english history

Images of the Educational Traveller in Early Modern England

images-of-the-educational-traveller-in-early-modern-englandWhile educational travel was extremely popular among early modern Englishmen, the practice attracted extensive public criticism. Rather than examining travel itself, this book explores the vivid public images of educational travellers, their development and popularity, and the fears and prejudices in English society that engendered them. The first part of the book examines the medieval background of English travel abroad, the enthusiasm for educational travel among early modern Englishmen, and the progress of the public debate over the practice which essentially started with the publication of Ascham’s “The Scholemaster” in 1570. The second part of the book examines each of the seven major images of the educational traveller: the Italianated traveller; the atheistical traveller; the Catholic traveller; the morally corrupt traveller; the culturally corrupt traveller; and the foolish and lying travellers.

Published in 1995 by E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands as part of Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History (Book 58), written by Sara Warneke, Ph.D. (1991) in History, University of Adelaide, who was at the time a lecturer in European History at La Trobe University, Bendigo.


“This seminal study should also be a treasure house for graduate students who are considering dissertation topics; also, it will provide them with a model for historical scholarship.” William T. Walker, “Sixteenth Century Journal”, 1995.

“..a comprehensive study…” Kenneth Bartlett, “Rivista di Studi Italiani”, 1997.

Sara wrote in 2000 This (very expensive!) book is still available and you can purchase it via DA Online Services. and she posted the first chapter on her website, which is shown below.

Traditions of Travel before 1570: Pilgrims, Students and Gentlemen

By frequent journeyings, thine shall be joys most rare.
Far through strange realms and courts thus shalt thou fare.
All kingly policies shalt thou learn there.1

Many precedents existed in medieval England for both the early modern enthusiasm for educational travel and the subsequent criticism of the practice. Despite the hardships and dangers of traversing the Channel and travelling on the Continent, hundreds of English men and women journeyed abroad in medieval Europe each year. This vigorous tradition prompted one chronicler to comment on the English people’s love of travel and the number of them abroad; “the peple of that londe is dispersede a brode thro alle the worlde, trawenge alle the worlde to be a cuntre to theyme.”2 Apart from diplomatic, merchant and military traffic, medieval Englishmen travelled abroad as pilgrims, knights and scholars. Pilgrimage provided many men and women with the excuse to indulge their curiosity about the world beyond England, nobles journeyed to the tournaments in France, and large numbers of scholars travelled to the universities on the Continent. Although travel for educational purposes was a well established practice for educated medieval Englishmen, these scholars were not the direct predecessors of early modern educational travellers. By the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries political conditions and the changing emphasis of education for the gentleman stimulated by the civic humanism of the Renaissance united to create a new type of educational traveller, a man who travelled not only for scholarly accomplishment but also to study the world about him to fit himself for service to state and prince. This traveller was the direct predecessor of the educational traveller of the late sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Many of these medieval and early Tudor travellers attracted public criticism, and some of the criticisms and images of pilgrims and, to a lesser degree, medieval scholars, reemerged in the public comment over educational travel in early modern England.

Pilgrimage is a good example of a practice that, although dangerous and costly, attracted large numbers of English men and women, noble and ordinary, throughout medieval English history. The English passion for pilgrimage began early. In his History of the English Church and People Bede wrote that by the late seventh century “many English people vied with one another in [making a pilgrimage to the holy sites abroad], both noble and simple, layfolk and clergy, men and women alike.”3 The three most popular destinations for English pilgrims, as they were for European pilgrims generally, were Jerusalem, Rome and St. James of Compostella in Spain.4 The Holy Land remained the most desired destination for pilgrims, but wars, cost and the sheer difficulty of the journey meant that Rome and St. James attracted more pilgrims throughout the centuries. It is doubtful that many English pilgrims could have emulated the Wife of Bath’s excursions to Rome, St James, and Bologna as well as her three pilgrimages to Jerusalem.5 Both G. B. Parks and John Allen have estimated the number of English pilgrims to Rome during the fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries. Their research indicates that between 75 and 200 English men and women journeyed to Rome in an ordinary year and as many as 800 in a Jubilee year.6 The records of the English Hospice in Rome reveal that many of these pilgrims, as Bede indicated, were of very ordinary status: tilers, cobblers, weavers, brewers, tanners and “rustics.”7 Nevertheless, it is probable that limitations of time and money made many English men and women, particularly those of humble status, plan a pilgrimage to a closer site than Rome; by the fifteenth century large numbers undertook the pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella in Spain. Records for 1434 show that the English authorities licensed pilgrim ships to carry over 2,600 pilgrims towards St. James.8 For a country of three million people or less before the sixteenth century,9 these figures indicate that substantial numbers of English men and women undertook a pilgrimage abroad. Many of these pilgrims found the journey itself as satisfying as the eventual destination. While journeying towards their main goal, most pilgrims took the opportunity to worship at the numerous shrines along the major pilgrimage routes. On the journey to Rome pilgrims satisfied both spiritual needs and worldly curiosities alike by pausing to pray before the hand of a miraculous virgin at Boulogne or before the head of St. John the Baptist at Amiens, or perhaps at the shrine of Our Lady of Rocamador in Guyenne, or before any one of the numerous holy places along the route. Such diversions not only satisfied the pilgrim’s worldly and spiritual curiosities, but they also provided him with ample material for exciting tales to tell his family and friends once home. No doubt, as J. J. Jusserand commented, the returning pilgrim fascinated many stay-at-homes; “he was a play in himself, a living story, he had on his feet the dust of Rome and or Jerusalem, and brought news of the ‘worshippers’ of Mahomet.”10

Church authorities continually taught that the object of pilgrimage could never be anything but spiritual salvation. Officially pilgrimage was an act of penance or thanksgiving. In the fifteenth century the English pilgrim William Wey listed ten justifiable reasons for embarking on a pilgrimage; these included the “virtue derived from the places visited, the indulgences granted for pious visits to great shrines, and the moral value of the sight of holy places and relics seen en route.”11 In keeping with these values Sir Robert Knolles obtained a licence to travel to Rome in 1389 for “the quieting of his conscience and the salvation of his soul.”12 At its most spiritually idealistic, a literal pilgrimage mirrored man’s lifelong spiritual pilgrimage towards grace and salvation. Although the prime motivation for many pilgrims was spiritual, less worthy motives also set some pilgrims on their paths – curiosity about the world beyond England, a desire to escape the routine of their lives, or by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries merely a desire to take part in a pleasant social round. Undoubtedly, like Chaucer’s worldly Canterbury pilgrims, the promise of good fellowship and an entertaining journey encouraged many men and women to venture on a pilgrimage beyond England. A pilgrimage abroad provided for the majority of participants a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for adventure in both spiritual and worldly senses. Yet as man found his spiritual pilgrimage fraught with earthly temptations, so he found actual pilgrimage fraught with worldly pleasures and distractions.

As pilgrimage became increasingly popular across Europe after the eleventh century critics began to attack it as a practice that men and women corrupted with material or worldly desires. Some critics went so far as to imply that it was not the spiritual goals of pilgrimage that drew so many pilgrims on the road, but the temptations and distractions that a pilgrimage abroad offered. Criticism of the moral degeneration of English pilgrims abroad appeared as soon as large numbers of English men and women began to travel towards Rome. In 747 St. Boniface urged the English Church to,

forbid to matrons and veiled women the journey to Rome and the frequent halts which they make on the way thither and on the return. For the most part, they perish, few remaining pure. There are few cities in Lombardy or in France or in Gaul in which there is not an adulteress or a harlot of English race: which is a scandal and disgrace to your whole church.13
Six hundred years later similar “wenches” still plied their trade, trailing after their lovers, fat, lazy and false hermits who wound their slow and corrupt way to Walsingham.14 Religious reformers not only criticised pilgrimage as an excuse for the worship of images and for the Church’s practice of selling indulgences, many believed the final result of pilgrimage was only a journey towards laziness, vanity and idle living and the moral corruption of its participants. Some of the most vehement critics of pilgrimage in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries were the English Lollards, who particularly criticised the practice of pilgrimage for the moral corruptions of its participants.15 John Wyclif believed men and women should travel separately on their pilgrimages, for to travel in company was only to indulge in lechery.16 An early fifteenth-century manuscript, clearly Lollard invective, denounced pilgrimage because of the sexual depravity among pilgrims:

for comunely … pilgrimagis ben mayntenyng of lecherie, of gloterie, of drunkenesse, of extorsiouns, of wrongis, and worldly vanytes. For men [th]at may not haunt hore leccherie at home as [th]ei wolden, for drede of lordis, of maystris, and for clamour of ne[gh]eboris, [th]ei … go out of [th]e cuntrey in pilgrimage to fer ymagis, and lyuen in [th]e goinge in leccherye, in gloterie, in drunkenesse.17
Furthermore, the author complained, some men travelled abroad from a “grett wille … to se faire cuntreys” rather than from devotion to God or his saints.18

Critics also attacked pilgrimage for the avid curiosity in the world that many pilgrims displayed; perhaps their great wish to see far (or fair) countries drew them abroad rather than any devotion to a saint. Pilgrimage ‘accounts’ like Sir John Mandeville’s semi-mythical Travels only served to whet the curiosity of would-be pilgrims, and even genuine itineraries sometimes appeared to encourage curiosity; an itinerary of the late fifteenth century ended with the exhortation, “the further ye go, the more ye shall se and knowe.”19 The journey itself, not the devotional goal, became the object, and one of the general criticisms of pilgrimage was that it was nothing more than an excuse to travel abroad to satisfy curiosity. Thomas à Kempis criticised pilgrimage on these grounds in the mid-fifteenth century:

Many run to sundry places to visit the relics of the Saints …. Oftentimes in seeing those things, men are moved with curiosity and the novelty of sights, and carry home but little fruit of amendment; and the more so when persons run lightly hither and thither, without real contrition.20
The medieval Church taught that curiosity was a vice rather than an admirable quality. In medieval thought curiositas was a vice related to pride and sloth, and the temptation of curiositas generally referred to any morally excessive and suspect interest in observing the world, seeking novel experiences, or acquiring knowledge for its own sake. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries many believed the vice of curiositas directly threatened pilgrimage; a pilgrim’s curiosity about this inferior world might prevent him or her from reaching that “other land” of the Father.21

One of the most enduring images of the traveller, and certainly one of the most popular in early modern England, began in the medieval belief that travellers, particularly pilgrims, were habitual liars. An eighth-century critic of wandering clerical scholars complained that these vagabonds roamed from monastery to monastery, depleting both their host’s table and patience with their tale-telling:

Behold him now come from the Italian frontier, and a good fresh tale all about pilgrimage or captivity, entering the house with humbly bowed head, and lying hard till all the poor host’s poverty goes into the pot and on to the table: that host will be a well-picked bone in a day or two.22
By the fourteenth century English poets closely associated this vice of lying with pilgrims, and both Chaucer and Langland personified pilgrims as habitual liars. In The Hous of Fame Chaucer wrote that pilgrims travelled,

With scrippes bret-ful of lesynges,
Entremedled with tydynges. 23
Writing only a few years later Langland used very similar imagery:

Pylgrimis & palmers . plyghten hem to-gederes,
To seche seint Iame . and seyntys of rome,
Wenten forth in hure way . with meny vn-wyse tale[s],
And hauen leue to lye . al hure lyf-tyme. 24
By the early fifteenth century the belief that pilgrims were habitual liars crept into Lollard invective against pilgrimage. William Thorpe believed that if men and women “be a month out in their pilgrimage, many of them shall be, a half year after, great janglers, tale-tellers, and liars.” 25 The image of the pilgrim-liar continued well into the first half of the sixteenth century. In 1509 Alexander Barclay labelled pilgrims liars in his adaption of Sebastian Brant’s The Ship of Fools,26 and Thomas More’s rather lame attempt to defend pilgrimage in 1530 included an effort to defend the pilgrim from the popular charge of lying. More related the story of a worldly character who set out on a pilgrimage, more intent on seeing “Flaunders and Fraunce” than saving his soul, and who fully expected to find all the stories he had heard from fellow pilgrims completely false. Much to his amazement, the cynical pilgrim-cum-tourist found that not only were tales of pilgrims completely true, they were even modest in the face of reality. 27

Pilgrimage provided several images and criticisms of travellers that later re-emerged in the early modern debate over educational travel. Concerns about the opportunities for the English pilgrim to indulge in sexual licence while away from the stabilising influences of his or her home community were echoed in the natural concern of parents and moralists about the young student’s vulnerability to the fleshly temptations offered to him while touring the Continent. Straying from the narrowly defined ideal of both pilgrimage and educational tour through succumbing to a natural curiosity in the world and the new societies about them led to the condemnation of both pilgrims and educational travellers. If the pilgrim faced spiritual corruption, the educational traveller also faced moral, political and cultural corruption. The strongest image (or implicit criticism), however, which survived from the medieval into the early modern period is that of the traveller-liar. A popular concept in the medieval period, the identification of the traveller with the vice of lying survived into the early modern period to become one of the most popular images of the traveller, and the traveller-liar became a favourite butt of street jests in seventeenth-century England.

Education in medieval England had two principal goals – the education of the knight and the education of the clerk. In both these traditions travel abroad had its place. The English knight travelled to the Continent for the tourneying experience he could not gain in England. The medieval knight served his feudal lord and his king with his sword, and, as mimic battles, tournaments were ideal training and testing grounds for a knight’s military skills. The authorities periodically banned tournaments in England (for political reasons 28), and knights frequently travelled abroad for tourneying experience. Matthew of Westminster noted that it was customary for newly-made knights to travel to the Continent to show their mettle by feats of arms; at one time Henry III knighted eighty gentlemen who all went abroad to take part in tournaments.29 The splendour and excitement of French tournaments attracted English knights as much as the opportunity to test their military skills, for, as F. Warre Cornish remarked, the “colour of English chivalry was of a soberer hue than on the Continent.”30 Bored and impatient young noblemen, either waiting to inherit their land or with competent servants installed who managed their estates for them, travelled in search of excitement. Landless knights journeyed to the tournament in the hope of gaining a settlement. Tournaments eventually became more a social pastime, often held in conjunction with pageants and mummeries, than a sober practice of warfare. R. W. Southern notes that by the twelfth century the English nobility often travelled to the tournament as playboys and adventurers because they had nothing better to do; “they remained rootless and restless young aristocrats with no responsibilities at home.”31 After an impressively idealistic beginning the tournament degenerated into mere spectacle and pageantry, expensive, exclusive, a private diversion for the richest lords only.32 It is stretching the point too far to think of these tourneying knights as educational travellers; nevertheless, they do demonstrate the opportunity the medieval English aristocracy took of the excuse to travel abroad to the colour and excitement of the French court. Ostensibly participating in tournaments, realistically these nobles often did little more than indulge in an exciting and extravagant social round. Like the pilgrim, the opportunity to participate in the worldly pleasures and excitements available on the Continent corrupted the knight’s original purpose in journeying abroad.

Many scholars and students joined the pilgrims, knights, diplomats, merchants, businessmen and ordinary soldiers leaving medieval England to journey on the Continent. Many intellectually ambitious Englishmen travelled abroad to the famous centres of learning on the Continent. From the twelfth to the late fourteenth century large numbers of Englishmen seeking careers in either Church or state studied at the two major universities of Europe, Paris, famous for its teaching of the liberal arts and theology, and Bologna, the European centre for civil and canon law. Young men hoping to obtain a degree in medicine might travel to the school at Salerno, the chief medical school in medieval Europe. The confluence of large numbers of students from across Europe to the universities of Paris and Bologna resulted in the creation of ‘nations’ in both universities – collegia of scholars, masters and students that provided support for scholars from broad geographical regions. 33 While most universities were open to all free men without restriction, Paris was particularly notable for the welcome that it gave to men from across Europe. The major European universities thrived in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and their fame attracted many English students; Henry Hallam asserted that by 1200 Bologna and Paris were full of English students. 34 France and Italy were not the only destinations for English scholars; in the twelfth century a high proportion of the scholars who went to Spain in search of Arabic science were Englishmen.35 During the second half of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries the number of foreign students began to ebb in the major European universities, particularly noticeable in the English-German nation at Paris where only a few students remained in 1383. The growing prestige of Oxford and Cambridge, division among the members of the University of Paris over the papal schism of 1378-1414, and the growing ferocity and extensiveness of the European wars at this time, especially between England and France, combined to keep many young scholars home. 36

Despite this decline in the numbers of English students travelling abroad, respectable numbers still attended the universities on the Continent during the fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries. This particularly applied to Italy, where the universities and academies retained or increased their prestige during the classical revival of the Renaissance. Bologna attracted numerous Englishmen in the fifteenth century; university records show that almost fifty Englishmen took doctorates in civil or canon law there, and doubtless many others studied at Bologna without proceeding to a degree.37 Over twenty Englishmen studied at Ferrara during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, some proceeding to degrees in either civil or canon law, arts, or theology.38 During the fifteenth century the university at Padua began to rival Bologna for fame in the study of civil law, and it also became important for students of medicine and theology. Eighteen Englishmen (from the records that survive) took degrees there during the course of the fifteenth century. A degree from one of these three Italian universities provided a man’s education with a lustre that many Englishmen considered Oxford and Cambridge powerless to give, and such a degree often became the key to diplomatic or administrative employment.39

Despite the long tradition of travel to the European universities from medieval England there was no strong tradition of public criticism associated with the practice as there was for pilgrimage.40 Nevertheless, individuals, whether foreigners or Englishmen, occasionally expressed some concern about the immorality of English scholars abroad. In the twelfth century Jacques de Vitry characterised English clerks travelling abroad as drunkards.41 A late medieval English priest, preaching to English commoners, used the example of an English student living an “euyll” life in Paris to demonstrate that a sinful life did not always end happily. This evil clerk, “as synnefull a wreche as euer anny myght be,” never heard mass and, if there was any wicked counsel about, would always be in the thick of it, never saying good when he might say evil. 42 Private criticism is virtually impossible to gauge before the fifteenth century. Extensive collections of English family letters from before the Tudor period have not survived, and individual letters surviving in state collections are rarely useful to evaluate personal opinion.43 In an attempt to piece together private family reaction to sons travelling abroad to study during the medieval period I have relied upon Charles Haskin’s study of medieval students’ letters from across Europe, including England.44 His study reveals that anxieties of sons and families in medieval Europe were remarkably similar to the anxieties expressed by families in later centuries. As occurred in early modern England, by far the largest element in sons’ letters home to their parents consisted of regular requests for more money. Parents, in their turn, expressed concerns about the idleness, disobedience and immorality of their sons.45 The relative lack of public criticism of medieval travelling scholars, despite their numbers, probably occurred because few social or ecclesiastical critics believed these travellers carried the same potential for social disharmony that pilgrims did. English pilgrims came from and returned into almost every level of society while medieval scholars remained individuals within a narrowly defined community whose activities rarely significantly affected the general community. It is no coincidence that the two popular institutions of travel, pilgrimage and early modern educational travel, attracted so much criticism; commentators believed that when their corrupted participants returned home they would adversely affect the general community by exposing them to the corruptions of the world.

The combination of several factors during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries resulted in the emergence of a new type of educational traveller in the sixteenth century. The spread of humanism from Renaissance Italy northwards during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries brought with it a renewed interest in the ancient ideals of civic life. Civic humanism demanded that pure scholasticism give way to the concept that a man’s education should prepare him for a life of service to his community, his prince and his state.46 In The Boke named the Gouernour (1531) Sir Thomas Elyot centred his discussion of the education of the gentleman on the principle of service to the state; “Semblable ordre will I ensue in the fourmynge the gentill wittes of noble mennes children, who, from the wombes of their mother, shal be made propise or apte to the gouernaunce of a publike weale.” 47 Political conditions, particularly the decline in the power of the nobility concurrent with the development of a powerful and prestigious court about the person of the monarch, combined with the new emphasis civic humanism gave to education and shifted the direction of the nobleman’s education away from military service to state service. The nobleman or gentleman’s heaviest responsibility now lay in the performance of public service, and he fulfilled this service in the role of adviser, diplomat, administrative officer, magistrate or provincial official. The role of the court grew more important as patronage, influence and ‘connection’ became potent factors in entering government service, acting as a stepping-stone to careers in arms, diplomacy and administrative employment.48 England’s growing participation in European affairs, particularly during the reign of Henry VIII, meant that the king needed about him men skilled in diplomacy and knowledgeable about the governments of the European countries. The aristocrat now served his monarch better with his wit than with his sword.

To make the gentleman fit for employment in the service of the state he required a basic education in the liberal arts, a training traditionally scorned by the medieval knight. Those noblemen and gentlemen who wished to pursue a career in their state’s service began to acquire educations in most of the subjects recommended by the humanists – languages, history, rhetoric, arithmetic, geography, philosophy and the classics. Unlike the medieval scholar, however, the gentleman did not immerse himself completely in scholastic study. When Sir William Cecil planned his son Thomas’ tour abroad in 1561 he confided to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton that he did not want his son scholarly learned but rather civilly trained. Cecil included in this civil training instruction in history and the modern languages of either French or Italian. 49 The English schoolmasters and universities could not teach the gentleman those subjects most useful to a man planning a career in the service of his state – learning in history, modern languages and the political and social institutions of foreign countries. In effect, a young gentleman could not acquire a thorough grounding in knowledge and understanding of the contemporary world while still in England. Observation and study of the world about him would grow to be as important to the well-rounded gentleman as book learning.

There was another area of education that the ambitious gentleman needed in his career at court and that many felt England lacked. Henry VIII not only developed his court as a major force in the machinery of administration but also as the cultural hub of England. About the magnificent person of the monarch the court developed into a glittering showcase of ceremony and display, a place of culture and brilliance. As well as scholastic ability and worldly knowledge, the ambitious gentleman also needed a good degree of competence in the arts of civil conversation, music, fencing, dancing, and ‘riding the great horse.’ Most Englishmen genuinely felt they could best acquire these skills attending European instructors, and, if such instructors were not available in England, then the young man would have to seek them abroad. Besides modern languages and history, Sir William Cecil required Thomas to undertake instruction in the courtly skills of dancing and expertise on the lute. 50

Travel abroad to acquire the skills needed by the new ‘Renaissance man,’ whether experience of the modern world or instruction in the finer arts of courtly accomplishments, gradually became an optional extension of the young gentleman’s education. The process grew slowly; an educational tour abroad was difficult, expensive, and sometimes dangerous, but the strong traditions of English travel abroad fostered its growth. Works like William Thomas’ Historie of Italie (1549) enhanced the traditional prestige of Italian universities for those young gentlemen who desired excellence in both the scholarly and the courtly accomplishments. Thomas believed that Italy led Europe in the arts of civility, and his glowing description of the country and its people encouraged gentlemen to study there. More gentlemen flocked to Italy to study than to any other nation in Europe, Thomas enthused, for in such cities as Padua, Ferrara and Pisa they found “excellente learned men, waged for the readyng of philosophie, of the ciuile lawes, and of all the liberall sciences.” Gentlemen students also patronised the “excellent maisters” who taught them to sing and to play upon all manner of instruments, while the “beste maisters of fence” honed the gentlemen’s skills on a variety of weapons. While spending the winter of 1548-1549 at Padua, Thomas claimed as the result of careful investigation that 1500 scholars studied there that winter, “wherof I dare saie, a thousande at the lest were gentilmen.” 51

Education generally was the great leveller in English society; a good education often became the key to success for a low-born citizen.52 This particularly applied to travel abroad, although numbers of ‘non-gentry’ educational tourists only began to grow in the second half of the sixteenth century. For those without the blood or the influence, the experience of travel abroad could serve as both passport into, and apprenticeship for, state service. The experience and education gained during a tour through Europe often became the cornerstone of a young man’s later career in the service of the ‘publike weale.’ In his quest for patronage and employment a young man emphasised any experience or education that he had gained abroad. When Thomas Starkey wrote to Thomas Cromwell in 1534 seeking employment in the king’s household, he cited his studies and experience in Italy. His letter not only reveals his ambitions for employment, but it also demonstrates the ideal of civic humanism:

bycause my purpos … was to lyue in a polytyke lyfe, I set my selfe now thes last yerys past to the knolege of the cyuyle law, that I myght therby make a more Aabyl & sure jugement of the polytyke ordur & custumys vsyd amonge vs here in our cuntrey, aftur thys maner in dyuerse kyndys of studys I haue [employed] myselfe, euer hauyng in mynd thys end & purpos, at the last here in thys cominyualty, where I am brought forth & borne, to employ them to some vse. 53
The belief that the gentleman should use his education to benefit his state was the foundation of civic humanism, and during the sixteenth century it became the principal argument for educational travel abroad. Starkey echoed his sentiments to Cromwell in the fictional dialogue between Reginald Pole and Thomas Lupset that he wrote in 1535 and subsequently presented to Henry VIII. Starkey had Lupset complain to Pole,

I have much and many times marvelled, reasoning with myself why you, Master Pole, after so many years spent in quiet studies of letters and learning, and after such experience of the manners of man, taken in diverse parts beyond the sea, have not before this settled yourself and applied your mind to the handling of the matters of the common weal here in our own nation, to the intent that both your friends and country might now at the last receive and take some fruit of your long studies, wherein you have spent your whole youth – as I ever took it – to the same purpose and end. 54

Like Elyot, Starkey was adamant that scholasticism for its own sake was useless, because it did nothing to benefit a man’s friends and country.55 Late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century apologists for the tour clung to this justification for travel abroad, and the image of the traveller benefiting the state with his experience became one of the major weapons in their attempts to negate the powerful images of that dangerous member of the community, the corrupted traveller. Nevertheless, as an ideal that truly motivated young men to travel abroad, the idea of travelling to serve the state probably died during the first half of the seventeenth century. 56

Criticism of this new breed of educational traveller was not widespread nor images of the corrupt traveller popular before 1570. Alexander Barclay’s 1509 verse on foolish students blundering ignorantly between the European universities was an isolated example reminiscent of medieval criticism of wandering scholars:

One rennyth to almayne another vnto fraunce
To parys padway Lumbardy or spayne
Another to Bonony, Rome or orleance
To cayne, to Tolows, Athenys or Colayne
And at the last retournyth home agayne
More ignorant, blynder and gretter folys
Than they were whan they firste went to the scolys. 57
Barclay’s verse was more a part of his criticism of foolish students generally rather than a precursor of post-1570 concern about the educational traveller. Even the popular medieval image of the traveller-liar only occurred spasmodically during the period 1500-1570. In the first half of the century families or individuals tended not to express any anxiety beyond natural concern regarding the safety of a child or relative abroad. In the 1530s Lady Lisle sent her youngest son, James Basset, to France to gain experience in modern languages and to meet those men who might be of use to him in a later career. None of the correspondence between the Lisles, James, his tutors and guardians betrays any unwarranted anxiety or expresses any awareness that travellers might be exposed to undue criticism. 58

A more revealing document of parental concern is the ‘contract’ William Broke’s father made him sign before his departure for France in 1541 (Appendix A). Lord Cobham’s concerns were not different from those of generations of fathers before him. The devotion expressed in the first two points are reminiscent of the devotion of the medieval pilgrim; William must ensure that no worldly fantasies corrupt his communion with God. This medieval piety contrasts sharply with the humanism evident in points three and eight; the young lord must study civil law, rhetoric and Greek and must also observe the ways of the countries he visits. He must be proficient in the lute, or in some other musical instrument, and, perhaps with his success at court in mind, William must not speak too “thicke.” Like every father concerned with his young son’s moral integrity while far from parental supervision and with a marriage obviously arranged, William’s father exhorted him to take no pleasure in the “abhominable synne of lechery”, and to “kepe [his] vessell cleane accordyng to the commandment of god.” 59 Twenty years later Thomas Cecil possibly made very similar promises to those of William Broke in the “little discourse” of intent and purpose he presented in writing to his father shortly before departing on his tour in 1561.60 William Broke proved more susceptible to his father’s wishes than did Thomas Cecil, who freely indulged in lechery, gambling and other unsavoury activities the moment he reached the Continent.

Despite little public attention given to the dangers of travel or to the corruption of educational travellers abroad in the first half of the sixteenth century, by 1561 there is some indication that the behaviour of the occasional “contrary” traveller influenced a few individuals to view travel negatively. Anne, Duchess of Somerset, expressed deep reservations about the practice of travel in a letter she wrote to Sir William Cecil early in 1561. Both Elizabeth and Cecil wanted the Duchess’ son, Edward, Earl of Hertford, to travel abroad, and Anne, driven by maternal concern, wrote to Cecil regarding her fears. Apprehension over Hertford’s frail constitution and the fact that the Duchess had already lost one “that had bene abrode and was comying homeward” compounded her fears regarding his journey, but the Duchess also had severe doubts about the viability of educational travel from her own observations of returning travellers:

I calle to mynd many whose travell hath Incresed theyr estymacyon, others agayn haue consumed theyr substans spent theyr tyme and lost credyte, thus I do see for the most part as travell ys agayne to the beter desposed, even so proves yt fruteles to the contrary sorte. 61
The Duchess’ letter demonstrates that, in her mind at least, there existed some concern about the corruption of English travellers abroad. Concern about the corruption, moral corruption particularly, of the traveller had existed for centuries, and in this sense there was nothing particularly unusual about the Duchess’ letter, yet her letter shows she had preconceived ideas about travel that in part prompted her letter to Cecil. Perhaps this indicates some emerging concern among individuals within the community about the practice of educational travel that had not yet been expressed publicly; the Duchess’ comment anticipated the public debate after 1570.

Comments from the same time indicate that Italy already had an image as a place of particular corruption for the traveller and suggest that other individuals shared Ascham’s attitude in 1564. Roger Ascham’s attack on Italian travel, printed in 1570 but written in late 1563 or early 1564, is surprising both in his bitter attack on Italy (considering his previous declared admiration for that country) and in the direction of the attack (towards the Machiavellian and Italianated atheist). Nevertheless, there are indications that, despite works that praised Italy like Thomas’, some individuals held deep reservations about both travel and Italian travel in particular prior to 1564. In early 1556 Anthony Viscount Montague wrote to Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devonshire, anxiously inquiring after Devonshire’s safe arrival in Italy and expressing the hope that he would be able to avoid the numerous evils that would be daily before his eyes.62 It was, in fact, Sir Richard Sackville’s concern about Italian travel that prompted Ascham to attack the practice in The Scholemaster. In late 1563 Sackville had particularly asked Ascham to write a discourse on the education of the schoolboy and specifically to state his opinion on the “common going of Englishmen into Italy.” 63

Thomas Windebank’s attitude to Italian travel is particularly revealing. Windebank was the long-suffering tutor to Thomas Cecil during that young man’s lamentable tour of the Continent in 1561-1562. After a disastrous year spent in France watching Thomas waste his time and his father’s money in gambling and womanising, Windebank spirited Thomas through the Low Countries to Germany, where, through lack of opportunity, the young man’s behaviour underwent some degree of reformation. Just as Thomas appeared settled, Cecil horrified Windebank with the suggestion that Windebank and Thomas journey into Italy, as they were so close. Because Cecil had earlier threatened to withdraw his patronage from Windebank, in part blaming him for Thomas’ excesses, Windebank tried to change Cecil’s mind about such an adventure with extreme tact. He agreed that it might do Thomas some good to see Italy and to learn the language,

But as ther be Commodities, so is ther also grete danger in that Countrey of discommodities for yong men, by reason of the Inticements to pleasure & wantonnes that be there, from which Sir, (I must not disguise) I doubte much how I shall be hable to withholde him, hauing had som proofe allready to know what I may doo with him, during our being in france. 64
Windebank also cited the dangers of the heat and fruit and the considerable expense such a journey would entail. Cecil continued to push for a journey into Italy for Thomas, and, responding, Windebank again agreed that it might do Thomas some good to see the country, but it should be accomplished as rapidly as possible, “for … the lesse abode in that Countrey is the better.” 65 Surely, Windebank added, Cecil would prefer to call Thomas home rather than have him risk further hazards in “this troublesom worlde specially in that countrey, for many respects which I doo not saye without good cause.”66 Windebank did not want to accompany Thomas into Italy because he believed he could not keep him under control and feared the complete loss of Cecil’s patronage should Thomas’ behaviour suffer a relapse. His image of Italy as a country particularly conducive to the moral corruption of a young man because of the “inticements to pleasure & wantones that be there” corresponds with Montague’s concern for Devonshire’s moral and possibly spiritual integrity because of the numerous evils that would be daily before his eyes.

Windebank’s fears regarding Italian travel for the young man provide an interesting contrast with Sir William Cecil’s own views expressed in their correspondence. Unlike Windebank, Cecil was extremely keen to send Thomas into Italy, both to see the country and to learn the language. The only reservation he expressed was that Windebank and Thomas should pass “as vnknowne as ye maye, because of the malice that I know the papists ow me, and cold be content to avendg the same in my sone.”67 If there was any widespread public concern regarding Italian travel, it does not seem to have overly affected Sir William Cecil in late 1562. Cecil’s thoughts regarding Italian travel underwent a complete reversal after Ascham published his Scholemaster.68 When Cecil sent his youngest son Robert abroad in the early 1580s, he wrote for him a set of precepts to guide him through life. These precepts contained the following warning about Italian travel:

Suffer not thy sons to pass the Alps, for they shall learn nothing but pride, blasphemy, and atheism. And if by travel they attain to some few broken languages, they will profit them no more than to have one meat served in divers dishes. 69
This comment to Robert in the mid-1580s is markedly different from Cecil’s attitude in his letters to Windebank in late 1562. Although Thomas’ behaviour may have influenced Cecil’s change of heart regarding Italian travel, his remark regarding atheism clearly shows the influence of the public comment about and imagery of educational travel stimulated by Ascham’s Scholemaster.

An examination of the traditions of English travel abroad prior to 1570 is useful to demonstrate both the English enthusiasm for travel and the body of criticism that could attach itself to an institution of travel. Images and criticisms of pilgrims survived the demise of the pilgrimage and re-emerged among the images and criticisms that attached themselves to educational travel after Ascham’s attack. The temptations of the world that corrupted the pilgrim from the narrow road of his spiritual quest were still there and still as powerful when the educational traveller set forth across the Channel. Unrestrained curiosity about the world proved the downfall of the pilgrim, as it held grave dangers for the educational traveller, morally and politically, if not always spiritually. Moral corruption of the young man studying far from parental control worried early modern parents as much as it worried their medieval forebears. The ability of the young man to withstand the temptations available on the Continent remained one of the primary concerns of individuals within families during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Images survived from pilgrimage virtually intact; this not only applied to the traveller-liar but also to the morally corrupt traveller. As occurred with pilgrimage, the English love of foreign travel ensured that no matter to what heights public concern and virulent criticism grew, it in no way appeared to affect the growing numbers of young men participating in the educational tour. The English traditionally loved travel, they had always travelled, and they would always find an excuse to travel. In no small part the realisation of this fuelled the concern and criticism of educational travellers in early modern England. Ascham’s reservations about Italian travel were hardly surprising considering the privately expressed views of those about him. The bitterness of his attack, considering his personal admiration of Italy up to that point, probably was unexpected; the direction of his attack and the powerful imagery of the Machiavellian Italianate and atheistical traveller certainly was. In many senses, however, Ascham simply provided a new direction and a new impetus for a very long tradition of criticism of the English traveller abroad.

1 Cited in Edith Rickert, Chaucer’s World (1937: New York, 1962), p. 277, late fourteenth century.

2 Ranulf Higden, Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Monachi Cestrensis, Churchill Babington, ed. (London, 1865-1886), II, p. 169, the text of the anonymous fifteenth-century translator.

3 Bede, A History of the English Church and People, Leo Sherley-Price, trans. (Harmondsworth, 1968), pp. 280-281. Written during the eighth century.

4 See Jonathan Sumption, Pilgrimage, An Image of Mediaeval Religion (London, 1975); G. B. Parks, The English Traveller to Italy (Rome, 1954), I; The English Hospice in Rome, (various authors), The Venerabile, XXI (May 1962); and Margaret Wade Labarge, Medieval Travellers. The Rich and Restless (London, 1982), especially Chapter V, “Noble Pilgrims”, for some descriptions of medieval pilgrims and their journeys. John M. Theilmann, “Medieval Pilgrims and the Origins of Tourism”, Journal of Popular Culture, XX (1987), pp. 93-102, is also useful.

5 No wonder she knew “moche of wandryng by the weye”; Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Arthur Burrell, ed. (London, n.d.), Prologue, p. 12.

6 Parks, pp. 356-357 and 373-374; John Allen, “Englishmen in Rome and the Hospice 1362-1474,” The English Hospice in Rome, p. 58.

7 Taken from the lists of those staying at the Hospice during the period May 1479-May 1484, and November 1504-May 1507, printed in The English Hospice in Rome, pp. 109-141. Chaucer’s fellowship of Canterbury pilgrims included a yeoman, a haberdasher, a dyer, a carpenter, a weaver, a miller, and a carpet-maker.

8 Foedera, Thomas Rymer, ed. (1741: facsmile edition, Farborough, 1967), V, pp. 2-14.

9 See John A. F. Thomson, The Transformation of Medieval England, 1370-1529 (1983: London, 1989), Chapter I, “The Population of England,” pp. 9-16, particularly p. 11.

10 J. J. Jusserand, English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages, (1889: revised edition, London, 1961), p. 212. See pp. 192-243 for Jusserand’s discussion of pilgrims and pilgrimages.

11 Cited in M. J. Barber, “The Englishman Abroad in the Fifteenth Century,” Medievalia et Humanistica, XI (1957), pp. 69-77, quote cited on p. 74.

12 18 August 1389, Calendar of Patent Rolls, Richard II, IV (London, 1902), p. 94.

13 Cited in Parks, p. 30.

14 William Langland, The Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman (circa 1387), the C text, Rev. Walter W. Skeat, ed. (London, 1873), pp. 3-4.

15 Although, as Christian K. Zacher notes, Curiosity and Pilgrimage (Baltimore, 1976), pp. 56-57, they objected to pilgrimage on many grounds: because it condoned the belief that Christ was more accessible in some places than others, it was spiritually redundant (since pilgrims began their journey cleansed by confession), and it encouraged men to pray to an assortment of statues, not directly to God or to the saints.

16 Thomas Arnold, ed., Select English Works of John Wyclif (Oxford, 1869), I, p. 83.

17 Anne Hudson, ed., English Wycliffite Writings (Cambridge, 1978), p. 86.

18 Ibid., p. 87.

19 Edited by C. Horstmann in Englische Studien, VIII (1885), pp. 277-284, cited p. 284.

20 Thomas à Kempis, On the Imitation of Christ (London, 1960), Book IV, chap. 1, p. 190.

21 Zacher, p. 4. In his study Curiosity and Pilgrimage Zacher examines the close relationship in fourteenth-century thought between the vice of curiositas and the practice of pilgrimage.

22 Cited in Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (London, 1927), p. 164.

23 Geoffrey Chaucer, The Hous of Fame (circa 1375), Albert C. Baugh, ed., Chaucer’s Major Poetry (London, 1963), Book III, ll. 2123-2124.

24 Langland, p. 3.

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

26 Alexander Barclay, trans., The Ship of Fools, T. H. Jamieson, ed.? (New York, 1966), II, p. 68. Barclay translated this work from Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools, but as both Barclay and his modern editor noted, he extensively adapted and edited the work for an English audience, adding, deleting and changing the text; ibid., I, pp. xviii and 17-18. Barclay doubled the length of Brant’s original, and so effectively localised the fools within England “that few would have believed his book of foreign origin;” Albert C. Baugh, ed., A Literary History of England (London, 1976), p. 351.

27 Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, The Complete Works of St. Thomas More (New Haven, 1963-1987), Thomas M. C. Lawler, Germain Marc’Hadour and Richard C. Marius, eds. of vol. VI, Part I, p. 228.

28 Tournaments were the subject of political controversy and government interference from their earliest days. A tournament that got out of hand became a mini war; Richard Barber, The Knight and Chivalry (Ipswich, 1974), p. 183.

29 R. Coltman Clepham, The Tournament: Its Periods and Phrases (London, 1919), p. 14. Tournaments did not always take place in grassy fields under the sun. In 1420 there were several curious subterranean combats between French and English knights, held by torchlight in the mines under Montereau; ibid, p. 53.

30 F. Warre Cornish, Chivalry (London, 1911), p. 51.

31 R. W. Southern, Medieval Humanism and Other Studies (Oxford, 1970), p. 143.

32 Richard Barber believes that the very nature of the tournament’s origins meant that it inevitably declined once it became the place for peacock vanities rather than strong arms and stout hearts; Barber, p. 159.

33 Other universities established nations as well. See Pearl Kibre, The Nations in the Medieval Universities (Cambridge, Mass., 1948). The term nation is somewhat misleading. These collegia contained students from many countries. For example, the English nation at Paris university contained Scandinavians, Germans and Slavs as well as Englishmen. Students focused their loyalty on the corporate identity of these nations rather than on the geographical regions and peoples they represented; James Bowen, A History of Western Education (London, 1975), volume II of Civilization of Europe Sixth to Sixteenth Century, pp. 114-115.

34 Henry Hallam, Introduction to the Literature of Europe (London, 1860-1864), I, p. 16n. 4 volume set

35 Southern, p. 171.

36 Kibre, pp. 108-109.

37 R. J. Mitchell, “English Law Students at Bologna in the Fifteenth Century,” English Historical Review, LI (1936), pp. 270-287.

38 Mitchell, “English Students at Ferrara in the XV. Century,” Italian Studies, I (1938), pp. 75-82.

39 Mitchell, “English Students at Padua, 1460-75,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, fourth series, XIX (1936), pp. 101-116, particularly p. 116. Nicholas Pronay observes in his discussion of the Chancery and Council at the end of the fifteenth century that most of the men about Henry VII in the top Chancery positions and in the Council had spent extensive amounts of time either studying or travelling abroad; “The Chancellor, the Chancery, and the Council at the End of the Fifteenth Century,” in H. Hearder and H. R. Lyon, eds., British Government and Administration (Cardiff, 1974), pp. 87-103. See also Janice Gordon Richter, “Education and association: the bureaucrat in the reign of Henry VI,” Journal of Medieval History, XII (1986), pp. 81-95.

40 Although the Church sometimes criticised wandering clerical scholars, “a loosely organised international fraternity … which was a burlesque of the monastic orders.” In 1247 the Council of Salzburg bitterly attacked these carefree and irreverent clerics; “they go about in public naked, lie in bake ovens, frequent taverns, games, harlots, earn their bread by their vices, and cling with inveterate obstinacy to their sect, so that no hope of their amendment remaineth”; Joseph M. Tyrrell, “The Goliardi – Wandering Poets of the Middle Ages,” Journal of Popular Culture, IV (1971), pp. 920-930, specifically p. 927. See also Waddell, pp. 263-264.

41 Majorie Rowling, Everyday Life of Medieval Travellers (New York, 1989), p. 108.

42 Woodburn O. Ross, ed., Middle English Sermons (London, 1940), p. 176. Because the author of the sermon wrote in English, Ross speculates that he meant it for the uneducated who could not understand Latin, p. lv.

43 G. R. Elton, England, 1200-1640 (London, 1969), pp. 154-155.

44 Charles H. Haskins, “The Life of Medieval Students as Illustrated by Their Letters,” American Historical Review, III (1898), pp. 203-229.

45 Ibid., particularly pp. 208-214.

46 See Bowen, pp. 207-211 and 398-402; J. H. Hexter, “The Education of the Aristocracy in the Renaissance,” Reappraisals in History (London, 1963), pp. 45-70, particularly p. 63.

47 Sir Thomas Elyot, The Boke named the Gouernour (1531), Henry Herbert Stephen Croft, ed. (London, 1880), I, p. 28.

48 See for example R. A. Griffiths, “Public and Private Bureaucracies in England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, fifth series, XXX (1980), pp. 109-130, particularly pp. 122-123; also Lewis Einstein, The Italian Renaissance in England (New York, 1902), pp. 58-59.

49 Sir William Cecil to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, 8 May 1561, CSPF (1561-1562), Elizabeth, no. 187, pp. 104-105.

50 Thomas Windebank to Sir William Cecil, 12 November 1561, PRO SP 12/20/59.

51 William Thomas, The Historie of Italie (London, 1549), folios 2v – 3.

52 See Louis B. Wright, Middle Class Culture in Elizabethan England (1935: London, 1964), pp. 44-48 particularly, and Chapter III, “The Concern Over Learning,” pp. 43-80 generally, for the commoner’s use of education as the key to success.

53 Thomas Starkey to [Thomas Cromwell], 1534, Harleian 283/129v – 130.

54 Thomas Starkey, A Dialogue Between Reginald Pole & Thomas Lupset, Kathleen M. Burton, ed. (London, 1948), pp. 21-22.

55 See Elyot, I, p. 116.

56 See discussion below.

57 Barclay, I, p. 145.

58 The Lisle Letters, Muriel St Clare Byrne, ed. (Chicago, 1981), III, pp. 106-133, IV, pp. 468-525.

59 Harleian 283/33.

60 Thomas Windebank, Thomas’ tutor while abroad, referred to this document in a letter he wrote to Sir William Cecil on 9 August 1561, PRO SP 12/19/29.

61 Anne, Duchess of Somerset to Sir William Cecil, 19 April 1561, PRO SP 12/16/130.

62 Anth. Visct. Montague to the Earl of Devonshire, 23 February 1556, CSPD (1547-1580), Mary, vol. 7, item 8, p. 75.

63 See Roger Ascham’s preface to The Scholemaster, Dr. Giles, ed., The Whole Works of Roger Ascham (London, 1864-1865), III, p. 83.

64 Thomas Windebank to Sir William Cecil, 18 November 1562, PRO SP 12/25/109.

65 Windebank to Cecil, 12 December 1562, PRO SP 12/26/13.

66 Ibid.

67 Cecil to Windebank, 16 November 1562, PRO SP 12/25/102.

68 See below, Chapter II, pp. 52-58, for an analysis of Ascham’s attack on Italian travel.

69 “Certain Precepts for the Well Ordering of a Man’s Life,” (circa 1584) in L. B. Wright, ed., Advice to a Son (Ithaca, 1962), p. 11.

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