We know that Edward Knight, the Austen brother whom fortune favoured, went on a grand tour. He kept journals of his four-year jaunt abroad, and they make fascinating reading, not the least because they indicate that an inability to spell-Edward like Jane never appeared to master the “i before e ” rule,- was an Austen family trait…;)
Indeed, you can read extracts from his journals of the tours in a wonderfully intriguing book edited by Jon Spence called Jane Austen’s Brother Abroad and I highly recommend it to you.
It was of course while in Rome at the end of his tour that Edward’s elegant portrait was painted, and this has recently returned to his old home at Chawton House in Hampshire.
It is just possible that the young Fitzwilliam Darcy may have been able to go on one of these educational tours along the lines of Edward Austen’s route, accompanied by an appropriate retinue of tutors and companions, provided we take him to have been 28 at the time of the composition of First impressions and not as 28 at the time of publication of Pride and Prejudice in 1813. The problems attendant in travelling around war torn Europe curtailed the popularity of The Grand Tour as a method of providing polish and education to England’s aristocratic youth.
There are some fabulous books available to read about The Grand Tour, and I;ll be reviewing my favourite soon, but, however, if you would like to learn a little bit more about The Grand Tour on line, then the National Gallery in London has come to your aid. It has produced a beautifully illustrated micro website on the subject of the Grand Tour to provide some background to its current mouth-wateringly beautiful exhibition, Venice :Canaletto and his Rivals, which I was recently lucky enough to see.
Go here to see page one for a general introduction on the Grand Tour . Go here for details of the less than moral antics of some of the Grand Tour visitors. Go here for a simple explanation of the artistic education the tour offered and here to see some of the wonderful portraits painted by the Italian artist, Pompeo Batomi, of the English milords who visited Rome, including this one of the magically named, Sir Gregory Page Turner…
…..if only he’d written some books.