Thursday, August 31, 2006

Item of the Day: Lord Gardenstone’s Travelling Memorandums (1792)

Full Title: Travelling memorandums, made in a tour upon the continent of Europe, in the years 1786, 1787, and 1788: by the Honourable Lord Gardentstone. Vol. I. & Vol. II. Second edition, corrected and enlarged. Edinburgh: Printed for Bell and Bradfute, G. G. J. and J. Robinson, and G. Nicol, Bookseller to His Majesty, London, 1792.

At the age of sixty-five, being in easy circumstances, but in a declining state of health, I resolved, by advice, to travel, and try the effect of southern climates for one or two winters. –Before my departure, I obtained consultations of able physicians, both at Edinburgh and London; one of them was my worthy friend Dr. Garden, then residing in London. –He had practiced, with high reputation, for many years in Carolina. –As he was best acquainted with the common effects of a hot climate on persons bred in northern countries, I considered his advices as most material; and I have experienced the success of them. –I select some part of his opinion for the benefit of others in similar circumstances.

The Doctor treats the important article of regimen and diet in an unusual, but, as I think, in a very sensible manner. –“Be moderate habitually. –Whatever your palate relishes, and your stomach digests easily, is best. –In this, you must be your own physician, and prescribe from experience. –I know no better, and propose no other rule of regimen. –In costive habits, and cases of weak digestion, ripe fruits, especially grapes, figs, and sweet oranges, are good. –Such simple refreshing diet, and those mineral waters which both nourish and purify, are preferable to any medicines. –However, I do advise you, occasionally, to use laxative medicines. –Here again, choose, by your own experience, (with this material precaution not commonly adverted to,) that you should obtain the prescription for making such pills as best agree with you, so as to have them fresh made from time to time, because, when kept, they grow hard, and are apt to pass without effect. –He thinks rhubarb the safest laxative, and an excellent strengthener of the stomach: but, for the reason suggested, he advises not to use it in pills, but to cut it into small pieces of five or six grains, and to chew it. By this means, it dissolves fresh in the stomach. –Hot climates are, in summer, dangerous for us of the north. –They produce fevers in the young, and dysenteries in the old, often fatal. –Therefore, he advises a retreat to more temperate climates; and, in particular, he recommends Lausanne, or Spa, for our summer retirement.”

Thus provided with sound advice in regard to health, I was desirous to have aid and information from proper books of travels. –I purchased many volumes, not very much to my satisfaction. –I chiefly consulted Keysler, Moore, and Smollet, as modern writers, who describe the course which I intended to take. –I found Keysler heavy, tedious, trivial, and certainly not improved by the English translation from the original German. –Though deficient in substantial information, yet he points out many uncommon objects to the curious traveler. –Dr. Moore writes with propriety, some spirit, and with better information; but, to my taste, he expatiates too much. –I was best pleased with my old and excellent friend Dr. Smollet. –Testy and discontented as he is, he writes with perspicuity. –His observations are generally sensible, and even his oddities are entertaining*. –In the progress of this journal, I make some remarks on the travels of Mr. Addison and Bishop Burnet; but my memorandums are relative to Smollet, and are either supplementary, or corrective of his book. –I found Dutens’s journal very useful; and every traveler on his routes ought to have it. –Dr. Campbell’s account of the present State of Europe contains much useful information. –Gurthrie’s geographical grammar is the best book of its kind so far as I know. It is concise, accurate, and instructive. –And I think it is one very proper Vade mecum for travellers.

*One of his fellow-travellers reports this story of him, that, at an inn on their route, the landlady was a coarse red-haired woman, and a great scold. –Dr. Smollet immediately set down in his pocket-book, “All the women in this town are red-haired, and insufferable shrews.”
+Since my return to this country, I have seen a geographical grammar, published at Edinburgh, by Mr. Alexander Kincaid, which comprehends the substance of Mr. Guthrie’s work, with material additions.

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