One may consider the tourist of death meme modern, but the following eighteenth century book suggests it’s older than we think.
A seemingly innocent travelogue by one Samuel Ireland, insouciantly recording works of art and partaking of other highbrow activities in 1789, oblivious to the the French Revolution happening stage left as noises off.
Here’s the text of the title page in text (when you wrote down street names as hyphenated – it looks strange now, but it was the custom):
A PICTURESQUE TOUR THROUGH HOLLAND, BRABANT, AND PART of FRANCE, MADE IN THE AUTUMN OF 1789, BY SAMUEL IRELAND, AUTHOR OF THE HISTORIES AND PICTURESQUE SCENERY OF THE RIVERS THAMES, MEDWAY, AND AVON, AND GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATIONS OF HOGARTH. THE SECOND EDITION, WITH ADDITIONS; AND AN ENTIRE NEW SET OF COPPER-PLATES IN AQUA-TINTA, FROM DRAWINGS MADE ON THE SPOT. IPSE OCULIS PERLUSTRAVIT. LIV. VOL. I. LONDON: PRINTED FOR T. EGERTON, WHITEHALL; WHITES, FLEET-STREET ; ROBSON, HOOKHAM & CARPENTER, AND FAULDER, BOND-STREET ; LEIGH AND SOTHEBY, YORK-STREET, COVENT-GARDEN ; PAYNE, MEWSGATE ; SEWELL, CORNHILL ; AND G. SAEL, STRAND. 1796.
However, and perhaps disappointingly, Mr Ireland is not, as it turns out, quite so careless of what was going on around him at the time. A part of the preface (to the second edition) begins as follows:
Political discussions were not originally intended to form a part of this work, nor would they have been at all adverted to, but from the very peculiar and interesting circumstances that presented themselves at that moment. Those were of so extraordinary a nature as to command the attention of Europe, and more immediately that of our own country, whose existence in a great measure we have found deeply interested in the events then depending. …
He’s not going to remain silent about what was going on in France at the time. In fact the rest of that part of the preface says he’s left the revolutionary discussions, those that he put in the first edition, unaltered.
His travels started in Holland, and his writings are accompanied by anecdotes. Here’s the first one:
… The late King (George the Second) on his return from one of his excursions to Hanover, being detained some weeks by contrary winds, fixed his residence in one of them in preference to every other accommodation the town afforded. In one of his rambles, meeting a pretty Dutch girl on the quay, he accosted her with a Good morrow ! what have you in your basket, child ? Eyeren, Mynheer ; eggs, Sir. And what is the price, my dear ? A ducat a piece. What ! are eggs so scarce then in Holland ? No, Sir, replied the girl, but Kings are.
Tee, as they say, hee.