'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

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Rosamunda
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'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Rosamunda » Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:53 pm

....British travellers in Finland 1760-1830

ISBN 9 780956 107398
CB Editions 25 November 2010
http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780956107398/

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This is from the back cover:

Finland in the eighteenth century was not a destination for the faint-hearted... (...) Part anthology, part history, "Not So Barren or Uncultivated" gives a picture of Finland at a time when it was little known to the outside world. It also presents the familiar figure of the Englishman Abroad in very unfamiliar terms.

Me:
This book is a gem: entertaining, fascinating, astonishing. I'm loving it. The author has brought together the writings of 20 Brits who travelled through Finland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The travellers came from very different backgrounds: some were scientists, anthropologists, poets, writers, army officers, academics... One had even travelled to Finland to win a bet. Some write in a factual, academic style and others are more literary but all are informative and entertaining (though this may not have been their intention at the time of writing). The descriptions of Finnish landscapes, the travelling conditions (riding a horse and carriage across the ice through the archipelago from Sweden to Finland in the middle of winter) and even the hospitality and communications with the natives reveal what an awfully big adventure it was for those intrepid travellers.

Tony Lurcock's clever collage of these snippets from the past adds to the enjoyment. At times I suspected Mr Lurcock of purposefully omitting all the nasty bits as if he were conspiring (along with his chosen authors) to portray Finland as a lost paradise (William Coxe):

(...) the snow cast a strong light; and our sledges made a very picturesque appearance as they winded around the whitened hills , pierced into the thick forests, or extended in a straight line along the frozen surface of the lakes. During our course , the still silence of the night was relieved by the carols of our drivers, who frequently sang the most simple and pleasing airs. In this progress I beguiled the length of the journey, either by listening to their songs echoed by the surrounding forests, by admiring the unusual cast of the nocturnal scenery, or by slumbering in my travelling couch as comfortably as in a bed...


and then a few pages further on (this time from Edward Daniel Clarke)

He (the author) had not long been in the bed, where the mosquitos proved sufficiently troublesome, when he saw a dark moving spot upon the white curtain, which proved to be the most enormous species of bug (...) soon after he saw three more of a size hardly to be credited; when starting up, what words can express his astonishment and disgust, in beholding myriads, moving in all directions over his bed and body. Heaps of them adhered together, like bees about to swarm: and mingled with these nauseous insects, there were other vermin, of a description so filthy and abominable as to be nameless in every civilised society...

(...)

The manners of the people were so revolting, that one hesitates in giving the description of anything so disgusting


Although most of the tales come from travels along the Great Coastal Road (the Kings Road) there are also excursion further afield and notably into Lapland.

I've learned a lot about Finland 250 years ago and quite a bit about travelling Brits. Indeed, Lurcock quotes one of the authors who said "they were as curious about us, as we were of them". We laugh at Brits who whine about not being able to find sliced white bread and Marmite.... nothing (apparently) has changed much.

Lovely book, Clarke's account is especially colourful and interesting.

:thumbsup:
Last edited by Rosamunda on Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

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Pursuivant
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Re: 'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Pursuivant » Sun Mar 27, 2011 4:01 pm

I think I need to get that. So far my favorite, Mrs Alex Tweedies "Through Finland in Carts" proves very little has changed since 1897 :lol:
"By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes."


Rosamunda
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Re: 'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Rosamunda » Sun Mar 27, 2011 5:40 pm

Of those travellers from 1760-1830 only the last one is a lady: Charlotte Disbrowe Marchioness of Westminster and she visited Finland c.1825. Her account of Finland ("Our little trip into Finland succeeded famously") suggests she was more of a tourist than an adventurer, but she limited herself to Imatra, Helsinki, Turku along the Coastal Road which was by then a pretty well-travelled route. It's interesting that nearly all the travellers were in awe of the strength and stamina of Finnish horses and their ability to speed effortlessly through the sometimes difficult terrain ("always full gallop uphill").

Thanks for the link, have always wanted to read her book but never knew where to find a copy. Now I have it on my PC :D


Jukka Aho
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Location: Espoo, Finland

Re: 'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Jukka Aho » Sun Mar 27, 2011 8:24 pm

The Project Gutenberg website is a bit oddly designed in that the “Read this book online” link leads you to a clumsily paginated, dull-looking plain-text version, whereas the “HTML” link in the “Download” section takes you to a version that is laid out in a much nicer way (and comes with scanned images, as well!) – and, despite being in the “Download” section, which would appear to suggest otherwise, can be read “online”. So click on the “HTML” link if you just want to read it in your web browser.
znark


Rosamunda
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Re: 'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Rosamunda » Sun Mar 27, 2011 9:00 pm

I have Kindle for PC on my laptop (which is a tablet PC, not a whole lot bigger than a Kindle). I downloaded it, so no need to be on-line to read the book :D


Jukka Aho
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Location: Espoo, Finland

Re: 'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Jukka Aho » Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:35 pm

Yes, you already said you downloaded it. (I didn’t really mean to comment your post but just intended to add a bit of information to Pursuivant’s original post in case someone would click the “Read this book online” link and decide it’s not worth the trouble in that format...)
znark


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Pursuivant
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Re: 'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Pursuivant » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:40 pm

penelope wrote: It's interesting that nearly all the travellers were in awe of the strength and stamina of Finnish horses and their ability to speed effortlessly through the sometimes difficult terrain ("always full gallop uphill").


Image
Maantie Hämeessä, W. Holmberg 1860
"By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes."


Rosamunda
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Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 12:07 am

Re: 'Not So Barren or Uncultivated' Tony Lurcock

Post by Rosamunda » Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:03 am

Tony Lurcock has just published another book of the writings of British travellers in Finland. This new book covers the period from 1830 to 1917. It includes the adventures of Pursuivant's favourite: Ethel Brilliana (aka Mrs Alec) Tweedie and indeed a few other women.

I really recommend reading the other book first because the contrast between the writings of those first intrepid adventurers and these more recent travellers is quite staggering.

Mr Lurcock was in Helsinki last week (he gave a talk at www.finnbrit.fi) and there was a great review in HBL about his book last week too. Stockmann has sold out already!

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