Susanna here, back at the bottom of another research rabbit-hole.
This one’s entirely unintentional. I started off by looking up the land routes into Genoa, which led me quite by accident to Mariana Starke—or, more specifically, the Fifth revised edition of her comprehensive guidebook, Information and Directions for Travellers on the Continent.
Being published in 1829, it’s about a century too late for my needs, but it’s still a fascinating read, and when I’m trolling the Internet, coffee in hand, for good primary sources, I’m easily lured down rabbit holes by fascinating reads.
Mariana Starke was, herself, a fascinating woman, and deserving of a separate post. Born in 1762 in Surrey, England, she wrote and published plays and poems in her 20s, but when she was 30 her role changed to that of caregiver to her parents and her sister Louisa, all of whom were suffering from tuberculosis, and she set out with them on a journey to the continent. Her father and sister died there, and her mother died not long after, leaving Mariana to publish her travel notes as Letters from Italy, which would eventually evolve into the formidable Information and Directions travel guide that kept her travelling herself, to update it accurately, well into her 70s. She died at Milan in 1838.
Getting to Genoa by road, even in those days, was no easy feat.
According to Ms. Starke:
“there was only a mule-path [between Genoa and Lerici] when we made this excursion; the carriage road, begun long since, is now, however, passable; though not finished : it lies at the edge of precipices without any fence to guard travellers from accidents; and through torrents difficult to ford; but it commands sublime scenery…”
I might have opted to stick to the sea route.
For those braver souls than I, Ms. Starke says it is most valuable to have with you, when travelling on the continent an “active man-servant, who understands the management of carriages”.
As for the carriage itself, she says, “Persons in health, who wish to travel economically, might find their purpose answered by going with the Voituriers belonging to Emery; whose carriages set out, almost every week, from London to various parts of the Continent…but persons blessed with health and affluence should travel in their own carriage, going post through France, and, generally speaking, going en voiturier in Switzerland and the Italian States.
“A strong English carriage, hung rather low, with well-seasoned corded jack springs, iron axeltrees, and sous-soupentes of rope covered with leather — strong wheels — anti-attrition grease — strong pole-pieces— a drag-chain, with a very strong iron shoe; and another drag made of leather, with an iron hook — a box containing extra linch pins, tools, nails, bolts, etc., for repairing, mounting, and dismounting a carriage — this box should be made in the shape of a trunk, padlocked, and slung to the hind axletree — one well, if the carriage be crane-necked; two, if it be not — a sword case — a very light imperial — two moderate-sized trunks, the larger to go before — a patent chain and padlock for every outside package — lamps, and a stock of candles fitted to them — a barouche seat, and a very light leather hat-box, or a wicker basket, with an oil-skin cover suspended under it. The bottom of the carriage should be pitched on the outside; the blinds should be made to bolt securely within-side; and the doors to lock. A second-hand carriage, in good condition, is preferable to a new one; and crane-necks are safer than single perches, though not necessary.”
As an aside, in footnotes, she comments that “Carriages without perches, invented by Elliot and Holbrook, Westminster-Road, are convenient on the Continent”, and adds, “Savage, in Queen-Street, Long-Acre, fits up travelling carriages remarkably well.”
And then we’re back to wheels.
“Wheels made for travelling on the Continent,” says Ms. Starke, “should neither have patent tire nor patent boxes : mail coach, or common brass boxes, answer best. In those parts of Germany where the roads are bad, it is advisable to cord the wheels of travelling carriages; and the mode of doing this effectually is, to attach the cords to iron cramps fixed on the tire; afterwards fastening them round each nave. Every trunk ought to have a cradle; that is, some flat smooth pieces of oak, in length the same as the inside of the trunk, about two inches and a half wide, nearly half an inch thick, and cross-barred by, and quilted into, the kind of material used for saddle-girths; a distance of three inches being left between each piece of wood. This cradle should be strapped very tight upon the top of the trunk (after it has been packed) by means of straps and buckles fastened to its bottom : and thus the contents can never be moved, by jolts, from the situation in which they were originally placed. Every trunk should have an outside cover of strong sail cloth painted."
And of course one shouldn't forget one's health and fitness. "Persons who wish to preserve their health, during a long journey, should avoid sitting many hours together in a carriage, by alighting and walking on while their horses are changed, provided they travel post; and by walking up all the ascents, provided they travel en voiturier; and persons who get wetted through should take off their clothes as soon as possible, rub themselves with Eau de Cologne, and then put on dry warm linen, scented with Hungary water.”
That, presumably, is where your “active man-servant” comes into play.
And that part might not be so bad…
How would you have fared, do you think, travelling by carriage?
(All images, incidentally, except the manservant, are from Wikimedia Commons, and all are, as far as I was able to discover, in the public domain).