[Various locations in Europe]: 1908. pp. Original red leatherette. Inner hinge cracked but holding, wear to corners and spine ends. Internally clean. Written in a legible hand. Very good. Item #137
Diary kept by University of Virginia graduate George L. Forsyth, documenting his Grand Tour through Britain and Europe, which his parents gifted him upon his graduation. He and two friends, Hiram Smith and Francis Cox, crossed the Atlantic on the S.S. Columbia to Great Britain. There they toured Scotland, Ireland, and England, moving across the Channel to tour Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, and finally Italy. They returned from Naples to New York aboard the S.S. Madonna.
George's diary is well-written, literate, and legible. He writes with keen observation and an eye for narrative and detail. When they attended church at St. Paul's in London on July 26 for example, he writes, "Sunday we all got pious & went to church at St. Paul's. We were such a long way off from the preacher that we could only hear the voice in the distance, but liked the great organ that pealed out every now & then. ... St. Paul's is an enormous pile, but I don't believe that it is very beautiful, it doesn't impress me like Westminster Abbey or some other cathedrals I could mention. It is huge, & as you look up to the lofty dome you can hardly discern the frescoes on the ceiling, so great is the distance & the damp, smoky atmosphere of London so dense."
The Continent seems to have suited his tastes a bit better. He comments on cafes and the local sights with a far more favorable tone. "The open cafe is characteristic of the Continent everywhere, and it is a splendid institution which ought to adopted in America. The men don't drink much necessarily at these cafes. Indeed I don't believe I saw a 'drink' at any of them wherever we went, & we visited a few. It is convening place for all society -- ladies & gentlemen. And to sit and talk or listen to the music while taking a drink is, I think, the essence of luxury." They visited bath houses and art galleries, and did a fair bit of people-watching and drinking in the night life.
Though impressed by the scenery and art of Europe, George was not, in the end, enamored of the people. He writes quite derisively by the time they arrive in Switzerland near the end of their sojourn. "Switzerland is well called the playground of Europe. Here we saw every nationality: the Italian gentlemen with courtly manners who kissed a ladies fingers when he met her -- that is, as if he knew her fairly well -- & the pot-bellied Germans who were a fat, greasy lot with knapsacks strapped on their backs & little green felt hats with feathers stuck in them; they had a very businesslike air about them as if they had it all planned out ahead of time. They are at their best in their native land. When they travel they are disgusting, they bicker and quarrel over the price of every glass of beer. They are absolutely devoid of sentiment & impulse. We all got to hate those Germans, rather the travelling German. The French here, too, were in profusion. On the whole, though the Europeans have a certain amount of glamour or color about them, yet they disgust me. I couldn't fancy them for a minute."
An engaging account of a young man's trip abroad, with many American observations on the culture and society of Europe at the turn of the century.