A Sumptuous Folio Journal of Travels through Switzerland, France and Italy etc.
Grimley, William. [MS] Journal of Journeys Through Switzerland, France, Italy etc..
Folio. Bound in later half calf over marbled boards, red title label, minor edgewear and scuffing, otherwise a pretty good looking piece of 20th century binding work. 200pp. Text, in an elaborate and meticulous copperplate, to rectos only, many of the versos being embellished with engravings, portraits or other decorations, including one striking botanical painting and a hand coloured engraved landscape. Each page details a separate leg or location on Grimley’s travels, sometimes geographical and historical, sometimes personal anecdotes and experiences. The pages are decoratively titled in ink: “The Battle of Sempach”, “Lanterbrunnen”, “Byron”, “Chillon”, “John Tradescant”, “A Casualty” etc. the titles highlighting which parts of the journey (in the most part written as a contiguous narrative) that particular page deals with, or indeed any notable events upon that leg of the journey. The passage titled “A Fracas” is a particularly dramatic example:
“...Prudence however dictated that we should not wander from the appointed spot of meeting, for we knew not where to seek them [Grimley’s companions], and again, during our absence they might possibly arrive. The rain ceased, the clouds dispersed, and the sun broke out during the time we were seated on a fragment of rock under the shadow of the frowning glacier - a seat we occupied not long before Mr. Magee drew my attention to a seemingly impassable precipice down which our friends were descending:- the guide was essaying to reach them, and we started following the course of the Rhone, and met them at the foot of the hill, after a descent described to me as horrible in the extreme. Here Mr. Magee gave way to his anger in a way that distressed us all very much: he attacked the guide with incredible fury and beat him with his mountain stick until he broke it into pieces. The meekness with which the poor fellow bore this treatment inspired all but Mr. Magee with a sentiment of great pity for him: but that feeling was a good deal subdued when we learned from the host at Hospenthal that the path he had mentioned when he abandoned us, as leading from the bottom of the snow plain, was the very pass of the Mayenwand whose dangers so horrify M. Ebel, and from which many a traveller has fallen to rise no more.” There are 200 pages of this, and examinations of Swiss, Italian and French history (some of which is hovering close to current affairs for our intrepid Mr. Grimley), his passage on Chillon is equally delightful, written as it was only 2 years after Lord Byron’s death:
“...But whatever differences may exist as to the actual merit of the heir, there can be but one opinion as to the excellence of Byron’s encomiastic poem, which would undoubtedly claim the highest [...] of applause were Chillon an imaginary place and Bonnivard, the shadow of a shade. But to the highest beauties of poetry he has joined the utmost fidelity of description, and as none can be more beautiful so none can be more correct than the lines descriptive of ‘Seven pillars of Gothic mold, in Chillon’s dungeons deep and old...’” Now we are Grand touring. A mammoth memoir, as rich and descriptive as any I have catalogued.