Monday, 2 October 2000

Byng’s Rides

Listening to:

Handel, Concerti Grossi, op. 6. So my traversal continues, and I’m up to “H”.

Still reading:

John Byng, Rides round Britain. I have just one more “Tour” to read, this one being to North Wales. I read three over the weekend. Byng is very negative about Manchester: he has a bad inn, and is harsh about general rowdiness, drunken-ness and dirt. Being a bit of a conservative, he thinks that Trade is having a deleterious effect on the country. He reckons at one point that if he put 20 sons of the soil up against 20 sons of the loom (Trade = work in the cotton mills, you see), then the honest yeomen would wipe the floor with the industrial proles. He also thinks it significant that so much grain is being imported into Liverpool from North America.

The trip to Manchester is part of a long Tour to the North of England. During this, he visits Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, and is very impressed. As well he might be, it’s an amazing place to visit 200 years later too. However, Byng is also a bit of a conservative in reaction to many of the houses and gardens that he visits. He rants about the then-modern trend to cut down plantations of trees in favour of big lawns and lakes. For example, he is quite negative about Wimpole Hall, which is really quite beautiful in my eyes. What he saw as modern innovation is now over 200 years old, and there’s no accounting for taste, of course.

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