From the assassination of Paul I to Tilsit: The British in Russia and their travel writings (1801–1807)
AbstractRussia’s popularity as a destination for British grand tourists had grown steadily during the reign of Catherine II and was increased when the traditional routes through France to Italy were blocked as a result of the French Revolution. However, Paul I’s change of allegiances from Britain to France threatened to remove even the possibilities of the ‘northern tour’ until his assassination in March 1801 once more brought the British in numbers to St Petersburg and to Moscow for the coronation of the new tsar. During the subsequent six years, until a new Russo-French treaty at Tilsit in July 1807, British tourists were much in evidence in the salons of the Russian capitals, old and new, and many began to explore the further reaches of the empire, notably the ‘new’ Russia of the Crimea and the Black Sea littoral. The antiquities and archaeological sites of the Crimea inevitably evoked associations with the classical world, particularly for the young Oxbridge tourists, some of whom, fired by the emergent Hellenism of the age, proceeded to Constantinople and on to Greece itself. This study introduces the names, and in several cases the letters and diaries, of many young tourists whose very presence and adventures in Russia are virtually unsuspected and unknown and include in their number the noted Cambridge scholar Charles Kelsall, the talented Viscount Royston, who died on his return journey from Russia, as well as the future father of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and ends with establishing the identity of the author of letters known only from their publication in Russian translation.