On Tramp. Norway.. 1890.
4to. 98pp. Approx. 15-16000 words, typewritten. Bound in contemporary green calf with cream title label, rubbed and scuffed to extremities, mainly the spine, with an inch and a half of superficial loss to the tail and a split to the hinge at the head, volume is solid and strong, merely showing signs of wear. An energetic and youthful journey recounting the adventures of three Cambridge students (Jack, Maurice and our narrator) on a trip to Norway:
“Jack and I have certainly demonstrated at least to our own satisfaction that we are going to the land of our ancestors, and we suggest for the mature consideration of our families that they should find a corner for a Viking’s Boat on our Crests!”
The journal, typed up from pencil notes, is a pretty fine example of the rather careless privilege of comfortable British youth loose on the continent, and illustrates one of the many occupational hazards of cataloguing such material; one can find a writer perfectly likeable, respect and record their observations, whilst simultaneously cringing internally every time they crash resoundingly into the 21st century:
“Now for the people on board: we give the first place of honour to the ladies. It may not be polite: but with all deference to them they are not beautiful! Maurice and I have vowed there is one pretty girl on board: undoubtedly she has beautiful eyes, and nice hair, but as Jack points out her upper teeth project; and true when she smiles she looks somewhat vacant: her age, ma Mere, is about 15.”
Our little group’s Wildean observations aren’t limited to the ladies either:
“At mess we sit opposite a lean, yellow headed fellow ‘I guess the water is not so wet here as across the herring pond’ He snaps up the waiters and enunciates nice principles of worldly wisdom: ‘I guess now I never pay a man for insulting me.’ Jack and I think that he gives his wife a hot time when he gets bitten on ‘Change. However she seems to be trained to take care of herself: at breakfast this morning she hurriedly retired, but his serene composure was not in the least disturbed, he merely drank her tea! She is as stout as he is lean! Oh Pharaoh!”
This gentleman, described as “Our yellow withered Yankee friend” later renders further entertainment:
“We turn from the sublime, and turning descend to a terrible bathos: our yellow withered Yankee friend finds the N. Easter a little fresh so he is showing us how the [redacted because dear god no] minstrels dance out in Amerikee!”
The young gentlemen land in Bergen and begin their rather vivid walking, riding, getting about any way they can tour of the moors and mountains, recounting vividly their encounters with the Norwiegans, whether positive or otherwise:
“ A wedding! Vive le Marriage! A bas Mrs Lynn Linton!! [A reference to Eliza Lynn Linton, Britain’s first salaried woman journalist and committed anti-feminist] We have all determined if we three are metaphorically shipwrecked like Mr. Bellhouse’s three Skipper boys - well we will retire to Norway, buy a small farm, breed pigs and hens and cocks to crow, and fawn coloured ponies to ride and a broad fjord to fish in: all on a few kroners per annum! Well you will wonder at this burst of enthusiasm and we have our ideas of how a Norwegian wedding could be improved - into something earthly - yet perfect...when we went to the wedding yesterday evening a party of Norsemen were trying an easy test of strength under a tree on a rising knoll. Our Englishmen did the trick: Jack and Maurice with great ease. Then the Bride! She had abandoned the dancing barn and bedecked in all her glory was walking about amongst the wedding guests: some of the old people seemed to view her as a child! She blushed as we politely advanced, lifted our hats and bowed profoundly and Jack smiled such a bewitching smile that Maurice and I caught the spirit of greeting and bucked up as well as we could! Drink for the Englishman! Brandy or something of the sort is brought us by the smiling bridegroom, who is one of the best looking straightest built Norwegian men we have seen. I believe the Norwegian men are - I suppose it is the hardship of their winter lives - quickly pulled to pieces. Here he is in the bloom of manhood: giving us like a true nature’s gentleman a right hearty welcome...”
The adventures continue across moor and fjord, through a number of farmhouses, over mountains and into valleys, occasionally in pursuit of sport but mostly in a rather rapt and occasionally purple spirit of discovery. An entertaining and mostly charming account with a good deal of 19th century rural Norway as its focus.