Barnard, Edward and Vernon. Journal of Excursions Made Between 1846 and 1851
in Scotland, The Lake District, The Isle of Whyte, Carlisle, Newcastle, Belgium and the Rhine..
Two Volumes. 4to. Over 750 pp. Bound in contemporary black half calf over marbled boards, no titles, diced to spine, edgewear and scuffing to boards and extremities, strong and handsome. Internally clean, some offsetting from the horde of inserted engravings and ephemera, clean and in an elegant and eminently legible hand (which makes a nice change, handwriting gets progressively worse the closer one gets to the 20th century, climaxing in the “inebriated doctor’s prescription pad style” of which my own handwriting is a prime example). A mammoth and clearly very diligently kept journal of travels and adventures, some sections inserted and independently paginated (presumably from somewhat more handy travel journals than these two massive tomes), covering five years of gentlemanly exploration, primarily in the North of England and the Low Countries. The overall atmosphere is that of an early rendition of Three Men In A Boat (or at least, two men in a variety of trains and steamships). The style is quirky, written in the third person (plural) and packed with both detail, rather overdone sound effects, and joie de vivre. “The following description of a 3 week holiday has been written to keep in mind the pleasure that E&V enjoyed during that time in the North. While travelling they kept a jotting book in which put down in as few words as possible [800 pages chaps...brevity is not your collective thing!] every thing which struck them as new, & little incidents which occurred. Having obtained possession of “The Needful” the day previous to starting, they set off with a determination to extract pleasure even from disagreeable things & to be jolly like Mark Tapley.” That last being a reference to the cheery chap in Martin Chuzzlewit. The more narrative stretches are interspersed not only with culled engravings and ephemera from their travels (views of Edinburgh and all points, railway timetables, maps etc. many of which are in startlingly attractive condition) but also with sections headed “Original Memoranda” which are apparently transcriptions of the jotting books before their expansion into full journal ebntries, which is a rather fascinating insight into the approved manner of constructing one’s gargantuan journey memoir: “Fate of Eau-De-Cologne bottle. Glasgow Rail. Soaking wet. Glasgow busy and smoky like London. Race after steamer on Bromielaw. Steam to Dumbarton. Tug steamer with four barges attached to it...Scramble for Omnibus.” and so on, those wishing to learn the fate of the bottle of cologne will have to read further. There’s a fair amount of discreet Victorian noting of pretty faces and flushed cheeks from the bro’s on tour, a notable day in Tynemouth, visits to ruins and priories, a spot of rather sub Byronic verse, some breathless accounts of the natural wonders of the Northumberland coast and the prospect of Windermere all delivered in a pacy, enthusiastic fashion that makes it easy to slip into the steamer benches next to these two rather likeable brothers, join them in Mrs. Reid’s Tea Room, and travel with them across the Lakes...I also developed a strong urge to sample “Potted Trout, highly seasoned with Cayenne...which we sampled at every opportunity.” and have to freely admit that until the Barnard brothers mentioned it, I had never thought of Ambleside as a haven of culinary invention. The kind of eye witness history where you learn more from the frivolity and pace than you would from a more sedate account, and where the roving eye picks up a little more than the one that concentrates solely on historical landmarks, the structure of church spires and the lateness of supper. Outstanding, joyful and absolutely the closest you will get to time travel, which is really the point of all this: to give the ordinary ghosts their say.