Ruskin 2: Travel, chaises and chariots
Posted by Helen on June 29, 1998 at 10:22:24:
In response to From Ruskin: London and a merchant's office, 1820-40, written by Helen on June 29, 1998 at 10:20:46
Mr. Ruskin travelled to visit clients in the summer in a postchaise and pair with ‘panoramic… four windows’. At this point Ruskin was probably under 5: ‘my seat was a little bracket in front’. They hired this coach and picked it up ‘bracketed and pocketed it’ as they liked. (I don’t know what this means, exactly, but I think it’s described below).
The gentlemanly partner also sometimes lent to them for the holidays his own ‘travelling chariot… the most luxurious of travelling carriages, for two persons’ and small child’. It seems that this was already by the 20s an old-fashioned kind of carriage. It was ‘hung high’ so that there was a good view of the countryside, and came with ‘old-fashioned folding steps, with a lovely padded cushion fitting into the recess of the door’. There was also a ‘dickey’ ‘thrown far back’ (a seat placed outside the coach) with plenty of legroom and a boot beneath it for luggage. The family servant/nurse sat there.
They would drive into an inn, cry ‘Horses out!’ and were answered within five minutes by ‘the merry trot through the archway of the booted and bright-jacketed rider, with his caparisoned pair’. There was actually no driver’s seat in front: the driver really rode the horses. There were four ‘large, admirably fitting and sliding windows’ which gave ‘full half of the horizon’ view.
They left the inn at 6 each morning: ‘We went from 40 to 50 miles a day, starting always early enough in the morning to arrive comfortably to four o’clock dinner’. ‘A stage or two were done before breakfast’, but they also took a break to view any stately homes on the way.
A few years later they toured the continent, and again hired a carriage: ‘The mechanical questions first, of strength – easy rolling – steady and safe poise of persons and luggage; the general stateliness of effect to be obtained for the abashing of plebian beholders; the cunning design and distribution of store-cellars under the seats, secret drawers under front windows, invisible pockets under padded lining, safe from dust, and accessible only by insidious slits, or necromantic valves… the fitting of cushions where they would not slip; the rounding of corners for more delicate repose; the prudent attachments and springs of blinds; the perfect fitting of windows, on which one half the comfort of a travelling carriage really depends… the little apartment which was virtually one’s home for five or six months.’
They chose to have it fitted with outside seats for two at front, and dickey for two at back (for maid and courier), and four seats inside, of which two front were small, only used in bad weather. (Note that this means that the maid and courier were expected to sit outside in all weathers!). The coach needed four horses – half-dozen teams were kept at every post-house. Ruskin says the French horses were ‘stout trotting cart-horses’ (presumably his need to mention them means that English coach horses were of a different kind?), driven by ‘one postillion riding the shaft horse’ (i.e. at rear) but if the horses were young or lively then the leading pair had a postillion too – ‘rarely drunk, often very young’ as older men did harder work. ‘Half the weight of the cavalier, in such cases, was in his boots, which were often brought out slung from the saddle like two buckets, the postillion, after the horses were harnessed, walking along the pole and getting into them.’
They breakfasted at 8am, left by 9, rode between 9-3, at approx 7 miles/hour i.e. 40-50 miles/day – dined at 4 – young Ruskin was then left to explore by himself for two hours in evening – tea at 7, bed by 9 – they never travelled on Sunday. This has changed even more than the transport – would you let your young son wander the streets of a foreign country for a couple of hours every day without a second thought?
- Ruskin 3: Childhood, daily life, taking the cure, music Helen 10:25:44 6/29/98 (0)
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