Art, Creativity, Photography, Travel, Writing

I have just discovered why I enjoy travelling so much, enjoy keeping a journal and have recently started art journalling – it’s all in my blood.  A suggestion by a dear friend of mine that I create a collage of my ancestors reminded me that a painting hangs in my parents’ house of one our ancestors, a certain Marianne Colston nee Jenkins.


painted by a James Crodsell Middleton (1810-1877).

Curious to see if I could discover anything about her on the internet I typed in the name “Marianne Colston” and discovered that she was a travel journalist! She was the author of a publication entitled “Journal of a Tour in France, Switzerland, and Italy, during the years 1819, 1820, and 1821, illustrated by fifty Lithographic Prints”. By Marianne Colston, 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 796. London, 1823. View the digitised version of her journal (volume one) (sadly without the 50 lithographic prints).  The original apparently is in the New York Public Library.  However, about half of the pictures from her journal can be viewed here.

She was born in 1792 and married Edward Francis Colston of Roundway House, near Devizes in South West England, on 1 November 1819. She died on 2 October 1865.  They had 1 daughter and 3 sons.  One of her husband’s ancestors, another Edward Colston  (1636-1721), founded the Colston school for boys and subsequently opened the  Colston Hall, dedicated to musical entertainment, in Bristol in 1867.

My mother is descended from Edward, brother of Marianne’s husband.

The George Glazer gallery in New York provides the following information:

“Lithographs of spectacular unspoiled mountainous sites of great natural beauty, most of which depict waterfalls, in France, Switzerland, and Italy.  They are from what was originally a two-volume Grand Tour travel set incorporating a travel narrative written by Marianne Jenkins Colston and 50 lithographs based on her on-site sketches.  Colston begins her story immediately after her wedding to Edward Francis Colston, a member of the British peerage, when the couple sailed from England to Havre de Grace in France.  The detailed account continues through France, Italy and Switzerland.  In her preface, Colston described them:

Fifty lithographic prints of some of the most picturesque and beautiful points of view described in these volumes, taken from the original drawings of the author, accompany the work, and she hopes the pencil will supply the deficiencies of the pen in placing these interesting scenes before the eyes of the reader.”

The Grand Tour was a trip through continental Europe undertaken by wealthy British citizens, focusing on sites of historical and cultural importance as well as natural wonders.  There was a great demand for prints and descriptions of popular sites on the Tour during the 19th century. Colston’s is but one of many travel journals that were published in England in the first quarter of the 19th century.”

Marianne starts her journal thus: “That I may hereafter enjoy the pleasure of reviewing past happy hours, and renewing the recollection of some singular and amusing adventures, I commence this narrative of the Tour I am making with my dearest earthly friend ; and perhaps some partial eyes may hereafter with pleasure peruse these pages.

On the 1st of November, 1819, I quitted my beloved parents, having that morning tied that awfully important Gordion knot, which the hand of death can alone untie, and from which the thread of life becomes either much more or much less happy than before. On the 2nd of November, with a sky unusually serene for the season, and a favouring breeze, we embarked on board the Chesterfield packet from Southampton. The beautiful views on each side of the Southampton river delighted me greatly; but I pass over scenes so well known, together with the too frequently endured horrors of sea-sickness, of which I had but a slight trial, as eight o’clock on Wednesday morning saw us landed at Havre de Grace.”

Nine months later, in Como, Italy, she gave birth to their first child, a daughter called Arabella, on 29 July. Journal entry for 18 September reads “After a residence of between two and three months at Como, I must not quit it without a few observations on what it contains most worthy of notice. This town is celebrated for having given birth to Pliny the younger; to Paolo Giovio, who was successively physician, bishop, and historian; to Pope Innocent XI and Clement XIII; and to the physician Volta. But it possesses a higher interest in my breast, as having been the birthplace of my little darling Arabella, who here first saw the light of day, at half after eleven o’clock, on the 29th of July.”

After the publication of her Journal in 1823, The European magazine, and London review, Volumes 83-84 By Philological Society (Great Britain), had this to say about it:

“Unless travels are devoted to points of history, to statistical inquiries, or to science or art, we would much rather that they should be written by ladies than by gentlemen. The fairer sex have a Tighter buoyancy of spirits, they see every thing through a gayer medium, and their pencil sketches what they see with such a felicitous lightness, that the reader fancies the scene to be present; and, when he awakes to reality, it is only to wish that he had been the compagnon de voyage of the fair Traveller, or that he might be able to follow the same track, and to see the same objects through the same medium, and to experience the same gladsome sensations.” … “Our fair traveller seems to have been stimulated by what many might be inclined to call female curiosity, but what our gallantry would designate by the better name of a thirst for knowledge.” … “There is one species of information which these volumes, as well as every other Tour that has fallen within our knowledge, totally neglects. We mean the value of money at different places, information on which point would be extremely useful to the vast numbers who are obliged to resort to the continent, from motives that would induce them to direct their course to where moderate comforts could be acquired at the most moderate cost.”

You can read the free digitised version of the full article here (click on p.69 to open the relevant article).

Also in 1823, the Literary gazette and journal of belles lettres, arts, sciences, Volume 7 somewhat disparagingly had this to say:

Fiftv lithographic prints, from drawings by Mrs. Colston, are published, to illustrate the tour: they are not of the best class, and rather overburdened with waterfalls; and we are also of opinion that it is an odd taste, and unpromising of success, to illustrate an octavo book with folio prints.”

You can find the free digitized version of this article in Google Books too. You can either read the original printed articles or plain text versions. However, since the plain text versions are the result of OCR (optical character recognition) there are many mistakes in them! But it all makes fascinating reading and provides an insight into a time gone by.

5 of her pictures are here and another one here (I think this one is particularly fine).

Comments on: "Meet one of my relatives" (9)

  1. How wonderful, Carol, now you know what’s been driving you!!

  2. This is so cool! 🙂

  3. This is so great. I recognize a common impulse. Who knew? most interesting.

  4. Doing genealogy can be quite revealing and a lot of fun. It seems that the travel bug is truly a family affair for you.

  5. What treasure and how exciting- I can see you printing elements off and using it in your collage pieces and journals!

  6. It is a gift to be able to find out so much about an ancestor of yours. To share her talent of travel writing is amazing! I enjoyed the information you shared and took a look at the lithographs. They are gorgeous!

  7. Isn’t is so exciting to find such a bond with your ancestors and the past?


  8. It is really a joy to find the DNA still pumping away Carol. What an exciting find. It really is a gift.

  9. What an exciting discovery – how amazing that you are following in her footsteps

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