A German abroad in England

Posted on 1st April 2020 by simonbeattie

The late eighteenth century saw a rise in personal travel and tourism, making it only a matter of time before travel accounts became an amusing and sought-after genre of reading material. Item 40 from Anglo-German Cultural Relations is one such example, and was both lauded and entertaining: Karl Philipp Moritz‘s Reisen eines Deutschen in England (second edition, 1785).

The book was first published in 1783, and is hailed by Robson-Scott as ‘the only one of all the sixty odd travel journals on our list of outstanding literary merit’ (German Travellers in England 1400–1800, p. 170; see pp. 170–6 for a full account).  An English translation, Travels, chiefly on Foot, through several Parts of England, appeared in 1795.

‘This naive yet sensible travel book is one of the most entertaining accounts of England by a foreigner that has been published.  Long remembered will be his account of a drinking bout at Oxford, his unpleasant experiences as a foot traveller, his perilous ride in the basket at the back of a coach, etc.  His electing to be modern and see the country on foot exposed him to much suspicion and disagreeable encounters at inns and on the road.  His visit ran from the end of May to the middle of July.  He belonged to the group of German enthusiasts who advocated absolute freedom of personal expression.  His novel Anton Reiser, which is a veiled autobiography, is an expression of the Sturm und Drang movement in Germany’ (Cox).

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