Skip to content. Skip to navigation
Home » the tale » How the Journey... » The Inconveniences of the Journey

The Inconveniences of the Journey

Discomforts of many kinds

 Cavaliere disarcionato in un'immagine acquerellata del XVIII secolo

The hardships travelers had to put up with were of many kinds. An exhaustive illustrated documentation that sums them up ironically and stands out from the rest of a very popular genre is the collection of twelve lithographs by Auguste-Xavier Leprince, entitled Twelve Drawbacks of Travel by Carriage. The titles of the individual plates range from Cruel Effectsof an Interrupted Digestion to The Amusement of the Kind Customs Officers!, Enforced Sacrifice, depicting passengers roped in to free a bogged-down carriage, and Courage Put to the Test, alluding to the fictionalized adventures of brigands which travelers liked to recount to one another in the cozy setting of the inns, stories that were at once terrible and romantic.

The advice of the guidebooks

 Nave sul mare in tempesta, incisione del XVIII secolo

To epitomize the spirit that animated the guidebooks and other authorities in their advice on this diverse range of problems, it is worth citing the Saggio di istruzione per viaggiare utilmente (“Instructions for Traveling to Good Use”) as it was printed at Livorno in Tuscany, or Leghorn as the British called it, at a date which placed it at the height of the Grand Tour: 1754. Profuse with recommendations as to how the traveler could avoid as many of these mishaps as possible, it states: «A traveler should arm himself against the major accidents that may befall him and against death itself. But prudence is no less necessary than courage. Guided by these ideas [he should] choose carefully his route and consult those who have traveled the world before him or the books they have written». Those books and their suggestions touched on a variety of fields, and the question of safety on the journey was one of the most frequently discussed. In fact, unexpected events could be of many kinds and an attempt was made, in order to ward off the unknown, to anticipate them with the greatest possible accuracy. It goes without saying that the imponderable often upset even the best-laid of plans, seasoning the traveler’s adventure with a touch of spice that did no harm. An example was the unforeseen incident that happened to Tobias Smollett at the Buonconvento post house in 1764, when a stableman, wishing to revenge himself for the stinginess of the British travelers who had not given him the customary tip, hitched the carriage to a pair of young horses that had been neither broken in nor castrated. Setting off at a headlong pace, they ended up in the dust along with their postilions. The occupants leaped out of the carriage in time to see the happy end: no harm to men and things, but a terrible fright all the same.


Powered by Plone, the Open Source Content Management System