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Diaries] Talbot, Mary Anne.

Autograph journal of a continental tour.


[Travel] Talbot, Mary Anne. Holograph Journal: Continental Tour. April 20, 1818-March
1819; "rewritten in 1822."
12mo.; green morocco, stamped in gilt; a.e.g.; several pages partially excised; neatly rebacked.
A lengthy journal - approximately 25,000 words - by a young woman on an early Grand Tour. She would later take stock of her observations on later travels and turn to philanthropy to address the social injustices she witnessed on her trips.
Mary Anne Talbot and her sister Georgina Charlotte Talbot were the daughters of Sir George Talbot, a direct descendant of the first Earl of Shrewsbury. He was an army officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel before resigning his commission in 1794. In the 1840s the Talbots came to Bournemouth to find cleaner air. Shocked by the condition of the poor, the sisters financed the building of Talbot village consisting of 19 cottages, six farms, a school and a church. The village still exists today, administered by the Talbot Village Trust set up by the sisters.
Mary Anne Talbot's tour is undertaken in the company of her sister and her father. They frequent the grandest of societies in Paris, Berlin and Vienna. The names of ambassadors, emperors and princes throng the pages. She recounts their conversations, gives penetrating insights into their character and amusing descriptions of them. In between the fine dinners and receptions there are the usual traveller's tales of discomfort, poor lodgings ("Cleanliness is a stumbling block on the continent"), visits to galleries, manufactories and the opera, all enlivened by the high reputation enjoyed by the English at the time: on leaving Frankfort "the three postillions played God Save the King on the horns, which really sounded very fine, & is a most imposing manner of travelling." Occupied Paris sees the party "well-lodged but gloomy" and dining with, amongst others, Lord Charles Stuart, Lord Mansfield, the Duc de Fitzjames and the Duke of Devonshire. Talbot casts a perceptive eye over this new society ("I thought M. de G. did not like Mr. Curzon & Ld Bruce flirting with his wife.") In a long conversation with Lady Mansfield, she is advised to marry: "Now you may have anyone, but every year you will find it more difficult..." (A later passage of several pages records a long conversation in Vienna with Count Pàlffy, the patron of Beethoven, with much mention of 'friendship' and other heavy hints, but nothing seems to have come of it.) She can also be critical: "There is something in French society that I cd. not bear - They live in a scream about nothing." Quieter moments include a visit to the Bois de Boulogne, "where we got out of the carriage & sat under the trees & we were serious & moralized." A nice passage records her observing French signs ("La Belle Anglaise", "Au Maitre de Tous"), which she finds "very curious - some are beautiful." On leaving Paris there are the two sisters' bills to be paid, requiring an advance from Papa, "which displeases him and vexes us."
The trip onward through Germany ("a new world to me") sees them pass through Leipzig ("The Square where the Allies met [after the Battle of Leipzig in 1813] is a miserable market-place"), Berlin, and on to Dresden, where they see the Royal family dine, a public spectacle: "I felt very awkward, & we got away in a few minutes, as everyone stared at us." In Dresden they see much of Mr. Morier the Ambassador, who is "like an English country gent. A little cross but clear & sensible." She meets at dinner "A wonderful youth, a Mr. Stapleton...he has nine grains of folly and one of cleverness, a great goose. His conversation is taken from the Arabian Tales, & Gathering's Grammar..." After tours of the Meissen factory and other sights, they depart forPrague and Vienna, Mary Anne making the final observation, "There is a striking vulgarity in upper & lower ranks. The men smoke, the ladies drink beer & carry away cakes & sweet meats from the Parties."
In Vienna they see much of Lord Stewart, the Ambassador: "He is vain, but it is evident that he has violent feelings, which may lead to good or evil but are always engaging." At one dinner she reports sitting "between the Pope's Nuncio and Prince Metternich - the latter with the most agreeable conversational manners. The best ton. We talked of the Golden Age, the Age of Louis 14th...& a variety of other things. He seems to dislike Lord Castlereagh [Stewart's half-brother, Plenipotentiary to the Congress of Vienna]." Later she is presented to the Emperor by Metternich. At Schönbrunn they see Napoleon's son: "He is a very pretty little boy....his face is round & expressive...he was evidently pleased at the sight of so many English come to admire him." The arrival in Vienna of the Persian Ambassador makes a great sensation. "He is scandalisé at the valse...he turned his back on the Emperor the day he was presented saying his slippers prevented him walking backwards." Invited by Prince Esterhàzy to stay at Eisenstadt, our journalist describes his magnificent palace large enough to quarter a regiment, complete with theatre, chapel, and magnificent greenhouses and hothouses. "The Princess talked a great deal of her friend the late Empress. The only woman who ever awed Bonaparte." The journal concludes with the party's return to England.

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