At the end of my last ‘Mariana Starke’ post I left Mariana, her mother, father and her sister, Louisa, in the winter of 1791 journeying south through Europe. On 3 December Mrs Crespigny, Mariana’s friend and patron, noted in her diary that she had received letters from Lyons; from the context I presume these were from the Starke party.
We next glimpse the Starke family at Nice on 18 April 1792 – at Louisa’s deathbed. She was just 20 years old.
Mariana and her parents, presumably still accompanied by Mrs Crespigny’s servant, ‘Scott’, then left Nice in May in order to travel north to Geneva. It is this journey that Mariana describes in ‘Letter 1’ of Letters from Italy, the work that eventually developed into Information and directions for travellers on the continent, the guide to European travel for which she became famous.
Mariana’s magnum opus has a complicated publishing history, each stage in its development reflecting the changing ability and inclination of the British (and, indeed, American) public to travel and consume culture during the period 1792-1838 as Europe swung between war and peace.
The first edition of the work that eventually developed into Information and directions for travellers on the continent was published in December 1799 (with 1800 publication date on title page) by ‘R. Phillips of 71 St Paul’s Churchyard’ and was entitled:
Letters from Italy, between the years 1792 and 1798, containing a view of the revolutions in that country, from the capture of Nice by the French republic to the expulsion of Pius VI from the ecclesiastical state: Likewise pointing out the matchless works of art which still embellish Pisa, Florence, Siena, Rome, Naples, Bologna, Venice etc. With instructions for the use of invalids and families who may not choose to incur the expence attendant upon travelling with a courier. It was printed by T. Gillet, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, for R. Phillips, no 71, St Paul’s Church-yard, in 1800.
The two-volume work followed in the epistolary tradition well established by male – and a few female – travel writers but, as you will see from the lengthy, explanatory title, included not only comment on the current state of affairs but detailed information on all the art and antiquities that the author considered should be viewed by the tourist, together with exhaustive recommendations – and warnings – covering all practical details of routes, inns, shopping, laundering, eating etc in order to make the journey – particularly if taken for reasons of health – as comfortable and economical as possible.
Mariana’s publisher, ‘R. Phillips’, was Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840) considered by his contemporaries an eccentric and a radical and, even more preposterously, renowned as a vegetarian. Five years later Phillips published William Hayley’s Ballads, illustrated by William Blake. It may be that Phillips was already in Hayley’s circle in 1798/1799 when Mariana would have been looking for a publisher. The firms of J. Walter and Debrett, with whom she had previously done business, had either not been approached or had rejected this new venture.
I have no idea if, when she set off with her family in the autumn of 1791, Mariana thought that she would publish, in any form, reports of her travels. With her mother, she was the sole survivor of the party and did not, I think, return to England until 1798. However, at some point during those seven years the idea of turning her experience into a publication must have occurred to her, for in the ‘Advertisement’ to the second edition (1815) she notes that ‘The first Edition of this Work was written abroad, where the Author had so many domestic duties to fulfil, that she could only find leisure sufficient to draw up a hasty statement of facts…’. For during those sometimes harrowing years it was Mariana to whom responsibilities as both nurse and journey planner fell – but it’s clear that, nevertheless, she did keep notes that could be worked up into a book.
We can follow a variety of clues in order to spy on Mariana as she travelled. For instance, we know that, having journeyed north to Geneva in May 1792 the Starkes returned quickly to Nice, arriving on 22 September, when they learned of the impending war between Sardinia and France. By the 27th the French fleet was off Nice. In her Letters Mariana describes how ‘I immediately went to the quay, with an intention of hiring an English merchantman (our nation being at peace with France), and getting my family and friends embarked before the city was bombarded, a circumstance which we hourly expected to take place; but no English vessel could I find ready for sea…’ After a great deal of anxiety the Starkes were eventually able to escape by sea. Having been ‘advised to make as little parade as possible on our way to the port, my family went two and two by different paths, while I, being obliged to stay to the last, walked down, dressed as a servant, passing all the French posts without the smallest molestation…‘ With her love of theatricals, I can imagine that Mariana rather revelled in playing this part.
The Starkes reached Genoa on 14 October 1792, went from there by sea to Leghorn (Livorno) and then on to Pisa. There they encountered, among other English visitors, Lady Spencer (mother of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire), to whom, in 1811, Mariana dedicated the first poem in her slim volume, The Beauties of Carlo-Maria Maggi Paraphrased.
In April and May 1793 the Starkes were in Rome, meeting there with the family of John Flaxman, the sculptor. If the Starkes had not previously been known to the Flaxmans – the latter having been in Italy since 1787 – during the course of the next couple of years a firm friendship was cemented.
The Starkes returned to Pisa where they spent the winter of 1793/4 and it was there that Richard Starke died, aged 74, on 5 March 1794. He was buried on 9 March at Livorno. [For a very interesting article about Richard Starke’s grave see here.]
We know that some days later, on 21 March, Mariana was visiting her friend Lady Bolingbroke who was also in Pisa. [I can’t at the moment check the reference but believe it comes from the Journal of Sarah Bentham, held in the Colchester Papers at the National Archives.] Lady Bolingbroke was born Charlotte Collins, daughter of the Rev Thomas Collins, who had been tutor to Viscount Bolingbroke. A friend of the novelist Charlotte Smith, Lady Bolingbroke had translated some of Smith’s poems into Italian and presumably shared a similar literary friendship with Mariana. Poor Lady Bolingbroke certainly needed to think beautiful thoughts in order to take her mind off the scandal that had enveloped her marriage (for gossipy details see here). Previous sightings of Mariana and Lady Bolingbroke together had been made in Pisa by American-born Count Rumford in late 1793.
Mariana and her mother remained in Pisa before moving on to Florence, where we shall renew our acquaintance with them in the summer of 1794.