"At Tenby” Newell, Robert Hasell, 1821. Letters on the scenery of Wales: including a series of subjects for the pencil, with their stations determined on a general principle: and instructions to pedestrian tourists. London: Printed for Baldwin, Craddock, and Joy (PHI 02318)
For many 18th and 19th century travellers, taking the Grand Tour of Wales was not simply travel for travel’s sake, but an opportunity to see and capture the picturesque for themselves in sketches, paintings and poems. These would-be Gilpins, Ruskins and Turners could turn to specialist publications, such as Robert Newell’s Letters on the Scenery of Wales, which would lead them directly to those most picturesque of locations.
The Rev. Robert Newell (1788-1852) was an author and illustrator who studied under the water-colourist William Payne and the illustrations for Letters on the Scenery of Wales are Newell’s own work, engraved in aquatint by T. Sutherland.
Newell’s book is set out as a series of letters to “My dear young friend” and includes guidance to pedestrian tourists on topics such as what to wear, when to visit, useful publications, and what drawing implements to take. The advice given is more prescriptive than suggestive in its tone; the young budding artist is not simply directed to specific sites but is told exactly where to stand, exactly what to draw and even exactly how to draw it in order to produce the perfect picturesque composition. For example:
"Llaugharne Castle" Newell, Robert Hasell, 1821. Letters on the scenery of Wales
“Llaugharne (sic.) Castle will make you a pair of excellent drawings. First go down the street; cross the brook to one of the houses on your right hand - that with a stone horseblock before the door: it was a blacksmith’s. Then face about just below it. Let theouter line of the castle (next the water) be over theangular point of the wall before it; and the base of the wall as high as the lowest windows of the house”.
Newell has similarly dogmatic opinions on walking and, though he starts by saying “I can give you no rule to lay out your day”, he goes on to do just that:
“I have always thought the time from six to nine o’clock in a morning, the most sultry and oppressive part of the day. No breeze is awake, no clouds collected, the sun’s power steady and increasing, and the bodily frame not yet braced and fortified against it. The plan I have found most eligible is, to begin my walk after as early a breakfast as I can procure, reach my destination in the afternoon, then taking another meal, give the evening to exploring and sketching. At all events, do not time yourself; many a fine drawing is thus lost: sunrise and sunset are the only hours a pedestrian must notice. Neither is a pocket of provisions necessary; a crust, with a draught from some brook, will carry you through the day” (Newell, 1821).