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  • MARK R. F. WILLIAMS (a1)


This article assesses the role of memory, interiority, and intergenerational relations in the framing of early modern experiences and narratives of travel. It adopts as its focus three generations of the Clerk family of Penicuik, Scotland, whose travels through Europe from the mid-seventeenth century onward proved formative in the creation of varied ‘cosmopolitan’ stances within the family. While such widely studied practices as the ‘Grand Tour’ have drawn on discourses of encounter and cultural engagement within the broader narratives of the ‘long’ eighteenth century, this article reveals a family made deeply anxious by the consequences of travel, both during and after the act. Using diaries, manuscript correspondence, memoirs, and material objects, this article reveals the many ways in which travel was fashioned before, during, and long after it was undertaken. By shifting focus away from the act of travel itself and towards its subsequent afterlives, it explores the ways in which these individuals internalized what they experienced in the course of travel, how they reconciled it with the familiar, quotidian world to which they returned, and how the ‘cosmopolitan’ worldviews they brought home were made to inform the generations that followed.


Corresponding author

School of History, Archaeology, and Religion, Cardiff University, John Percival Building, Colum Road, Cardiff, cf10


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The author wishes to thank Richard Ansell and Keir Waddington for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. Valuable comments were also provided by John Gallagher, Sarah Goldsmith, and Eva Johanna Holmberg at the ‘Cultures and Practices of Travel’ Conference at the University of Leicester. The author is also grateful to Sir Robert Clerk of Penicuik, Bt, for permission to publish material from the Clerk Papers at the National Records of Scotland.



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1 Todd, Margo, The culture of Protestantism in early modern Scotland (London, 2002), esp. ch. 3.

2 National Records of Scotland (NRS), papers of Clerk family of Penicuik (NRSCP), GD18/2090 ‘Register of personal covenants’, fo. 135[v].

3 NRSCP, GD18/2090, fo. 129[v].

4 NRSCP, GD18/2090, fo. 125[r].

5 Some of the original letters survive in NRSCP, GD18/5175.

6 Sweet, Rosemary, ‘British perceptions of Florence in the long eighteenth century’, Historical Journal, 50 (2007), pp. 837–59; Sweet, Rosemary, Cities and the Grand Tour: the British in Italy, c. 1690–1820 (Cambridge, 2012).

7 NRSCP, GD18/2090, ‘4 Apr. 1676’, ‘20 Aprile 1676’.

8 Sir George McKenzie, later 1st earl of Cromarty (1630–1714), Sir Andrew Ramsay, Lord Abbotshall (1619–88), NRSCP, GD18/2090, ‘6 Mar.’, ‘19 Mar.’, ‘2 Apr.’, ‘13 June’.

9 NRSCP, GD18/2090, fo. 130[v].

10 For instance, Ansell, Richard, ‘Educational travel in Protestant families from post-Restoration Ireland’, Historical Journal, 58 (2015), pp. 931–58; Verhoeven, Gerrit, Europe within reach: Netherlandish elites on the Grand Tour and beyond (Leiden, 2015).

11 Recently noted in Chalus, Elaine, ‘“Cette fusion annuelle”: cosmopolitanism and identity in Nice, c. 1815–1860’, Urban History, 41 (2014), pp. 610–11. On cosmopolitanism in historical context, see Jacob, Margaret C., Strangers nowhere in the world: the rise of cosmopolitanism in early modern Europe (Philadelphia, PA, 2006); Games, Alison, The web of empire: English cosmopolitans in an age of expansion, 1560–1660 (Oxford, 2008); Walkowitz, Judith, Nights out: life in cosmopolitan London (London, 2012), esp. pp. 48; Beck, Ulrich and Sznaider, Natan, ‘Unpacking cosmopolitanism for the social sciences: a research agenda’, British Journal of Sociology, 57 (2006), pp. 123.

12 Cf. Colley, Linda, Britons: forging the nation, 1707–1837 (London, 1992).

13 Holmberg, Eva Johanna, ‘Writing the travelling self: travel and life-writing in Peter Mundy's (1597–1667) Itinerarium Mundii’, Renaissance Studies, 31 (2016), pp. 608–25.

14 Gallagher, John, ‘The Italian London of John North: cultural contact and linguistic encounter in early modern England’, Renaissance Quarterly, 70 (2017), p. 90.

15 Goldsmith, Sarah, ‘Dogs, servants and masculinities: writing about danger on the Grand Tour’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 40 (2017), pp. 321.

16 Sweet, Grand Tour, p. 18.

17 Carr, Rosalind, Gender and enlightenment in eighteenth-century Scotland (Edinburgh, 2014), esp. ch. 1; Larkin, Hilary, The making of Englishmen (Leiden, 2014), pp. 50–6; Cohen, Michèle, ‘“Manners” make the man: politeness, chivalry, and the construction of masculinity’, Journal of British Studies, 44 (2005), pp. 312–29.

18 Cohen, Michèle, ‘The Grand Tour: language, national identity and masculinity’, Changing English, 8 (2001), pp. 129–41.

19 Walsham, Alexandra, ‘The Reformation of the generations: youth, age and religious change in England, c. 1500–1700’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 21 (2011), pp. 93121; Crawforth, Hannah Jane, ‘“A father to the soul and a son to the body”: gender and generation in Robert Southwell's Epistle to his father’, in Ditchfield, Simon and Smith, Helen, eds., Conversions: gender and religious change in early modern Europe (Manchester, 2017), pp. 6180.

20 von Greyerz, Kaspar, ‘Ego-documents: the last word?’, German History, 28 (2010), pp. 273–82, esp. pp. 278–9; Bepler, Jill, ‘Travelling and posterity: the archive, the library and the cabinet’, in Babel, Rainer and Paravicini, Werner, eds., Grand Tour: adeliges Reisen und europäische Kultur vom 14. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. (Thorbecke, 2005), pp. 191203.

21 Talbott, Siobhan, Conflict, commerce and Franco-Scottish relations, 1560–1713 (Aldershot, 2014), esp. chs. 6–7.

22 John Clerk to ‘Johne Dougal elder’, 6 Feb. 1645, in Talbott, Siobhan, ed., ‘The letter-book of John Clerk of Penicuik, 1644–45’, Miscellany of the Scottish Historical Society, 6th ser., 15 (2014) (hereafter ‘Letter-book’), p. 24.

23 John Clerk to Lady Pittendrum, 15 Apr. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 35.

24 Clerk to Pittendrum, 20 May 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 35.

25 Clerk to Margaret Gray, 20 Sept. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 43.

26 Clerk to Rires, 20 Sept. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 41.

27 Brown, Iain Gordon, The Clerks of Penicuik: portraits of taste and talent (Edinburgh, 1987), p. 9.

28 For instance, Clerk to Rires, 20 May 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 37.

29 Clerk to Lady Pittendrum, 20 Sept. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 42.

30 Clerk to Lady Pittendrum, 24 Nov. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 45; Warneke, Sara, ‘A taste for newfangledness: the destructive potential of novelty in early modern England’, Sixteenth Century Journal, 26 (1995), pp. 881–96.

31 Clerk to Pittendrum, 3 Nov. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 44; Clerk to Janet Gray, 3 Nov. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, pp. 44–5.

32 Clerk to Janet Gray, 3 Nov. 1645, Paris, in ‘Letter-book’, p. 47.

33 Gray, John M., ed., Memoirs of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, Baronet…Publications of the Scottish History Society, 13 (Edinburgh, 1892), p. 4.

34 Gray, ed., Memoirs, p. 4.

35 Brown, Clerks of Penicuik, p. 9.

36 A stance suggested in Games, Web of empire, ch. 3.

37 NRSCP, GD18/2090, fo. 135[v].

38 Gray, ed., Memoirs, p. 8 incl. marginal note by Clerk.

39 Ansell, ‘Educational travel’, passim. On the terminology of the ‘Grand Tour’, see Sweet, Rosemary, Goldsmith, Sarah, and Verhoeven, Gerrit, ‘Introduction’, in Sweet, Goldsmith, and Verhoeven, eds., Beyond the Grand Tour: northern metropolises and early modern travel behaviour (London, 2017), pp. 67.

40 NRSCP, GD18/5177/1, James Clerk to John Clerk II (hereafter ‘JCII’), 12 May 1676, Edinburgh; NRSCP, GD18/5177/2, James Clerk to JCII, 6 July 1676, London.

41 NRSCP, GD18/2567.

42 NRSCP, GD18/5175, letters of Elisabeth to JCII; Wilcox, David, ‘Scottish late seventeenth-century clothing: some context for the Barrock Estate finds’, Costume, 50 (2016), esp. pp. 165–6.

43 NRSCP, GD18/2090, fo. 2[v].

44 NRSCP, GD18/2090, fos. 1[r]–2[v].

45 Gray, ed., Memoirs, p. 8.

46 Todd, Margo, ‘Puritan self-fashioning: the diary of Samuel Ward’, Journal of British Studies, 31 (1992), pp. 236–64.

47 NRSCP, GD18/5177/34, letter of James Clerk to JCII, 20 Jan. 1679.

48 Ibid. On Jansenism, see Richardt, Aimé, Le jansénisme: de Jansénius à la mort de Louis XIV (Paris, 2011); Maire, Catherine, De la cause de Dieu à la caused la nation: le jansénisme aux XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1998).

49 NRSCP, GD18/5177/36. [Responses by John Clerk to James Clerk.]

50 Sandrock, Kirsten, ‘Truth and lying in early modern travel narratives: Coryat's Crudities, Lithgow's Totall Discourse and generic change’, European Journal of English Studies, 19 (2015), pp. 189203; Claydon, Tony, Europe and the making of England (Cambridge, 2007), ch. 1.

51 NRSCP, GD18/5179/1, James Clerk to JCII, 26 Oct. 1680, Paris; GD18/5179/2, JCII to James Clerk, 1 Nov. 1680, [Edinburgh].

52 Mijers, Esther, ‘Scotland, the Dutch Republic and the Union: commerce and cosmopolitanism’, in Macinnes, Alan and Hamilton, Douglas J., eds., Jacobitism, Enlightenment and empire, 1680–1820 (London, 2014), p. 97; Mijers, Esther, ‘News from the Republick of Letters’: Scottish students, Charles Mackie, and the United Provinces, 1650–1750 (Leiden, 2012), ch. 2.

53 Mijers, ‘Commerce and cosmopolitanism’, p. 96.

54 Gray, ed., Memoirs, p. 12.

55 For the role of tears in early modern masculinity, see Capp, Bernard, ‘“Jesus wept” but did the Englishman? Masculinity and emotion in early modern England’, Past and Present, 224 (2014), pp. 75108.

56 NRSCP, GD18/5194/11, ‘Covenant’; also transcribed in van Strien, Kees and Ashmann, Margreet, ‘Scottish law students in Leiden at the end of the seventeenth century: the correspondence of John Clerk, 1694–1697’ (hereafter ‘Leiden correspondence’), Lias, 19 (1992), p. 305.

57 NRSCP, GD18/5194/11, JCII to John Clerk III (hereafter ‘JCIII’), 13 Sept. 1694, ‘Queans Ferrie’.

58 NRSCP, GD18/5197/3, JCIII to JCII, 14 Mar. 1695, Leiden.

59 NRSCP, GD18/5194/16, JCII to JCIII, [12 July 1695, Edinburgh].

60 Brown, Iain Gordon, ‘Prelude and pattern: the remarkable Grand Tour of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik (1676–1755) in the 1690s’, in Borley, Lester, ed., The Grand Tour and its influence on architecture, artistic taste and patronage (London, 2008), pp. 4471, esp. p. 52.

61 Mijers, Scottish students, pp. 66–7; Otterspeer, Willem, De vesting van de macht: De Leidse Universiteit, 1673–1775 (Amsterdam, 2002).

62 On ‘colleges’, see ‘Leiden correspondence’, p. 289.

63 NRSCP, GD18/5197/5, JCIII to JCII, 4 July, ‘Leyden’; Brundin, Abigail and Roberts, Dunstan, ‘Book-buying and the Grand Tour: the Italian books at Belton House in Lincolnshire’, The Library, 16 (2015), pp. 5179.

64 NRSCP, GD18/5197/9, JCIII to JCII, 3 Jan. 1696, Leiden.

65 NRSCP, GD18/5197/6, JCIII to JCII, 26 Sept. 1695, Leiden.

66 NRSCP, GD18/5194/11, JCII to JCIII, 13 Sept. 1694, ‘Queans ferrie’; Mijers, Scottish students, p. 51.

67 NRSCP, GD18/5194/14, JCII to JCIII, 25 Feb. 1695, ‘Newbiging’.

68 For foreign language instruction, see Gallagher, John, ‘“Ungratefull Tuscans”: teaching Italian in early modern England’, The Italianist, 36 (2016), esp. pp. 403–4; Gallagher, John, Learning languages in early modern England (Oxford, forthcoming), ch. 4. I am grateful to John Gallagher for sharing a manuscript copy of this book.

69 NRSCP, GD18/5194/11, JCII to JCIII, 13 Sept. 1694, ‘Queans ferrie’; Mijers, Scottish students, p. 51.

70 NRSCP, GD18/5197/2, JCIII to JCII, ‘Leyden the 28 of Feb’, 1695.

71 NRSCP, GD18/5197/3, JCIII to JCII, 14 Mar. 1695, ‘Leyden’.

72 NRSCP, GD18/5194/16, JCII to JCIII, 12 July 1695, Edinburgh, in ‘Leiden correspondence’, p. 15.

73 Ibid.

74 NRSCP, GD18/5197/6, JCIII to JCII, 26 Sept. 1695, ‘Leyden’; GD18/5194/19, JCII to JCIII, 16 Oct. 1695, Edinburgh; GD18/5197/9, JCIII to JCII, 3 Jan. 1696, Leyden.

75 NRSCP, GD18/5197/9.

76 Sweet, Cities and the Grand Tour, p. 18.

77 NRSCP, GD18/5197/10, JCIII to JCII, 21 ‘Februarie’ 1696, Leyden.

78 Ibid.

79 Claydon, Europe and the making of England, pp. 28–44.

80 Ibid.; Burnet, Gilbert, Some letters containing an account of what seemed most remarkable in travelling through Switzerland, Italy, etc. (London, 1696).

81 NRSCP, GD18/5194/17.

82 JCII to JCIII, [Edinburgh, 2 Mar. 1696], in ‘Leiden correspondence’, p. 39.

83 Ibid., p. 40.

84 Ibid., p. 42.

85 Ibid., p. 42. Sweet, Rosemary, ‘The changing view of Rome in the long eighteenth century’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33 (2010), pp. 145–64, esp. pp. 151–2.

86 NRSCP, GD18/5197/12, JCIII to JCII, 8 May 1696, Leyden.

87 NRSCP, GD18/5197/16, JCIII to JCII, 26 Oct. 1696, Leyden.

88 NRSCP, GD18/5197/17, JCIII to Forbes, 20 Nov. 1696, Leyden.

89 NRSCP, GD18/5207/1, JCII to JCIII, 7 Jan. 1697, [Edinburgh].

90 NRSCP, GD18/5197/22, JCIII to JCII, 16 Aug. 1697, Vienna.

91 Recently explored in Liesbeth Corens, Kate Peters, and Alexandra Walsham, eds., ‘The social history of the archive: record-keeping in early modern Europe’, Past and Present: Supplement 11 (2016).

92 Sweet, Cities and the Grand Tour, pp. 19–20; Ansell, ‘Educational travel’, passim.

93 NRSCP, GD18/5202/45, ‘Conto dal Sign: Cavaleri Clerk’; GD18/5202/65, Browne to JCIII, 3 Aug. 1700, ‘Roma’; Welch, Evelyn, ‘Scented gloves and perfumed buttons: smelling things in Renaissance Italy’, in Mirabella, Bella, ed., Ornamentalism: accessories in Renaissance Europe (Ann Arbor, MI, 2012), pp. 1339.

94 NRSCP, GD18/5202/8, ‘Giacomo Kremberg’ to JCIII, 26 Dec. 1697, London; for Kremberg, see Davidson, Peter, ‘Leo Scotiae Irritatus: Herman Boerhaave and John Clerk of Penicuik’, in Barfoot, C. C. and Todd, Richard, eds., The great emporium: the Low Countries as a cultural crossroads in the Renaissance and the eighteenth century (Amsterdam, 1992), p. 168; Kooimans, Luc, Het Orakel. De man die de geneeskunde opnieuw uitvond: Herman Boerhaave 1669–1738 (Amsterdam, 2011).

95 NRSCP, GD18/5202/28, Bassani to JCIII, ‘12 Aprile 1698’; GD18/5202/12, ‘Preston’ to JCIII, 3 Jan. 1698, Edinburgh.

96 NRSCP, GD18/5202/33 [List of Payments] ‘1 September 1698’.

97 NRSCP, GD18/5202/11 [John Paterson?] to JCIII, 1 Jan. 1698.

98 NRSCP, GD18/5202/13, Cosimo Clerk to ‘My dearest Jack’ [JCIII], 31 Jan. 1698, ‘Roma’; GD18/5202/51, Caprara to JCIII, 17 ‘Genov:’ 1699, ‘Roma’.

99 NRSCP, GD18/5202/47 [Supplication], ‘Rome 1698’.

100 Cohen, ‘The Grand Tour’, p. 132.

101 NRSCP, GD18/4536, John Paterson to JCIII, 6 May [1696?], Rome. For Misson, see Richard Ansell, ‘Reading and writing travels: Maximilien Misson, Samuel Waring, and the afterlives of European voyages, c. 1687–1714’, English Historical Review (forthcoming). I am grateful to the author for permitting me to read this article in advance of publication.

102 Ansell, ‘Reading and writing travels’, pp. 10–11. Clerk can only have loosely followed Misson's travel itinerary, as the ordering of his travels suggests a more improvised route: compare Brown, ‘Prelude and pattern’, p. 57, with Misson, Maximilien, A new voyage to Italy (London, 1695), passim.

103 NRSCP, GD18/5208/3, JCIII to JCII, 1 Mar. 1698/9, Florence.

104 Gray, ed., Memoirs, pp. 24–7.

105 Ibid., pp. 29–30; NRSCP, GD18/5202/18, Cosimo Clerk to JCIII, 6 Mar. 1698, ‘Pisa from the Court’; GD18/5202/19, Cosimo Clerk to JCIII, 25 Mar. 1698, Florence.

106 NRSCP, GD18/5202/42, JCIII to Cosimo III de’ Medici [undated].

107 Gray, ed., Memoirs, pp. 26 and 28.

108 NRSCP, GD18/2095, rear cover.

109 NRSCP, GD18/2095, pp. 225–6.

110 Ibid., fos. 6v, 7r, 8r. This section is incomplete and unpaginated. References have been given from beginning of unpaginated section as above.

111 Ibid., fo. 10v. Sexual mores while travelling, while heterodox, have received remarkably little attention, as noted in Sarah Goldsmith, Danger, risk and masculinity on the eighteenth-century Grand Tour (forthcoming), ch. 1. I am grateful to the author for access to this chapter.

112 NRSCP, GD18/5202/43, JCIII to Cosimo de’ Medici [undated], ‘il desiderio che V[ost]ra Altezza Serenissima si degna d'havere per la salute della mia povera anima’.

113 Ibid., pp. 331–2.

114 Goldsmith, ‘Dogs, servants and masculinities’, passim.

115 NRSCP, GD18/5207/4, JCIII to JCII, 16 Aug. 1698, Rome.

116 NRSCP, GD18/5207/5, JCII to JCIII, 13 Sept. 1698, Edinburgh.

117 NRSCP, GD18/5207/2, JCIII to JCII, 21 Feb. 1698/9, Paris; GD18/5202/53, Cosimo Clerk to JCIII, 27 Jan. 1699, Rome.

118 NRSCP, GD18/5207/10, JCII to JCIII, 18 Aug. 1699, Edinburgh.

119 NRSCP, GD18/5207/11, JCIII to JCII, 19 Sept. 1699, Rotterdam.

120 Gray, ed., Memoirs, p. 36.

121 NRSCP, GD18/5202/60, Kremberg to JCIII, ‘2 Maart 1699’, Amsterdam. ‘So het moogelijk is, soo bidde UED voor mij te koopen, de Boeken op Luijt te speelen van Mons Gautier…Ik sal het hier weer betaalen.’ Kremberg was moving on 1 May from the Herengracht to the Keizersgracht.

122 NRSCP, GD18/5202/57, Matthijs van den Brandt to JCIII, ‘5 Februarij 1699’, ‘Leijde’; GD18/5202/61, van den Brandt to JCIII, ‘20 Maart 1699’, [Leiden].

123 Gray, ed., Memoirs, p. 236–40, ‘Note B’.

124 NRSCP, GD18/2090, fo. 125[v].

125 NRSCP, GD18/3122, passim.

126 Walsham, ‘The Reformation of the generations’, p. 120.

The author wishes to thank Richard Ansell and Keir Waddington for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. Valuable comments were also provided by John Gallagher, Sarah Goldsmith, and Eva Johanna Holmberg at the ‘Cultures and Practices of Travel’ Conference at the University of Leicester. The author is also grateful to Sir Robert Clerk of Penicuik, Bt, for permission to publish material from the Clerk Papers at the National Records of Scotland.

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