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Letters on the scenery of Wales

by Robert Hasell Newell


You determine wisely, not to visit other countries till you have become acquainted with the wonders and beauties of your own. Your intention is equally judicious, to devote a part of the University long vacation to a Tour through Wales. Interesting and instructive it will certainly be, and in after life an opportunity may not so readily occur again. Wales is indeed almost a foreign country within our own; its features, inhabitants, language, manners, and cusr toms, are so very different from those of Eng


land, that the Cambrian Traveller is abroad—a stranger, yet at home.

Your plan is to walk and sketch the scenery,— this too is well. The best way undoubtedly of seeing a country is on foot. It is the safest, and most suited to every variety of road; it will often enable you to take a shorter track, and visit scenes (the finest perhaps) not otherwise accessible; it is healthy, and, with a little practice, easy; it is economical: a pedestrian is content with almost any accommodations; he, of all travellers, wants but little,

"Nor wants that little long."

And last, though not least, it is perfectly independent. Expedition it cannot boast; but this is to you rather an advantage: three miles an hour would be found fast enough for your pursuit; and twelve or fourteen miles a day (more or less), for two months, would carry you through a considerable tour, allowing for a halt on the march, sometimes of two or three days, in order to explore.

Your principal object is to exercise your pencil. Perhaps every tourist would do well to have a principal object, adding as many secondary ones as he pleases. A journal too, or short notes regularly kept, may be recommended: it would save him many a languid hour, and make his tour more pleasant and profitable, both to himself and others. One object there is, which I need not remind you to keep in view—a constant reference of these stupendous scenes to that Being whose " hands formed the dry land."

Now on the subject of your pursuit and mode of travel it is, that you wish for a few hints from me. First then it may be necessary to consult some books as guides. The best I am acquainted with are, Pennant's Tour through Wales, 2 vols. 4to. 1784. Wyndham's Tour, 4to. 1781. Bingley's North Wales, 2 vols. 8vo. 1804. Malkin's South Wales, 4to. 1804, and a work in small 8vo. by Nicholson, of Stourport in Worcestershire, called "The Cambrian Traveller's Guide." It is a compilation from the modern tourists, and condenses much information into a small compass. You will find much taste and knowledge of the country in Sir Richard Colt Hoare's Translation of Giraldus: * and if your route include Monmouthshire, Coxe's Historical Tour through that county, 2 vols. 4to. 1801, will be very useful; it is embellished with some good plates. But for your further edification on the subject of the principality, I will send you a catalogue of some other publications.

As to some general direction for taking a view, an eminent artist, when I first began to sketch from nature, gave me this—Choose the most handsome objects, and the best assemblage of parts. But this, masterly as it is, would no more satisfy you, I apprehend, than it did me, because it cannot be followed without experience. You shall therefore have the benefit of mine (such as it is)— a detail of "the most handsome objects," in my excursions, and "the best assemblage of parts;" in other words, my choice of subjects, and of situations for drawing them. In planning your route,

* The Itinerary of Giraldus De Barri through Wales with Baldwin Archbishop of Canterbury, to preach the Crusade, A. D. 1.588. 3 vols. to. 1806.

you would find it useful to look over the catalogues of our public exhibitions, for such views as might be included in it. It is safe to study scenes chosen by professors, and a stimulus to recollect that they have been drawn. I will send you a list. Your first aim, of course, will be the characteristic features of the country,, and then to exercise your taste and judgment in selecting them. Artists, of merit in other respects, sometimes fail in this. With considerable facility and fidelity of pencil, and even skill in colouring, they have little notion of catching the grand peculiarities of a country, or of choosing them judiciously. I have met with such indefatigable fellows, drawing all day long all that came in their way; and this may be good practice, and help to fill the hint book, but it surely neither improves the taste of the artist, nor displays his genius. Be it your care then to study, and bring back with you, such scenes of sublimity and beauty as wear Cambrian features, and are not to be found at home; and to which I very sincerely wish my sketches were a better introduction.

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