travellers though looked at in retrospect this was a minor mishap in a life of disappointments. It did at least introduce him to Napoleon, with whom he was able to talk, many years later on St Helena, about his experiences of China. It was that kind of a life.
By any account, Manning’s life is a case study of obsession and failure. When he arrived in Lhasa in December 1811 (becoming the first Englishman to do so), Manning had already been in Asia for four years, mostly in the tiny foreign trading enclave on the edge of Canton. His sojourn had been approved by the East India Company, which held a monopoly on the China trade, though it seems he did not undertake any useful work for it. Instead, dressed in an eclectic approximation of Chinese dress and having grown a beard that he thought gave him the appearance of a Chinese sage, Manning, assisted by a private income, pursued his language studies in rooms in the cramped ‘factory ’ on the waterfront of this huge Chinese city, entrance to which was forbidden to foreign traders. It felt to many like a jail. There the years passed, with Manning engaged in fruitless study of the language, which he never mastered, and hankering to enter China proper.
Finally, in 1817, he got there. Manning hitched himself to the entourage of the second British envoy to China, Lord Amherst, despite the ambassador’s objections to his beard, dress and general unsuitability. But this moment of triumph proved fleeting: Amherst spent barely twenty-four hours in the Chinese capital before being ejected for failing to give assurances that he would conform to the appropriate ritual when greeting the emperor. At this point, Manning also gave up and returned home. He published barely one essay in his lifetime and many of his personal records went astray after his death in 1840. Their rediscovery has allowed Weech to examine afresh the strange life of this well-meaning, eccentric failure. Manning died when British forces were already on their way to prosecute what became known as the First Opium War. His exploits were perhaps part of a greater failure that set the course of China’s history for a long, difficult century and still echoes to this day.
It Could Do with a Lick of Paint A Grand Tour Journal 1820–1822: The Awakening of the Man
By Edward Geoffrey Stanley (Edited by Angus Hawkins)
(Fonthill Media 224pp £25)
‘View of the Great Theatre of Pompeii’ by Jakob Philipp Hackert, 1793
Perfected and polished by Eton and Christ Church, Edward Geoffrey Stanley, the future Earl of Derby and prime minister, made a leisurely tour of Italy and parts of Switzerland and the Alps in 1820–22 and was, on the whole, glori- ously unimpressed by what he saw, as he recorded in his journal, published for the first time here. He was serene in his con- fidence that he deserved the best of every- thing and was thus endlessly disappointed.
There are gems throughout, but the entries for 18 and 19 January 1821 offer a good sample: ‘Dined with the Aylmers, stupid dinner. Mr and Mrs Hutchenson, do not like either … Opera, Madame Appony’s box, none but the Hitroffs and the intended of Catherine – do not like him. Disappointed with the Doria palace’.
And all this only a few days after the Capitol had really let him down, ‘a cruel disappointment ’. Poor chap. To be fair, later on he does say that having looked at prints and read travellers’ accounts before he set off, his initial disappointment with everything was the result of exaggerated expectations. Even Goethe said much the same of his own, earlier Italian journey: he lamented the ‘Piranesi effect ’ of prints of Rome, which implied a gigantic scale, rendering the reality an inevitable disappointment.
This journal is fascinating as a period piece documenting a late stage of the grand tour, after the Battle of Waterloo, when the English were confident earls of creation, on gracious good terms with their quondam allies and prepared to condescend to speak Italian and French at surprisingly international evening parties. The nature of British travel to Italy changed with the Napoleonic Wars, becoming less exclusive and as much focused on scenery as on the monuments of antiquity. It is also notable that living artists seem to have formed much less of the society of Rome than they had done before the wars.
Stanley was not a collector, virtuoso or devotee of the literature and structures of classical Rome, though he did hire a cicerone to show him a few choice monuments of Roman antiquity. While he was interested in seeing pictures, taking particular
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