Two finely illustrated 18th century travel journals were stand-out lots in a sale on September 1 at Welsh auction house Rogers Jones (26.4% buyer’s premium inc VAT% buyer’s premium).
The first offered in the Colwyn Bay saleroom, titled a Journal of a Tour to the Lakes in England and Scotland, was dated 1794 and contained over 200 pages of neatly penned calligraphic manuscript in ink interleaved with 23 original drawings in pen and ink and wash or watercolour.
This had been written at a time when tourism was in its infancy in the Lake District. Previously, prior to the movement now known as Romanticism, the Lakes were considered a wild and desolate place and not necessarily a holiday destination.
In 1724 Daniel Defoe had described the area as “the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England”.
It is possible that the anonymous writer of this journal had been inspired by one of the earliest advocates of the region, Father Thomas West, who had published A Guide to the Lakes in 1778 in which he recommended the best spots for visitors to admire the landscape.
Tourism really took off with the writings of Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge. Indeed, Wordsworth himself published his own guide book in 1820 titled a Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England which was a bestseller and encouraged many more visitors.
A later owner of the Lake District journal had written on the flyleaf A most interesting tour by John H. Moggridge, unpublished, thus suggesting that the author was John Hodder Moggridge (1771-1834) who came from a prosperous Bradford family involved in the textile industry and who campaigned to improve living conditions for workers.
He also had an interest in natural history and geology.
John’s son Matthew (1803-82) was a fellow of the Linnean, Geological and Zoological Societies and his grandson John Traherne Moggridge (1842-74) was an entomologist and botanist and corresponded with Charles Darwin. This suggested authorship may explain the final hammer price of £2400 against an estimate of £400-600.
To Mrs Theobald
The following lot was a manuscript journal titled Sketches of the County of Devon and dated 1793.
The author of this volume was a local man named John Swete who was born in 1752 of an old Devonshire family. Having studied at the University of Oxford, he was awarded an MA in 1777 and was then appointed prebendary of the Diocese of Exeter in 1781, where he achieved a local reputation as an antiquary and artist.
Interspersed in the text are numerous sonnets and other elegiac verses and the volume was illustrated with 21 watercolour topographical views. The volume also contains a presentation inscription from the author To Mrs Theobald, as a token of his respect and friendship, this little book (the joint effort of his pen and pencil) is offered by her obliged and affectionate John Swete, Oxton House, September 1793.
The journal appears to be one of a series of volumes penned by Swete, according to the ODNB, which formed an itinerary of the county of Devon during travels made by Swete from 1792-1802 all of which were illustrated with sketches made on the spot.
A number of bidders competed for this volume, which was estimated at £300-400, and the hammer came down at £4400.