Tour of 1833
While the Ruskins had crossed the Channel for the modest Tour of 1825 to view Waterloo battlefield, Brussels, and Paris, their first ambitious tour of the Continent occurred between May and September 1833. The tour therefore fell only a few years after the July Revolution in France and the Belgian Revolution of 1830.
The Ruskin traveling party included, besides Ruskin and his parents, his cousin, Mary Richardson, and his nurse, Anne Strachan. On the Continent, they enjoyed the services of a cicerone, named Salvador; and in 1833, as in 1825, the family benefited from the rapid rise of efficent and inexpensive travel to the Continent by steam. For these developments in travel across the English Channel, which the Ruskins enjoyed along with thousands of middle‐class British travelers in the decades after the Battle of Waterloo, see Touring and Travel on the Continent. In 1833, steam packets departed daily between April and November for Calais from the Tower of London, and five days per week from Dover, which was where the Ruskins boarded. Traveling to Belgium in the same year as the Ruskins, Frances Trollope (1779–1863) found that her steam vessel was “dirty, and the fare both bad and insufficient”, especially for the “many children aboard” (Trollope, Belgium and Western Germany in 1833, 1:2) In contrast, Mary Richardson, proud that the Ruskin family “went by English packet (not French)”, commented that there were “not many passengers but all kept well” (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 1).
As a guide, the Ruskins for the first time employed the services of a cicerone, Salvador. They also carried guidebooks, as they did on all their tours. These texts, prior to the appearance in 1836 of the vade‐mecum for English travelers on the Continent, John Murray IIIʼs Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, were undergoing a transition from the eighteenth‐century travel narrative (often in epistolary form) to the organized manual of practical advice and digest of historical information found in the modern guidebook (see Touring and Travel on the Continent).
A number of these transitional texts were also updated reissues of travel works that had appeared earlier in the century, particularly from when the Continent reopened following the end of the Napoleonic Wars. An example used by the Ruskins in 1833 is The Travellerʼs Guide through Switzerland (1817), which Nicholas Parsons calls “a bastardisation and plagiarism” of Johann Gottfried Ebelʼs (1764–1830) Anleitung auf die nützlichste und genußvollste Art die Schweiz zu bereisen (1793; 2d ed., 1804), but which the adapter, Daniel Wall, characterizes as “Ebelʼs Switzerland in miniature”, a “portable volume” preferred by the tourist who “would feel greatly disappointed to meet with merely a Dictionary, however complete, when he stood in need of a Guide” (pp. iii–iv). Ebelʼs Manuel du Voyageur en Suisse (1818) is associated (in an 1830–31 edition) with the Ruskinsʼ Tour of 1835, but the English adaptation was cited directly in 1833–34 by Ruskin and Mary Richardson, and is listed in John James Ruskinʼs accounts as “Edel [sic] Switzd” as a 2 May 1833 purchase along with “Kellar [sic], Map”—the latter referring to the map of Switzerland (first version, 1813) by Heinrich Keller (1778–1862), which was sold with The Travellerʼs Guide through Switzerland, and which Murrayʼs 1838 Hand‐book for Travellers in Switzerland placed “at the head of the list of requisites for travelling in Switzerland” since it almost constituted a guidebook in itself, by indicating, “not only every place and every road, but . . . each kind of road, whether carriage, char, bridle‐road, or foot‐path; marking at the same time the heights of the mountains, the depths of the lakes, the waterfalls, points of view, and other remarkable objects”. (Murray advised acquisition of Kellerʼs own edition [Zurich, 1833], since “English and French copies” were “very inferior”; for a digital copy, see Keller, Reisecharte der Schweiz.) (Parsons, Worth the Detour, 337 n. 22; Dearden, The Library of John Ruskin, 104 [no. 802]; Wildman, Ruskin and Switzerland, Part 1, [p. 9]; John James Ruskin, Account Book, 1827–45, 29v; Murray, Hand‐book for Travellers in Switzerland, xxiii).
Comparatively compendious as Travels in Europe was, the guide offered no advice on the route from Calais to Cologne, which the Ruskins followed in order to access the Rhine; for while Starkeʼs updated guide did supply information on Germany and many other regions of Europe in an appendix, the main text remained traditionally focused on getting the traveler first to Paris, and then to Italy. Once arrived in the South, however, the Ruskins would have found Starkeʼs work handy for its more modern, guidebook‐like feature of convenient “catalogues of the most valuable specimens of Architecture, Painting, and Sculpture, in France, Italy, Magna Graecia, Sicily, and Germany; with the opinions of Nardini, Venuti, Winckelmann, and Visconti, on some of the most celebrated Works of Art” (Starke, Travels in Europe, 2).
Northern France, Belgium, and Germany
Once arrived in Calais, the Ruskins would have stayed at one of the well‐established inns, while transacting business such as seeing their luggage through customs, and paying a deposit for their carriage at the custom house (see a guidebook probably used by the Ruskins on this journey, Starke, Travels in Europe, 526–28). From Calais, the Ruskins followed the route that, a few years later in 1836, Murrayʼs Hand‐book confirmed as the shortest route from Calais to Brussels, by way of Lille. Including a lengthy stop in Lille, Murrayʼs guidebook calculates, the journey to Brussels by diligence would have required about twenty‐four hours (Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 84–85). In Ruskinʼs travelogue, Account of a Tour on the Continent, the speaker indicates reaching Lille, the midpoint of this stage of the journey, by noon, and Brussels by nightfall (although these times may not be literal; see “Lille” and “Brussels”).
In this passage through what had once been French‐speaking Flanders (and that now formed the departments of the Nord and the Pas de Calais in France) and through the heart of the newly formed nation of Belgium, the Ruskins observed a region that had suffered a long history of contestation beteen nations, but that was now catching up with modern industrialization. Britainʼs superiority in industrial development, as compared with that in France, remained an article of faith on both sides of the Channel; however, British perception of Belgium was undergoing a transformation, with Tory suspicions of the Continentʼs revolutions subsiding in favor of a whiggish view of Belgium as a “little Britain” of industrial prosperity, constitutionalism, rationalism, and even (the British persuaded themselves) an ersatz Protestantism (see Stearns, “British Industry through the Eyes of French Industrialists”; and François, >“British Views on Belgium”). Writing in 1833, Mrs. Trollope urged the “whole of the British nation” to “feel a deep and affectionate interest for the amiable prince [Leopold I, 1790–1865] who has been induced to accept the throne of Belgium. It is impossible to forget how near he has been to England,” she effused, referring to his marriage to the late Princess Charlotte (1796–1817), which had once put him in line to become prince consort to a successor of the English throne. Still, Mrs. Trollope considered Leopoldʼs position to be false, since the citizens of the new Belgian nation remained “unresistingly shackled” by their Catholic culture on the one hand, while “a club or a dagger [was] put y law into the[ir] other” hand by the new constitution: “Nothing can present a stranger anomaly in human affairs than the sight of a nation, deeply and severely Catholic, attempting to ape the chartered libertinism of political thinking, which a few noisy and discontented persons are endeavouring to teach them. The law which authorizes unrestrained license of tongue and pen, both public and pbrivate, on all subjects, whether political or religious, accords ill with the principles of a people whose religion commands them to bring their thoughts, words, and deeds before the tribunal of their priests” (Trollope, Belgium and Western Germany in 1833, 1: 52, 55).
That the Ruskins agreed with these ambivalent views is evident in the flashes of anti‐Catholicism and comments on the mercantile inferiority of the region that pepper John Ruskinʼs poems (see e.g., “Cassel” and “Brussels” and glosses to those poems). John James Ruskinʼs surviving diary from 1833 unfortunately is missing its account of the initial stages of the tour, but entries made on the return home focus on what he considered the bleakness and squalor in the region: “How uninteresting is all the Country from Paris down to Calais so monotonous—so open so naked—. . . one vast dreary dry & weary way.” Of French manufacture in Lyon (the family passing through the city between the revolts by silk‐workers in 1831 and 1834), John James noted how “smoky & black” and crowded the tenements were. Yet he was also capable of comparing the French weavers favorably with their British counterparts: “Amongst our poor weavers there is everything to depress to degrade to debauch & brutalize,” whereas “the objects round” the French workers—the “grander Houses the distant Alps the clear blue sky”—perhaps exert “an Influence on the taste of these Artisans that will make their productions eternally superior in Beauty to ours” (Diary of John James Ruskin, 1833–46, 74, 68, 67).
In Ruskinʼs travelogue, Account of a Tour on the Continent, these topical issues emerge in passing, but the work is largely untroubled by modern turmoil. Ruskin mentions battlefields, but his references tend to be unspecific, as likely medieval as modern. He prefers the picturesque over the political, the emphasis reflecting how, in the 1820s–30s, views of northern Europe were opened up as vividly by artists and poets as by military news. It is striking how Mrs. Trollope, traveling through the region in the same year as the Ruskins, describes scenes by referencing the artist Samuel Prout (1783–1852): “A walk through the fine old streets” of Bruges, “with their high pointed mansions, and richly carved ornaments, is like looking over a portfolio of Proutʼs best drawings”. She recognizes the “mellowed tints of red and grey” in Huy as having been “so dear to Prout” (Trollope, Belgium and Western Germany in 1833, 1:18, 88). To traverse the region, the Ruskins would have received only limited help from the recently updated guidebook by Mariana Starke that they probably carried; nonetheless, they managed to follow a path similar to that taken in 1821 by Prout, whose 1833 Facsimiles of Sketches Made in Flanders and Germany helped inspire the familyʼs tour. The influence of Prout specifically in relation to Ruskinʼs “Account” is treated in Account of a Tour on the Continent: Discussion—Views of Northern Europe in Prout and Other Literary and Artistic Sources.
Prout had sailed from Dover to Gravelines (rather than to Calais, like the Ruskins), and thence to Dunkirk (known for its seaside bathing); thereafter, he proceeded to Cassel, Lille, Tournai, Brussels, Louvain, Namur, Huy, Liège, Aix‐la‐Chapelle, Juliers, Cologne, Remagen, Koblenz, Andernach, Lahnstein, Boppart, St. Goar, Oberwesel, Baccharach, Bingen, Rüdesheim, Wiesbaden, Mainz, FrankfurtFrankfurt, Offenbach, Darmstadt, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Metz, Verdun, Chalons‐sur‐Marne, Reims, Soissons, Paris, Rouen, Abbeville, Calais and Dover (Lockett, Samuel Prout, 50). This route, while not aligning precisely with the order of the prints in Prout, Facsimiles of Sketches Made in Flanders and Germany (see Samuel Prout [1783–1852]), resembles the Ruskinsʼ path from Calais to Cassel, Lille, Tournai, Brussels, Namur, Liège, Spa, Aix‐la‐Chapelle, Cologne, and up the Rhine to Heidelberg and Strasbourg, the Black Forest and Schaffhausen, and then to Constance and Coire, before heading south—this according to the editors of the Library Edition (Ruskin, Works, 2:340n.).