Conference Paper – NASSR 2018

Alex L. Milsom – @alexandramilsom

Not for distribution beyond NASSR 2018

Hostos Community College, CUNY

NASSR 2018: Open

June 23, 2018 – Session 1d – 8:30 – Smith Buonanno Hall G01

Closed to Tourists:

John Chetwode Eustace and Mariana Starke

The year was 1792: 259 years since Henry VIII had banished Queen Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) to Kimbolton Castle (1533) and thus forever altered the relationship of his church to his country; 104 years since the Glorious Revolution had set back any good chance that Roman Catholicism would be reestablished as the English Church; 94 years since Parliament under William III and Mary I had passed the Popery Act (1689) which, among many restrictions, placed a bounty on priests and sanctioned perpetual imprisonment or even death to those caught holding mass; 47 years since the Jacobite Rebellion failed and Pope Clement XIII’s officially recognized the Hanoverian dynasty; 26 years since the death of Bonnie Prince Charles—the “Young Pretender”; and only 14 years since George III and Parliament had passed the Papists Act (1778) which relieved some of the penal laws imposed on Roman Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland over the past few centuries in exchange for their allegiance to the British crown and the renunciation of some tenets of their religion. The proffer of “relief” promised by the pejoratively titled Papists Act of 1778 had not landed well much of the English citizenry. Britain was already at war with France, Spain, and the Dutch, and deeply entrenched in war with its own genocidal colonizers across the Atlantic. In response to this act, in 1780, twelve years before we begin our story, approximately 50,000 protestors stormed Parliament holding “No Popery” signs and wearing blue cockades. Newgate Prison and the Clink were destroyed. After a week of violence—which spread through the city and hit hardest at the Irish immigrants in the poorest slums of the city—the Gordon Riots had achieved the distinction of becoming the most destructive riots of London’s history. Given this public response to the Papist Act’s measures, piddling relief at best anyway, it is no surprise that it took another 49 years for Parliament to pass the Catholic Relief Act (1829), which permitted Roman Catholics to serve in Parliament. (The hallowed halls of Oxford and Cambridge would not abolish their religious tests until 1871, however). In the meantime, Irish Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, and other Dissenters—inspired by the Americans’ rebellion abroad—found common cause for revolt in the 1790s against the English, as the minority Anglican ruling classes tightened Penal Laws that had been restricting Irish freedoms for centuries. Nearly 200,000 people (approximately 5% of the population) joined the Society of United Irishmen (formed in 1791) in the uprising. It was the bloodiest decade in Irish history. The Irish Rebellion—also known as the United Irishman Rebellion (or Éirí Amach na nÉireannach Aontaithe–i-ree a-muck na nay-run-uck ain-ta-hu)—led to the imposition of Martial Law in 1789, violence against the Irish (the most notorious punishment meted to the rebels of the era was the practice of “pitch-capping”), and the death of tens of thousands.[1] Great Britain imposed the Act of Union in 1800 as a consequence of the uprising, taking away Irish autonomy altogether, and driving a wedge between the Catholics and the Dissenters–a wedge that would determine the violent course of contemporary Irish history.

I present this as a prelude to this paper because, in 1792, Mariana Starke (1762-1838) performed a remarkable feat of survival: that year, she began a seven-year stint as a caretaker for her ailing mother who suffered from pulmonary issues—likely tuberculosis—and had been prescribed “Tuscan air” as a remedy. Mariana Starke’s account of their trip was published in 1800 by R. Phillips of London under the title of Letters from Italy. In two-volumes, Starke documents her journey through Italy, one which began prosaically enough, but then was abruptly interrupted by Napoleon Buonaparte’s invasion of Nice and Savoy in his campaign of the War of the First Coalition (1792-1797). Given this striking coincidence of events, and given her proximity to the violence, it is easy (and slightly forgivable) to overlook the parallel religious conflict on hand in Great Britain and Ireland at the time. Few British travelers managed to visit the Continent for purposes other than soldiering in the 1790s, and those who did managed to do so at great peril. But anti-Catholic bigotry meant peril and violence were omnipresent in Great Britain and Ireland as well. I look to Starke’s text in this instance not for information about Continental violence alone, but as an index for how non-Catholic Brits registered their encounters with Roman Catholicism abroad.

As Great Britain took painful steps toward and then away from Catholic Emancipation in the 1790s, its citizens abroad encountered Continental art, architecture, and culture as not just foreign, but also as Roman Catholic. Great Britain industrialized in the first decades of the nineteenth century; and as the growing middle class gained access to leisure time, books, and cash; and as roadways, steam engines, and transport technology improved in tandem with rapid industrial growth; the emerging class of leisure tourists—new to foreign travel—needed writers who could render legible all of the sights, sounds, and people—Catholic sights, sounds, and people—they would encounter after the Continent reopened in 1815.

Embarking on a Grand Tour was, for this new class of tourists, a quick way to access cultural capital. They could appropriate some of the shine of the coming-of-age ritual of a privileged Oxbridge graduate of the eighteenth century In nineteenth-century travel writers’ allusions to this somewhat apocryphal figure of the previous generations’ Grand Tourist, one can locate the travelers’ nostalgia, the sense of “belatedness” they would feel upon arriving to the Continent after years of international conflict had left many of its cultural monuments in ruins and in a fashion that was perhaps less “Grand” than the imagined ideal. One can also find this legendary figure of the Grand Tourist in what Linda Colley identifies as a tendency to conflate Britishness with an ideal of an aristocrat who had either fought or colonized on behalf of the country’s security and economic interests–an affection born from what she calls the “particular violence” of the period.[2] As travelers went abroad in greater numbers, following decades of violence, they also developed an appetite for a version of history provided by their guidebooks, one that evoked this powerful version of a British past when highly educated aristocrats had toured Europe in a fashion that a new generation of travelers wished to emulate.[3] The new generations of travelers needed guidance, yet the popular travel texts of the previous century—from Joseph Addison’s Remarks on Several Parts of Italy (1705) through Thomas Gray’s The Travels of T.G. Gent (1740) and even the remarkable accounts of Hester Thrale Piozzi and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu—assumed their readers would have an elite education and sources of income, and that they certainly wouldn’t need Latin or Greek, let alone French, to be translated for them. Furthermore, the terrain covered by the older generations of travelers had since been indelibly changed by the twenty-five years of Continental wars. For a colorful caricature of such a group, we can look to the Dorrit family, which, upon acceding to wealth suddenly in the middle of Dickens’ 1855-57 novel (set in the late 1820s), uses newfound wealth to spring directly from the Marshalsea Prison to the Alpine trail: we meet them in medias res in the second part of the novel surrounded by mules, muleteers, sad guidebook-quoting companions, and disassembled carriages–probably near where Starke was writing at the beginning of her Letters. Tourists like the Dorrits needed new authors to describe and prescribe the newly altered Continental landscape in terms they could understand.

Mariana Starke and John Chetwode Eustace (1761-1815) (whose guidebook gets cited frequently with great derision in Dickens’ novel), were two writers who were uniquely equipped to fulfill the needs of these new tourists. Eustace, like Starke, happened to have an auspiciously timed journey during the historical moment of respite between the Revolutionary Wars of the 1790s and the Napoleonic Wars that followed. This period, known as the Peace of Amiens (1802-1803), was the fourteen-month interlude when British and French travelers intervisited without risk.[4] The interregnum created a bridge between the stylish Grand Tour of the ei­­­ghteenth-century and middle-class mass tourism that gradually flourished after the Second Treaty of Paris was signed in 1815. Paradoxically, Eustace’s account of his own voyage eventually succeeded in attracting a mass-tourist audience that did not possess the refined education of the Grand Tourist that he assumed his readers would have. What further distinguishes Eustace’s account was that he was an Irish Catholic priest who was widely respected by the Protestant elite in England, and who publicly advocated on behalf of Catholic emancipation in Great Britain in the periodical press at the time.[5] Despite its title, his Classical Tour (1813)—a prescriptive proto-guidebook for gentlemen embarking on a Grand Tour in a tradition reminiscent of the eighteenth century—acted as a Trojan horse for his radical beliefs, setting forth his pleas for tolerance and understanding under the auspices of Classical erudition. Throughout the book, Eustace betrays his fear that Protestant British tourists’ prejudice against Catholicism might inhibit their appreciation of Italian art and architecture. (Mariana Starke is precisely the sort of traveler about whom he worried.) As a result, he allots a great deal of space to explaining Catholic rituals and history and presenting common ground on which he believes both Protestants and Catholics can agree. He felt he had to translate the cultural differences between British Protestantism and Continental Catholicism, concerned that anti-Catholic prejudice would limit tourists’ appreciation of Roman Catholic art and history. His Classical Tour relies upon normalizing the Protestant tourist’s encounter with Catholic art and architecture, and this focus became normal in travel guidebooks published throughout the nineteenth century.

Eustace and Starke share responsibility for formulating the travel guidebook for the nineteenth-century tourist: first, they both had the rare opportunity to tour the Continent in the midst of war. Second, both writers inadvertently set formal precedents for the genre–Eustace’s explicit detailing of Roman Catholic architecture and culture was meant to quell bigotry, but in so doing also made those sights legible to the masses; Starke’s ambition to guide caretakers by presenting specific details of each destination provided necessary guidance for later tourists—most of whom were not taking care of anyone but themselves—who could not necessarily afford personal tour guides. Starke’s Letters from Italy, and her later volumes Travels on the Continent (1820) and Travels in Europe (1828), also initiated some of the features we have come to expect in the tourist guidebook. In fact, John Murray’s firm published these latter works through multiple editions before he and his son initiated their own Murray Handbook series in 1836. No doubt, their series, which was to be the most important of its kind in the nineteenth century, owes its formatting and its detailed accounts of journeys to Starke.

Starke’s precision, and particularly her attention to what might appear to be the most mundane details of travel, was born from her intent of “being serviceable to those of my Countrymen who, in consequence of pulmonary complaints, are compelled to exchange their native soil for the renovating f/sun of Italy” (1:v). She spent seven years there “chiefly occupied by endeavours to mitigate the sufferings of those most dear to me” (1:v). She includes the sorts of detail she imagines would ease the work of “English Families travelling for health” (1: v) hoping to help readers to “guard . . . against those serious inconveniences which too generally retard, and not unfrequently prevent, the recovery of consumptive persons” (1: vi). In describing a tour for future caretakers and sick tourists, she inadvertently set a precedent for how nineteenth-century guidebooks would need to be formatted. After all, this was just the sort of explicit guidance that the inexperienced tourists of the post-Napoleonic era would need when ranging abroad.

Starke was the exact sort of tourist—a well-educated and slightly famous published author herself—that would benefit later from Eustace’s Catholic apologism, for I want to read Starke’s harrowing accounts of Republican invasion as inextricable from anti-Catholic violence in Great Britain. To do so, we can turn to her tale of the Republican invasion of Nice, her first encounter with the French army. She and her family arrived in Nice on September 22, the day after Republicans abolished the monarchy in Paris. In Nice, as Piedmontese soldiers awaited attack, Starke and her family “resolved to wait” it out in a hotel. Two days later, she “remarked that the Jews were going away, and many other People, particularly the French Emigrants” were “packing up” as well (31). By the 26th, she could see “many [French] ships” and by the 27th, “an universal panic seized all ranks of people” (31). The local government, under the leadership of the Sardinian King, took possession of the citizens’ mules and horses for their own escape. The king ordered that his troops withdraw and Starke observes that “for three or four hours, an awful interval of time, Nice waited in silent expectation of her fate while the French Emigrants fled on foot over the Alps, the Piedmontese and Nissard Nobility either followed this example, or employed themselves in burying their property, and the Sardinian Troops coolly marched away” (33). It turned out that the most acute danger Starke thought she faced when the French Consul arrived was the fact that a crew of Galley-Slaves were “left unguarded” and “struck off each others’ fetters,” becoming “the dread of the whole City” (35). Her family was instructed to barricade their doors because “strong apprehensions were entertained” that the “Galley-Slaves should plunder the City and murder many of its Inhabitants” (36).

Ten-thousand French troops entered the city the next day with great ceremony–and absolutely no resistance. Starke strikes a patronizing note as she also appears to paint a sympathetic portrait of the sole event that, she claims, “disgraced” the French arrival and “gave pain to every lover of virtue” (40). Apparently the Bishop of the city, alone of all the local officials and officers, had elected to remain in Nice during the attack claiming “he would remain to watch his Flock til forced from them” (40-41). Admirable, no? The French general demanded the ceremonial keys to the city from this, the city’s only remaining representative. The Bishop obeyed the demand and called to his “Monseigneur” who accompanied him. In Starke’s words, upon hearing the Bishop use this religious title for his chaplain, General Anselm “proudly exclaimed; ‘Il n’y a plus des Monseigneurs! Monsieur L’Abbé, s’il vous plait’” (41). Next, the general demanded that the Bishop remove the cross from his neck—Starke calls this item his “bauble”—and bade him leave the city. Starke then recounts how the Bishop “fainted” before setting forth on the road to Turin in the “pelting rain” (41).

Starke’s performance of sympathy for this beleaguered bishop rings hollow, of course. She writes that she “must mention” this event as a “lover of virtue,” marking her own claim to that distinction, and she notes it as the only counterexample of the French’s otherwise “liberal” treatment of the city they had invaded. She depicts the Bishop with sympathy, but her infantilizing description of the cross around his neck as a “bauble” and her details about his fainting episode are surely meant to mark him as unmanly, this individual who had, incidentally, been solicitous of her family’s safety only days earlier. This subtle form of derision turns explicit in her next letter, dated January 1794, when she describes the winter and summer of 1793: Following the execution of Louis XVI (21 January 1793), Starke “observed rapid growth of democratic opinions throughout Italy” as the “Republican Troops . . . and republican Missionaries” spread the “false assertion, that all Men were originally equal” (49). She notes how this doctrine “flattered the pride of the Many, and inclined them to shake off the authority of the Few” (49-50). Despite her obvious antipathy toward this Republican rhetoric, she notes how it works in favor of dismantling the country’s religion. In the following passage, she imagines the indoctrination of “young Students” walking “arm in arm” with “democratic Frenchmen”  along the Corso in Pisa:

Liberty, in her most dangerous extent, was called the first of blessings, and conformity to old-established opinions the mark of a servile or shallow mind. The absurdities of the Roman-catholic religion were painted in glowing colours; the licentiousness of its Priests too justly reprobated, and its tendency to thicken the veil of ignorance and strengthen the hands of arbitrary power, particularly enlarged upon and regretted.” (50)

Here, “liberty,” personified as a “she,” is both “dangerous” and expansive. According to the French Republicans here, dedication to their doctrine of liberty is that which distinguishes the “servile or shallow” mind from those which receive its blessings. To Starke, such a doctrine is no different from the dogma of the Roman Catholics, a comparison she suggests by likening the Republicans to “missionaries.” The so-called “absurdities” of the religion become the evidence—”painted in glowing colours” by these secular missionaries—of priests’ “licentiousness” and the fact that ignorance, born from devotion to the church, enables “arbitrary power” to flourish. Starke is skeptical of both Republican and Roman Catholic dogmas, seeing how easily the former can exploit the latter; she presents the church as an easy target, and the Republicans and Italians alike as susceptible to indoctrination. Her own dry remove suggests that as a British tourist, she is at a healthy distance from such degradations.

For although Starke’s sympathies for sick relations are great, her prejudice against Roman Catholicism is greater. It recurs as a theme throughout the Letters from Italy. However, in a chapter on “Naples” in her popular Travels on the Continent–published a decade after Napoleon had been defeated, Starke urges readers to seek out a monument in the St. Crocelle chapel “lately erected” to “the memory of the Rev. John Chetwode Eustace” whom she generously calls the “eloquent and animated Author of The Classical Tour Through Italy.”[6] After she quotes the last two lines of the Latin inscription on his monument, she promptly admonishes her readers to “procure good water, a scare commodity at Naples.” This jarring transition concludes her solitary reference to the late priest, whose own Classical Tour (1812) was the only other book that matched her Letters from Italy in its relevance to post-war readers.

This paper reads Starke’s brief reference to Eustace as representative of the ways in which thousands of British Protestants squared touring abroad to Catholic countries for leisure while religious conflict escalated at home: Starke safely classifies Eustace as something quaint that belongs abroad. In her account, Eustace is another artefact of Naples rather than precise peer and fellow popular travel writer. The way writers coped with and even elided the long-lasting effects of war, violence, and domestic religious conflict through the rhetoric of tourism remains a fruitful site for examination–a project which I am working on at present. The abrupt transition between sentiment and practicality in Starke’s account of Eustace’s tomb is not an aberrant moment in her work: such transitions characterize much of her writing. The reason for this, I argue, is that at the moment Starke compiled her so-called “letters,” she was literally smack in the middle of an international crisis that was interrupting both her voyage and the genre in which she sought to write. The extraordinarily humdrum occurrences that she documents with scrupulous care—the amount one should plan to give as a buon-mano (tip) to your carriage drivers, the precision of her timetables (“We were three hours and a quarter in ascending the Col-de-Tende, and one hour and three quarters in descending” [7]); —belie the miraculous feat of her mere survival during Napoleon’s violent advances on the peninsula. She assesses the mundanities of daily traveling life on a scale that ranges from “tolerable” (which she uses approximately thirty times in the two volumes) to “remarkable” (which she uses thirty-eight times). There is nothing too small or insignificant on her route that it cannot be assessed along this metric: from the quality of lodgings, the edibility of food, the bumpiness of roads, to the skillfulness demonstrated by local tooth-pullers and blood-letters. For instance, a village outside of Nice called Sospello has “two tolerable inns” (3); a restaurant at La Ghiandola (which she calls “Chiandola”) is “a romantic village situated at the brink of a thundering torrent” and has a “tolerably good” inn (3); Savigliano has an inn that is “tolerably good” (9); the road that carries her en voiturier to St. Ambrogio is “tolerably good” (10) and so forth. Starke’s detailed appendices at the end of the second volume of Letters from Italy cite two dentists as “tolerable”: the first is “Pio. Herbert” who can be counted on to recommend a “very good tooth-drawer at Florence” (2:302) and “Sig. Fidele”–a Pisan surgeon, is also a “tolerable dentist” (2:289). (The second volume references no fewer than seven dentists who are highly eligible for the task of administering to the English traveler.)  Pisa also is distinguished in being the home of “Sig. Giuseppe Abate” a surgeon who “bleeds remarkably well, as does his brother of the same name” (2:289).  —OMIT FOR TIME IF NECESSARY

Nineteenth-century Continental tourism would be unrecognizable deprived of Starke’s attention to the precise details that render the trip accessible for those traveling without knowledgeable human guides, and without Eustace’s erudition that rendered the Classical significance of the journey legible to those without a gentleman’s education. However, a fuller understanding of the nineteenth-century British tourist requires that we pay attention to the overt violence of anti-Catholic bigotry in Great Britain and Ireland in the 1790s as well as to the covert prejudiced disguised as clever detachment and ironic humor; tendencies against which Eustace’s Classical Tour alone sought to correct.


Works Cited:

Starke, Marianna. Letters from Italy.

Starke, Marianna. Travels on the Continent: Written for the Use and Particular Information of Travellers 1st ed.

Starke, Marianna. Travels on the Continent: Written for the Use and Particular Information of Travellers 5th ed.



[1] Numbers are contested. Anywhere from 10,000-50,ooo deaths have been cited.

[2] Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 149.

[3] Saree Makdisi, Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race, and Imperial Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), ix.

[4] For a thorough account of the Peace of Amiens, see John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801-1803 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004).

[5] Eustace’s beliefs were those ascribed at the time to a minority group of theologians and Catholic intellectuals called “Cisalpinists.” They believed that British Catholics should shift their loyalty from the pope to the British monarch as a way of dispelling Protestant suspicion about their allegiances. They aimed to achieve this transition by swearing finally to the 1606 Oath of Allegiance by of James I (1566-1625), and in doing so, hoped to regain the property, voting, and religious rights that had been taken away from Catholics in the seventeenth century.

[6] Mariana Starke, Travels on the Continent: Written for the Use and Particular Information of Travellers (London: John Murray, 1820), 438.