“For all races of Teutonic origin the claim is made that they are essentially home-loving people. Yet the Englishman of the sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially of the latter, is seen to have exercised considerable zeal in creating substitutes for that home which, as a Teuton, he ought to have loved above all else,” writes Henry C. Shelley in the preface to his 1909 book Inns and Taverns of Old London.
During the Regency, anyone who could afford to do so took to the miserable roads and toured everything from natural beauties, to mills and jails, to stately country houses. They kept journals. They took notes. They drew pictures all in the hope of getting their observations published one day.
And for these travelers and would-be authors existed a host of guidebooks full of advice. In an 1812 tour guide, Daniel Carless Webb advises, “The carriage of baggage may be justly considered an inconvenience; it is therefore proper to take as few things as possible; these carried in a light green bag (I would on no account recommend a blue one, as that might occasion you to be mistaken for a lawyer).”
One might think that a visit to a gorgeous home full of antiquities and ancient tapestries might yield the kind of glowing praise Wordsworth heaped upon the Lake District. On the contrary, many of these published guides and memoirs of travels gave advice on how nature could be improved upon and details about what was wrong with the country houses visited.
A delightful satire on this is The Tour of Dr. Syntax, an 1812 spoof on the Search for the Picturesque wherein Dr. Syntax declares to his faithful wife, “You well know what my pen can do, and I’ll employ my pencil too: I’ll ride and write, and sketch and print and thus create a real mint: I’ll prose it here, I’ll verse it there and picturesque it everywhere. I’ll do what all have done before; I think I shall and somewhat more.” And so he went off to the Lake District.”