Welsh Journals

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Taste, of course, had changed dramatically since the mid-seventeenth century. The obsession with religious questions which had so plagued English intellectual development was now replaced by a growing interest in natural philosophy reflected in the founding of the Royal Society and the work of Newton and Boyle, Wren and Evelyn. Under the influence of the moral philosophy of the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1661-1713), critical discrimination and the search for principles upon which to base artistic and cultural discernment became fashionable among the upper classes. Shaftesbury's teaching also led men towards a totally different view of nature, hitherto regarded as coarse, unpolished and disharmonious.5 Shaftesbury, however, showed that although nature lacked the harmony, symmetry and proportions of great art and was, therefore, inevitably inferior, the very fact that nature itself revealed the majesty of God entitled it to some respect. While he conceded that mountains were 'ghastly and hideous', he nevertheless observed that their very wildness was pleasing in its own way, thereby making the first tentative step towards an appreciation of natural scenery. To the early eighteenth century eye, used to observing the regularities of controlled form, this must initially have seemed strange indeed. Nowhere is the evolution of taste and the change in attitudes towards the fine arts, landscape gardening, architecture and 'nature' better chronicled than in the letters and diaries of the travellers themselves. Of course, many of these, penned by the dilettanti and men of fashion, were consciously written with publication in mind and provide a valuable insight into both their aesthetic and social canons. The ordinary country gentleman, however, with no obsessive desire to be considered a 'Person of Taste' and with relatively slender financial resources, undertook the Grand Tour with the dual objective of self-improvement and the pursuit of a little pleasure, before settling down to the business of managing his patrimony. Where he kept a diary it would usually be a modest affair which would serve as an aide memoire rather than a verbose tome intended for publication. Such diaries tend to be quite unselfconscious and without affectation. Written, as they were, in draughty French inns or under the hot Tuscan sun, they allow us a glimpse of the attitude of the ordinary eighteenth century Englishman towards foreign travel, foreign taste and occasionally towards his fellow countrymen. In the unscheduled Gogerddan archive in the National Library of Wales languishes the travel diary of the Breconshire squire, George Lewis Langton, which, according to a note on the end-paper, was 'sent from Rome wth other things after his death'. George was the son of Catherine, daughter of John Lewis of Coedmor and Aber- nantbychan in Cardiganshire and his wife Elizabeth, by an Irishman called Langton. Of George's brief life we know little save that he graduated from Magdalene in 1731, became a member of Lincoln's Inn and, several years later, spent a period of time in Europe.6 In his will, proven in 1738, he devised all his real estate in Llan- gors, Breconshire to his 'dear friend' Walter Pryse of Woodstock who had become the second husband of his grandmother Elizabeth Lewis.7 The close marital association between the Woodstock family and the Pryse family of Gogerddan