New Book | Enlightenment Travel and British Identities
From Anthem Press:
Mary-Ann Constantine and Nigel Leask, eds., Enlightenment Travel and British Identities: Thomas Pennant’s Tours of Scotland and Wales (London: Anthem Press, 2017), 250 pages, ISBN: 978 17830 86535, £70 / $115.
Thomas Pennant of Downing, Flintshire (1726–1798), naturalist, antiquarian and self-styled ‘Curious Traveller’, published accounts of his pioneering travels in Scotland and Wales to wide acclaim between 1769 and 1784, directly inspiring Dr Johnson, James Boswell and hundreds of subsequent tourists. A keen observer and cataloguer of plants, birds, minerals and animals, Pennant corresponded with a trans-continental network of natural scientists (Linnaeus, Simon Pallas, Joseph Banks, Gilbert White) and was similarly well-connected with leading British antiquarians (William Borlase, Francis Grose, Richard Gough). Frequently cited as witness or authority across a wide range of disciplines, Pennant’s texts have seldom been themselves the focus of critical attention. There is as yet no biography of Pennant, nor any edition of his prolific correspondence with many of the leading minds of the European Enlightenment.
The ‘Tours’ were widely read and much imitated. As annotated copies reveal, readers were far from passive in their responses to the text, and ‘local knowledge’ would occasionally be summoned to challenge or correct them. But Pennant indisputably helped bring about a richer, more complex understanding of the multiple histories and cultures of Britain at a time when ‘Britishness’ was itself a fragile and developing concept. Because the ‘Tours’ drew on a vast network of informants (often incorporating material wholesale), they are, as texts, fascinatingly multi-voiced: many of the period’s political tensions run through them.
This volume of eleven essays seeks to address the comparative neglect of Pennant’s travel writing by bringing together researchers from literary criticism, art history, Celtic studies, archaeology and natural history. Attentive to the visual as well as textual aspects of his topographical enquiries, it demonstrates how much there is to be said about the cross-currents (some pulling in quite contrary directions) in Pennant’s work. In so doing they rehabilitate a neglected aspect of the Enlightenment in relation to questions of British identity, offering a new assessment of an important chapter in the development of domestic travel writing.
Mary-Ann Constantine is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. She has written widely on the Romantic period in Wales and Brittany.
Nigel Leask is Regius Chair in English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow. He divides his time between Glasgow, the West Highlands, and Mexico.
C O N T E N T S
List of Figures and Plates
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Thomas Pennant, Curious Traveller — Mary-Ann Constantine and Nigel Leask
1 ‘A round jump from ornithology to antiquity’: The Development of Thomas Pennant’s Tours — R. Paul Evans
2 Thomas Pennant: Some Working Practices of an Archaeological Travel-Writer in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain — C. Stephen Briggs
3 Heart of Darkness: Thomas Pennant and Roman Britain — Mary-Ann Constantine
4 Constructing Identities in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Pennant and the Early Medieval Sculpture of Scotland and England — Jane Hawkes
5 Shaping a Heroic Life: Thomas Pennant on Owen Glyndwr — Dafydd Johnston
6 ‘The First Antiquary of his Country’: Robert Riddell’s Extra-Illustrated and Annotated Volumes of Thomas Pennant’s Tours in Scotland — Ailsa Hutton and Nigel Leask
7 ‘A galaxy of the blended lights’: The Reception of Thomas Pennant — Elizabeth Edwards
8 ‘As if created by fusion of matter after some intense heat’: Pioneering Geological Observations in Thomas Pennant’s Tours of Scotland — Tom Furniss
9 Geological Landscape as Antiquarian Ruin: Banks, Pennant and the Isle of Staffa — Allison Ksiazkiewicz
10 Pennant, Hunter, Stubbs and the Pursuit of Nature — Helen McCormack
11 Pennant’s Legacy: The Popularization of Natural History through Botanical Touring and Observation in Nineteenth-Century Wales — Caroline R. Kerkham
Short Bibliography of Thomas Pennant’s Tours in Scotland and Wales