Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
 
Foreign Travel
By John Evelyn (1620–1706)
 
From The State of France

TO proceed, therefore; presuppose travel ut suscipiatur propter unum aliquem finem 1 as we have already constituted it: we are yet to give our young subject leave to be so far practical as that he do not slip any opportunity by which he may inform himself as well in things even mechanically curious and useful, as altogether in the mysteries of government and polity, which indeed are more appositely termed philosophical. Those who have imposed on themselves and others so many different species of travel as it may be said to contain theoretical parts in it, that is to say, the metaphysical, physical, and mathematical, are, in my apprehension, more exact and tedious in their analysing than perhaps they needed to have been; of them, therefore, I say no more: it shall be sufficient for him whom I send abroad, that he conform himself to such precepts as are only necessary, not cumbersome; which rule he shall likewise do well to observe even in his very necessary accoutrements and portmanteau.
  1
  First then, supposing him to be a young gentleman apt for all impressions, but from his primary education inclined to the most worthy: having set foot upon the continent, his first study shall be to master the tongue of the country, wherein he resolves to reside: which ought to be understood perfectly, written congruously, and spoken intelligently; after which, he may do well to accomplish himself in such exercises as are most commendable at home, and best attained abroad; which will be a means of rendering him very fit and apt for the general society of that nation amongst whom he converses, and consequently the better qualify him to frequent, without blush, such particular places and persons by whom he may best profit himself in the mysteries of their polity, or what other perfection they are renowned for, according as his particular genius and inclinations import him. But this he shall never attain unto, till he begin to be somewhat ripened and seasoned in a place; for it is not every man that crosses the seas, hath been of an academy, learned a corranto, and speaks the language, whom I esteem a traveller (of which piece most of our English are in these countries at present); but he that instead of taking the tour, as they call it, or (as a late ambassador of ours facetiously but sharply reproached), like a goose swims down the river, having mastered the tongue, frequented the court, looked into their customs, been present at their pleadings, observed their military discipline, contracted acquaintance with their learned men, studied their arts, and is familiar with their dispositions, makes this account of his time. The principal advantages which a gentleman, thus made, may observe and apply are, truth, taciturnity, facetiousness without morosity, courage, modesty, hardiness, patience, frugality, and an excellent temper in the regimen of his health and affections, especially in the point of drink and tobacco, which is our northern, national, and most sordid of vices. It is (I confess) a thing extremely difficult to be at all times and in all places thus reserved, and, as it were, obliged to a temper so static and exact among all conversations; nor, for mine own part, do I esteem it in all cases necessary, provided a man be furnished with such a stock of prudence as he know how and when to make use even of his companions’ extravagances (as then frequently betraying more freely their inclinations, than at times of their more serious recollection and first addresses). Seeing I find it generally impossible for a traveller to evade some occasions and encounters, which (if he be at all practical) he will, nolens volens, perceive himself engaged into at some one time or other. But to recover this deviation, and return to our purpose; the virtues which our traveller is to bring home when he doth repatriare (as Solinus terms it) are either public, such namely as concern the service of his country; or private, and altogether personal, in order to his particular advantage and satisfaction: and believe it, sir, if he reap some contentment extraordinary from what he hath observed abroad, the pains, solicitations, watchings, perils, journeys, ill entertainment, absence from friends, and innumerable like inconveniences, joined to his vast expenses, do very dearly, and by a strange kind of extortion, purchase that small experience and reputation which he can vaunt to have acquired from abroad.  2
  Those who boast of philological peregrinations (falsely so called) which they undertake merely for the flourish and tongue of a place, possess only a parrot-virtue: it is one of the shells of travel, though I confess, the kernel is not to be procured without it; and topical; in which I find the Dutch [Greek] generally most accurate and industrious; both of them serve well for the entertainment of women and children, who are commonly more imported with wonder and romance, than that solid and real emolument which is (through these instruments) to be conveyed us from abroad.  3
  It is written of Ulysses, that he saw many cities indeed, but, withal, his remarks of men’s manners and customs were ever preferred to his counting steeples, and making tours; it is this ethical and moral part of travel, which embellisheth a gentleman, in the first place having a due respect to the religion which accomplisheth a Christian: in short, they are all severally very commendable, accommodated to persons and professions; nor should a cavalier neglect to be seen in all of them: but for that my intention is here to make an introduction only into my own observations, I shall forbear to enter so large and ample a field, as the thorough handling of this argument would insensibly oblige me to do; it having likewise been so abundantly treated of, almost by every pen which hath prevaricated on this subject; though, in my slender judgment, and, under favour, I must confess, without any real and ingenious satisfaction either to truth or curiosity.  4
 
Note 1. ut suscipiatur propter, etc.  That it be undertaken on account of some one end. [back]
 
 
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