Sorry guys my iPad wouldn’t let me upload pictures!
Traveling is something I’ve always loved to do. With every trip I’ve been on I learned incredible new things. This trip however has taught me more about history, life, the human spirit, and different cultures than any other trip. I find different cultures, and world history fascinating so going to two cities that are rich with culture and history was amazing. One of my favorite things we saw were the exhibits that depict how people lived, how they survived and how different than us they were. It also interests me how differently people in London liven than people in Edinburgh. The streets in Edinburgh were close together and the houses we’re built up instead of out to provide more living spaces for the large quantity of people who occupied the town. Edinburgh today still has closes that remind you of the living conditions of the 17th and 18th century. During this trip we went to several places that let me peek into 18th century lifestyle. A common theme I found in these places were the extravagant social conventions.
One place in London I thought showed an interesting story was Soane house. Mr. Soane was a British architect. He would have been what you call today a hoarder. His house however was not messy, all of his things were arranged nicely. Some of his things looked like they were taken straight from Greece. To show off his fabulous things he would throw lavish parties. When he bought his sarcophagus which costs more than a year salary he threw a party to show it off and had many many people in this house, which was very crowded. He also had a very beautiful painting room. All four walls were covered in beautiful paintings. 2 of the walls you could open up to reveal another wall of paintings. If all that wasn’t enough to astound his guests you could open up the 2 nod wall to show his big reveal. Behind that 2nd wall was a room that contained of course more paintings but also a big sculpture in the middle of the room. Soane’s parties were extravagant and usually to show off his paintings or his new purchases.
Another place that we went to that showed us 18th century life was Georgian house in Edinburgh, Scotland. This house was owned by a wealthy man and his family. He didn’t really work but enjoyed his lavish lifestyle. His house was very large and was built out instead of up because they finally had room in the new town. In this time period there were many rules that came with living a wealthy lifestyle. Children could only be in two designated rooms in the house. Children also could not eat with their parents till they were 18. Of course the father picked their daughters husbend. The kitchen was in the basement along with the maids room. The kitchen was huge and had everything a person could need to cook an extravagant meal for a party. The people who lived in this house had parties all the time. Each party would have an enormous amount of food that took days for the cook to make. Once the guests arrived they sat down for their meal. After they were done eating the women would leave to go have tea and the men would take out the chamber pot to use now that the women were gone. Depending on how old the mans daughter was he would have a suitor come to the party to see if he would be a good match for the family. At the dance they would have later in the party more guests would arrive to dance.
Both cities had interesting lifestyles. It almost seems like People who lived in London lead better lives. At least the middle and lower classes. In Edinburgh the people lived in houses that were really crowded and close together. Several families lived in a room about as big as my garage. How is that for a party? Some families even had to live next to a room full of livestock. It’s no wonder that the middle class people of Edinburgh were hit badly with the plague. Edinburgh did build a new town so people would have more room but wealthier people and their maids lived there. London had to be rebuilt after a large fire. They rebuilt the city to look more modern that’s probably why they seemed to live healthier lives.
i really enjoyed going to Georgian house, gladstones land, Mary kings close, and Soane house because I got to see how they lived. Mary kings close was incredible to me because it showed me a side of humanity not seen very often. Those people lived in filth. They were infested with fleas and many of them died from the plague. Out tour guid told us that these people didn’t even complain. That was the life they lived and even though they did live in a lavish house and threw parties every week they still managed to find a way to be happy and live their lives. The guide also told us that when a family was hit with the plague that they would hang a white flag in the window and people would leave them food and ale. Even though they thought they could be infected going near the house people would help their neighbors.
Gladstones land was a wealthy mans house in old town Edinburgh. In the kitchen was the chamber pot and where the children were kept it’s no wonder that the plague spread as quickly as it did in the conditions they were living in. The rooms were pretty small and if you wanted to entertain guested in the house there wasn’t much room but the people who worked at the house told me that still threw parties. Their ceilings also had fruit painted on them. The lady that worked there said that they painted fruit that was expensive and that people could generally not afford so that the owner of the house could show off how wealthy they were. Even though the rooms were for wealthier people they did not even compare to the Georgian house. To even get up to your room you would have to go up a bunch of crowed stairs. It did not seem ideal compared to the lifestyle in new town however compared to Mary kings close it would have been a nice place to live
Being able to visit London and Edinburgh gave me a better understanding of the current culture and the culture of the cities during the 18th century. One thing that really stood out to me that took place in the 18th century was the rise of consumerism. It was very prevalent in the readings that we did before we went on the trip, and also when we visited historical sites in London and Edinburgh. In the readings, more specifically Humphry Clinker, we talked about consumerism and the mixing of classes because people in lower classes were able to afford the same things as the people in the upper classes. People of lower classes were on the streets in their fancy coaches and had nice clothes on, which threw off some people because the upper class were no longer clearly visible to anyone walking down the street. The historical rise of consumerism is something you can see today in museums, books, and movies.
In London we were able to visit two places that I feel expressed consumerism well. The first place is the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here you could see over time how people collected more items and how those items changed. Items became more extravagant and luxurious. Clothing items changed dramatically, for example, dresses became bigger, so big that women couldn’t fit through doors. Beds had more to them including very fancy oriental decorations on some. Other items like furnishing changed to reflect consumerism as well. I saw a silver platter that had a picture of the city of London engraved on the platter. All of these embellishments made life more luxurious and people were enjoying the benefits of a society with better access to goods.
The second place in London is Soane’s House. Soane was an architect and a collector of many things. In his home he had all kinds of artifacts covering every wall. He had a vast collection of books, many paintings and drawings (some were works of his own), many moldings from Greek, Roman, and Egyptian backgrounds, and some sculptors. Soane collected many items and would use these items to educate others. Back in this time people would go on a “grand tour” and they would take two years to go all over Europe and learn about different cultures. Many people passed through Soane’s doors and were able to educate themselves through his collection of books and art. Because Soane was acquiring more and more things he had a very good collection to learn many different things about history and culture.
When our class moved on into Edinburgh the move to consumerism was also prevalent during the 18th century. When we went to Gladstone’s Land we could see how a home would look in the beginning of the 18th century for a wealthy family. Comparing that with how the poor lived in Mary King’s Close, it was very easy to see how consumerism had reached the wealthy in Edinburgh. First, the people that had money had many rooms in their house to fill with all of the consumer goods. The wealthy people had sturdy furniture to hide valuables in, spacious kitchens with many utensils and room for the servant to live, and many lavish things like painted ceilings and beds with curtains that wrapped around the bed for privacy. These people had conveniences that came with the rise of consumerism.
When the new town was built in Edinburgh these modern conveniences that came with consumerism followed the wealthy to their new homes. In the Georgian House that we visited we could see how beautiful and lavish the homes were decorated. People had huge spaces to entertain guests. The walls were covered with paintings and there were high-end furnishings in every room. The bedroom had amazing decorations on the walls and including the bed. The kitchen for the house was absolutely huge. The servants had so much room to cook and prepare meals. They had ovens, and new utensils, and new inventions to cook, like the self-turning meat rotisserie. The servants had amazing living conditions compared to how they were treated in the beginning of the century. The butler had his own spacious room and the servants had a room specifically dedicated to their sleeping and living. There was even a move from a chamber pot to an early working of the toilet in this house. This house does however show the negative side to consumerism. The man who built the home was massively in debt because of the home and trying to impress people with his home and collection of things. In the end, he was forced to sell the property to pay off all of his debts.
Something that followed consumerism in the 18th century was a rise in tourism. Many authors were writing books about different places in England and Scotland and the people reading the books would read about them and want to visit to have the same experience as the characters in the book. One writing that majorly affected tourism was Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. This is a poem that mentions a loch in Scotland, Loch Katerine. Once people stated reading this poem they were flocking to Loch Katerine to see all of the sights so beautifully described in The Lady of the Lake. This relates to something in our society today. Many people flock to Loch Ness in search of the Loch Ness monster that has been talked about in books and fables for many years now. While Loch Katrine
isn’t the biggest tourism site today, you can see how people would be interested just like people are interested in Loch Ness. Humphry Clinker also influenced tourism because they main characters are on a journey through England and Scotland and there are many scenes that describe the beauty of both places. People are influenced by the way that Matthew Bramble completely changes character through the book. He has this horrible attitude about traveling and different places that he encounters on the trip. This all changes when he gets to Scotland and he is completely taken back by it. People now want to see that place and the culture that could change the mind of a grumpy person who seems to not like anywhere. I can personally say that after visiting Edinburgh and very few other parts of Scotland like Loch Katrine, I too see how Bramble got to the conclusion that he did.
Overall, consumerism played a huge role in 18th century London and Edinburgh. In fact, it continues to play a big role today. Consumerism pushes our markets and creates jobs for many people. Consumerism in the 18th century helped make social classes more equal, encouraged more people to take adventure and see what the world had to offer, and created a movement that continues today for bigger and better things.
One final thing I would like to say about this trip is that it was amazing! I never thought I would enjoy going to Scotland so much!! I came into the class not expecting to learn anything or even care about the classwork, but it turned out to be very interesting and fun for the most part. I’m so grateful that I was able to have this experience and now be able to compare 18th century UK culture with today’s. It was such an amazing opportunity to learn and travel with such an amazing and resilient crowd. I will miss everyone and I will always have the tidbits of info I know about 18th century British literature in my head!
It is evident that throughout history fashion trends seem to come and go with the ever changing world—and yet, many of these fads also make their way back into everyday life. For the past few years now, for example, I have noticed that all things “vintage”—that is, fashion trends from the 1950s in particular have been recycled and reintroduced into our culture today. There have been countless times when I have come across the bold red lipstick, the winged jet black eyeliner, the greaser hair, and polka dot dresses. Many people of this era seem to dig all things retro.
This phenomenon of fashion recycling can also be said for individuals living in the period of the Enlightenment which occurred in the late 17th century as well as the 18th century in Great Britain. During the Enlightenment (also termed as the Age of Reason), many people began to embrace modernity and it was a period of huge advancements in science of which also included art. It was around this time that Neoclassicism as a visual art began to flourish which was inspired from the fashion trends of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
Certainly, neoclassical architecture can be seen both in London and in Edinburgh. For example, in London this style can be seen on buildings such as The Bank of England, The Royal Exchange, The British Museum, and Somerset House. Similarly, this architectural fashion can also be seen in Edinburgh—predominately in the New Town. Much of the buildings in New Town, including the Scottish National Gallery, The Dome, The Royal Scottish Academy, The City Chambers (which included the former Royal Exchange) and The National Monument on Calton Hill which gained Edinburgh the nickname, “The Athens of the North”. All of these buildings were constructed around the time of the Enlightenment.
The neoclassical style seemed to be a constant theme not only in class, but also during many of our trips both around London and Edinburgh. For example, when we visited Soane’s House in London he had a whole room dedicated to Greco-Roman sculptures and as an architect he seemed to be very much inspired by their architecture as well (Soane is known for his design of The Bank of England). Also, while in his home I noticed that he had a picture hanging up of the Roman colosseum.
Moreover, while at the Georgian House in Edinburgh’s New Town, it was interesting to learn that not only were individuals obsessed with the architectural design of the ancient Greeks and Romans—they were also invested in Greco-Roman inspired dress, hair, and accessories near the end of the Enlightenment era. Women wore loose and flowing dresses and men began wearing much simpler style of clothing. Both men and women’s hairstyles resembled that of Ancient Greece and Rome.
Why was Great Britain so obsessed with Ancient Greece and Rome as well as all things neoclassical? I believe that there is more than one definite answer to this question. First of all—let’s start with Ancient Greece. This particular country has always been regarded as the haven and the center of philosophical knowledge with famous figures such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Of course, those who studied Philosophy had to go back and draw from these figures as a foundation for their studies before they could move on to newer ideas. Also, when thinking about Socrates in particular, many could certainly think of him as being self-governed, skeptical, and well…enlightened. Thus, it can be argued that much of what Socrates did could be reminiscent of the Age of Reason. While reading Sir Richard Steele’s accounts of an 18th century coffeehouse, he talks a lot about the ancient Grecian named Eubulus. In this reading, Steele stated:
Eubulus presides over the middle Hours of the Day, when this Assembly of Men meet together… His Wisdom and Knowledge are serviceable to all that think fit to make use of them; and he does the office of a Council, a Judge, an Executor, and a Friend to all his Acquaintance, not only without the Profits which attend such Offices, but also without the Deference and Homage which are usually paid to them. The giving of Thanks is displeasing to him. The greatest Gratitude you can shew him is to let him see you are the better Man for his Services; and that you are as ready to oblige others, as he is to oblige you.
I felt like this description of Eubulus sounded a lot like how Socrates spread wisdom and knowledge to all of those who would listen to become free and self-governed thinkers.
In terms of Ancient Rome, things can get a bit more complicated. Ancient Rome was a part of The Roman Empire back in 27 BC and from roughly 43—410 AD, Great Britain was ruled by this empire. But—as many of us already know, eventually The Roman Empire collapsed. So why would 18th century Great Britain be so inspired by a civilization that eventually crumbled away? I believe that part of this is because they perhaps did not think that they were the next Romans, but that they descended from the Romans and that they were essentially better than the Romans. After all, Ancient Rome did not have the luxury of having the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason on their side. Great Britain during the 18th century not only wanted to become the next center of the world just as Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece were—they wanted to draw inspiration from them, but at the same time they wanted to be better than the “greats”.
Furthermore, during the Enlightenment which was certainly a time of momentous change and a time to become more modern, oddly enough the recycling of classical architecture into the style of “neoclassical” could be seen as more modern. In particular, I remember comparing Edinburgh’s Old Town and its New Town. The Old Town certainly appeared much more archaic and medieval than that of the New Town. While the Old Town looked more so randomly put together and a mish mash of different styled buildings, the New Town has structure, order, and symmetry. The National Monument definitely has these qualities and can be seen as Scotland trying to legitimize and compete with England—a message to say that the Scottish are just as intelligent and are just as much enlightened as the English.
Another issue that comes into play in terms of London is the discussion of the Great Fire in 1666 which quickly destroyed many homes since much of them were built of wood with straw roofs. It is easy to imagine just how fast the fire spread from one building to another. This fire saw the opportunity to make London a new and much more modern looking city. Certainly, if the Enlightenment saw a new way of thinking about the world, the neoclassical architecture of London was sure to match this. New ways of thinking should be accompanied with new styles of buildings as well as new fashions (of which, as mentioned before really was not completely new, but instead merely a recycled version of old fashions).
In short, it seemed that Great Britain at the time of the Enlightenment had a love-hate relationship with things that were archaic. This takes me back to our very first reading in class which was Thomas Sprat’s “The History of the Royal Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge (1667).” In this reading, Sprat discusses this love-hate relationship with the ancients and recognizes that they cannot be controlled and dependent upon the ancients, but there should be a level of respect present. He argued against individuals who thought that they should follow in the footsteps of the ancients:
What kind of behavior do they exact from us in this case? That we should reverence the footsteps of antiquity? That we should subscribe to their sense before our own? We are willing in probabilities, but we cannot in matters of fact; for in them we follow the most ancient author of all others, even nature itself. Would they have us make our eyes behold things at no farther distance than they saw? That is impossible, seeing we have the advantage of standing upon their shoulders…We approach the ancients, as we behold their tombs, with veneration—but we would not therefore be confined to live in them altogether, nor would (I believe) any of those who profess to be most addicted to their memories (148).
In this quote, Sprat made more than one important point. First, he acknowledged that we are all confined to our period of time—we cannot go back to the past nor can we travel to the future—we are confined by our present. And second, he recognized the argument that the ancients would want them to submit to their past accomplishments is false because the ancients themselves were progressing as much as they could—therefore, Sprat believed that they should also progress instead of looking back to the ancients for all of the answers.
Although I absolutely loved the whole study abroad trip—my most favorite days going to West Bay in Dorset, England as well as the Hairy Coo Tour while in Scotland—I will definitely say that I enjoyed observing all of the beautiful architecture that both London and Edinburgh offered and it really connected me to our readings in class and I began to really understand the history and significance behind the different architectural styles. Now that I have observed all of the neoclassical architecture in these two cities, I can also make the connection that many of the buildings in Washington DC have these similar styles. I just find it so fascinating how we seem to constantly recycle fashions and styles of the past, but that we still somehow make them our own just as those in the 18th century did, using Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome as inspiration.
Throughout visiting the cities of London and Edinburgh, it is obvious that they have vast differences. Today, London is much more a city of business and finance than Edinburgh is. This difference is one that dates back to the eighteenth century and before. In the eighteenth century, London was a city full of wealth and luxury whereas the quality of life in Edinburgh was pretty much entirely the opposite. However, these differences are seen because of the varying beliefs that the two cultures possess, one viewing luxury as a means to succeed and the other viewing luxury as unnecessary and possibly corrupt. In this way, London was able to be more advanced than Edinburgh was in some ways.
The London portion of The Expedition of Humphry Clinker began with a letter from Matt Bramble. In this letter the reader can see how much Bramble despises the modernization of the city of London. With the language he uses, the reader can see the negativity he has towards this change. He writes how the luxury of the city has ruined the country as he explains, “the tide of luxury has swept all the inhabitants from the open country” (87). He describes that farmers and lower class countrymen look towards the city for excitement and entertainment, working in the city and neglecting their farms. In this way, the country actually is in decline as the city grows and excels. However, Bramble does say that the city has turned into a place of “no distinction or subordination” (87) as countrymen infiltrate and become part of the city life. In a way they are all blind to the monotony of the daily city routine and business, simply following and copying others. Bramble finds this to be despicable and it has caused him to hate a city he once loved. This coincides with the way some of the foreign travelers in Saussure’s “Visitors to London.” These travelers seem surprised by how well the lower class people are accepted in London and as one traveler says “he treats him as his equal” (601). This proves Bramble’s point of no distinction between classes in London at the time.
Though luxury in London was viewed by some as a negative thing, drawing in lower-class individuals, it in fact helped London to surpass Edinburgh in many ways. In the Edinburgh portion of Humphry Clinker, the reader can see Lieutenant Lismahogo’s view on wealth clearly. However, it is easy to see throughout his description of the Scottish way of life that Scotland is much different in its prioritization of wealth, which is central to the English idea of luxury. In his discourse with Bramble and Melford’s uncle he is insulted by the idea of advancing in ranks simply because of wealth instead of by honor. Later on he states “poverty was a blessing to a nation” (210) indicating his appreciation for living without the English luxuries and instead depending on one’s self and living off the land. This view can be connected to “A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland” in the passage about the Highlanders where “the wealth of mountains is cattle” showing that wealth is measured by land, cattle, and treasures of the land.
Lieutenant Lismahogo also goes on to describe the complete disregard for English ideas of luxury as he describes the dress of a certain woman stating that “the simplicity of their manners, nor the commerce of their country, would admit of those articles of luxury which are deemed magnificence in Europe; and that they were too virtuous and sensible to encourage the introduction of any fashion which might help to render them corrupt and effeminate” (194-195). In a way the Scottish view English luxury as a mode to corruption and is simply unnatural.
In order to prove the differences between London and Edinburgh, it is necessary to compare the ideas from the texts to particular places that the class has visited in the two cities. First of all, Soane’s House is an example one of the more wealthy homes in London. Though this house cannot serve as an example of a common upper class, it does show that the idea of luxury is completely acceptable in the London culture. Soane obviously was a very wealthy man who could afford to purchase countless artifacts as a sort of treasure. In this way, he is proving that having wealth enables a man to have these luxuries that cannot be seen in homes throughout Edinburgh. Soane possessed a very extensive collection from the room of paintings that seemed endless with the way they were displayed to the ancient stones and sculptures that lined his walls. Some may call Soane the ultimate hoarder; however, he simply demonstrates how luxurious London life can be as he develops an extensive collection in his home.
Moving on to the city of Edinburgh, the class visited Gladstone’s Land. This house was definitely a stark contrast to Soane’s House seen in London. In Gladstone’s Land, one can see how someone living there is much more limited by the size of the house, the economy, and the culture as well. Where Soane had the ability to afford such luxuries in England, the residents of Gladstone’s Land did not have the same opportunity. Though this was a more wealthy home of Edinburgh, it pales in comparison to Soane’s House. It can be seen that it was a more wealthy Edinburgh home because the flat was higher than ground level which proved the wealth of the inhabitants. Also, the painted ceilings showed that the family was able to travel because of the obscure fruits detailed on the ceiling. Most people in Edinburgh would have no idea what a pineapple is, but yet it was painted on the ceiling leading one to believe that the inhabitant of Gladstone’s Land saw it with his own eyes. Though the family was possibly wealthy, they were still confined to one level of the building, whereas Soane had access to an entire house. The inhabitants of Gladstone’s Land only had three rooms in which to conduct their lives. However, this way of living was entirely normal to the people of Edinburgh, which goes to prove their lack of desire or want for luxuries.
Throughout observing both of these great cities, it is obvious how accepting luxuries of London was very beneficial in developing this city. On the other hand, Edinburgh did not have access to these luxuries and obviously struggled as a city throughout the eighteenth century. As a tourist signs of this difference can be seen today as well. In visiting Soane’s House and Gladstone’s Land, it was interesting to compare these two dwellings, one obviously taken over by the results of London luxury and the other simply existing blindly in every day routine.
Our trip to London and Edinburgh was an amazing travel experience. I felt my self-confidence mounting with every new food I tried and new street I explored on my own, and it was a great lesson in patience and preparedness – those necessary virtues for any traveler. However, as exciting as the actual travel was, we had to remember that it was also a study abroad experience…which means we couldn’t completely abandon the first four weeks of the class that we spent in our Wiekamp Hall classroom at IUSB. Thanks to our pre-departure intellectual preparation, it wasn’t only on paper in the classroom that I saw many of the trends in British culture that we discussed. Because we had learned about the commercialization and urbanization in the 18th century Britain, the rise of the middle class, the increase in tourism and other entertainments, and the political culture surrounding the union of England and Scotland, I discerned in modern London and Scotland elements of many of these Enlightenment-era social constructs. There seemed to be a particular thread that tied the past to the present, I think: national attitude. Through the written accounts that we read in class, I developed a sense that England and Scotland seemed to have their own particular personalities comprised of how the people of each country feel about themselves as a nation, and how they view their country in relation to other countries. After traveling there, I feel as though some of the most important elements of those national attitudes haven’t changed in the last 300-something years.
During the 1700s Enlightenment period, England became a leader in international trade and earned its place as a world power. This led to the development of a strong middle class comprised of tradesmen and craftsmen, and a general increase in the prosperity of the middle class. The intellectual culture of London hearkened back to Classical Greece and Rome, aided by the increase in manufacture of inexpensive books, coffee house culture where men could gather and discuss ideas, and an obsession with collecting and cataloguing by members of the middle and upper-middle class. This Classical movement was reflected in the arts, the fashions and the architecture of the city. All of these dramatic changes created a sort of national self-importance in the English population; they envisioned themselves as the modern Roman Empire, and a country that was superior to less “civilized” nations. Joseph Addison, the founder and co-author of the periodical publication entitled The Spectator, lauded the new commercial London in periodical #69, claiming that London was “a kind of emporium for the whole earth,” and that he felt like a “citizen of the world” when he visited the Royal Exchange. Writers like Hume, Johnson, and Dodsley wrote essays about the arts, the English language, and the newly established British Museum. They believed in the “heightened civilization” of the English, established through an escape from ignorance, the improvement of society thanks to the arts, and the desire for English to be spoken “properly,” that is, the same way in every English-speaking part of the world. England established colonies internationally, expanding her influence and establishing her sovereignty.
Scotland, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have quite such lofty goals. While Edinburgh was eventually nicknamed “the Athens of the North” because of its fashionable New Town and its vigorous intellectual culture, this was largely due to English influence. Elsewhere in Scotland, Scots just wanted to be left to their own devices. They had an established monarchy, long-held traditions, and a particular culture that they wanted to preserve, as a member of Scotland’s Peerage, Lord Belhaven, argued in his 1706 speech against
the union of England and Scotland. He was afraid of Scotland’s losing her own sovereignty, of “a free and independent Kingdom delivering up that, which all the World hath been fighting for since the Days of Nimrod.” He worried that Scottish people would lose their right to manage their own affairs, that they would be dragged down by English taxes and laws, that the Scottish nobility would be stripped of their powers…essentially, he claimed, those who agreed to the union were betraying their “Mother Caledonia” and all the rights and heritage that came with being Scottish. Regardless of Belhaven’s dissent, the union happened: England and Scotland became one nation, Great Britain, in 1707. Following the union, England seeped into Scotland; Englishmen like Robert Southey who jumped on the tourism wagon visited places like Edinburgh and Loch Katrine and looked down his nose at the parts of them that weren’t “English enough.” He called Edinburgh’s High Street “odd and characteristic,” and the closes that we found fascinating on the trip “Windes down which an English eye may look, but into which no English nose would willing venture” (granted, they probably did smell TERRIBLE with all the waste and smoke and refuse in the streets). He criticized the scenery in the Highlands, and though he scoffed at the Scots’ agricultural practices, he grudgingly admitted that with the increase in English homes replacing Highland cabins and the eradication of “wild beasts,” Scotland was “improving” and becoming more “civilized.”
Scotland, despite (or maybe because of) their partnership with England, has managed to retain a very strong national pride. Now, I don’t have anything against England and I absolutely loved it while I was there, but I tend to root for the underdogs. I’m no economist, so maybe the union was a good thing for Scotland that way, but based on what I learned over there, Scotland and England share a…friendly rivalry…and I think the thirst for independence is as strong as ever.
I had the fortune of being able to visit and compare the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, and the first difference that glared out at me was the name of each establishment. The British
Museum and the National Museum of Scotland. The British Museum didn’t have any exhibits that focused directly on Britain or England itself; rather, there were huge exhibits on many geographical areas of the world, and England was lumped in with the Department of Prehistory and Europe. It contained many important, famous (albeit disputed) artifacts from around the world, establishing it as a leader in the world’s history museums. In the Scottish Museum, on the other hand, I strolled through six floors of Scottish history, from the earliest geological formations to modern culture. Yes, the NMS has international exhibits too, but a six-floor exhibit dedicated to the national culture is a pretty strong sign of a desire to continue cultivating an individual national identity. My favorite part of the exhibit was on the top floor, in the part about modern Scotland. There were a few seats in front of a big screen where I rested for a few minutes and watched a video on “what it means to be Scottish.” In a few very succinct sentences, people summed it up, using words like “friendly,” “gregarious,” “stubborn,”
“hardworking,” “passionate,” and “forthright.” Based on my experiences, these were all true; while in London people seemed to very much mind their own business, Scots would stop on the streets to talk to you, and they were loud when they were singing bar songs downstairs in Bar50… J When the participants in the video interview were asked whether they identified as Scottish or British, every single one of them said Scottish first, British second. One man on the video said that Scottish people have “rediscovered [their] national identity, and the best is yet to come.”
Another clue to the England-Scotland power dynamic was hidden in the sparkles of the Crown Jewels of each country. I had the good fortune to see both sets of Crown Jewels, and, while standing in line forever, to
read the information posted in the exhibits. The story of England’s Crown Jewels are pretty straightforward, except for the upheaval surrounding the execution of Charles I and the melting down of the symbols of royalty under the power of Cromwell. New ones were fashioned for the crowning of Charles II after the restoration of the monarchy. Scotland’s Honours, on the other hand, have an interesting history that further explains the country’s ongoing “good-natured” resentment toward the English. The earliest piece, and possibly most important, of Scotland’s set is a huge lump of unimpressive sandstone called either the Stone of Scone or the Stone of Destiny. The monarchs of Scotland were seated upon this stone when they were crowned; in fact, the Stone of Destiny predates the use of the crown in Scottish history. The use of the Stone symbolized a connection to the land and a loyalty to the Scottish heritage. England and Scotland have fought over this stone for something like 700 years; for a long time it was kept beneath the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey for use during English coronations. Some Scottish students stole the Stone in the 1950’s as a demonstration of Nationalist pride, and it was returned to England after about four months after being accidentally broken and fixed with a metal rod through the middle. It is rumored that a quote from the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath is inscribed
upon that metal rod: “For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.” Of course, no one wants to snap open the Stone again to see if that’s true. As a gesture of goodwill, Queen Elizabeth II returned the Stone to Scotland in 1996 (generous?). The use of the other pieces of the Scottish National Honours was discontinued after the 1707 union, considered redundant (the English Jewels are sparklier…).
I learned these things from my tour guide, Mahrie, on my Wednesday tour to Loch Ness. She also spoke a little bit about the referendum last year, the vote to determine whether Scotland would become an independent nation or not. As we all know (hopefully), the vote was close, but the “no’s” won out and
Scotland is still part of the UK. However, the call for independence remains strong, as it has for hundreds of years, and a big reason that people voted “no” was because of oil. Scotland produces a significant amount of oil that is worth plenty of money; unfortunately for them, it is in English control, and if they were to separate the two nations, they would lose out on a LOT of money. They are working on developing sustainable energy, though, so in the future, who knows…? Anyway, from both Mahrie and our Loch Katrine tour guide, Andrew, I picked up on some very strong national pride and some friendly prods directed toward the English. These sentiments are residual from hundreds of years of rivalry, and I have a feeling that they won’t end anytime soon.
Schooling is something that most everybody must go through while growing up. Education is a key fundamental piece to growing up, whether we like it or not but there was once a time when education was only for the wealthy. Thankfully those days have been left in the past. Different assets of education were favored in London when compared to those favored in Scotland. The gentry of London preferred more literary intellect, whereas those in Scotland preferred the sciences. I am not saying that the Scottish did not also enjoy a good work of literature, they are the birth people of Sir Walter Scott, but they show a greater stress on the celebration of other areas of academia. London did also have their Royal Society, but they pay homage to great authors above all else.
Intellect was always an important feature for people in England to have, especially those gifted in the ways of the pen (authors that is). This is evident by the Poets Corner within Westminster Abbey. Poets corner is a section of the abbey that is dedicated to memorials of a plethora of literary intellectuals. Some of the people memorialized within this area include William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Robert Southey, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Sir Walter Scott. Westminster Abbey is the place where English Royalty worship, get married, hold their coronations, have their funerals and for some even keep as their final resting place. In essence the Abbey is a place that was built by Royalty for Royalty, but there is a special place reserved for certain intellectuals. If an author is deemed well enough a memorial may be erected on the walls, or on the floor of Poets Corner for all to see.
Within the readings we did for class before our trip, we read selections from Tobias Smollet’s “The Exbedition of Humphry Clinker”. One of the sections that we read was when the party makes their way into London and whilst in London Jerry Melford spent one of his evenings in the company of a large group of authors. The fact that Smollet chooses to write about a large group of authors converging in London for a dinner party, helps to show that authors are an important group of people for the English. Mr. Melford spend his entire night with a group of unique and outlandish characters, all of whom are authors. It is just amazing to me that Smollet would spend around ten pages discussing one characters night with a group of authors. This goes to show me that their is a great importance on authors in London.
As young gentlemen were on the tour of the continent, one of their destinations in London would be to John Soane’s house. Soane was a famous architect, one of his greatest accomplishments being the Bank of England. Within Soane’s house is a collection of items worthy of any museums. Soane’s collections ranged from books, to paintings including his own architectural designs, to moldings and pottery. Soane also had a sarcophagus in his downstairs. Soane is said to have a “Gentleman’s collection” when it comes to his books. While walking through his house one may see books located in almost every room. Within his displays of books, Soane has whole collections of books on architecture, encyclopedias, large tombs full of works by Wiliam Shakespeare, and many other books in a variety of languages.
For a long time Scotland’s history was passed down by word of mouth, or storytelling. They had bards that would travel around from castle to castle telling various stories pertaining to the history of Scotland. Even to this day the Scots are well suited to telling stories (As can be personally noted by myself due to the pleasure of taking a Hairy Coo tour with an amazing storytelling driver, Andrew). But the Scots take great importance in the other areas of academia, such as science. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has an entire exhibit dedicated to enlightenment. One of the portraits that stood out to me was a portrait of James Hutton, painted by Sir Henry Raeburn. Hutton is depicted as sitting without his wig in his studio surrounded by the tools used in his geologic research. I found the lack of wig important, it showed to me that he put aside the physical demands of society in order to work on his findings in geology. Science was a very important topic back then as it is now. People wanted to learn more about the world they lived in, and how things worked. People were so fascinated with the sciences that women would wear magnifying glasses around their wrists so that they may study anything interesting that may have crossed their path.
While reading Johnson’s “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” I believe I have found the reason why authors where not held as highly as other intellectuals. Johnson speaks about the storytelling of the Scots, and how he is told one story by one person, but then the next day he is told a different version of the same story by another person! How confusing it would have been to be told different versions of the same story and not know which one is true! No wonder they don’t write anything down! In all reality I do not truthfully know why authors are not held in as high regards as they are in England. What I do know is that both England and Scotland show great admiration for those who succeed in the world of academics.
I also know that by having the opportunity to travel to both of these beautiful countries has been life changing to me. Being able to visit the places that I had mentioned earlier in my blog, was amazing. I learned so much by going into Soane’s house and visiting Westminster Abbey and the National Portrait gallery,and all of the other destinations that we went to. It was all surreal and if I had the chance to do it again, I would in a heartbeat!