PLEASE NOTE, our last copy has a creased and worn cover but insides are fine so good reading copy.
The Reverend John Egerton, rector of Ross-on-Wye in the 1740s and ’50s, was a rich young man with a well-connected wife, much given to entertaining. He had a pleasure boat built so their guests could enjoy a day on the river, visiting Goodrich Castle and Symonds Yat and venturing as far, perhaps, as Monmouth. From such small private beginnings developed the popular two-day commercial Wye Tour from Ross to Chepstow, with a stop-over in Monmouth, and a long pause at Tintern Abbey.
The tour was part of a general increase in travel among the British middle classes, especially among those in search of the picturesque. The high priest of picturesque theory was another clergyman, the Reverend William Gilpin, who took the Tour in 1770, and published his Observations on the River Wye in 1783. A schoolmaster, he laid down rules as to which views were and were not ‘correctly’ picturesque, but the concept was open to many interpretations, and debate about the picturesqueness or otherwise of ivy and beggars raged for half a century. When the Napoleonic wars of the 1790s made travel on the Continent both difficult and dangerous, the Tour became very popular, and remained so well into the age of the first steam packets from Bristol and then the railway. A version of it was still available into the early twentieth century, the argument about the picturesque still unresolved.
The main sights of the Tour – Goodrich Castle, Symonds Yat, New Weir and Monmouth on the first day, Tintern Abbey, the Piercefield walks and Chepstow Castle on the second – were always popular with artists. The playwright and novelist Julian Mitchell has been researching the subject for twenty-five years and with wit and keen observation he has made use of visitors’ diaries and poems and local guidebooks to recreate what may have been the first British package tour.
The text is illustrated by a rich array of paintings and drawings by over 30 artists including John Sell Cotman, David Cox, Joshua Cristall, Edward Dayes, Thomas Hearne, Samuel Palmer, Michael ‘Angelo’ Rooker, Thomas Rowlandson, Paul Sandby, John ‘Warwick’ Smith, Thomas Tudor, J.M.W. Turner, Cornelius and John Varley and James Wathen.
Paperback | 172 pages | 260 x 208 mm | 2010
Colour and black and white illustrations