1791), p. 166.

12 William Gilpin, Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, p. 119.

13 Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland in Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, A Journey to Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), p. 60.

14 William Gilpin, Observations relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, p. 120.

15 James Gregory (1753–1821), physician and Professor of Medicine, University of Edinburgh, was a friend of Robert Burns. He is described in the DNB as ‘an honorary member of numerous literary and scientific societies’. He published a number of his lectures and essays in 1792 under the title, Philosophical and Literary Essays.

16 Following his three-month tour of Scotland in 1677, Thomas Kirke published a diatribe in which he wrote: ‘The Judgement of Hail and Snow is naturalized and made free Denison here’. A Modern Account of Scotland: Being, An exact Description of the Country, And a True Character of the People and their Manners (London, 1679), p. 2. This anonymously published tract was reprinted as A Journey to Scotland (London, 1699). Joseph Taylor, on arriving in Scotland in 1705, wrote: ‘We were now got into a very desolate Country, and could see nothing about us but barren mountaines and the black Northen Seas’ (p. 94).
Daniel Defoe, who travelled in Scotland in the autumn of 1706, ridiculed the negative notions held by his compatriots: ‘Poor, barren Scotland where you fancy there is nothing to be had but wild men and ragged mountains, storms, snows, poverty and barrenness!’
Defoe’s Review. A Review of the State of the English Nation, volume 3: 1706, ed. by John McVeagh (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2005), p. 641.

17 Thomas Gray went on a tour of the Scottish Highlands in 1765, visiting Taymouth, Blair Atholl, and Glamis castle . His journal of the tour was published posthumously by his friend William Mason in 1775. For a modern edition, see Thomas Gray’s Journal of his Visit to the Lake District in October 1769 also including a letter describing his Visit to the Highlands of Scotland in September 1765. A Revised Edition edited, with Commentary, by Bill Roberts (Kirkoswald, Cumbria: Northern Academic Press, 2012). His account of the tour can also be found in his letter to Wharton in The Letters of Thomas Gray, including the correspondence of Gray and Mason, 3 vols, ed. by Duncan C. Tovey (London: George Bell and Sons, 1900-12), letter no. CCLXXVII (To Wharton), vol. iii, pp. 82-93. The Thomas Gray Archive, University of Oxford, <http://www.thomasgray.org/> [accessed 6 March 2015].

18 Samuel Johnson, ‘A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland’, p. 96.

19 ‘Trip to the North of Scotland as far as Inverness in May 1739’, National Records of Scotland, NAS GD18/2110, pp. 89-117.

20 ‘Trip to the North of Scotland as far as Inverness in May 1739’, p. 89. Clerk kept a brief account of another tour, taken with his wife and daughters three years later. ‘Trip to the Highlands, May 1742’, National Records of Scotland, NAS GD18/2110, pp. 127-28.

21 John Macky, A Journey through Scotland (1723), edited with an introduction by Anne M. McKim (Glasgow: The Grimsay Press, 2014), p. 131. Martin Martin’s A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland was published in London in 1703. Martin was a native of Skye.

22 Preface to A Journey through England (London, 1714), pp. i-ii.

23 See Anne McKim, ‘” Wild Men” and “Wild Notions”: Challenging prejudices about Scotland in early 18th Century Travel Writing’ in What Countrey’s This? Edited by D. McClure, C. Szatek and R Penna (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), pp. 118-34.

24 Daniel Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain, 2 vols, ed. by G.D.H. Cole and D.C. Browning (London & New York: Dent & Dutton, 1962), II, p. 279.

25 Julia Rak, ‘The Impriving Eye’, p. 350. See also Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800 (London: Allen Lane, 1983), p. 255.

26 For an examination of the potent influence of James Macpherson’s Ossian poems see Philippe Laplace, ‘The Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland: Transference, Cultural Synecdoche and the Elusive Quest for Identity’, e-CRIT, 7 January 2010, p. 17-30 <http://ecrit3224.univ-fcomte.fr/download/3224ecrit/document/numero_1/b_article_laplace_17_30.pdf> [accessed 6 March 2015].

27 Jemima, Lady Grey’s unpublished journal, ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, and her letters from Taymouth to Catherine Talbot are held in Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Office, ref. L30/29A/7.

28 Linda Cabe Halpern, ‘Wrest Park 1686-1730s: Exploring Dutch Influence’, Garden History Journal 30: 2 (Winter 2002): 131-152, p. 146.

29 Laurence Gale, ‘Wrest Park Development’, Pitchcare Magazine 46 (January 2013), p. 82.

30 ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, Friday, July 11, 1755, pp. 16, 17.

31 ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, Wednesday, 16 July, 1755, p. 29.

32 ‘Journal of a Northern Tour’, Saturday, 26 July, 1755, p. 49.

33 Letter to Catherine Talbot, 15 August, 1755. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Office, ref. L30/29A/7, p. 57. The underlined emphases here and in the following extracts from her letters are Grey’s.

34 Betty Hagglund, Tourists and Travellers, p. 21.

35 Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, p. 259. See also Malcolm Andrews, The Search for the Picturesque: Landscape Aesthetics and Tourism in Britain, 1760-1800, especially chapter III, ‘The evolution of Picturesque taste, 1750-1800’, pp. 39-66.

36 Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ed. with an Introduction by Linda Ferreira-Buckley and S. Michael Halloran (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 2005), p. 27. Blair’s Lectures was originally published in London by W. Strahan in 1783.

37 William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye and Several Parts of South Wales, p. 166.

38 Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, p. 262.

39 Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Office, L30/9/60/4. Her other letters to her mother can be found in L30/9/60/1, L30/9/60/17, L30/9/60/24, L30/9/60/39. The couple visited the groom’s parents at Marchmont House in Berwickshire on their journey north.

40 e.g. L30/9/60/17 written in August, 1773.

41 ‘I have taken some Sketches in the Highlands tho not so many so I could wish’, sent from Marchmont House on an undated Saturday in 1773 (L30/9/60/22). I have been unable as yet to identify were these sketches may be held.

Auteur

Is Professor of English at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Until 2013 she was also a Senior Research Fellow at the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the same institution. Her teaching and research focus on British, especial Scottish, literature; she also contributes to the field of educational research. Recent publications include: her edition of A Journey Through Scotland (1723) by John Macky (2014); with Kirstine Moffat, “Transformed understandings: Subjective interpretation and the arts,” Waikato Journal of Education 19 (2), 2014; and “Transforming conceptual space into a creative learning place: Crossing a threshold,” Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, March 2015.

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