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 Arthur Young's Travels 
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Post Arthur Young's Travels
Has anyone read this book, Arthur Young's Travels in France, 1787-89? I found a 1910 edition online and purchased it, so I'm wondering if anyone else has thoughts to share about this book?

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Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:52 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
I haven't read it, but it is a commonly cited source by historians on pre-Revolutionary France. I'm afraid that's all I know. Tell us how it is.


Sun Oct 12, 2008 10:45 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Arthur Young was an English squire, agriculturalist, and writer who traveled extensively through France, keeping a detailed journel of his experiences. He arrived at Calais on May 15th, 1787 after crossing the English Channel, and would not depart for his home shores until January 20th, 1790. Young's journel provides an excellent and wonderful first-hand glimpse of Marie Antoinette's France. Here are a few examples:

On the French countryside and roads, Young writes, "I am not professedly in this diary on husbandry (farming), but must just observe, that it is as bad as the country is good; wheat miserable and yellow with weeds, yet all summer fallowed with lost attention.... If the French have not husbandry to show us, they have roads; nothing can be more beautiful, or kept in more garden order,"

Young on Versailles, "The palace of Versailles, one of the objects of which report had given me the greatest expectation, is not in the least striking.... From whatever point viewed, it appears an assemblage of buildings; a splendid quarter of a town, but not a fine edifice.... The great gallery (Hall of Mirrors) is the finest room I have seen; the other chambers are nothing; but the pictures and statues are well known to be a capital collection. The whole palace, except the chapel, seems to be open to all the world; we pushed through an amazing crowd of all sorts of people.... In viewing the King's apartment, which he had not left a quarter of an hour, with those slight traits of disorder that showed he lived in it, it was amusing to see the blackguard figures that were walking uncontested about the palace, and even in his bed chamber; men whose rags betrayed them to be in the last stage of poverty, and I was the only person that stared and wondered how the devil they got there. It is impossible to not like this careless indifference and freedom from suspicion."

On Marie Antoinette, "Her Majesty, who, by the way, is the most beautiful woman I saw today, received them (courtiers) with a variety of expression. On some she smiled; to others she talked; a few seemed to have the honour of being more in her intimacy. Her return to some was formal, and to others distant.....The ceremony of the King's dining in public is more odd than splendid. The Queen sat by him with a cover before her, but ate nothing; conversing with the Duc d'Orleans, and the Duc de Liancourt, who stood behind her chair."

On the Petit Trianon, Young has to say, "It contains about 100 acres, disposed in the taste of what we read of in books of Chinese gardening, whence it is supposed the English Style was taken..... There is... more effort than nature---and more expense than taste. It is not easy to conveive any thing that art can introduce in a garden that is not here; woods, rocks, lawns, lakes, rivers, islands, cascades, grottos, walks, temples, and even villages. There are parts of the design very pretty, and well executed. The only fault is too much crowding; which had led to another, that of cutting the lawn by too many gravel walks, an error to be seen in almost every garden I have met with in France."

And on Paris, "This great city appears to be in many respects the most ineligible and inconvenient for the residence of a person of small fortune.... and vastly inferior to London. The streets are very narrow, and many of them crowded, nine tenths dirty, and all without foot-pavements (sidewalks)..... Walking, which in London is so pleasant and so clean, that ladies do it every day, is here a toil and a fatigue to a man, and an impossiblity to a well dressed woman. The coaches are numerous, and, what are much worse, there are an infinity of one-horse cabriolets, which are driven by young men of fashion and their imitators, alike fools, with such rapidity as to be real nuisances.... This circumstance renders Paris an ineligible residence for persons, particularly families that cannot afford to keep a coach; a convenience which is as dear as at London....Lodgings are not half so good as at London, yet considerably dearer."

Arthur Young not only provides a fascinating look at day-to-day life in MA's France, but he was actually present for the start of the Revolution, an eye-witness to the history of which we are all so interested. It must be noted that Young's personal views (he sympathizes with the Revolutionaries) color his writings, as well as his English bias. Yet he also manages to express a great admiration for French culture, and people. He was good friends with a few of the key players in the early Revolution, and takes the reader directly into their homes and their minds.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough! It is a priceless treasure of information.

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"One grows accustomed to one's enemy, and by making it familiar one loses the desire to get rid of it...." Marquise de la Tour du Pin, in a letter to her friend Mme. de Duras.


Fri Oct 24, 2008 1:29 am
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Thanks for the recommendation! I am familiar with many excerpts from it, as it's constantly quoted by historians, but that's cool that you're reading the original book. I'll have to look into it when I can find a copy. Out of curiosity, which revolutionaries was he friends with?


Fri Oct 24, 2008 8:24 am
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
The Ducs de Rochefoucauld and Liancourt. The Duc de Noailles. Lavoisier, all personal acquaintances. Mirabeau (not a friend, but someone Young encountered) along with many other famous figures of the period---Orleans, Conde, Necker, Mounier.... I am still reading this journel, so I'm sure more amazing information will emerge.

I should note: my copy is not an original, which was published in the 1790s in England. Mine is a 1910 edition, with a considerable (and hubristic) preface by the editor, a biography of Young, and a postscript authored by Young himself, well after the Revolution, expressing his take on events. This edition also contains extensive footnotes which I have found very helpful.

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"One grows accustomed to one's enemy, and by making it familiar one loses the desire to get rid of it...." Marquise de la Tour du Pin, in a letter to her friend Mme. de Duras.


Fri Oct 24, 2008 1:20 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Ahhh, those sort of revolutionaries.

I was hoping it was something like him taking afternoon tea with Marat. That'd be an entertaining read. :wink:


Sun Oct 26, 2008 1:08 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Arthur Young was a very odd personality. His primary interest was agriculture, yet he failed at every agricultural venture he undertook (which leads me to question his criticism of French farming practices). He held republican sentiments, yet boasted---fairly gushed---over his associations with the titled. Marat, Danton, Robespierre were relative "nobodies" at the time Young was in France.

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"One grows accustomed to one's enemy, and by making it familiar one loses the desire to get rid of it...." Marquise de la Tour du Pin, in a letter to her friend Mme. de Duras.


Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:31 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
I wouldn't even bother qualifying that with a "relative" for the early days of the Revolution. Robespierre's biographers like to point out how many bizarre ways his name was spelled by reporters whenever he made a speech in the early days because no one had a clue who he was. When did Young go back to England?


Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:37 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Christophe wrote:
Arthur Young was an English squire, agriculturalist, and writer who traveled extensively through France, keeping a detailed journel of his experiences. He arrived at Calais on May 15th, 1787 after crossing the English Channel, and would not depart for his home shores until January 20th, 1790. Young's journel provides an excellent and wonderful first-hand glimpse of Marie Antoinette's France. Here are a few examples:

On the French countryside and roads, Young writes, "I am not professedly in this diary on husbandry (farming), but must just observe, that it is as bad as the country is good; wheat miserable and yellow with weeds, yet all summer fallowed with lost attention.... If the French have not husbandry to show us, they have roads; nothing can be more beautiful, or kept in more garden order,"

Young on Versailles, "The palace of Versailles, one of the objects of which report had given me the greatest expectation, is not in the least striking.... From whatever point viewed, it appears an assemblage of buildings; a splendid quarter of a town, but not a fine edifice.... The great gallery (Hall of Mirrors) is the finest room I have seen; the other chambers are nothing; but the pictures and statues are well known to be a capital collection. The whole palace, except the chapel, seems to be open to all the world; we pushed through an amazing crowd of all sorts of people.... In viewing the King's apartment, which he had not left a quarter of an hour, with those slight traits of disorder that showed he lived in it, it was amusing to see the blackguard figures that were walking uncontested about the palace, and even in his bed chamber; men whose rags betrayed them to be in the last stage of poverty, and I was the only person that stared and wondered how the devil they got there. It is impossible to not like this careless indifference and freedom from suspicion."

On Marie Antoinette, "Her Majesty, who, by the way, is the most beautiful woman I saw today, received them (courtiers) with a variety of expression. On some she smiled; to others she talked; a few seemed to have the honour of being more in her intimacy. Her return to some was formal, and to others distant.....The ceremony of the King's dining in public is more odd than splendid. The Queen sat by him with a cover before her, but ate nothing; conversing with the Duc d'Orleans, and the Duc de Liancourt, who stood behind her chair."

On the Petit Trianon, Young has to say, "It contains about 100 acres, disposed in the taste of what we read of in books of Chinese gardening, whence it is supposed the English Style was taken..... There is... more effort than nature---and more expense than taste. It is not easy to conveive any thing that art can introduce in a garden that is not here; woods, rocks, lawns, lakes, rivers, islands, cascades, grottos, walks, temples, and even villages. There are parts of the design very pretty, and well executed. The only fault is too much crowding; which had led to another, that of cutting the lawn by too many gravel walks, an error to be seen in almost every garden I have met with in France."

And on Paris, "This great city appears to be in many respects the most ineligible and inconvenient for the residence of a person of small fortune.... and vastly inferior to London. The streets are very narrow, and many of them crowded, nine tenths dirty, and all without foot-pavements (sidewalks)..... Walking, which in London is so pleasant and so clean, that ladies do it every day, is here a toil and a fatigue to a man, and an impossiblity to a well dressed woman. The coaches are numerous, and, what are much worse, there are an infinity of one-horse cabriolets, which are driven by young men of fashion and their imitators, alike fools, with such rapidity as to be real nuisances.... This circumstance renders Paris an ineligible residence for persons, particularly families that cannot afford to keep a coach; a convenience which is as dear as at London....Lodgings are not half so good as at London, yet considerably dearer."

Arthur Young not only provides a fascinating look at day-to-day life in MA's France, but he was actually present for the start of the Revolution, an eye-witness to the history of which we are all so interested. It must be noted that Young's personal views (he sympathizes with the Revolutionaries) color his writings, as well as his English bias. Yet he also manages to express a great admiration for French culture, and people. He was good friends with a few of the key players in the early Revolution, and takes the reader directly into their homes and their minds.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough! It is a priceless treasure of information.


Now this is quite fascinating. Thank you!

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Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:10 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Thank you very much!

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Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:52 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Dreamoutloud, Young left France in January, 1790. He seemed preoccupied with meeting only the famous and fortunate (I imagine to sell more books), so by "nobodies," I only meant that Marat and the others would not have been important enough to capture his interest.

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"One grows accustomed to one's enemy, and by making it familiar one loses the desire to get rid of it...." Marquise de la Tour du Pin, in a letter to her friend Mme. de Duras.


Mon Oct 27, 2008 10:58 pm
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Post Re: Arthur Young's Travels
Here are a few more tidbits I couldn't resist sharing:

"My friend's chateau (Marquis de Guerchy) is a considerable one, and much better built than was common in England in the same period, 200 years ago; I believe, however, that this superiority is universal in France, in all the arts..... Like all the chateaus I have seen, it stands close to the town, indeed, joining the end of it; but the back, by some judicious plantings, has entirely the air of the country, without the sight of any buildings.

"I have been sifting Madame de Guerchy on the expenses of living.... and I collect from it, that to live in a chateau like this, with six men-servants, five maids, eight horses, a garden, and a regular table, with company, might be done for 1000 louis a year. It would in England cost 2000.... There are noble gentlemen that live in this country on 6 or 8000 livres, who keep two men, two maids, three horses, and a cabriolet; there are the same in England, but they are fools.


"Being here on market-day, I attended, and saw the wheat sold out, with a party of dragoons drawn up before the market to prevent violence. The people quarrel with the bakers, asserting the prices demanded for bread are beyond the proportion of wheat, and proceeding from words to scuffling, raise a riot, and then run away with bread and wheat for nothing: this has happened at Nangis, and many other markets; the consequence was, that neither farmers nor bakers would supply them."
----Arthur Young, June 1789

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"One grows accustomed to one's enemy, and by making it familiar one loses the desire to get rid of it...." Marquise de la Tour du Pin, in a letter to her friend Mme. de Duras.


Wed Oct 29, 2008 11:24 pm
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