When Thomas Pennant's landmark Tours of Scotland and Wales began to appear in the early 1770s, they brought renewed attention to questions of history and antiquarianism, landscape and topography, science and industry, local and national cultures, and the languages of the British Isles.1 This edition presents a selection of previously unpublished tours, made after Pennant had opened up travel writing to the so-called peripheries of these islands.
Pennant's Tours were synthetic texts, pieced together from journeys undertaken (in the case of the Welsh tour especially) over many years, and from information supplied by numerous collaborators. The method behind the compilation of the tours can be traced in detail in his correspondence, much of which is now available in the digital edition of 'The Letters of Thomas Pennant'. On the evidence of the manuscript tours presented in this edition, however, Pennant's approach was not typical of the travellers who followed him. Tim Fulford's recent description of Thomas Beddoes' account of travelling while experimenting with oxygen in the 1790s offers an apt model for thinking about manuscript travel writing in this period: 'If he has a narrative structure, it is that of the intimate missive narrating the quotidian varied by a journey: what he does shapes how he writes.'2 The tour as a sequence of daily events on the road that give rise to journal-like narratives is the basic form adhered to by the writers in this edition, though they frequently embrace Pennant's far-reaching scope and concerns.
The dominant mode of travel writing for our period was an empirical and neutral descriptive style known as 'voyages and travels'.3 Travel writing is, however, a composite genre which can, and does, address all subjects in virtually any style. This is perhaps especially true of unpublished travel writing from the period, which presents us with texts composed by tourists who left little or no other known literary work, sometimes with a diary-like intimacy rarely seen in published tours.
Why manuscript tours? Working with historical travel writing may mean adjusting our expectations of the genre, to a moment in which it signified very differently. Travel was a prestigious literary genre, and it was very widely read (it can probably be placed only behind religious writing and fiction in popularity). Unpublished tours can therefore be taken as participating in wider conversations about politics and culture, place and current events. They would also have found contemporary readerships in the enduring scribal culture of the eighteenth and early-nineteenth century, circulating within a select audience of relatives and friends.4 Manuscript tours are, however, often obviously shaped by print culture: elements such as title pages, internal divisions or sections, indices, or an authoritative and seemingly impartial mode of address reminiscent of published tours, will all be found in unpublished texts.
There are of course almost as many forms of travel writing as there are individuals writing travel, but breadth and variety may apply particularly to manuscript tours, in which no constraints of an expected readership or of the marketplace need apply. Shaped by both manuscript and print cultures, unpublished tours bridge textual worlds, but they are also often messy and unpredictable, presenting specific material challenges (illegible words and passages, cancellations or missing sections). Manuscript tours of Wales and Scotland also present distinctive challenges that derive from national contexts. The Enlightenment natural and antiquarian concerns that animated Pennant's Tours continue to provoke reflection in the work of unpublished travellers, drawing attention to the complexities of manuscript travel writing as a live and fluid genre that inflected as well as emulated literary fashions more generally. This is particularly evident in travellers' encounters with their fellow subjects in the Gaelic-speaking Highlands and Islands. James Macpherson's supposed translations of Ossian emerge in this edition as the dominant imaginary in travellers' responses to the Gaels and their culture. But if English translations of Macpherson and others are often allowed to speak in these texts on behalf of the Highlands and their inhabitants, then there are also moments of disruption and recognition that suggest the polyvalence of the travel account's characteristic mode of encounter.
While tour journals are frequently ordered around recurring sites and itineraries, many of the journeys in this edition are framed by a strong sense of internal difference; in 1802, Mary Anne Eade was conscious of being 'on the borders of another country, tho' not another island' (f. 19v) on entering Wales. Scotland notably offers further internal divisions: many travellers opt to cross the Highland line into the Gaidhealtachd, or venture west to the Hebrides. The circuit of the central Lowlands and southern Highlands, which Pennant described as the 'petit tour of Scotland', seems to have remained the dominant route in the period, but the attractions of Fingal's Cave and Staffa in particular also exert a strong draw on many of the writers represented here. In Wales, northern tours, in which tourists travel along the inland A5 route and/or along the coast road, feature most often in the archive, but virtually all of the Welsh texts in this edition are structured by encounters with castles, country houses, industrial sites, and the sublime landscapes of Snowdonia or, for those who venture further south, the picturesque of the Wye Valley and mid-Wales, or the coastal towns of the west and south.
The opening up of print archives via digital means has made many published works of travel easily accessible. Manuscript tours – and the kinds of knowledge being produced or processed in them – remain, however, a logistical problem, widely distributed as they are across research libraries and archives. Several manuscript tours have recently been edited and published (in print and digital formats), but the diverse body of texts from the period made available by this edition may enable us to contest current understandings of the genre of travel writing.5
In selecting tours for this edition, range and subject matter have been key factors, as have issues of class and gender. Tours by labouring-class figures such as Edward Williams ('Iolo Morganwg') and Cornelius Varley counteract the frequently middling- and upper-class purview of travel writing in the period, while aiming at gender parity brings genuinely new voices into the field. Bibliographical records for the period suggest that no more than around thirty tours by women were published before 1800; this edition will significantly extend the number of known and available tours by women.6 The usefulness of Welsh and Scottish tour narratives in mapping historical change within these nations has long been recognised, and so this selection offers a sense of the tour's own history as an adaptable and allusive literary form, as well as an invaluable source of insight into time, culture and place.
1 For an overview of the complex publishing history behind
Pennant's Tours, see here.
2 Tim Fulford, 'Science and Poetry in 1790s Somerset: The Self-Experiment Narrative, the Aeriform Effusion, and the Greater Romantic Lyric', English Literary History 85: 1 (Spring 2018), pp. 85-117 (p. 91).
3 For an overview of the 'voyages and travels' mode of travel writing, see Carl Thompson, Travel Writing (London: Routledge, 2011).
4 For field-defining work on print and manuscript cultures in the period, see Margaret Ezell, Social Authorship and the Advent of Print (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).
5 For recent examples of published manuscript tours, see Mary-Ann Constantine and Paul Frame (eds), George Cadogan Morgan and Richard Price Morgan: Travels in Revolutionary France & A Journey Across America (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2012); Marie E. McAllister (ed.), An Uninteresting Detail of a Journey to Rome , Romantic Circles (2014); Angela Byrne (ed.), A Scientific, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour: John (Fiott) Lee in Ireland, England and Wales, 1806–1807 (London: Routledge, 2018).
6 For bibliographical information on women's travel writing, see the 'Women's Travel Writing, 1780-1840' (University of Wolverhampton) database.