Educational Travellers: Popular Imagery and Public Criticism in Early Modern England

In 1578 Sir Philip Sidney remarked to his brother Robert that “ere it be long … wee travaylers shalbe made sporte of comodies.” #1 Whatever prompted Sidney’s remark, whether his knowledge of the Elizabethan theater and sense of humor or perhaps his desire to warn Robert from youthful extravagances while abroad, it proved, regrettably for the public reputation of travelers, unerringly accurate. Sidney referred to educational travelers (seventy years later popularly labelled Grand Tourists) who, for the duration of the seventeenth century, suffered a particularly unfortunate public reputation that was actively encouraged by popular literature and the theater. Travelers, particularly educational travelers, were not only the comic relief of early modern English drama and popular literature, they were also darkly threatening Machiavellian Italianates, moral degenerates, cultural renegades and habitual liars. #2 Popular tracts and pamphlets and the stage promoted images of educational travelers to a remarkable degree, and it is doubtful that the substantial early modern debate over the relative merits of educational travel would have been quite so extensive if it were not for the exposure travelers received in popular literature and drama. This is particularly apparent in the instance of three images or characterizations. The popular images of the Italianated traveler, the foolish traveler, and the traveler-liar all directly influenced the public debate over educational travel, the first by encouraging and fueling the public debate in its initial stages, the latter two by directly contributing material to that debate.

Although Englishmen had traveled abroad in small numbers for educational purposes for many generations, travel abroad in order to complete a young gentleman’s education rapidly gained popularity during the last decades of the sixteenth century and became an established institution, the Grand Tour, during the succeeding century. Traveling abroad enabled the Englishman to study the political, social and cultural institutions of other nations, knowledge he was unable to learn properly within England. Time spent among other nationalities enabled him either to learn foreign languages or to perfect their pronunciation, essential if he wished to obtain employment in the bureaucratic or diplomatic service, or simply take his place as a sophisticated gentleman within society. A tour abroad also ideally matured a young Englishman, polished his manners and demeanor, and created a more worldly and civil gentleman who could fully participate in public and private life on his return. The experience of the ‘Grand Tour’, as it became known during the seventeenth century, rapidly became a badge of social sophistication for any ambitious young gentleman.

Yet as quickly as educational travel gained popularity among late sixteenth-century Englishmen it began to attract a considerable amount of criticism. Roger Ascham’s bitter attack on Italian travel in The Scholemaster (1570) properly initiated the early modern debate over the practice of educational travel, and by the early seventeenth century Englishmen of many degrees and occupations participated in a spirited and often vitriolic debate over the merits and failings of the tour. Moralists, churchmen, essayists, educationalists, privy councillors and travelers themselves, indeed anyone who thought they had something to offer, contributed their arguments to the public debate. #3 Richard Mulcaster, in his educational tract Positions (1581), debated the merits of educational travel, while both George Pettie and Lewes Lewkenor in prefaces to their translations of continental authors criticized English travelers for their poor behavior abroad. #4 Critics claimed that English travelers returned home corrupt shadows of their former selves, their spiritual, political, moral and cultural integrities, as well as their innate good sense, ruined through sustained contact with corrupt European nationalities and societies. The influence of such corrupt men, they argued, might well disrupt if not destroy the harmony of English society. Many critics completely denied the usefulness of educational travel, claiming that because so many young Englishmen returned corrupted the practice should be denied to all but the most mature and trustworthy men. The criticisms of educational travelers, and their increasingly negative public images, forced apologists for the practice to admit the many dangers of traveling abroad while claiming that the benefits of the tour outweighed the risks. It should be noted, however, that neither criticism or negative public images stopped the many hundreds of Englishmen who participated in educational travel each year.

Many factors ensured both the virility and the longevity of the public debate over educational travel and the continuing criticisms of educational travelers. Traditional xenophobia, an equally traditional belief that most European societies (but particularly those of Italy and France) were morally corrupt, a more recent fear of Catholic enmity, and a growing belief that imported European culture might swamp the traditional English heritage all fed the early modern concerns about sending young Englishmen abroad for their final educational gloss. However, one of the most important factors in the virility of the public debate was the rapid adoption of the educational traveler as a figure of caricature in Elizabethan and Stuart popular literature and the theater. In no small part popular hatred of foreigners, particularly strong in the late sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century, helped to establish the popularity of caricatures of English travelers who, through their absorption of foreign culture, came home Frenchfied or Italianated corruptions of their former identities. The xenophobic London mob continually proved an embarrassment to Elizabeth and her Privy Council, who tried through various proclamations to keep the peace and protect the persons of foreigners within London. #5 The London mob continued to prove an embarrassment to the early Stuart authorities: “Foreigners are ill regarded not to say detested in London,” remarked Horatio Busino in 1617, recalling an incident where a woman had attacked a member of the Spanish embassy with a cabbage stalk, urging the gathering crowd to daub the poor man with the soft stinking mud of the London streets. #6 While this anti-foreign sentiment encouraged popular caricature of travelers who returned home clad in foreign fashions and exhibiting foreign mannerisms, by the mid-seventeenth century the very popularity of these caricatures then encouraged the London mob to single out returning travelers for attacks. In 1658 the London mob attacked the unfortunate Sir John Reresby, just returned from France with his two French footmen, forcing Reresby and his footmen to take refuge in a nearby house. #7

Although educational travel offered its participants considerable benefits, as its defenders constantly argued, the extensive criticism and negative imagery of the educational traveler in the theater and throughout the printed medium (particularly in popular literature) overshadowed the arguments of the apologists and helped to create an environment where criticism flourished. Popular literature and theater not only extended knowledge and discussion of educational travel to the thousands of commoners who crowded the theaters in late Elizabethan and early Stuart England, they also influenced more educated and sophisticated Englishmen. Sometimes decades after popular literature and the theater popularized a particular image of the educational traveler, the same image reappeared in conduct or advice literature as well as more general literature. This particularly applied to the images of the foolish traveler and the traveler-liar. In many instances it appears that authors of these more serious works had little idea that images popularized in the theater and in popular literature in previous decades had influenced their writings.

One of the major factors in the virility (and virulency) of public criticism about educational travel was the popular success of the image of the immoral and irreligious Machiavellian Italianated traveler during the late Elizabethan period. Roger Ascham, sometime tutor to Queen Elizabeth, first presented this threatening image to the English public in The Scholemaster, published posthumously in 1570. Primarily a treatise on the education of young boys, The Scholemaster included a section criticizing the growing practice of sending young men to travel Italy at the end of their formal education. #8 Ascham argued that these young men, perverted by the innumerable pleasures and vices of Italy, returned home corrupted in religion and morals; irreligious and immoral Machiavellian Italianates who would not hesitate to scheme against state and church while outwardly honoring both. Ascham adapted a little known European proverb to personify these wicked travelers, “Inglese Italianato è un diabolo incarnato” [an Italianated Englishman is a devil incarnate]. #9 Drawing upon existing but separate concerns about Machiavelli’s policies, growing official concern about perceived atheism within English society, belief in the subtleties and treacheries inherent within the Italian character, and the negative influences of Italian culture within England, Ascham created a single powerful and extremely threatening character that Elizabethans readily accepted. In a political climate where intricate plots to unseat Elizabeth and restore the influence of the Catholic church abounded in the late 1560s and early 1570s, it is not surprising to find numerous murmurs about Machiavellian Italianates within the highest political circles, #10 but the success of the character in Elizabethan popular literature and the theater encouraged the wider ‘appeal’ of the Machiavellian Italianate generally and the Italianated traveler particularly and focused public attention on the growing practice of educational travel.

While Ascham’s image of the wicked Italianated traveler influenced many commentators on educational travel, #11 the image proved particularly attractive to poets, playwrights and pamphleteers. As George Gascoigne’s comments demonstrate, the description of the Italianated English traveler as a ‘devil incarnate’ appeared very quickly in verse. Writing on the effects of pride on English travelers, George Gascoigne commented in Councell giuen to master Bartholmew Withipall (1572),

Beleeue me, Batte, our Countreymen of late
Haue caughte such knackes abroade in forayne lande,
That most men call them Deuils incarnate,
So singular in theyr conceites they stande. #12
The character of the Italianated traveler, the devil incarnate, became a popular villain of the Elizabethan literature and drama. #13 The Italianate traveler was chiefly recognizable through two principal characteristics: vice always corrupted the Englishman into the Italianate, and the depth of this corruption enabled the traveler to dissemble and scheme against family, neighbor and state. Both William Rankins and Thomas Lodge increased the malevolence of the Italianated traveler as they detailed his destructive capability within English society. Rankins discussed in detail the destructiveness of the English Italian in The English Ape, the Italian imitation, the Footesteppes of Fraunce (1586). Abhorring nature and its divine creation, these Italianates studied methods of mischief and destruction like true Machiavellians. #14 Rankins emphasized the destructive power within English society of the Italianate’s imported viciousness, pride and ambition, castigating the English for their willing acceptance of this evil. #15 In his discussion of the incarnate devils of his age in Wits Miserie and the Worlds Madnesse (1596) Thomas Lodge endued his character of Scandal and Detraction with all the attributes of Ascham’s Italianate, although he did not specifically name the vice Italianate. A widely travelled devil, Scandal and Detraction spoke many languages, read Machiavelli, embraced atheism and enticed discontented men into conspiracies. His daily companions, in fact, were disobedience and rebellion. #16 He generally affected a surly attitude in his daily demeanor, skulking through the back alleys of St. Paul’s with heavy and superstitious looks, his left hand continually on his dagger while he plotted mischief against his neighbor. #17 Scandal and Discontent was particularly malevolent because he hated his country, his prince and the privy councillors, not because he could find any fault with them but from “meere innated and corrupt villanie.” #18

By the late sixteenth century but more noticeable in the early seventeenth century the immoral, dangerous and often Machiavellian Italianated traveler evolved into the utterly polluted and corrupt traveler of popular verse and drama. Although rarely named as Italianate, this character still exhibited many of the attributes of Ascham’s Italianate. John Marston’s corrupted traveler, Bruto, in Metamorphosis of Pigmalion’s Image: And Certain Satires, returned home knowlegeable in the art of poisoning, and carrying the diseases of “Naples pox and Frenchman’s dalliance”. #19 The most recognizable elements of the Italianate in the image of the corrupted traveler was the very depth of his corruption and the threat he posed to society. In Samuel Daniel’s The Qveenes Arcadia (staged in 1605) the corrupt traveler Colax completely poisoned England’s goodness with the infections he brought home from abroad. #20 Colax exhibited strong shades of Machiavellian subtlety, although Daniel never explicitly connected his scheming to Machiavellian policy. George Chapman’s Antonio in Two Wise Men and All the Rest Fooles (staged in 1619) was another corrupt traveler who displayed elements of the Machiavellian Italianate. Corrupted from his previously honest nature by his travels through Italy, Antonio was a cunning and mischievous character who constantly plotted the deceit and ruin of others. Like Colax, Antonio was capable of infecting the whole country with his corruptions. #21

During the 1580s and 1590s the term and concept of malcontent became synonymous with the Italianate traveler. #22 The malcontent not only grafted well to the established character of the immoral Italianate, it contributed several new characteristics. As well as a morally corrupt and irreligious schemer, the malcontent was a discontented, sad man, disillusioned with life and with England in particular. Like John Marston’s Italianated and malcontent traveler, Bruto, the malcontent Englishman dressed in black rather than the usual flamboyant colors of the Elizabethan courtier and affected a grave and somber attitude:

Look, look, with what a discontented grace
Bruto the traveller doth sadly pace
‘Long Westminster! #23
His corruption abroad caused the malcontent’s melancholy and his deep discontent with life itself. #24 Shakespeare’s sad Italianate traveler Jaques in As You Like It (staged 1599), perhaps the best known melancholic traveler of the early modern English stage, explained that his melancholy was the final product of the contemplations of his travels. Yet along with his melancholy, Jaques also carried home “all th’ embossed sores and headed evils” he had collected during his travels. #25 Bruto and Jaques were not simply comical characters; along with their melancholy and “sad array” they carried enough corruptions and harbored enough schemes to disrupt English society.

The popular image of the threatening Italianate traveler remained viable only as long as the specter of Italianism remained a threat in English society. The pronounced influence of Italian culture in England waned significantly after the early seventeenth century, and reaction against French influence in society again became the issue for moralists and nationally conscious Englishmen amid the growing French influence at the court of James I. #26 After 1600 characterizations of the Italianated traveller gradually became less sinister as writers invested them with increasing overtones of ridicule. Although appearances the character of the Italianated traveler dwindled during the early Stuart period, its importance as a popular figure of parody cannot be underestimated. The image of the Italianated traveler in moralistic tracts, satire, and popular prose pamphlets reached a wide audience spanning political circles and the court to literate servants and tradesmen. #27 It directly affected discussion, debate and advice about educational travel during the late sixteenth century and established the issue of educational travel as a subject of intense public debate in the seventeenth century. Via the Italianated traveler, popular literature and drama popularized knowledge of the practice of educational travel and promoted the image of the educational traveler among the lower orders of English society, but the image it promoted was overwhelmingly negative. For the 16,000 to 24,000 Londoners who paid a penny each to attend the public theaters each week in late Elizabethan England the predominant image of the educational traveler presented to them was that of the wicked Italianate; occasionally foolish, always corrupt. #28 The real importance of the strong, sometimes inflammatory, image of the wicked Italianate traveler in the theater and popular literature is that it not only propelled the hitherto low-key issue of educational travel to the forefront of public attention and discussion, it badly damaged the public credibility of educational travel. Before the publication of The Scholemaster in 1570 and the subsequent popularity of the image of the Italianated traveler, educational travel had enjoyed a relatively favorable, if low-key, reputation. After 1570 it is very difficult to find public comment about educational travel that is not either outright criticism or defensive apology. Many travelers who printed accounts of their travels felt compelled to defend travel from its critics. Thomas Coryate included a defensive essay praising travel by Hermannus Kirchnerus in his Coryats Crudities, a relation of his travels abroad published in 1611, while Fynes Moryson, directly after the divine Joseph Hall had further attacked travel in 1617, appended a defense of travelers in his Itinerary, answering one by one all of the public criticisms of travelers. #29

The popularity of the wicked Italianated traveler in Elizabethan drama and satire ensured the success of the image of the foolish traveler. Despite the very threatening aspects of so many characters of wicked Italianates, the foolish Italianated traveler surfaced extremely quickly after the publication of The Scholemaster. George Gascoigne’s characterization of devils incarnate in Councell giuen to master Bartholmew Withipall was the first reference to devils incarnate in print after Ascham’s diatribe, yet Gascoigne portrayed these Italianated travelers as foolish rather than wicked:

Nowe, sir, if I shall see your maistershippe
Come home disguysde and cladde in queynt araye,
As with a piketoothe byting on your lippe,
Your braue Mustachyos turnde the Turky waye,
A Copotain hatte made on a Flemmish blocke,
A nightgowne cloake downe trayling to your toes,
A slender sloppe close-couched to your docke,
A curtold slipper and a shorte silke hose:
Bearing your Rapier pointe aboue the hilte,
And looking bigge like Marquise of All-Beefe,
Then shall I compte your toyle and trauayle spilte. #30
As Gascoigne’s characterization of the devil incarnate demonstrates, the Italianate’s affectations of clothes and postures made him a ready subject for parody; he was, in Gabriel Harvey’s words, “a passinge singular odd man.” Harvey, although he employed more biting satire, used imagery similar to Gascoigne’s when he satirized the Italianated Earl of Oxford during the 1570s. Harvey attacked the ridiculous and effeminate mannerisms of the Italianate who appeared within English society with “cringeinge side necke, eies glauncinge, fisnamy smirkinge,” and wearing “Largbellid kodpeasid dubletts [and] unkodpeasid halfehose.” #31 John Lyly, also writing in the 1570s, not only endowed his character Philatus in Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit with Machiavellian and Italianate characteristics but also faulted him for his ridiculous and affected dress that transformed him into a misshapen monster. #32 During the 1590s representations of Italianated and malcontent travelers rapidly gained large measures of foolishness. In 1592 Thomas Nashe gave his malcontent traveler in Pierce Penilesse characteristics of the Italianate as well as ridiculing him as a complete fool; “You shall see a dapper Iacke, that hath been but ouer at Deepe, wring his face round about, as a man would stir vp a mustard pot, & talke English through ye teeth, like Iaques Scabd-hams, or Monsieur Mingo de moustrap.” #33 By the early seventeenth century the follies of the Italianate quickly began to outweigh his more threatening aspects. John Cooke’s foolish Stains in Greene’s Tu Quoque (staged in 1611) and George Chapman and James Shirley’s Freshwater in The Ball (staged in 1632) were more fool than threat. During the first three decades of the seventeenth century the image of the foolish traveler completely absorbed the image of the Italianate.

Fostered by its initial association with the popular Italianate traveler, during the late sixteenth century the foolish traveler gradually became an established character in its own right. Foolish travelers adopted ridiculous fashions, affected equally ridiculous mannerisms, and appeared unable manage a single sentence of English without corrupting it with lisping and foreign words. Following his description of the foolish malcontent traveler in Pierce Penilesse, Thomas Nashe portrayed travelers as fools who wore ridiculous fashions in his novel The Vnfortunate Traveller:

From Spaine what bringeth our Traueller? a scull crownd hat of the fashion of an olde deepe porringer, a diminutiue Aldermans ruffe with short strings like the droppings of a mans nose, a close-bellied dublet comming downe with a peake behinde as farre as the crupper, and cut off before by the brest-bone like a partlet or neckercher, a wide paire of gascoynes, which vngatherd wold make a couple of womens ryding kirtles. #34
Literary and dramatic parodies of the foolish traveler continued to gain popularity during the early seventeenth century. Sir Thomas Overbury’s affected traveler took pains to appear ridiculous, with “his pick-tooth … a maine part of his behaviour”; #35 Ben Jonson’s deformed traveler, Amorphus, in Cynthia’s Revels not only chewed his toothpick, but “[trod] nicely, like the fellow that walkes vpon ropes,” #36 while Barnaby Rich introduced his fantastic traveler in Faultes, Faults and Nothing Else but Faultes with these words:

Heere comes a spruce fellow now, and if hee be not alied to the Fantasticke, yet I am sure the foole and he are so neare a kinne, that they can not marrie, without a Licence from the Pope. Would ye knowe who it is? Mary sir, it is a Traveller. #37
The image of the foolish traveller was so recognizable by 1613 that the “fantastick” traveller who entertained Queen Anne in her progress towards Bath in April of that year needed no props for identification beyond his “silken sute of strange Checker-worke, made vp after the Italian cut, with an Italian hat, a band of gold and silke, answering the colours of his sute, with a Courtly feather [and] long guilt spurres.” #38

Although there was no significant criticism or representations of travelers as fools outside of literary and dramatic ridicule until the 1620s, comments from some far-sighted individuals and concerned parents demonstrated a certain sensitivity about the issue. Rather like Sidney’s comment to Robert, the author of a very late-sixteenth letter of advice for travelers variously ascribed to Sir Fulke Greville, Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Thomas Bodley warned travelers not to indulge in an “infectious collection” of the vices and fashions of people abroad, for these would only be of use to humorists for jests and table-talk. #39 In 1614 Sir John Holles’ instructions to his son John indicate the influence the popular image of the foolish traveler could have on an individual:

Sum empty heads (as our merchants to the Indians carry bells, glasses, knyves, and suche lyke) bring only howme with them crooke shoulders, unstayed countenances, mopps and maws thrusting outte the crupper, and head forward, a shaling pace, affected gestures, curchies, salutations, and odd fashions of apparell speeche [and] diet. #40
About the same time that Holles wrote, Henry, Earl of Northumberland, also briefly cautioned his son Algernon that, “the ends of yowr trauells is not to learn apishe iestures, or fashons of attyres.” #41 Although a few late sixteenth-and early seventeenth-century travelers did return home beribboned and mincing fops, the habit was not widespread (unlike late seventeenth-century travelers). It is probable men like Holles and Northumberland were as much influenced by the public caricature of foolish travelers as they were by actual examples. Despite such timely warnings by a few individuals, the extremely popular image of the foolish traveler of the late sixteenth century ensured that by the early seventeenth century the educational traveler had become a favorite subject both of humorists and of table-talk.

Before the third decade of the seventeenth century general criticism of travelers had focused on their tendency towards moral, spiritual and cultural corruption. Sixteenth-century advice, like that of Sir John Stradling, tended simply to remind the traveller that the “mimicall, and miserable” affectation of fashions and mannerisms was “most vile, base, and of all least beseeming a noble personage.” #42 Only a few essayists included brief criticisms or comments about foolish travelers during the first two decades of the seventeenth century. #43 However, by the 1620s the popular image of the foolish traveller was so well established and influential that many of the defenders of educational travel became particularly sensitive about the difficulty travellers had in maintaining their public credibility and reputation. Criticisms from men like Samuel Purchas, who made use of popular caricature to observe that some foolish travelers brought home nothing but a “few smattering termes, flattering garbes, Apish crings, foppish fancies, foolish … disguises [and] the vanities of Neighbour Nations,” #44 stimulated many authors of advice literature to caution travelers not to provide further encouragement for critics and material for popular parody through irresponsible behaviour.

One of the first authors of advice literature to incorporate the stereotype of the foolish traveler into his work was Owen Feltham who wrote about 1620. Feltham suggested that inherently foolish gentlemen should not travel abroad at all, thus not only saving their own reputation but that of their families and country’s as well. Travel only made the foolish gentleman worse, argued Feltham, for, “It makes a wise man better, and a foole worse. This gaines nothing but the gay sights, vices, exoticke gestures, and the Apery of a Countrey. A Trauailing foole is the shame of all Nations. Hee shames his owne, by his weakenesse abroad: He shames others, by bringing home their follies alone.” #45 In his Instructions for Forreine Travell (1642) James Howell used imagery strongly reminiscent of popular caricature to criticise Englishmen who, by, “their gate and strouting, their bending in the hammes, and shoulders, and looking upon their legs, with frisking and singing do speake them Travellers. Others by a phantastique kind of ribanding themselvs, by their modes of habit, and cloathing … do make themselves knowne to have breathed forraine ayre.” #46 Other seventeenth-century authors of advice literature for travelers like Thomas Neale also incorporated advice for young men not to come home “empty, unskilfull gull-gallant[s] [who] being intoxicated with the heat of vaine-glory, and selfe love … boile out trifles, and ridiculous language.” #47 Neale cautioned that wise travelers should never fall into the trap that caught lesser gentlemen and “babble, wander, discourse foppishly, and ramble without feare or wit from one place to another.” Travellers should only use their tongues to seek knowledge and speak of other men’s actions rather than their own. #48

Although the influence of popular caricature of the foolish traveler is clearly evident on the seventeenth-century debate about educational travel, the process is even more apparent with popular parody of the traveler-liar. From very early in the medieval period critics identified the vice of lying with travelers. #49 By the fourteenth century English poets closely associated the vice of lying with pilgrims, and both Chaucer and Langland personified pilgrims as habitual liars. #50 In the fifteenth century the association of lying with pilgrims even entered Lollard invective. #51 The medieval pilgrim’s reputation for lying continued into the early sixteenth century; at least two texts included the image of the pilgrim-liar. #52 The first Elizabethan to publicly resurrect the idea that travelers related fantastic tales was William Bullein in his Dialogue against the feuer Pestilence (first published 1564). Since Protestant Englishmen no longer participated in pilgrimage, Bullein connected the habit of lying to a secular traveler, Mendax, who told outrageous tales of his travels abroad to his eager if naive dinner-table companions. Mendax swore that he had witnessed mermaids climb trees, parrots play chess, strange women who hatched their children from eggs, and men, even stranger, who shed their skins like snakes. #53 Other Elizabethan writers quickly adopted the image of the lying traveler, often connecting it with the name of the medieval Sir John Mandeville, the author of an extremely popular, if fantastic, book of tales. #54 The vice of lying rapidly became associated with the popular character of the educational traveler, especially the character of the foolish educational traveler. Sir John Melton’s traveler compounded his foolishness by lying in the effort to appear a wise and learned man; #55 Ben Jonson’s foolish and deformed Amorphus lied “cheaper then any begger, and lowder then most clockes;” #56 and Barnaby Rich’s farcical travelers emptied themselves of what little wit they had originally possessed, returning home sprouting lies along with their other foolish faults. #57 George Chapman and James Shirley’s Freshwater, who epitomized the foolish traveler with his affected gait, speech and toothpick, also suffered the embarrassing personal problem of extreme bad breath that hindered his ability to tell lies convincingly. #58

In prose, drama and verse authors portrayed travelers as habitual liars. In Nicholas Breton’s An Olde Mans Lesson and a Young Mans Loue (1605) Chremes asked his son to relate truthfully his observations made during his travels, “for Trauailers are giuen (some say) to begull the worlde with gudgins.” #59 In 1578 John Lyly somewhat ruefully commented in Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, “alas, Euphues, what truth can there be found in a traveller.” #60 As the character of Freshwater demonstrates, the traveler-liar provided as useful an image for playwrights as it did for pamphleteers and essayists. “Hast learned any wit abroad?” Rhetias caustically asked Menaphon in John Ford’s The Lover’s Melancholy (staged in 1628), “Canst tell news and swear lies with a grace, like a true traveller?” #61 Shakespeare, who incorporated so many of the popular images of the educational traveler into his plays, included a brief satirical defense of traveler-liars in The Tempest (staged 1611). Having witnessed the entrance of some strange apparitions, Antonio exclaims that now he can believe anything, even the lies of travelers. #62 The image of the traveler-liar was the strongest of all the images of the traveler in jests and merry tales, although the travelers personified were often not specifically educational travelers. Jests and merry tales usually revolved around the character of a rather foolish traveler who normally did not realize that his audience saw straight through his lies. Anthony Copley included a typical example in Wits Fittes and Fancies in 1595:

A Trauailer vsed to tel monstrous lyes of his iourneyes, and of the places and things he had seene. And being one day in conuersation with many Gent. & bosting that he had seen these & these places: One of them said vnto him: Belike you are seen in Cosmography: No (he answered) I neuer was in that City yet, but indeed I remember I once trauailed in sight of it, leauing it somwhat on the left hand, but such was my hast, that I ouerpast it, as I haue done many a faire citie more in my dayes. #63
This jest is only one of many examples scattered throughout the jest books and books of merry tales of early modern England.

In a similar reaction as that to the image of foolish travelers, concerns about the traveler’s reputation for lying began to appear among individuals before it appeared in the public debate. In the instance of lying travelers it was travelers themselves who, by the late sixteenth century, began to publicly demonstrate their sensitivity to the image of the traveler-liar. In 1590 Edward Webbe protested the truth of his adventures when he published an account of his travels. Webbe claimed that,

in this booke there is nothing mentioned or expressed, but that which is of truth: and what mine own Eies haue perfectly seene. Some foolish persons perhaps will cavel and say, that thiese are but Lies and fables: and that it conteyneth nothing else: but to those I aunswere, that whatsoeuer is herein mentioned, he whosoeuer he be, that … doubt of the trueth hereof, let him but make inquirie of the best and greatest trauellers and Merchants about all this land: and they doubtles will resolue them that it is true which is here expressed. #64
Webbe then proceeded to belie his words and further tarnish the reputation of the traveler by relating tales of Prester John’s court, beasts with four heads, and wild men chained to posts who devoured every man, woman and child who were foolish enough to come within reach. #65 In 1601 William Parry published his account of the travels of Sir Anthony Sherley. He began his account with the words, “It hath beene, and yet is, a prouerbiall speech amongst vs, that Trauellers may lie by authority.” Most travelers were honest, argued Parry, but their inexperienced listeners often branded them liars because they could not understand what they heard. #66

After approximately forty years of popular caricature and some concern among travelers themselves the image of the traveler-liar proved strong enough and accepted enough to appear in general criticisms of travelers and in advice literature for travelers. In 1617 in his book Quo Vadis? Joseph Hall contemptuously dismissed the habit of some travelers to “tell wonders to a ring of admiring ignorants.” #67 In the same year, Fynes Moryson advised travelers not to be too quickly drawn by the promise of a crust of bread to relate their journeys and observations, believing that the tales of a few imposters had tarnished genuine travelers’ reputations. #68 James Howell also advised travelers not to exaggerate what they had seen on their return; some, it appeared, had a custom to relate strange tales and wonders in the manner of Sir John Mandeville. #69

Other works of conduct literature mentioned traveler-liars, and a few warned educational travelers about exaggerating their stories on their return home. Sir Francis Bacon recommended that travelers be reticent in telling stories on their return home, Thomas Fuller cautioned travelers not to report improbable truths, “especially to the vulgar, who insteed of informing their judgements will suspect thy credit,” #70 while Richard Brathwaite included in The English Gentleman (1630) a warning to all men employed in state business to beware of travelers and their lies. No men were more subject to relating strange tales, he cautioned, than travelers, who “arrogate to themselves a libertie of invention in this kinde.” Statesmen should always be wary of giving credence to the foreign news they heard, “for divers there be who presuming of the distance of place, will invent and vent their inventions to curry favour.” Brathwaite advised the virtuous statesman to interrupt these traveler-liars and shame them by telling even more outrageous tales. #71 A few years later Brathwaite not only legitimized the image of traveler-liars in his Survey of History, but felt it necessary to explain the reasons for their fault:

Such as lye on their Travaile, either doe it for admiration, or having run upon the adverse shelvs of a deplored fortune, are enforced to invent strange things for the reliefe of their dejected estate. Such as publish lesse than they have seene, (omitting things of the greatest consequence, to satisfie our humors with trifles) doe it to gaine pregnancy, or singularity rather of conceit … they insert frivolous occurents, borrowed, or (it may be) invented by their own phantasticke braines. #72
Once authors like Brathwaite incorporated such statements in their treatises, the traveler-liar had completed the transition from imaginary character to legitimate public nuisance.

The early modern debate over educational travel encompassed other issues besides those discussed in this paper. The danger to the traveler’s spiritual integrity (whether from the forces of Catholicism or irreligion), his moral integrity and his national and cultural identities all concerned many English men and women, and were widely debated throughout the seventeenth century. In these issues popular literature and drama reflected and promoted, rather than influenced or shaped. In the instances of the images of the Italianated, foolish and lying travelers, however, popular literature and drama played a far more active and influential role. The promotion of the image of the Italianated traveller after the publication of The Scholemaster actively encouraged discussion about educational travel and gave this discussion a predominantly negative bias. Promotion of the images or characters of the foolish and lying travelers actively contributed material to later generations’ criticism of and debate over educational travel. Yet a similar relationship between popular parody and public criticism or professional comment does not always appear for other groups or professions. In the instance of lawyers and physicians, two of the most popular figures of parody in Elizabethan and early Stuart England, popular literature and the stage simply reflected established public and professional opinion. Popular satire of the legal profession during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries attacked lawyers for the obscure language they used, the bribes they accepted, and for their habit of ignoring the just cause of the poor client in favor of the unjust cause of the rich client. Likewise physicians also employed obscure language, were avaricious and often refused to treat the poor. In all these instances, however, centuries of profesional debate over the corruptions of legal and medical practitioners influenced early modern caricature. Popular imagery did not to any significant degree shape or contribute to the public debate surrounding the legal and medical professions. #73 So why was popular literature and the stage so influential in its relationship with the public debate over educational travel? The most significant factor is that not only were groups like the legal and medical professions established and well recognized by the late sixteenth century, but criticism, advice and even caricature of these practices had also been established for generations, if not centuries, by this time. To a large extent, public opinion was already well formed by the time the lawyer and physician became two of the most popular subjects for caricature in the rapidly expanding market for popular literature in the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods. The opposite is true in the instance of educational travel, and this was primarily because educational travel was a relatively new practice in Elizabethan England. There was very little established opinion, advice or criticism (or even general public awareness) about educational travelers before 1570 (apart from some generalized approval). To a significant degree, general public awareness and subsequently opinion of educational travel developed because of popular parody. The vast majority of English men and women would have known very little, if anything, about the practice of educational travel before they met the Italianated traveler upon the Elizabethan stage and in popular pamphlets. Very few positive representations of educational travelers appeared in the theater; corrupt or foolish travellers usually overshadowed any strong and wise travellers within the same play. #74 There are many other factors, mentioned earlier, which fed the debate over educational travel, but among them, the role of the popular theater and press cannot be underestimated. The public reputation of the developing practice of educational travel in early modern England proved particularly vulnerable to popular parody.

1. Philip Sidney to Robert Sidney, 1578, Albert Feuillerat, ed., The Prose Works of Sir Philip Sidney (Cambridge, 1962), III, p. 125. I am indebted to Prof. J. H. Forse for his comments and suggestions regarding this article. CHECKED

2. For an extended discussion of the seven major images of educational travelers in early modern England see Sara Warneke, “A Ship of Shadows: Images of the Educational Traveller in Early Modern England,” unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1991.

3. See ibid for a discussion of the public debate over travel as it related to the images of travellers; also Clare Howard, English Travellers of the Renaissance (London, 1914), Lewis Einstein, The Italian Renaissance in England (New York, 1902), Chapter III, “The Traveller,” pp. 115-154, and George Brauer, The Education of a Gentleman (New York, 1959), for some summaries of the criticisms of travellers.

4. Richard Mulcaster, Positions Wherin Those Primitive Circvmstances be Examined, Which are Necessarie for the Training vp of children, either for skill in Their Booke, or health in their bodie (1581), Robert Herbert Quick, ed. (London, 1888), pp. 208-212; Steeven Guazzo, The Civile Conversation of M. Steeven Guazzo (1581 translation), Sir Edward Sullivan, ed. (London, 1925), 2 volumes, first three books translated by George Pettie, the fourth by Barth. Young, I, pp. 9-10; Gasper Contareno, The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, Lewes Lewkenor, trans. (London, 1599), “Preface to the Reader”, folio A.

5. “Proclamation for Keeping the Peace in London”, 13 August 1559, and “Proclamation for the Good Teatment of the French Ambassador”, 18 April 1581, are two examples.

6. Relation of Horatio Busino, State Papers and Manuscripts Relating to English Affairs. Venice and Northern Italy, XV (1617-1619), pp. 60-61. Zera S. Fink, “Anti-Foreign Sentiment in Tudor and Early Stuart Literature”, unpublished Ph.D. dissertaion, Northwestern University, 1931, throughly examines anti-foreign sentiment in early modern English literature.

7. James J. Cartwright, ed., The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby (London, 1875), p. 37. CHECKED

8. Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster (1570), Dr. Giles, ed., The Whole Works of Roger Ascham (London, 1864-1865), III, pp. 147-167.

9. Ibid., p. 156. See H. E. G. Rope, “The ‘Italianate’ Englishman,” The Month, new series, XI (1954), pp. 93-94, and George B. Parks, “The First Italianate Englishman,” Studies in the Renaissance, VIII (1961), pp. 199-200, for the origins of this proverb.

10. Warneke, “Ship of Shadows,” pp. 115-116.

11. William Harrison, The Description of England (1587), Georges Edelen, ed. (New York, 1968), pp. 114-115, Bartholomew Batty, The Christian Mans Closet (London, 1581), pp. 51-52, the anonymous author of The Office of Christian Parents (London, 1616), pp. 134-135, and Thomas Fuller, The Holy State and the Profane State (1642), Maximilian Graff Walten, ed. (New York, 1966), II, p. 159, are but four examples.

12. George Gascoigne, Councell giuen to master Bartholmew Withipall a little before his latter iourney to Geane (1572), William Carew Hazlitt, ed., The Complete Poems of George Gascoigne (London, 1870), I, p. 375.

13. Among many others, the pamphleteers Thomas Nashe and Robert Greene used the character of the Italianate traveller in their works, as did the playwrights William Shakespeare, Samuel Daniel and George Chapman. Examples below.

14. W[illiam] R[ankins], The English Ape, the Italian imitation, the Footesteppes of Fraunce (London, 1588), p. 5.

15. Ibid., pp. 2-8.

16. [Thomas Lodge], Wits Miserie and the Worlds Madnesse (London, 1596), p. 18.

17. Ibid., p. 17.

18. Ibid.

19. John Marston, Metamorphosis of Pigmalion’s Image: And Certain Satires (1598), “Satire II,” in A. H. Bullen, ed., The Works of John Marston (London, 1887), III, pp. 274-275.

20. Samuel Daniel, The Qveenes Arcadia, Alexander B. Grosart, ed., The Complete Works in Verse and Prose of Samuel Daniel (London, 1885), III, pp. 227-228. In citing the date of the first known production of plays I use the dates listed by Alfred Harbage, Annals of English Drama, 975-1700, revised by Samuel Schoenbaum and Sylvia Stoller Wagonheim (London, third edition, 1989).

21. George Chapman, Two Wise Men and All the Rest Fooles (London, 1619), p. 32, and throughout.

22. See Fink, “Anti-Foreign Sentiment”, pp. 237-252. Both Rankins and Lodge associated the word malcontent with their Italianate characters; Rankins, p. 8; Lodge, p. 17.

23. Marston, Metamorphosis of Pigmalion’s Image, “Satire II,” p. 274.

24. Fink, “Anti-Foreign Sentiment,” p. 245. See Lawrence Babb, The Elizabethan Malady (East Lansing, 1965), pp. 73-76, for his discussion of melancholy, malcontents and the traveller. The Italianate traveller, he states, was the immediate cause of the melancholia in English life and literature. L. C. Knights, Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson (Harmondsworth, 1962), Appendix B, pp. 261-274, also includes a discussion of seventeenth-century melancholy.

25. William Shakespeare, As You Like It (staged 1599), Act II, scene vii, Act IV, scene i.

26. Lewis Einstein observed that by the early seventeenth century the Italian influence in England was stationary, if not actually waning; “the want of fresh vigor to reënforce its claims, perhaps no less than the attacks of the moralists, had brought it to a standstill.” French and Spanish cultural influences, then growing in strength, filled the vacuum; The Italian Renaissance in England (New York, 1902), p. 175. See also David Starkey, et al, The English Court from the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War (London, 1987), pp. 173-225, for complaints about the ‘French’ nature of James’ court.

27. Sandra Clark, The Elizabethan Pamphleteers (London, 1983), pp. 17-25, for the audience reached by pamphlet literature.

28. Peter Burke, “Popular Culture in Seventeenth Century London,” Barry Reay, ed., Popular Culture in Seventeenth Century England (London, 1985), pp. 39-40, for the type and numbers of Londoners attending the public theaters in 1600. In 1599 Thomas Platter noted that in London two or three plays ran daily at two o’clock in the afternoon; Leonard R. N. Ashley, ed., Elizabethan Popular Culture (Bowling Green, 1988), p. 7. In 1600 so many unlicensed theaters and actors lured “the people dayly from their trade and worke to mispend their tyme” that the Privy Council attempted to restrict the numbers of both theaters and actors; minutes of the Privy Council, 22 June 1600, Acts of the Privy Council of England, XXX (1599-1600), pp. 395-398.

29. Hermannus Kirchnerus, “An Oration” in Thomas Coryate, Coryats Crudities (London, 1611), and Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary (London, 1617), Part III, Booke 1, Chapter 1, pp. 1-11. Joseph Hall, Quo vadis? A Ivst Censvre of Travell as it is commonly vndertaken by the Gentlemen of our Nation (London, 1617). .See also discussion of Edward Webbe and William Parry below, p. [ ].

30. Gascoigne, Councell…, Poems, I, p. 375.

31. Gabriel Harvey, Letter-Book of Gabriel Harvey, Edward John Long Scott, ed. (London, 1883-1884), p. 98.

32. John Lyly, Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit, Euphues & His England (1578 and 1580), Morris William Croll and Harry Clemons, eds. (New York, 1964), p. 165. Like Harvey, Lyly no doubt aimed his barbs at members of the court and the Inns of Court circles who sometimes returned home from their travels in the late sixteenth century clad in outlandish fashions

33. Thomas Nashe, Pierce Penilesse his Svpplication to the Divell (1592), R. B. McKerrow, ed., The Works of Thomas Nashe (Oxford, 1958), I, p. 169.

34. Thomas Nashe, The Vnfortvnate Traveller (1594), H. F. B. Brett-Smith, ed. (Oxford, 1927), pp. 95-96.

35. [Sir Thomas Overbury?], The Overburian Characters (1614), W. J. Paylor, ed. (Oxford, 1936), p. 11.

36. Ben Jonson, Cynthia’s Revels (staged 1600), C. H. Herford and Percy Simpson, eds., Ben Jonson (Oxford, 1925-1952), IV, Act II, scene iii, pp. 72-73.

37. Barnaby Rich, Faultes Faults and Nothing Else But Faultes (1606), Melvin H. Wolf, ed. (Gainesville, 1965), p. 8.

38. Thomas Campion, A Relation of the Late Royall Entertainment Given by the Right Honorable the Lord Knowles (London, 1613), folio A2 verso.

39. Sir Fulke Greville, Certaine Learned and Elegant Workes (London, 1633), pp. 297-298. This is the first publication of a widely circulated late sixteenth-century manuscript letter of disputed authorship. James Spedding, in James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis and Douglas Heath, eds., The Works of Sir Francis Bacon (London, 1868-1890), IX, pp. 2-5 and 16-19, ascribed it to Bacon. In the late seventeenth century Richard Parr claimed Sir Thomas Bodley was the author; Life of … James Usher (London, 1686), pp. 17-19 (after main body of text). See also Hugh Maclean, “Reliquiae Bodleianae: Letter CCXXXII,” Bodleian Library Record, VI (1960), pp. 537-541.

40. John Holles, “Instructions for travell that my father gave me the 22 July 1614,” P. R. Seddon, ed., Letters of John Holles 1587-1637, Thoroton Society Record Series, XXXI (Nottingham, 1975), p. 52. Conduct literature did not promote the image of the foolish traveller at the time Sir John wrote his instructions.

41. “Instructions for the Lord Percy, in His Trauells; Given by Hen. E. of Northumberland,” Antiquarian Repertory, IV (1809), p. 374.

42. Sir John Stradling, A Direction for Trauailers (London, 1592), folios C verso – C2.

43. For example, John Melton, A Sixe-Folde Politician (London, 1609), pp. 52-53, and Anthony Stafford, Meditations, and Resolutions, Moral, Divine, Politicall (London, 1612), p. 60.

44. Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas His Pilgrimes (Glasgow, 1905-1907), I, p. xliv, originally published 1625.

45. Owen Feltham, Resolves, a Duple Century (London, 1628), p. 271.

46. James Howell, Instructions for Forreine Travell (1642), Edward Arber, ed. (London, 1869), p. 65.

47. Thomas Neale, A Treatise of Direction, How to travell safely, and proftably into Forraigne Countries (London, 1643), pp. 36-37.

48. Ibid., pp. 36-42.

49. For some eighth-century criticism of wandering scholars as habitual liars, see the passage cited in Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (London, 1927), p. 164.

50. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Hous of Fame (circa 1375), Albert C. Baugh, ed., Chaucer’s Major Poetry (London, 1963), Book III, ll. 2123-2124; William Langland, The Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman (circa 1387), the C text, Rev. Walter W. Skeat, ed. (London, 1873), p. 3.

51. The Examination of Master William Thorpe, priest, of heresy, before Thomas Arundell, Archbishop of Canterbury, the year of our Lord, M.CCCC. and seven, in Alfred W. Pollard, ed., Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse (Westminster, 1903), p. 141.

52. Alexander Barclay’s adaption of The Ship of Fools (1509), T. H. Jamieson, ed.? (New York, 1966), II, p. 68; Desiderius Erasmus, “The Religious Pilgrimage,” The Colloquies of Erasmus, E. Johnson, ed. and N. Bailey, trans. (London, 1878), II, pp. 1-37.

53. William Bullein, A Dialogue against the Feuer Pestilence, Mark W. Bullen and A. H. Bullen, eds. (London, 1888), pp. 94-111. The 1888 edition is a collation of the 1564, 1573 and 1578 editions of A Dialogue.

54. For instance Joseph Hall, Virgidemiae (1598), Geoffrey Grigson, ed., The Oxford Book of Satirical Verse (Oxford, 1980), p. 36.

55. Melton, A Sixe-Folde Politician, pp. 52-53.

56. Jonson, Cynthia’s Revels, Act I, scene iii, pp. 72-73.

57. Rich, Faultes, pp. 8-9.

58. George Chapman and James Shirley, The Ball (London, 1639), Act II, folio C, first staged 1632.

59. Nicholas Breton, An Olde Mans Lesson, and a Yovng Mans Loue (1605), Alexander B. Grosart, ed., The Works in Verse and Prose of Nicholas Breton (Edinbugh, 1879), II, p. 13.

60. Lyly, Euphues, p. 61.

61. John Ford, The Lover’s Melancholy (staged 1628), in Havelock Ellis, ed., John Ford (London, 1888), Act II, scene i, p. 32.

62. Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act III, scene iii.

63. Anthony Copley, Wits Fittes and Fancies (London, 1595), p. 42. Copley translated this jest book from a Spanish jest book, but he inserted many of his own. These are easily discernable from the Spanish jests for, as Copley wrote himself, “they taste more Englishlie,” Epistle Dedicatory, folio A2 verso. This example is one of Copley’s own jests.

64. Edward Webbe, Edward Webbe … His Trauailes (1590), Edmund Goldsmid, ed. (Edinburgh, 1885), “The Epistle to the Reader,” p. 9.

65. Ibid., pp. 23-24.

66. William Parry, A new and large discourse of the Trauels of sir Anthony Sherley Knight, by Sea, and ouer Land, to the Persian Empire (London, 1601), pp. 1-2. The proverb originated in Barclay’s Ship of Fools, II, p. 68.

67. Joseph Hall, Quo vadis?, pp. 35-38.

68. Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary, Part III, Booke 1, Chapter 2, p. 36.

69. Howell, Instructions, p. 64.

70. Sir Francis Bacon, “Of Travel,” Works, VI, p. 418; Fuller, II, p. 161.

71. Richard Brathwaite, The English Gentleman (London, 1630), pp. 137-139.

72. Brathwaite, A Survey of History: Or, a Nursery for Gentry (London, enlarged edition, 1638), pp. 36-37.

73. Apart from popularizing certain terms: ‘petty-fogger’ in the case of legal practitioners, and ‘quaksalver’ or quack in the case of medical practitioners are the two best examples.

74. For example, the Italianated traveller, Antonio, overshadowed the wise traveller, Proberio, in George Chapman’s Two Wise Men. An exception to this rule was Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s Queen of Corinth (staged in 1617) in which two foolish travellers only enhanced the positive image of the two wise travellers (especially Act II, scene i).

©1996 Sara Warneke / Sara Douglass Enterprises

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