- Feb 2022
“Rest! He has only come three and twenty miles today; all nonsense; nothing ruins horses so much as rest; nothing knocks them up so soon. No, no; I shall exercise mine at the average of four hours every day while I am here.”
How do you normally travel to your vacations? While we now depend on machines to get us where we are going, relying on animals used to be the norm. In Regency England, your travel would have depended on having access to horses, as John Thorpe indicates in this passage. While Thorpe argues that rest ruins horses, his treatment of horses counters the common practices at the time, hinting at his callous character. While traveling it was common to stop at coaching inns to get food, alcohol, rest, and fresh horses before continuing on the journey. The term “stagecoach” derives from the fact that journeys were undertaken in stages of 15-20 miles in length. At each stage stop, horses would be changed to ensure the health of the horses and the speed of the journey. Hired horses only traveled between stages, going back and forth between posts that averaged about ten miles apart. So, you would use your own horses for the first part of a journey and leave them at the coaching inn for your servant to retrieve, while continuing on your journey with hired horses. This process would be repeated at each stage of travel.
Domestic tourism was a growing area of interest for many Britons in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. While the European Grand Tour has been popularized in literature, domestic tourism was celebrated as a patriotic way to learn about the history and modern state of Britain, as well as offering an enjoyable leisure pursuit. As John Thorpe offers to Catherine Morland earlier in this chapter, one aspect of the leisurely pursuits offered by domestic tourism was exploring the countryside by the phaeton, as depicted in this painting by George Stubbs. Travel thus became something undertaken as an activity unto itself, rather than an uncomfortable method of arriving at one’s destination. Perhaps John Thorpe and James Morland are themselves enjoying a domestic tour of Britain when they encounter their family members in Bath.