Authors: Alan; Sillitoe
The handbooks of John Murray and Karl Baedeker became the two chief rivals out of many guidebook series, but Baedeker produced the cheaper item which sold therefore in greater numbers. Less durable, and printed on thinner paper, the maps and plans were mostly coloured and easy to read, while the black and white maps in the early Murray's books, sometimes without scale, were more difficult to follow.
The Baedeker series is still going, though the quality has deteriorated since the introduction of glossy photographs; the only remaining Murray is a handbook to India. In France Adolphe Joanne began his series of travel guides in 1841, which in 1916 were renamed
Les Guides Bleus
, published in English only after the Great War. Although the
of today, with the
in France, are perhaps the best both for detail and cartography, the prize for the best maps and plans of all time must be shared between Murray's last edition of
, and Baedeker's
In the nineteenth century such books guided travellers to all parts of Europe, and sometimes to places beyond. With a Baedeker one could travel as far as Peking, or across Canada and the United States, while Murray even published handbooks to Japan and New Zealand.
Trawling through the various titles and editions enables one to confect a fair picture of what it was like to travel in the century up to the Great War of 1914, of the pleasures, dangers, traps and rare experiences which the tourist was warned against but no doubt often encountered.
The flood of tourists had a civilizing influence on some parts of the Mainland, in that the money spent was an economic blessing. The disadvantages have often been pointed out, but English gold helped to finance modern infrastructures, giving employment on all levels, and sustaining those inn owners who were to become a solid part of the middle class. As Murray writes in
, 1848: âBy official returns it appears that there are at present in France 66,000 English residents. Supposing the average expenditure of each to be 5 francs a day, the sum total will amount to about 4,820,000 pounds per annum.'
, 1892, we learn that: âThe great annual influx of strangers is of the same importance as some additional branch of industry or commerce would be. It has been estimated that in 1880 there were over a thousand inns in Switzerland especially built for the use of travellers, the capital value of the buildings and their contents and sites being put at nearly 13 million pounds sterling.'
The death of an officer in the bear pit at Berne was not the only accident which befell a tourist during that century up to 1914, when the days were good if you had the money to travel. Before going on to chronicle others I will refer to
The Tourist's India
by Eustace Reynolds Ball (1907 edition). This tells of an incident which had a happier outcome than the one at Berne.
The great sight of Karachi is the sacred Crocodile Preserve at Magar Pir, some seven miles off. There are hot springs here which feed a shallow tank containing nearly a hundred crocodiles â¦
The story, usually thought to be fictitious, of the Englishman who for a bet crossed the tank by jumping successively from the backs of these crocodiles is, it seems, based on fact. The hero of this foolhardy feat was a certain Lieutenant Beresford, a friend of R. F. Burton. When Burton and his companion were visiting the crocodiles' tank they noticed that these reptiles and certain islets of reeds happened to make an almost continuous bridge across the tank. This prompted the daring subaltern to hazard the feat of crossing by hopping from one crocodile to another. To the amazement of the spectators he succeeded in this apparently mad attempt. Sir Richard Burton had already successfully performed an equally daring feat. He managed to muzzle a crocodile by means of a lasso, and then jumped on the reptile's back and enjoyed a somewhat zigzag ride.
Reading these guidebooks has for many years been a pleasurable pastime for me, and I shall lead the reader through their combined maze, picking out whatever illuminates the larger picture of travel in a bygone age.
Before going abroad in the first half of the nineteenth century, a passport was needed, the price for which was four shillings and sixpence. By 1913 it had gone down to two shillings. Regarding the indignity of having to carry such a document John Murray wrote, in 1848: âOf all the penalties at the expense of which the pleasure of travelling abroad is purchased, the most disagreeable and most repugnant to English feelings is that of submitting to the strict regulations of the continental police, and especially to the annoyance of bearing a passport. As this, however, is a matter of necessity, from which there is no exemption, it is better to submit with a good grace.'
A visa was also called for, at the cost of five francs, a process which had to be gone through before every journey. âBeyond this the new regulations present no impediment to well-intending and respectable travellers.'
What people should take with them, and how they were to dress when they got to wherever they were going, was the subject of much advice from Murray. âThe warning cannot be too often repeated, or too emphatically enforced upon the traveller, that, if he value money, temper, comfort, and time, he will take with him as little luggage as possible. In cases, however, where the travelling party is large it is a great mistake to distribute it in many small packages. Three large portmanteaus are infinitely better than six small ones: they are more easily found on arrival, more quickly opened at the custom-house, cost the same when you are charged by weight, and of course half when you are charged by package.'
Walking was more in vogue than it is today, and you were advised to: âProvide yourself with a pair of
with cloth or leather tops in England, where alone they can be procured good, with a pair of thin boots for dress. This arrangement will prevent the necessity of loading yourself with a large stock of boots, boot-trees, and boot-cases.' He goes on to say that for the walker the buttoned boots should be double-soled and provided with hobnails: âThe experienced pedestrian never commences a journey with new shoes, but with a pair that have already been conformed to the shape of the feet.'
With regard to wearing-apparel, the best rule was âto choose that which is not conspicuous or unusual â a light loose morning coat for travelling, which will keep off dust and rain: even the English shooting-jacket has of late become familiar to foreigners.' While a better and cheaper knapsack could be acquired abroad: âPortmanteaus are better in England than anywhere else.'
The ablutions of Englishmen were of prime importance: â
is indispensable, being a rare article in Continental inns.' Another necessity was: âA portable
, with a bellows to distend it, packing into the compass of about a foot square, an immense comfort in summer in a hot and dusty climate.'
A flask for brandy or kirschwasser would be useful on mountain excursions, but âit should be remembered that spirits ought to be resorted to less as a restorative than as a protection against cold and wet, and to mix with water, which ought never to be drunk cold or unmixed during a walk. The best restorative is tea â¦'
Carey, an optician with a shop on the Strand, was said to make excellent pocket telescopes, âabout four inches long, combining, with a small size, considerable power and an extensive range â¦ Spectacles are almost indispensable in railway travelling, for those who ride in 3rd class carriages, to protect the eyes from dust and cinders. Those ladies who take an interest in mountain scenery, or excursions from the high road, will find great advantage in a saddle constructed by Mr. Whippy, in North Audley Street. The crutch is separable, for the convenience of packing.'
The first obstacle in the path of the British traveller was of course the sea, whether it was twenty miles wide as at the Channel, several hundred across the North Sea (German Ocean, in those days) or a week's voyage to Spain and Portugal. Paddle-wheeled steamers were soon crossing to all major ports of the Continent, their fore-decks packed with carriages. Boats left from St Katharine's Wharf on the Thames, but there were two rapid-return crossings every day from Folkestone. English steamboats from Dover took about two hours to Calais, the fare for a pedestrian being ten shillings, and the cost of transporting a carriage two guineas. On this route Murray says that the French steamers were âvery bad', though without giving the reason.
If you needed to wait a day or two at Folkestone, for a calmer sea perhaps, you could get bed and breakfast at the South-Eastern Hotel for six shillings. A cup of tea cost sixpence, a slice of sponge cake one penny, and a pork pie a shilling. For service, the advertisement says, âone shilling per day will be charged to each Visitor, who, if staying only a portion of a day will have to pay accordingly'.
Few guidebooks mention the torments of seasickness, a topic which rarely appeared in their pages till the advent of air travel in the 1920s. The subject was not, however, neglected in Baedeker's
Travellers Manual of Conversation
, 1856, which tells one how to express in four languages the following degrees of sickness: âThe wind increases. See that great wave which is coming to break against our vessel. I fear we shall have a storm; the sky is very dark towards the west.'
âThe rolling of the vessel makes me sick.'
âSteward, will you assist this lady to go on deck; she is very unwell.'
âSmell some eau de Cologne, it will do you good.'
âI am very much inclined to vomit.'
âDrink some Gin; it will strengthen your stomach, and you will feel relieved.'
âI must lie down in my hammock.'
Certain guidebooks helped to pay their way with an advertisement section, though it was never the case with Baedeker, who was thus able to claim impartiality for any deleterious comments. An advertisement against the dreaded
mal de mer
appeared, later in the century, in Ward Lock's
Guide to Sherwood Forest
, though why
is impossible to imagine. The effect of
Roach's Seasick Draughts
was bolstered by a testimonial from
âAnd here I have something to say which I expect all voyagers to accept with grateful joy. A distinguished physician advised me to get for a young friend who was going out to Gibraltar, some of
celebrated draughts for the prevention of seasickness. The remedy had never been known to fail in its effects. The young lady who took them last year found them perfectly efficacious both on the journey out and home â¦ Sold in boxes, containing Six, for 4/6; or 12 Draughts, 8/6.'
An extensive consideration of seasickness was found, as it should have been, in the invalid's guide
Winter and Spring on the Shores of the Mediterranean
, 1875, by James Henry Bennet, MD, who claimed to have discovered the perfect means of avoiding the malady:
The stomach should be absolutely empty before going on board, but to avoid exhaustion a good meal should be taken three, four, or five hours before, according to the nature of the digestion. Then, one or two hours before embarking, some very strong coffee, tea, or spirits and water, should be taken, without milk or other food. This is to tonify the nervous system â¦
Once on board, repose should be enjoined, the recumbent position is best, and nothing whatever, solid or fluid, should be taken for twelve hours or more, even then very little. As there is nothing left in the stomach, or given it to digest, it remains quiescent under difficulty. The reason that medicines given in sickness do no good is that they are not absorbed. Once even nausea commences the stomach refuses to absorb liquids or to digest solids, and the more there is in it the worse it behaves. The best stimulant in my experience is very strong black coffee. Scores and scores of my friends and patients have escaped sea-sickness in the short passages by observing these rules, and have diminished suffering in long ones.
Madeira, Canary Islands, and Azores
agrees with the above advice, adding that: âWhen attacked by vomiting the greatest comfort is to be found in lying down. A belt drawn tightly round the stomach is at times a relief. As a remedy a solution containing bicarbonate of soda, chloroform, or bromide of potash and sal volatile is of great assistance. Efforts should be made to keep the digestive organs at work. For this purpose a few apples and dry biscuits are in every way most convenient. It is rarely that sickness gives much trouble the second day.'
Our traveller could put his sorrows in their place should all these seasickness remedies fail, by taking in Murray's comments on the exigencies of the French police and their passport system, which emphasized that as soon as he stepped ashore at Calais every man's hand would be against him:
In France, more than in any other country in Europe at the present time, the passport is liable to be demanded at all times and places, and should
always be carried about the person
. The gendarmes are authorised to call for it not only in frontier and fortified towns, but in remote villages: they may stop you on the highway, or waylay you as you descend from the diligence â may force themselves into the salle Ã manger or enter your bedroom, to demand a sight of this precious document. It is needless to expatiate on this restraint, so inconsistent with the freedom which an Englishman enjoys at home, or to show that the police are a pest to the harmless and well conducted, without being a terror to evil-doers; it is the custom of the country, and the stranger must conform, or he has no business to set his foot in it. It must be allowed that the police perform their duty with civility, so as to render it as little vexatious as possible.
Woe to the traveller who loses his passport, or leaves it behind. Those who do so âare liable to be marched off to the judge de paix, or prÃ©fet, often a distance of 10, 15, or 20 miles, on foot, unless they choose to pay for a carriage for their escort as well as themselves; and if no satisfactory explanation can be given, may at last be deposited in prison.'