Saturday, 24 February 2018

Remembering ... Daphne du Maurier


Sex, jealousy and gender: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca 80 years on
Du Maurier’s bestselling novel reveals much about the author’s fluid sexuality – her ‘Venetian tendencies’ – and about being a boy stuck in the wrong body, writes Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing
Fri 23 Feb 2018 11.00 GMT Last modified on Sat 24 Feb 2018 00.10 GMT

In 1937, a young army wife sat at her typewriter in a rented house in Alexandria, Egypt. She wasn’t happy. Despite coming from an ebullient theatrical family, she was reclusive and agonisingly shy. The social demands that came with being married to the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards were far beyond her. It was too hot and she missed England bitterly, though not the small daughter and new baby she’d left behind.

At the age of 30, she had already published four novels and two biographies. Yet 15,000 words of her new book were torn up in the wastepaper basket, a “literary miscarriage”. She knew the title but not what would constitute the “crash! bang!” of its plot, just that there would be two wives, one dead, and the name: Rebecca.

Inchingly, Daphne du Maurier’s difficult novel came together. She wrote it in the first person, from the perspective of a young unnamed narrator, who meets the dashing, yet unhappy Max de Winter while working as a lady’s companion in a grand hotel in Monte Carlo. The girl is anxious, observant, dreamy, terribly romantic, a perennial fantasist whose fears and insecurities bloom out of control when she becomes mistress of the haunting Manderley.

Rebecca is a very strange book. It’s a melodrama, and by no means short on bangs and crashes. There are two sunken ships, a murder, a fire, a costume party and multiple complex betrayals, and yet it’s startling to realise how much of its drama never actually happens. The second Mrs de Winter might not excel at much, but she is among the great dreamers of English literature. Whole pages go by devoted to her imaginings and speculations. The effect is curiously unstable, not so much a story as a network of possibilities, in which the reader is rapidly entangled.

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” Simone de Beauvoir said, and there aren’t many darker illustrations of what this might mean and what it might cost than Rebecca. The narrator is raw as an egg, practically a schoolgirl, with her “lanky” hair and bitten nails, her inability to talk to servants or run a house. Rebecca, on the other hand, is finished: lacquered and exquisite as the priceless china cupid her clumsy replacement breaks. It was Rebecca who created Manderley, turning the lovely old house into the apotheosis of feminine talents and virtues.

Of course, this paragon of beauty and kindness turns out to be a malevolent fake. In the Du Maurier family slang a sexually attractive person was a “menace”, and Rebecca unites both the word’s meanings. She is an animal, a devil, a snake, “vicious, damnable, rotten through and through”. She’s destroyed because of her poisonous sexuality, what the Daily Mail might euphemistically call her “lifestyle”.

Amazingly, the reader is somehow manipulated or cajoled into believing her murder and its concealment are somehow necessary, even romantic; that being cuckolded is a far worse fate than a woman’s death. It’s a grim reworking of “Bluebeard”, in which the murderer is suddenly the victim, adorable despite his bloody hands.

But who is really punished, and for what? Rebecca has a disturbingly circular structure, a closed loop like James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. It ends with Manderley in flames, but the first two chapters are also the conclusion. Husband and wife have been condemned to the hell of expatriation, in a hot, shadowless, unnamed country, staying like criminals in an anonymous hotel. It is apparent that they are revenants in a kind of afterlife, their only pleasure articles from old English magazines about fly fishing and cricket. The narrator attests to their hard-won happiness and freedom, while knowing it resides in a place accessible only by the uncertain routes of dream and memory, expelled from the Eden they never quite possessed.


Du Maurier was under no illusions as to the bleakness of what she had written. “It’s a bit on the gloomy side,” she told her publisher, Victor Gollancz, adding nervously “the ending is a bit brief and a bit grim”. But her predictions of poor sales were inaccurate. Rebecca was a bestseller; 80 years on it still shifts around 4,000 copies a month.

What really startled her was that everyone seemed to think she’d written a romantic novel. She believed Rebecca was about jealousy, and that all the relationships in it – including the marriage between De Winter and his shy second wife – were dark and unsettling. (“I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool” hardly betokened love between equals.) The idea had emerged out of her own jealousy about the woman to whom her husband, Tommy “Boy” Browning, had briefly been engaged. She had looked at their love letters, and the big elegant “R” with which Jan Ricardo signed her name had made her painfully aware of her own shortcomings as a woman and a wife.

 As a child, Du Maurier dressed in shorts and ties and spent most of her time pretending to be her alter ego, Eric Avon
It wasn’t just that Du Maurier was shy, or disliked telling servants what to do. Though she was beautiful, she had never wanted to participate in the masquerade of femininity. She didn’t want to be a mother (at least not of daughters) or wear dresses, though she painted her face even to go on her beloved rain-lashed walks. What she liked was to be “jam-along”, scruffy, perpetually in trousers, messing about in boats or living at large in her own head.

As Margaret Forster’s revelatory 1993 biography made clear, Du Maurier had been like that since childhood, always dreaming up other possibilities, never certain that people, or even time, were as stable as they seemed. She certainly wasn’t. From a very young age she was what she called a “half-breed”, female on the outside “with a boy’s mind and a boy’s heart”.

As a child, this didn’t pose problems, especially in a family of actors. She dressed in shorts and ties and spent most of her time pretending to be her alter ego, Eric Avon, the splendid, shining captain of cricket at Rugby. But as she reached adulthood, this boy self “was locked in a box”. Sometimes, when she was alone, she opened it up “and let the phantom, who was neither boy or girl but disembodied spirit, dance in the evening when there was no one to see”.

This hidden boy exploded into the light in 1947, when Du Maurier met and fell in love with Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her US publisher, and the addressee of the letter in which these revelations were made. Her feelings were not reciprocated, but they opened the gates for a later affair with Gertrude Lawrence, an actor with whom her father had also been involved.

Du Maurier’s sexuality is complicated to understand. The word transgender was not yet in common currency. She didn’t think her desire for women made her a lesbian and fought against her “Venetian tendencies”. (Heterosexual sex was known in the family, even more exotically, as “going to Cairo”.) Actually she felt she was a boy, very much in love, and stuck in the wrong body. At the same time – perhaps pragmatically, perhaps not – she was a woman committed to staying married to her husband.

She was by no means the only writer to feel herself two things at once. Many critics have caught a similar note in Ernest Hemingway, who often wrote about sex as a place in which genders could be temporarily and blissfully exchanged. Virginia Woolf, too, experienced herself as protean, slipping between sexes; her gender-shifting, time-distorting romp Orlando gave voice to her feelings for her lover Vita Sackville-West.

How much of Du Maurier’s sexuality is visible in Rebecca? The narrator repeatedly casts herself as an androgyne. She offers herself to Maxim as “your friend and your companion, a sort of boy”. The full heat of her desire is for Rebecca. She speculates about what her body might have looked like: her height and slenderness, the way she wore her coat slung lazily over her shoulders, the colour of her lipstick, her elusive scent, like the crushed petals of azaleas.

 When her husband's affairs were exposed, she wrote how her life was entangled with the plot of her most famous book
She isn’t the only one obsessed with Rebecca’s absent body. Mrs Danvers serves as a much more obvious proxy for Venetian tendencies. In the novel’s most sexual scene, “Danny” forces the narrator to put her hand in Rebecca’s slipper and fondle her nightdress, while she murmurs an incantation to Rebecca’s hair, her underwear, how her clothes were torn from her body when she drowned.

No wonder Mrs Danvers’ was the face that launched a thousand drag acts. She was embodying closeted lesbian realness even before Judith Anderson catapulted her into the high camp stratosphere in the Hitchcock film. Mind you, Anderson is given a run for her money by the revelation that Philip Larkin used to cheer himself up by looking in the mirror and declaiming throatily: “I am Mrs de Winter now.”


It’s not unusual for a novel to contain traceable elements from its author’s life. What’s odd about Rebecca is that it seemed somehow predictive, too packed with things that belonged not just to Du Maurier’s past but to her future, as well.

The most noticeable is Manderley, “secretive and silent as it had always been … a jewel in the hollow of a hand”. Manderley was based on Menabilly, an abandoned house near Fowey in Cornwall, which had bewitched Du Maurier as a girl. Like Manderley, Menabilly was strangely elusive. After she returned from Egypt, she managed to lease it from the owner and remained based there for most of her life. She loved the house feverishly, calling it “my Mena”, even though it was freezing, rat-run and chunks of the old wing kept crashing off. But she never quite possessed it, and in 1967 she was expelled after years of legal battles. Though she could still walk its grounds, Mena was as lost to her as if it had been swallowed in a fire.

“What is past is also future,” she once observed. When, in 1957, her husband had a breakdown and was discovered to have been having two affairs concurrently, Du Maurier wrote a long letter to a friend, in which she speculated about how her own life had become entangled with the plot of her most famous book. Was her husband identifying her with Rebecca, she wondered, and her writing hut with the sinister cottage on the beach? Would he shoot her in a blind access of rage, and take her body out in Yggie, their beloved boat?

She was under a great deal of stress at the time, but the fantasy aligned with her feelings about the oddities of time, how it seemed to run simultaneously, so that the distant past sometimes came very close, or repeated in inexplicable ways. She explored this in novel after time-slip novel, from her 1931 debut The Loving Spirit to The House on the Strand (1969), in which a young man takes an experimental drug that allows him to view events taking place in his own house in the 14th century.

The haunted house on the Strand is rather like a Du Maurier book in its own right. Her novels are storehouses in which she deposited emotions, memories and fantasies. Their function was intensely personal, but also public. If you’ve read Rebecca you have no doubt wandered Manderley in your mind, passing through the tunnel of scarlet rhododendrons in the hope of tea and dripping crumpets by the library fire, entering vicariously into moods of love and terror.

Du Maurier was not the most intellectual of writers. What she did was build emotional landscapes that can be entered at will, in which difficult and untamable desires were given free rein. Maybe because of her relationship with gender, she was able to make worlds in which people and even houses are mysterious and mutable, not as they seem; haunted rooms in which disembodied spirits sometimes dance at absolute liberty •


The Lonely City by Olivia Laing is published by Canongate. Rebecca (80th anniversary edition) by Daphne du Maurier is published by Virago on 1 March.




" Set during the years between the "Rebecca" trial and the writing of Du Maurier's "My Cousin Rachel," including her relationship with her husband Frederick 'Boy' Browning, and her largely unrequited infatuation with American publishing tycoon's wife Ellen Doubleday and her involvement with the actress Gertrude Lawrence. The atmosphere is well-invoked, bringing the late '40s early '50s easily to life. What is most striking about the production is the frequent use of the Cornish coast. For those who have seen "Rebecca" or know anything of DuMaurier's background this will come as an added welcome."




Du Maurier's lesbian loves on film
Screenplay examines writer's infatuation with American publishing tycoon's wife and actress
Vanessa Thorpe, arts and media correspondent
Sun 11 Feb 2007 11.45 GMT First published on Sun 11 Feb 2007 11.45 GMT

Daphne du Maurier's name has long been linked with the destructive story of one woman's obsession with another. Her novel Rebecca tells of the second Mrs de Winter's desperate struggle to break free of the shadow cast by her beautiful predecessor. To commemorate the centenary of the writer's birth this year, the BBC has turned to another story full of passionate intrigue between women: Du Maurier's own life.
Daphne, based on the controversial central chapters in Margaret Forster's 1993 authorised biography, is being filmed on location this month in London, Devon and Cornwall. It stars Geraldine Somerville in the role of Du Maurier, and Elizabeth McGovern and Janet McTeer as her two great romantic loves - the American publishing tycoon's wife Ellen Doubleday and the actress Gertrude Lawrence.

The screenplay has been adapted from Forster's book by Amy Jenkins, the creator of This Life, in her first attempt at period drama. It will chart du Maurier's deep and enduring love for her husband, Frederick 'Boy' Browning, but will also explain how her largely unrequited infatuations with Doubleday and Lawrence were reflected in her writing.

The 90-minute drama, to be shown on BBC2, focuses on what the BBC describes as the 'fraught' period of Du Maurier's life that followed the success of Rebecca and led up to the writing of My Cousin Rachel and her short story The Birds, famously filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Jenkins has worked with both Forster and with the Du Maurier family to shape the script. 'Daphne du Maurier was not what you would expect,' she said. 'She was irreverent, reclusive, funny, and tortured during this period of her life. I always want to write about strong, interesting women and Daphne's story is both tragic and illuminating. You'll never read Rebecca in the same way again.'

Du Maurier first met the glamorous Doubleday, who was married to her own publisher, Nelson Doubleday, on a voyage to New York on the Queen Mary. The novelist was sailing out, accompanied by two of her three children, in order to appear in a trial which revolved around accusations that she had plagiarised sections of Rebecca

The unsuccessful case had been brought against her by the writer Edwina MacDonald, who claimed that the 1940 Hitchcock film of the book relied heavily on her own work, Blind Windows

At some point during Du Maurier's stay in the Doubledays' comfortable New York home, she fell in love with her hostess.

Private letters written between the two women reveal the intensity of their relationship and show how hard the novelist tried to understand her own sexual and emotional needs. Somewhat mysteriously, she habitually referred to her heterosexual encounters as 'Cairo' and to homosexual encounters as 'Venice'. The code is thought to relate to her feelings about the nature of the two cities.

Du Maurier wrote a play, September Tide, about her forbidden love for Ellen, 'the Rebecca of Barberrys', and its staging then led her straight into a life-changing and doomed second lesbian affair with Lawrence, the vivacious actress who had inspired Noel Coward.

'What is fascinating is the way her personal life informed her writing,' said Kim Thomas, the executive producer of Daphne. 'Once you know this story, it changes the way you read everything. I would say that in My Cousin Rachel, Rachel is Ellen.' The film, Thomas adds, will be a contemporary take on the story, but with a strong sense of the films of Du Maurier's own era. The lesbian love scenes, she suggests, will be more reminiscent of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter than Sarah Waters's more graphic Fingersmith

At the time of her book's publication, Forster acknowledged the complexity of Du Maurier's emotional life. 'I accept her word that she was a hybrid, with tendencies both ways,' Forster said. 'But she said she felt the pleasure was greater with Venice than Cairo because she felt more in control that way.'

Forster's book also dwelt on Du Maurier's difficult relationship with her father, the actor/manager Gerald du Maurier, who was candid about the fact that he wished she were a boy.


Christina Hardyment on a well-researched but grudging biography of Daphne du Maurier
CHRISTINA HARDYMENT Saturday 20 March 1993 00:02 GMT
The Independent Culture

THE OPENING lines of Margaret Forster's biography of the British queen of suspense, romance and place are certainly in keeping with their subject. 'Sheet-lightning split the sky over London on the evening of 12 May 1907 and thunder rumbled long into the night.' By the time Muriel du Maurier has given birth to a daughter at dawn we already know what shows were on in London that night, not least Brewster's Millions in which Daphne's father, matinee idol Gerald du Maurier, was acting as his wife toiled in labour.
Although the narrative reads like a breeze, this is the last of romantic 'weather' in the book, nor does that promising cultural backdrop persist. Inhibited, perhaps, by the slant of the many already published panegyrics on du Maurier, Forster shuns lavish evacuation of the Cornish countryside, and doesn't tell us much about her subject's mental bookshelves, her sure grasp of the craft of writing.

Instead she concentrates on lighting up the dark emotional shadows that lie at the core of all Daphne's best books. What interests her most, as we might expect from a novelist who has shown herself concerned above all else with the inter-negotiations of men and women, old and young, in the domestic sphere, is Daphne's place in the web of her family, her sexual relationships, and the influence of both these things on her work.

On this level the book is enthralling. Daphne emerges as a moody child, nervously conscious she wasn't the boy her father made no bones about wanting, but beautiful enough to make him more than a little in love with her. She evaded his affection skilfully enough by taking on a boyish role herself, but her first published story was a bitter tale of man the oppressor and woman the victim called And Now to God the Father.

She had, it seems, little comfort from her own mother, whom Forster sketches as jealous of her, already smarting from her husband's infidelities, and finding it easier to pet the older and younger sisters than this proudly, unconventional daughter who disappeared up a tree with a book whenever she possibly could.

After a crush on a French school mistress, a surrogate mother in effect, and a couple of defiant adolescent indiscretions (one old, one young), Daphne found a highly respectable Prince Charming in the shape of war hero Tommy Browning, who first entered her life when he motored across Fowey harbour in a white launch named Ygdrasil. Six months later they were married in a tiny Cornish church. The official canon has left it at that: a long and happy marriage divided between London and Menabilly, the romantic Cornish manor that Daphne confessed to loving as much as, if not more, than any person, three children and later grandchildren, worldwide fame and an impressive and varied list of novels, biographies and memoirs.

Forster digs deeper. Browning was nicknamed 'Boy', but he was 11 years older than his new wife, and from a background (Sandhurst, an Oxfordshire rectory and the Grenadier Guards) as different as could be from the Bohemian style of the Hampstead du Mauriers. Although he knew what he was in for - having come to Fowey in the first place curious to meet the feted young author of The Loving Spirit, he had no idea what kind of baggage-train of emotions his beautiful young bride was trailing behind her.

Nor did she grasp for some time that besides being tall, fair and handsome, an archangel of unimpeachable integrity who would exorcise her father's devil, 'Boy' was a stickler for discipline, immaculate dress and domestic order, and something of a nervous wreck after his traumatic experiences in the trenches. Pile on to that the discovery of a packet of love letters in her husband's desk from a former girlfriend who seemed far more confident of her sexuality than Daphne was at the time, and we begin to see where Rebecca came from.

Again and again in the course of this richly researched book, Forster adds an exciting new dimension to our reading of du Maurier's novels by revealing the degree to which Daphne's own experience, more or less heavily veiled, lay at the root of them. At times, though, she is unconvincing. She spends a good deal of time laying a trail of tomboyish tendencies towards her much-hyped theory that Daphne's preferred sexual identity was homosexual. But when the 'startling new evidence' we have all heard so much about emerges, the frank discussion of the respective pleasures of 'Venice' and 'Cairo', it is handled inconclusively.

The real interest of what seems to have been more experiment than fulfilment (two brief but intimate holidays with the actress Gertrude Lawrence in 1948, and a string of passionate letters to the woman who was in reality more of a mother figure than a lover, Ellen Doubleday) is surely not an indication of preference for mannishness, but the light it sheds on Daphne's capacity for empathising with both sexes, of her deep desire for passion and the sad fact that it was frustrated for so much of her life.

Both relationships are rather more satisfactorily set into Daphne's emotional landscape by the quite fascinating appendix, a long and brilliant analysis of the relationship between herself and her husband, complete with echoes from the past and re-echoes into the future, written by Daphne herself to a family friend in order to explain Tommy's breakdown in 1957. It shows that Daphne was well aware of the extent to which her romantic and macabre allegories were a means of working out her subconscious longings and terrors. She herself dismisses her 'obsessions - you can only call them that - for poor old Ellen D and Gertrude' as 'all part of a nervous breakdown going on inside myself', at a time of great strain, her appearance in court in New York to defend Rebecca against plagiarism. What quite evidently matters most to her is her relationship with Tommy, by then always nicknamed 'Moper', and with her children.

The appendix does more than this. By allowing Daphne to speak for herself at length, it also draws attention to the extent to which Forster has controlled her subject's utterance by quoting du Maurier's own exhilarating prose in phrases rather than paragraphs. To get an instant taste of what I mean, open any page of Oriel Malet's edition of the letters she received from Daphne over 40 years of friendship (Letters to Menabilly, Weidenfeld, pounds 18.99). It is a marvellous lucky dip of advice on writing, urgent reading enthusiasms, gossip about family and friends, and sheer intellectual exuberance.

Yet it seems that the democrat in Forster doesn't quite approve of this unwifely lady, with her nannies and her neglect of domestic niceties and spelling. 'Tommy was always what he seemed, Daphne never,' she writes. 'If Daphne had been prepared to sacrifice Menabilly, she could have made a home in or near London for both of them, so that their marriage would have had a better chance of flourishing once more.' She is even confident enough to declare: 'That (the trusts she provided for her children) might not necessarily be good for any of them never troubled her, though it troubled Tommy.'

All in all, Forster has succceeded, for good or for bad, in changing the image of one of the most passionate writers of the late 20th century, living in one of the most romantic houses in Britain, into that of a frustrated wife in corduroys struggling with crumbling plaster and rats. It is the portrait of a cavalier painted by a puritan.

Daphne du Maurier - a woman ahead of her time

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, V&A





 Ocean Liners - Speed and Style review: This V&A show will float your boat
Reviewed by MELANIE MCDONAGH
Wednesday 31 January 2018 09:45

The one ocean liner most of us are able to identify is, alas, one that sank: the Titanic.

Still, despite that PR misfortune — or possibly because of it — the notion of ocean travel, especially by steamship, is still invested with irresistible glamour. The great ships were little worlds in themselves, with inutterable glamour and style at the top and more cramped class solidarity in steerage.

Think of the marine bit of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and then the episode in the film Brooklyn where our heroine is sick in a bucket, mid-Atlantic, in third class.

This exhibition at the V&A is the most comprehensive ever about international ocean liners. That, I know, doesn’t sound like much of a fun gig for those Londoners who know next to nothing about the sea, whose reflexive mode of transport is a plane and who think of cruises (the sad descendants of the liners) as floating prisons for the Saga generation (I know of one American whose solution to parental care is to stick his elderly father on one transatlantic cruise after another).

But stop it right there. Ocean liners — ships that actually ran to schedule rather than turning up at their destination as the weather allowed —  were not just incidentally interesting: they were crucial for shipping more than 11 million emigrants from Europe to America from 1900 until the First World War; they were militarily important; considered vital for national prestige and maintaining empires; economically crucial for cities dependent on shipbuilding; and, just as important, as a way of promoting design in response to the constraints of space and motion. This exhibition has some 200 artefacts and finishes with a wooden panel from the first-class lounge of the Titanic, split where the ship broke in half and floating mournfully on water as it once did on the Atlantic.

It’s bookended by two ships:  Brunel’s groundbreaking Great Eastern of 1859 (the Brits led the way on steamships), which transformed ocean travel, to the Queen Elizabeth II of 1969, which brought the era of great ocean-going passenger shipping to a close. Between these two vessels a whole transport culture is on display, from fabulous posters for the liners to contemporary film clips — such as Hitler on the Nazi steamship the Johannes Rey, or a moving chronicle of the strength and skill of Clyde shipbuilders.

Pride of place goes to interiors from great ships of the nations such as the Normandie. She was the showgirl of the French fleet, “a floating fragment of the country” and an exhibition space for French handiwork — including the fabulous Art Deco lacquer panels by Jean Dunand for the first-class smoking room, depicting streamlined youths at play. Requisitioned in the war by the Americans, the ship sank after too much water was used to douse a fire on board.

What was the appeal of ocean liners? They were a contained world: for the duration of your voyage you were in a limited space with a defined cast of characters, like Murder on the Orient Express without the homicide.

Or, as a spritely Cunard brochure of 1929, The New Art of Going Abroad, put it, “Life aboard ship is a little world between two worlds… a week of existence suddenly cast adrift.”
Jules Verne in his novel A Floating City, put it thus: “If the Great Eastern is not merely a nautical engine but rather a microcosm, and carries a small world with it, an observer will not be astonished to meet here, as on a large theatre, all the instincts, follies, and passions of human nature.” Which is why ocean liners were so good for film, from Buster Keaton to The Poseidon Adventure.

The shipping companies’ steely focus on wealthy travellers was directly influenced by the US government, which in 1921 imposed restrictions on the immigrants allowed to enter the US. At a stroke, the composition of passengers changed from a majority in steerage to a more even distribution of classes and the creation of the new “tourist” class.

An interesting picture of the cross- section of one ship shows the respective accommodation for the classes: third class was respectable if not showy.  As for the fabulous promotional material on display here, it was directed at pleasure-seeking travellers for whom the journey was summed up by the Cunard motto of the Twenties: “Getting There is Half the Fun!”

For designers, liners were an obvious showcase. Many engaged with the challenges posed by limitations of space and motion. Le Corbusier was an enthusiast for the form (showing the upper classes could cope in a confined space) but for others it was an exhibition area: as with Doris Zinkeisen’s lively theatrical mural shown here for the famous Verandah Grill on the Queen Mary.
Restricted space meant the striking Madonna of the Atlantic altarpiece for the salon on the Queen Mary, used on Sunday by Catholics, could be covered by panels for secular use. There was a pretty Torah ark too.

The children were also looked after: there’s a charming mural here by Edward Ardizzone for the play area of the Canberra. Ceramics designers made services with an emphasis on solidity: plates with raised sides to prevent slopping and glasses with solid bases. There’s a beautiful cane bunk bed, with space-saving drawers that open as steps.

But oh, the clothes! For the occasions liners offered for display, from the entrance on board to the grand descent that first-class passengers made down the steps to dinner — brilliantly evoked here — the curators raided the V&A’s own dressing-up box and came up with some fabulous pieces, from Marlene Dietrich’s Dior suit, which she wore on the Queen Elizabeth, to a Lanvin Twenties dress belonging to the heiress Emilie Grigsby.

But, as with the Titanic, there were tragedies at sea. After the Titanic panel, the most poignant item on show is the tiara that Lady Marguerite Allan took on the Lusitania, which her maid rescued when the vessel was torpedoed. Her two daughters were lost.


Ocean Liners: Speed and Style is at the V&A, SW7 from Saturday until June 10; vam.ac.uk

The luxury liner SS Normandie sits off the piers in New York in 1935.
Photograph: Collection French Lines

A photograph of the RMS Titanic’s propellers as the ship sits in dry dock. The ship was sunk by an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912.
Photograph: John Parrot/Getty Images

Detail of riveters from the 1940s series Shipbuilding on the Clyde by Stanley Spencer.
Photograph: Imperial War Museums


Breezy and buoyant return to a more glamorous age - Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, V&A
  
 Alastair Sooke, art critic
31 JANUARY 2018 • 12:01AM

If, like me, the idea of going on a cruise fills you with dread – the prospect of being tossed about at the whim of a wild and unforgiving sea is too much for my lily-livered, landlubber’s constitution – then the V&A’s latest exhibition, Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, will hold little appeal.

It would be a mistake, however, to rule it out. The first show ever devoted to the design of ocean liners, spanning a period from the 1840s to the 1960s, it is full of fascinating moments, and animated throughout by a breezy, buoyant spirit.

The latter is most evident in the design of the exhibition, itself, which plays upon a central conceit: that, as we navigate the show, we are “on board” a ship. To begin with, though, we remain on dry land, in a section called “Promotion” – after all, before embarking on a voyage, you need to buy a ticket.

Facing us, beside a spectacular promotional model of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, realised with extraordinary detail at 1:48 scale, is a wall of striking posters, designed to drum up trade for the shipping lines. At a stroke, we discover the great coup of public relations that transformed perceptions of the ocean liner.

To one side, a drab leaflet from around 1874 reproduces a forgettable wood engraving of a steamship, advertising a White Star line from Liverpool to New York. It is a reminder that, during the middle years of the 19th century, steamship travel was still seen as uncomfortable and dangerous. Mostly it was marketed, cheaply and perfunctorily, at third-class passengers to fill the steerage decks. This catered for millions of poor emigrants who left behind Europe for America. By the final quarter of the 19th century, though, the strategy of the shipping lines had changed, and fashionable graphic artists were being commissioned to lure a different sort of passenger, who preferred to travel first class. By the Twenties and Thirties, often described as the “golden age” of steamship travel, this PR transformation was complete, and the ocean liner was acknowledged as an emblem of sleek, glamorous modernity, on a par with the American skyscraper.

Following this introduction “ashore”, we walk across a gangplank, and make our way “aboard” the main body of the exhibition, where we are greeted by ship interiors from the early 20th century.

At this point, designers were still following the model of grand European hotels, and even palaces. Opulent doors and panelling, from about 1912, which once adorned the France, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique’s largest ship, were designed explicitly to evoke sumptuous interiors at Versailles. There is also an ornate carved wooden panel, depicting two allegorical figures, which provided a decorative centrepiece for the 60ft-high grand staircase of the Olympic. (An identical carving on the Olympic’s ill-fated sister ship, the Titanic, was reproduced, with surprising fidelity, for James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar-winning movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.)

As well as inviting us to gawp at the grandeur of yesteryear, though, the curator, Ghislaine Wood, here emphasises one of the exhibition’s principal themes: that ocean liners were swiftly understood as vast, tangible expressions of statehood. They were, in the words of another scholar, “flagships of imperialism”. This was especially true during the run-up to the First World War, as European nations jostled to project power. It’s why this section is called “Politics of Style”.

The Versailles-like interior of the France offers an excellent case in point, as does an absurdly overblown allegorical mural expressing German maritime supremacy, designed for the first-class smoking room of the Kronprinz Wilhelm, which won the much-coveted Blue Riband for its speedy passage across the Atlantic.

Even after the war, though, ocean liners, which were of immense economic importance because constructing them created so many jobs, remained vessels of national pride. The archetypal example was the great French interwar liner, Normandie, the apogee of Art Deco maritime glamour, which entered service in 1935. Every aspect of her glittering décor was an expression of sophisticated French taste. One of the highlights of the V&A’s show is a soaring golden lacquer panel depicting lithe young men and women, like classical Greek athletes, engaged in sports, by the French artist Jean Dunand. It once graced Normandie’s smoking room. Meanwhile, a nearby display of décor from Cunard’s Queen Mary reveals a depressingly typical mid-century British ambivalence towards progressive design.

A dull painting from 1936, probably commissioned for Cunard’s offices in Liverpool, depicts the Queen Mary’s first-class dining room, which evoked the interior of an English country house.

Compared with the suave modernity of Normandie, it offers a staid vista of parochial disappointment: a wilderness of tough, grey beef and congealing gravy.

At least we can take pride in the commitment to modern design of the British Orient Line after the Second World War, when artists such as Edward Bawden were commissioned to produce designs for liners. By this point, however, following the rise of commercial aviation, ocean liners were already on the wane. Eventually, they would be replaced by a different sort of nautical beast, altogether: the top-heavy cruise ship.

Having outlined the development of ocean-liner design – one memorable moment concentrates on the evolution of the deckchair, and includes an example, with a ripped caned seat, recovered from the Titanic (a rare moment, you could say, when arranging deckchairs is the opposite of futile) – the exhibition plunges us into an “engine room”, packed with information about steam turbines, gyro stabilisers, and screw propellers, alongside Stanley Spencer’s mesmerising wartime painting of shipbuilders on the Clyde hammering red-hot rivets. A label informs us that the hull of the Queen Elizabeth required around 10 million of the things.

Then, we are up on deck, considering pool-side fashions, to a soundtrack of seagulls, before a dramatic projection simulates elegant passengers, dressed in satin and silk, wafting down the “grande descente” en route to dinner (ie making a very public entrance on a liner’s imposing staircase).

By now, we have been whisked away to a sort of luxurious fantasy land, an escapist dressing-up box filled with crocodile-leather Louis Vuitton vanity cases, and items of luggage owned by the Duke of Windsor (supposedly he and Wallis Simpson once boarded the SS United States with a hundred pieces). Yes, of course, there could be less rubbernecking at the extravagance of how the other half lived – even if one or two pieces of eye-popping bling, such as a Cartier diamond tiara from 1909, have terribly sad stories attached to them. The tiara belonged to a woman who survived the sinking of the Lusitania but lost two daughters during the catastrophe. It was rescued by one of her maids, but its exorbitant value must have felt like nothing compared with the priceless lives of her children.

I also wish that the final gallery, devoted to the impact of the ocean liner upon modern culture, as filtered through the imaginations of artists, architects, writers and filmmakers, was more extensive. After all, there are only so many pristine dinner services one can look at before the onset of ennui.

Still, Ocean Liners: Speed and Style is a surprisingly sophisticated exhibition. It will satisfy those who yearn, nostalgically, for the glamour of a lost age. At the same time, it will sate those with an appetite for serious analysis of modern design. Above all, though, it will provide a great deal of carefree fun, as it blithely imitates life on board these marvellous “floating palaces”. Bon voyage!


From Sat until June 17. Sponsored by Viking Cruises. Tickets: 0207 942 2000; vam.ac.uk

Wooden panel fragment from an overdoor in the first-class lounge on Titanic, about 1911. © Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Empress of Britain colour lithograph poster for Canadian Pacific Railways, J.R. Tooby, 1920 – 31. Museum no. E.2215-1931. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Paquebot 'Paris', Charles Demuth, 1921 – 22, US. Gift of Ferdinand Howald. © Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
Panel from The Rape of Europa for the first-class grand salon on board the Normandie, Jean Dupas, made by Jacques-Charles Champigneulle, 1934, France. © Miottel Museum, Berkeley, California. Image courtesy Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
Luggage previously belonging to the Duke of Windsor, Maison Goyard, 1940s. © Miottel Museum, Berkeley, California

Diamond and pearl tiara previous
 previously owned by Lady Marguerite Allan and saved from the Lusitania, Cartier, 1909, France. Marian Gérard, Cartier Collection. © Cartier



Sunday, 18 February 2018

Brian Sewell's Grand Tour (edited)

THE GRAND TOUR - Ladies of the Grand Tour by Brian Delan / The Grand Tour by Christopher Hibbert / The English Gentlewoman by Flora Fraser .

`An utterly absorbing account, brilliantly researched and written, of women's lives and travels in the 18th-century.' Katie Hickman According to `The Art of Governing A Wife' (1747), women in Georgian England were supposed to `lay up and save, look to the house; talk to few and take of all within'. However, some broke from these taboos and took up the previously male privilege of travelling to the Continent to develop mind, spirit and body. Hearing of the delights of the Grand Tour from pioneering friends, increasing numbers of English ladies set off to sample foreign lands from which many returned apparently `the best informed and most perfect creatures'. For others the Grand Tour was an intellectual and romantic rite of passage, widening their knowledge of society, love and politics and inspiring a genre of literary fiction all of its own. Brian Dolan leads us into the hearts and minds of the ladies through the stories, thoughts and court gossip recorded in their journals, letters and diaries.

Women's travel: Women who broke the bell jar
Joanna Symons reviews Ladies of the Grand Tour by Brian Delan
12:01AM BST 15 Jun 2001

AS you set off on holiday this summer, spare a thought for the adventurous women of 18th-century England: trapped not so much beneath a glass ceiling as in a bell jar.

Georgian England was, according to Brian Dolan, run like a gentleman's club. Though the advantages of the Grand Tour for young men were widely acknowledged, such experiences were considered too stimulating for women. Their role, according to a contemporary work, The Art of Governing a Wife, was to "lay up and save; look to the house; talk to few; take of all within".

But some women did break the mould, to experience the wonders and pitfalls of Continental travel. These were not frivolous sun-seekers but well-educated blue stockings with a thirst for experience, who held strong opinions and were not slow to express them.

One wonders what European society made of Elizabeth Montague, who, Dolan reveals, returned one night from a ball and, still in formal dress, "chose to relax by reading the 'Ajax' and the 'Philoctetes' of Sophocles, wrote commentaries on both, then went to bed".

It is the stories of these women, set against the culture of the time, that Dolan sets out to explore; characters such as the writers Mary Berry and Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria Edgeworth and Hesther Thrale, whose diaries and journals vividly capture their fascination with (and sometimes disapproval of) European ways.

Their voices bring the book alive - whether they're exclaiming over French fashions or the French Revolution. Annoyingly, we don't hear enough of them.

Dolan has researched his subject thoroughly (the bibliography is almost a chapter long) but it's not until halfway through the book that you hear more than the odd snippet of life abroad. I began to feel as frustrated as the women themselves: I wanted to share their experiences across the Channel.


Dolan flits from one character to another; I had to keep turning to the dramatis personae section to keep track of who was who. Reading this book is rather like drifting along in a boat with one oar. You're not sure where you're going, it takes a long time to get there, but there's always a chance of bumping into something fascinating.



Gin and pistols
Vera Rule on women at sea in Heroines and Harlots by David Cordingly, and Ladies of the Grand Tour by Brian Dolan
Vera Rule

Sat 9 Jun 2001 10.17 BST First published on Sat 9 Jun 2001 10.17 BST

Heroines and Harlots: Women at Sea in the Great Age of Sail
David Cordingly
334pp, MacMillan
Ladies of the Grand Tour
Brian Dolan
330pp, HarperCollins, £19.99

What a fab party of women to be stranded with at an airport terminal gate. High-born (salonista Lady Holland, "the only really undisputed monarchy in Europe") and lowlife (China Emma, the Limehouse sailors' whore, who growled "I'd die for a drink, I must have it, and I don't care what I does to get it"); horribly real (Helen Williams, in fear of the guillotine in the Luxembourg Palace) and wildly fictional (Hannah Hewitt, the "Female Crusoe", cast away en route to India in a 1792 novel). They take the waters at Spa and Aix; they take lovers in Paris and Naples; they shop and ship by the crate; they adopt riding habits and are called "Sir"; they put on white duck trousers and pass themselves off for years as sailors, presumably pissing very discreetly.

That last group, the female mariners, appear in Heroines and Harlots ; these superboys with tits hidden under canvas jackets had a Lara Croft-like appeal to the 18th-century popular imagination. Some 20 of them were known to have served at sea between 1650 and 1815, including "William Brown", young, black and handsome, who joined the British navy and spent 12 years as "captain of the foretop" - leader of the team that climbed aloft to set the riskiest sails on battleships of the Napoleonic wars. Cordingly's anecdotes make us want to buy the movie rights, and even when her sex was revealed it didn't end her career; she rejoined her fellow tars at a higher rank before evaporating from the records.

She was not the first to be lioness-ised: Mary Lacy, a carpenter's mate, put in 12-hour days plus serious drinking time in Chatham dockyard to qualify as a shipwright. She was at last awarded, by a confused Admiralty, a disability pension "equal to that granted to Superannuated Shipwrights" and probably better than she could draw now. Then there was Hannah Snell, a marine who was wounded 12 times in the siege of Pondicherry in India; she had to extract a musket ball from her own groin as she dared not let surgeons discover her secret. Well, that's what the contemporary biography claimed, although its other nasty incidents, including naked-torso'ed floggings, sound suspiciously like the male author's sadistic fantasies. Published in the US in 1815, and with even more blockbuster potential, were the adventures of Louisa Baker, a ruined Bostonian girl who, bandaging her bosom and pulling on a tight "pair of under draws" - which she apparently never changed - fled a life of prostitution to become a sharpshooter high in the rigging of famous men'o'war. She married a wealthy New Yorker and lived quietly ever after, which last improbable plot developments reveal that the miniseries was dreamed up by a scriptwriter employed by a Boston pop publisher: both men, natch.

In fact, and in fiction, the women are present mostly to serve masculine purposes - for a start, those of their authors. David Cordingly's work reads, right down to its trollopy title, as if he had expanded it from a minor chapter in an ocean-going history - the kind of segment that uses up a historian's spicier notes on the incidence of mermaids before he returns, with relief, to analysing the protein content of weevils in ships' biscuits.

I had the impression that the only time Cordingly felt safe using the word "she" was when he was writing of a vessel; he too often cites a woman merely so that he can give a detailed account of her menfolk. Or he introduces them as conquests, entitling one section "Two Naval Heroes and Their Women", permitting Their Women only supernumary roles - even carved wooden figureheads (and Cordingly has a chapter on those, too) are allowed more individual character than his Emma Hamilton. He also employs fake-empathetic "what must have been her feelings" formulas, as when he writes about Mary Patten, a merchant captain's young bride who took command of the ship round Cape Horn when her husband fell sick. But overall his approach is a nervous raise of the glass to the ladies, god bless 'em. I did appreciate, though, a nautical ballad in the appendix: "Oh cruel was the splinter to break my deary's leg / Now he's obliged to fiddle, and I'm obliged to beg . . . / Like me you'll be rewarded, and have your heart's delight, / With fiddling in the morning, and a drop of gin at night. " Bet that anon balladeer was a woman.

Brian Dolan admits to expanding Ladies of the Grand Tour from a file left over from research on 18th-century British travellers, and makes even such unbiddable biddies as the bluestocking educationalist Hannah More demonstrate his own (not uninteresting) history-of-medicine thesis about the therapeutic effects of continental travel upon grand ladies. But when he quotes his sources in proof of his postulations, his gloss gets in the way (especially since his prose tends to the smooth ponderousness of presenter-ese). Better to read their words unmediated: they constantly subvert his.

There is nothing in Dolan's own sentences as informative about the robustness required for Georgian journeying as the items he cites from Mariana Starke's 1792 "things most requisite list" - "Two large thick leather-sheets . . . Pistols, knives . . . Sugar-tongs". Nor is there anything as celebratory of newfound freedom as Hester Piozzi's description of Parisian boulevards: "People of Fashion sitting on chairs in little Parties of five & six . . . a sett of Footmen round a Table drinking beer, old Soldiers smoaking, Shopwomen and Abigails . . . Puppet Shews, raree Shews, Monsters, Dancing Dogs".

I confess I can hardly remember Dolan's final conclusions, and I reread them twice out of politeness. Something about the stock of female knowledge continuing to increase - and what does that mean? And yet, I've been prompted by him to think all week about Mary Wollstonecraft, pregnant by her American lover, in a hideaway outside Paris during the Terror. There she penned her proto the-personal-is-political sentence - "The face of things, public and private, vexes me" - and worried that her anguish about the disintegrating revolution might be "tormenting or perhaps killing, a poor little animal, about whom I am grown anxious and tender, now I feel it alive". I wish she could be sitting in the window seat next time I fly.


                                 Christopher Hibbert
Prolific popular historian who brought style and narrative pace to a wealth of subjects from Agincourt to Disraeli
Christopher Hibbert
6:31PM GMT 23 Dec 2008



Christopher Hibbert, who died on December 21 aged 84, was a prolific popular historian, praised by readers and reviewers alike for his meticulous scholarship and flowing prose.

Following in the tradition of such figures as Philip Guedalla and Sir Arthur Bryant, Hibbert strove to bridge the gap between popular history and academic scholarship.

In a writing career that spanned half a century he wrote more than 40 books on subjects ranging from the Indian Mutiny and the House of Medici to the cities of Florence and Venice; from battles such as Agincourt and Arnhem to biographies of Dickens and Mussolini.

His breakthrough came with his fourth book, The Destruction of Lord Raglan (1961), a history of the Crimean War for which he won the Heinemann Award for Literature.

Once described as the "pearl of biographers", Hibbert covered some of the most august figures in British history, including Charles I (1968), Samuel Johnson (1971), Elizabeth I (1990), Nelson (1994), Wellington (1997), George III (1998), Queen Victoria (2000) and Disraeli (2004).

He was the first person to use the papers of George IV, when he produced his two-volume biography (1972-73). Often called "personal histories", his biographies were human portraits which eschewed deep analysis in favour of using anecdote and narrative to reveal the character of the subject.

Hibbert equated popular history with the narrative style. His intention was to describe rather than explain, leaving the reader to his or her own reflections. He noted: "The main aim is to entertain and tell a good, accurate story without attempting to make historical discoveries or change historical opinion in any way. You've got to make the reader want to know what's going to happen next, even if you're writing about something, the outcome of which is well known. You have to build up an atmosphere, almost like writing a novel or detective story. The popular historian's books are almost invariably narrative – which in many academic quarters is considered not the way to write history." While academics wanted analysis, Hibbert was adamant that he did not do that: "My readers wouldn't want me to."

Although his style was sometimes criticised for failing to break new ground or to tackle subjects in enough depth, Hibbert was sure of his methodology and his audience. He described himself as writing for those who were interested in history but who did not have the time or inclination to read an abundance of academic scholarship. He strove to make his writing accessible, and as a consequence his books were written with great style and a brisk narrative pace. They were rich in anecdote and filled with choice quotations.

Christopher Hibbert was born on March 5 1924 in Leicestershire, the second son of Canon HV Hibbert. He was educated at Radley and Oriel College, Oxford, where his studies were interrupted by war service, but not before he had won a half Blue for boxing. He served as an infantry officer with the London Irish Rifles and fought in Italy from 1944 to 1945, and was awarded a Military Cross.

During an advance along the bank of the Senio river in February 1945, Hibbert's platoon encountered a minefield. One member had his foot blown off in an explosion that brought down enemy fire, causing the others to withdraw. With complete disregard for his own safety Hibbert rescued the wounded man from the minefield while under fire.

Shortly after this Hibbert had his spectacles blown from his face when he was nearly hit by a mortar bomb. Despite his reduced vision he reorganised his platoon and went on to assault enemy machine-gun posts. His determined action meant that his platoon was able to occupy positions along the river, which ensured the safety of the rest of the advancing company.

On another occasion, while in a farmhouse being used as an observation post during an attack on the German lines, he found himself confronted by the farmer's wife. She was in a state of advanced labour, and when asked later how he had coped he replied: "I asked for plenty of hot water, remembering that was the standard request in films, but fortunately the farmer's wife seemed to know what to do!"

After the war, Hibbert returned to Oxford to complete his History degree before settling in Henley-on-Thames and embarking on a career as an estate agent. His literary career began when a friend invited him to become a television critic – a novelty at the time – for the magazine Truth.

After publishing short stories he was encouraged by JR Ackerley, literary editor of The Listener, to attempt a novel. His tale of the highwayman Jack Sheppard was turned, at the suggestion of a publisher, into a historical work and appeared as The Road to Tyburn in 1957. After King Mob (1958) and Wolfe at Quebec (1959), the success of The Destruction of Lord Raglan led him to take up writing full time.

From then on Hibbert never looked back, completing books at the rate of roughly one a year and enjoying popular success. Not only were his works widely read in Britain and America, they were also translated into many languages. His book The Grand Tour was turned into an ITV series in 1987.

Described as possessing "the sprightly, genial air of a cheerful curate", Hibbert was a sociable man with friends who delighted in his company. He enjoyed gardening, cooking and travel.

He also loved walking, though at times his choice of footwear was a little unorthodox. He once arrived on the summit of Great Gable, in the Lake District, wearing wellington boots, producing incredulous stares from a group of experienced climbers who had come up the hard side.

He served as president of the Johnson Society in 1980, and was awarded an honorary DLitt by Leicester University in 1996. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Christopher Hibbert married, in 1948, Susan Piggford, a fellow undergraduate at Oxford. They had two sons and a daughter.  



    Flora Fraser Soros (born 30 October 1958) is an English writer of historical biographies.
She is the daughter of historian and historical biographer Lady Antonia Fraser and the late Sir Hugh Fraser, a British Conservative politician. Her stepfather was the playwright Harold Pinter, the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature, her mother's second husband until his death in 2008. Her maternal grandparents were the late Elizabeth Longford, also an eminent biographer, and the late Lord Longford, a well-known politician, social reformer, and author.
She was named after Scottish Jacobite Flora MacDonald. Using her maiden name Flora Fraser, she has written biographies of Emma Hamilton, Caroline of Brunswick, the daughters of George III, and Pauline Bonaparte


The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper class European young men of sufficient means and rank (or those of more humble origin who could find a sponsor), as well as young women if they were also of sufficient means, and accompanied by a chaperon, such as other family members, when they had come of age (about the age of 21 years old)The custom flourished from about 1660, until the advent of large-scale rail transport in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage. Though primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were made by wealthy young men of other Protestant Northern European nations, and from the second half of the 18th century, by some South and North Americans. The tradition declined with the lapse of neo-classical enthusiasm and after rail and steamship travel made the journeys much easier when Thomas Cook made the "Cook's Tour" of early mass tourism a byword.

The New York Times in 2008 described the Grand Tour in this way:
Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months (or years) to roam, they commissioned paintings, perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent.
— Gross, Matt., "Lessons From the Frugal Grand Tour." New York Times 5 September 2008.

The primary value of the Grand Tour, it was believed, lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music. A Grand Tour could last from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone, a knowledgeable guide or tutor. The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance; as E. P. Thompson stated, "ruling-class control in the 18th century was located primarily in a cultural hegemony, and only secondarily in an expression of economic or physical (military) power." The legacy of the Grand Tour lives on to the modern day and is still evident in works of travel and literature. From its aristocratic origins and the permutations of sentimental and romantic travel to the age of tourism and globalization, the Grand Tour still influences the destinations tourists choose and shapes the ideas of culture and sophistication that surround the act of travel.

In essence, the Grand Tour was neither a scholar's pilgrimage nor a religious one, though a pleasurable stay in Venice and a cautious residence in Rome were essential. Catholic Grand Tourists followed the same routes as Protestant Whigs. Since the 17th century, a tour to such places was also considered essential for budding young artists to understand proper painting and sculpture techniques, though the trappings of the Grand Tour—valets and coachmen, perhaps a cook, certainly a "bear-leader" or scholarly guide—were beyond their reach. The advent of popular guides, such as the Richardsons', did much to popularise such trips, and following the artists themselves, the elite considered travel to such centres as necessary rites of passage. For gentlemen, some works of art were essential to demonstrate the breadth and polish they had received from their tour: in Rome, antiquaries like Thomas Jenkins provided access to private collections of antiquities, among which enough proved to be for sale that the English market raised the price of such things, and for coins and medals, which formed more portable souvenirs and a respected gentleman's guide to ancient history. Pompeo Batoni made a career of painting the English milord posed with graceful ease among Roman antiquities. Many continued on to Naples, where they viewed Herculaneum and Pompeii, but few ventured far into Southern Italy or Malta, and fewer still to Greece, still under Turkish rule.

In Britain, Thomas Coryat's travel book Coryat's Crudities (1611), published during the Twelve Years' Truce, was an early influence on the Grand Tour but it was the far more extensive tour through Italy as far as Naples undertaken by the 'Collector' Earl of Arundel, with his wife and children in 1613–14 that established the most significant precedent. This is partly because he asked Inigo Jones, not yet established as an architect but already known as a 'great traveller' and masque designer, to act as his cicerone (guide). Larger numbers of tourists began their tours after the Peace of Münster in 1648. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the term (perhaps its introduction to English) was by Richard Lassels (c. 1603–1668), an expatriate Roman Catholic priest, in his book The Voyage of Italy, which was published posthumously in Paris in 1670 and then in London.[a] Lassels's introduction listed four areas in which travel furnished "an accomplished, consummate Traveller": the intellectual, the social, the ethical (by the opportunity of drawing moral instruction from all the traveller saw), and the political.


The idea of travelling for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 17th century. With John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), it was argued, and widely accepted, that knowledge comes entirely from the external senses, that what one knows comes from the physical stimuli to which one has been exposed. Thus, one could "use up" the environment, taking from it all it offers, requiring a change of place. Travel, therefore, was necessary for one to develop the mind and expand knowledge of the world. As a young man at the outset of his account of a repeat Grand Tour, the historian Edward Gibbon remarked that "According to the law of custom, and perhaps of reason, foreign travel completes the education of an English gentleman." Consciously adapted for intellectual self-improvement, Gibbon was "revisiting the Continent on a larger and more liberal plan"; most Grand Tourists did not pause more than briefly in libraries. On the eve of the Romantic era he played a significant part in introducing, William Beckford wrote a vivid account of his Grand Tour that made Gibbon's unadventurous Italian tour look distinctly conventional.

The typical 18th-century sentiment was that of the studious observer travelling through foreign lands reporting his findings on human nature for those unfortunate enough to have stayed home. Recounting one's observations to society at large to increase its welfare was considered an obligation; the Grand Tour flourished in this mindset.

The Grand Tour offered a liberal education, and the opportunity to acquire things otherwise unavailable at home, lending an air of accomplishment and prestige to the traveller. Grand Tourists would return with crates full of books, works of art, scientific instruments, and cultural artifacts – from snuff boxes and paperweights, to altars, fountains, and statuary – to be displayed in libraries, cabinets, gardens, drawing rooms, and galleries built for that purpose. The trappings of the Grand Tour, especially portraits of the traveller painted in iconic continental settings, became the obligatory emblems of worldliness, gravitas and influence. Artists who especially thrived on Grand Tourists included Carlo Maratti, who was first patronized by John Evelyn as early as 1645, Pompeo Batoni the portraitist, and the vedutisti such as Canaletto, Pannini and Guardi. The less well-off could return with an album of Piranesi etchings.

The "perhaps" in Gibbon's opening remark cast an ironic shadow over his resounding statement.Critics of the Grand Tour derided its lack of adventure. "The tour of Europe is a paltry thing", said one 18th century critic, "a tame, uniform, unvaried prospect".The Grand Tour was said to reinforce the old preconceptions and prejudices about national characteristics, as Jean Gailhard's Compleat Gentleman (1678) observes: "French courteous. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish." The deep suspicion with which Tour was viewed at home in England, where it was feared that the very experiences that completed the British gentleman might well undo him, were epitomised in the sarcastic nativist view of the ostentatiously "well-travelled" maccaroni of the 1760s and 1770s.

Also worth noticing is that the Grand Tour not only inspired stereotypes among the countries themselves but also led to a dynamic between the northern and southern Europe. By constantly depicting Italy as a "picturesque place", the travellers also unconsciously degrade Italy as a place of backwardness. This unconscious degradation is best reflected in the famous verses of Lamartine in which Italy is depicted as a "land of the past... where everything sleeps."

After the arrival of steam-powered transportation, around 1825, the Grand Tour custom continued, but it was of a qualitative difference — cheaper to undertake, safer, easier, open to anyone. During much of the 19th century, most educated young men of privilege undertook the Grand Tour. Germany and Switzerland came to be included in a more broadly defined circuit. Later, it became fashionable for young women as well; a trip to Italy, with a spinster aunt as chaperone, was part of the upper-class woman's education, as in E. M. Forster's novel A Room with a View.


The most common itinerary of the Grand Tour shifted across generations in the cities it embraced, but the British tourist usually began in Dover, England and crossed the English Channel to Ostend,[b] in Belgium, or to Calais or Le Havre in France. From there the tourist, usually accompanied by a tutor (known colloquially as a "bear-leader") and (if wealthy enough) a troop of servants, could rent or acquire a coach (which could be resold in any city or disassembled and packed across the Alps, as in Giacomo Casanova's travels, who resold it on completion), or opt to make the trip by boat as far as the Alps, either travelling up the Seine to Paris, or up the Rhine to Basel.

Upon hiring a French-speaking guide, as French was the dominant language of the elite in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, the tourist and his entourage would travel to Paris. There the traveller might undertake lessons in French, dancing, fencing, and riding. The appeal of Paris lay in the sophisticated language and manners of French high society, including courtly behavior and fashion. This served the purpose of preparing the young man for a leadership position at home, often in government or diplomacy.

From Paris he would typically go to urban Switzerland for a while, often to Geneva (the cradle of the Protestant Reformation) or Lausanne. ("Alpinism" or mountaineering developed in the 19th century.) From there the traveller would endure a difficult crossing over the Alps into northern Italy (such as at the Great St Bernard Pass), which included dismantling the carriage and luggage. If wealthy enough, he might be carried over the hard terrain by servants.

Once in Italy, the tourist would visit Turin (and, less often, Milan), then might spend a few months in Florence, where there was a considerable Anglo-Italian society accessible to travelling Englishmen "of quality" and where the Tribuna of the Uffizi gallery brought together in one space the monuments of High Renaissance paintings and Roman sculptures that would inspire picture galleries adorned with antiquities at home, with side trips to Pisa, then move on to Padua, Bologna, and Venice. The British idea of Venice as the "locus of decadent Italianate allure" made it an epitome and cultural setpiece of the Grand Tour.


From Venice the traveller went to Rome to study the ruins of ancient Rome, and the masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and architecture of Rome's Early Christian, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Some travellers also visited Naples to study music, and (after the mid-18th century) to appreciate the recently discovered archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and perhaps (for the adventurous) an ascent of Mount Vesuvius. Later in the period the more adventurous, especially if provided with a yacht, might attempt Sicily (the site of Greek ruins), Malta or even Greece itself. But Naples – or later Paestum further south – was the usual terminus.

From here the traveller traversed the Alps heading north through to the German-speaking parts of Europe. The traveller might stop first in Innsbruck before visiting Vienna, Dresden, Berlin and Potsdam, with perhaps some study time at the universities in Munich or Heidelberg. From there travellers visited Holland and Flanders (with more gallery-going and art appreciation) before returning across the Channel to England.

Published accounts
Published (and often polished) personal accounts of the Grand Tour provide illuminating detail and a first-hand perspective of the experience. Examining some accounts offered by authors in their own lifetimes, Jeremy Black detects the element of literary artifice in these and cautions that they should be approached as travel literature rather than unvarnished accounts. He lists as examples Joseph Addison, John Andrews, William Thomas Beckford, whose Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents was a published account of his letters back home in 1780, embellished with stream-of-consciousness associations, William Coxe, Elizabeth Craven, John Moore, tutor to successive dukes of Hamilton, Samuel Jackson Pratt, Tobias Smollett, Philip Thicknesse, and Arthur Young. Although Italy was written as the "sink of iniquity," many travelers were not kept from recording the activities they participated in or the people they met, especially the women they encountered. To the Grand Tourists, Italy was an unconventional country, for "The shameless women of Venice made it unusual, in its own way.” Sir James Hall confided in his written diary to comment on seeing "more handsome women this day than I ever saw in my life," also noting "how flattering Venetian dress [was] — or perhaps the lack of it." Eighteenth and nineteenth century Italian women, with their unfamiliar methods and routines, were opposites to the western dress expected of European women in the eighteenth and nineteenth century; their "foreign" ways led to the documentation of encounters with them, providing published accounts of the Grand Tour. Boswell courted noble ladies and recorded his progress with his relationships, mentioning that Madame Micheli "Talked of religion, philosophy… Kissed hand often." The promiscuity of Boswell’s encounters with Italian elite are shared in his diary and provide further detail on events that occurred during the Grand Tour. Boswell notes "Yesterday morning with her. Pulled up petticoat and showed whole knees… Touched with her goodness. All other liberties exquisite." He describes his time with the Italian women he encounters and shares a part of history in his written accounts. Lord Byron's letters to his mother with the accounts of his travels have also been published. Byron spoke of his first enduring Venetian love, his landlord’s wife, mentioning that he has "fallen in love with a very pretty Venetian of two and twenty— with great black eyes — she is married — and so am I — we have found & sworn an eternal attachment … & I am more in love than ever . . . and I verily believe we are one of the happiest unlawful couples on this side of the Alps."Many tourists enjoyed sexual relations while abroad but to a great extent were well behaved, such as Thomas Pelham, and scholars, such as Richard Pococke, who wrote lengthy letters of their Grand Tour experiences.

Inventor Sir Francis Ronalds’ journals and sketches of his 1818–20 tour to Europe and the Near East have been published on the web.The letters written by sisters Mary and Ida Saxton of Canton, Ohio in 1869 while on a six-month tour offer insight into the Grand Tour tradition from an American perspective.