Introduction: Ann Flaxman and the Journey to Rome

Introduction: Ann Flaxman and the Journey to Rome

Portrait by Henry Howard (c. 1797), National Portrait Gallery, London.

1.        Ann Flaxman's Journey to Rome tells the story of a female Grand Tour, something quite rare, and of an extended artist's visit to Italy, something quite common. In 1787 Flaxman set out for France and Italy with her husband, the sculptor John Flaxman, and a small company of fellow travellers. During her journey and in the months that followed her arrival in Rome, Flaxman kept a perceptive and entertaining journal for the benefit of friends at home, a group that included William and Catherine Blake. Personal yet nonetheless typical of its genre, Flaxman's previously unpublished Journey serves as an excellent introduction to English travel writing just before the French Revolution, and to the late-eighteenth-century international arts scene. It also reveals the challenges and rewards of being an atypically poor traveller and an aspiring woman writer. Flaxman's journal covers her tour through France and Italy in the fall and winter of 1787, a month of sightseeing in Rome, and a two-month excursion to Naples, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Paestum, and Vesuvius in early 1788. It ends when she returns to Rome and settles into life as an expatriate, the start of a period that would ultimately stretch to seven years.

Ann Denman and John Flaxman

2.        Ann ("Nancy") Flaxman is best known today as the wife of one very famous man and the friend of another. [1]  Her husband John Flaxman became the inaugural professor of sculpture at the Royal Academy and was considered one of the best draftsmen and sculptors of all time by his contemporaries. Her friend William Blake, though less renowned in his lifetime, is now widely ranked among the greatest of English poets and illustrators. But Ann Flaxman was not merely a facilitator to great men. From humble beginnings she rose to be a dedicated amateur artist, a significant collector of contemporary art, a cherished friend to many important figures in the arts, a role model—for dubious reasons—to successive generations of women, and an engaging diarist and correspondent. She has come down to us only because of her famous connections: her letters and journals have been preserved thanks to her husband's name where other ordinary Englishwomen's have not. But she deserves to be seen for herself.

3.        Ann Denman Flaxman was born in 1760. Her father, William D. Denman, was a gunstock maker who experienced a bankruptcy when Ann was 15; her mother died before Ann reached adulthood (Houpt 41; "Commissioners" 3; Houpt 653 n.22). Ann was relatively well educated, with good French and at least some Latin, and she began earning her own living quite early, working as a schoolteacher at Miss de St. Leu's Boarding School (Houpt 42). She evidently expected to make her future in education, perhaps as a partner in a school. The prospect did not please her, both because there was little money in it and because of the work itself: after she became engaged to John Flaxman, she wrote with pleasure to a friend, Thomas Cheetham, "I shall now have no occasion to keep a school which is believe me dear Sir a very tiresome life at best, there are so many different tempers to please" (Add. Mss. 39781, f. 345, qtd. in Houpt 95).

4.        Ann met John Flaxman in January, 1780, and the couple seems quickly to have become serious. Ann would not marry without her father's permission, however, and the rising young sculptor earned nowhere near enough to please Mr. Denman. Denman twice rudely refused John Flaxman's personal appeals. He forbade the couple to correspond, a ban they uneasily defied with the help of a fellow teacher from Ann's school. He forbade them to see one another; they continued to meet occasionally with the help of Ann's aunt Ann (Mrs. James) Kirk, who also did her best to persuade William Denman to change his mind. During John and Ann's painful year-long courtship, which is documented in letters at the British Library, John wrote of how much he honored Ann for being willing to speak her love openly unlike other women of her day. Both young people, however, clearly despaired more than once. After nearly a year Mr. Denman was persuaded to give his approval, and the marriage ultimately took place in June 1781. Ann and John settled in small quarters in Wardour St. with a maid and several "workmen"—probably John's sculpture assistants—and seem to have lived blissfully ever after.

5.        John Flaxman was five years older than Ann. Born in 1755, he was the son of a successful London cast maker (someone who made plaster casts from antiquities) who also did some designing for Josiah Wedgwood. Artistic talent ran in the family: John's sister Mary Ann became an illustrator and his brother William a miniaturist, though neither achieved anything like John's fame. A sickly child who used crutches for years, John was evidently an artistic prodigy, attracting the attention of patrons even in childhood. At the age of eleven he first exhibited a clay model at the Society of Arts (later the RSA), and from 1770-75 he attended the Royal Academy of Arts alongside Thomas Stothard, followed four years later by William Blake. During his training and the early years of his marriage, John exhibited nearly every year at the Royal Academy Exhibitions, frequently winning prizes, and tried unsuccessfully for the Royal Academy's scholarship to Rome. He had begun designing for Wedgwood around 1775, something he continued through the eighties, and his classically influenced designs were successful enough that Wedgwood would commission him to oversee the work of a Wedgwood employee in Rome. Thus by the time Ann and John married, John was already well respected, although not commercially successful. The Whitehall Evening Post announcement of the marriage calls John "an eminent statuary of Wardour-street," and where in 1783 the Public Advertiser had referred to him only as "Young Flaxman," by 1788 The World deemed him one of the most promising English sculptors ("Married" 1; "Royal Academy" 1; "Italy" 1).

6.        John Flaxman was also an interesting character. Though his contemporaries describe him as far from handsome (some go so far as to call him hunchbacked), every portrait of him is dominated by his large expressive eyes, which seemed to those who knew him to communicate his soul. Meeting him in old age, Ludwig Schorn wrote:

A very small, thin and exceedingly hunched man in a grey summer coat came in: he had few grey hairs, his face was pale and ill and his features anything but regular. But a singular peace and mildness lay in them and out of his large and finely arched eyes shone vigorously a lively spirit and a sharply critical intelligence. In few men have I seen coupled this seriousness with so much good nature, in none this sweetness of conduct with such an unprepossessing exterior. (qtd. in Bindman, John Flaxman 31)
Early in the Flaxmans' marriage John became a member of the Theosophical Society, which formed in December 1783 to translate and publish the works of Emanuel Swedenborg (Houpt 115). It is unclear whether Ann shared this enthusiasm. Accounts of John's death stress a more conventional Christianity, emphasizing his everyday humanity, his lack of interest in worldly possessions, and his utter dedication to art. Whatever his actual beliefs, it is clear that he was dearly loved by a circle of friends that included many of the best artistic minds of his day.

The Flaxmans and the Blakes

7.        William Blake is today considered the most important member of John Flaxman's circle, but it might almost be more accurate to call Blake a member of Ann Flaxman's circle. Blake's relationship with John was sometimes contentious; his relationship with Ann was generally better. The Flaxmans appear to have met William and Catherine Blake through their mutual friend Stothard during their courtship or early in their marriage. The Flaxmans were among Blake's earliest and most dedicated supporters, introducing him to several of John's own patrons and helping subsidize the publication of Blake's Poetical Sketches in 1793. The two families became especially close after the Flaxmans' return from abroad. Blake's first known poems to Ann were written as part of the watercolor illustrations of Gray's poems that John Flaxman commissioned for his wife's birthday in 1797. The first is a two-line dedication placed at the bottom of Blake's index to the poems chosen for this collection:

Around the Springs of Gray my wild root weaves
Traveller repose & Dream among my leaves.
(Blake 482)
The passionate lushness of the natural world blends here with the seductive mystery of dreams, in a beautiful creative collaboration between illustrator and traveller. Yet most interesting may be the image of leaf-cradled repose. Starting exactly ten years previously, and for two-thirds of a decade, Ann Flaxman had been a literal traveller. Reading and writing had been an oasis for her, a way to maintain ties to England and sort through her complex reactions to each new experience. Now, with Gray's poems, Blake was offering her both refuge and creative inspiration in one of the most English of poets.

8.        On the final page, Blake inscribed this poem to his friend:

"To Mrs Ann Flaxman"
A little Flower grew in a lonely Vale
Its form was lovely but its colours. pale
One standing in the Porches of the Sun
When his Meridian Glories were begun
Leaped from the steps of fire & on the grass
Alighted where this little flower was
With hands divine he movd the gentle Sod
And took the flower up in its native Clod
Then planting it upon a Mountains brow
'Tis your own fault if you don't flourish now
(Blake 482)
Helen P. Bruder's extended discussion of this poem links it directly to specific passages from Ann's Journey to Rome, which Blake likely read. Bruder's argument on this point is not entirely convincing, but, like Margaret Ruth Lowery sixty years earlier, she offers incontrovertible proof that Ann and William Blake had a close and mutually respectful relationship. Bruder's work is thus an important corrective to misreadings of the relationship by various male critics from the twentieth century who have downplayed the connection, interpreted Ann's repeated praise of Blake as evidence only of her failure to understand him, or assumed that Blake's tone in this poem is scolding or didactic. Instead, "To Mrs Ann Flaxman" acknowledges the forces of circumstance—where we are planted—in shaping our characters and potential for action. Having been moved from her native soil to the artistic pinnacle that was Rome, Ann had a whole world of experience to share. Her later life experiences and travels suggest that she flourished every bit as well as her gently teasing friend William Blake had hoped.

9.        Ann is also the object of an occasional poem from 1800, "To my dear Friend Mrs. Anna Flaxman," in which Blake presses Ann to bring John for a visit to Felpham, where William and Catherine Blake had just settled in a cottage belonging to William Hayley. The poem is enclosed in a letter full of gratitude from Catherine Blake to Ann, who had helped create the connection between the Blakes and Hayley. But although Blake regularly showed his work to both Ann and John, and praised Ann as "a good connoisseur in engraving," relations between the Blakes and the Flaxmans were not always so smooth—or rather, relations between John and William were often less affectionate and supportive than those between Ann and William (Blake 758). John was more than once the subject of Blake's poetical mockery or anger. David Erdman's argument that Steelyard the Lawgiver in An Island in the Moon represents Flaxman is widely accepted, and several satiric epigrams attack Flaxman as one of many who failed to appreciate Blake sufficiently:

My title as Genius thus is provd
Not Praisd by Hayley nor by Flaxman lovd.
(Blake 505)
John Flaxman had sent engraving work in Blake's direction beginning soon after the two met. He introduced Blake to his own patrons, helped fund the publication of Blake's first work, and after his return from Rome helped arrange the abovementioned cottage for William and Catherine Blake, a deed which Blake had praised with typical extravagance:
To My Dearest Friend John Flaxman
these lines

I bless thee O Father of Heaven & Earth that ever I saw Flaxmans face
Angels stand round my Spirit in Heaven. the blessed of Heaven are my friends upon Earth
When Flaxman was taken to Italy. Fuseli was giv'n to me for a season
And now Flaxman hath given me Hayley his friend to be mine such my lot upon Earth . . .
(Blake 707)

10.        But it took little to offend Blake. He and John Flaxman had a series of disagreements and professional conflicts, and around 1808 Blake penned a series of zinging unpublished epigrams attacking Hayley, Stothard, and Flaxman. In this notebook Flaxman is referred to as "Blockhead," "Fool," and "Ass" (Blake 507-8). The tensions went both ways: Flaxman wrote to Hayley in 1804, on the occasion of Blake's trial for sedition and assualt on a soldier who sought to be quartered in Felpham, that "Blake's irritability as well as the association & arrangement of his ideas do not seem likely to be soothed or more advantageously disposed by any power inferior to That by which men were originally endowed with his faculties" (2 January 1804, qtd. in Houpt 363). There was never any permanent split between the friends, but in 1816 Ann wrote to John that Blake had been "very violent" to a mutual friend, "beyond all credence, only that he has serv'd you his best friend the same trick time back, as you must well remember . . . I have nothing to say in this affair It is too ticklish, only I know what has happened both to yourself & Me, & other people are not oblig'd to put up with Blake's odd humours—but let that pass" (1 July 1816, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 364v).

11.        Blake's wildly inconsistent reactions to John Flaxman must have included considerable professional jealousy. Although John Flaxman never became wealthy, he earned great respect from the work he did in Italy and after, and he enjoyed the security of a Royal Academy appointment after 1810. It may have galled Blake that John Flaxman was in a position to steer work his way as early as 1783 and as late as 1815. Blake was also known throughout his life for resenting the advice of those who encouraged him to focus more on commercial work than on his creative endeavors. John Flaxman repeatedly praised and acted as a true friend to Blake's art. Yet he must have been an exacting model. John spent immensely long days in his sculpture studio and dedicated most evenings to sketching and planning. The work of a sculptor is partly inspiration, but partly also diligent physical labor; the work of an artist-poet requires a different pace.

12.        Blake goes so far in one epigram as to state that John was imitating or even plagiarizing from him, and in the Rossetti Manuscript, he claims that Flaxman's first monument and his illustrations of Homer and Dante were really Blake's work, even though "he went far enough off to Publish them, even to Italy." Someday, Blake wrote furiously, "the Public will know and Posterity will know" Blake for their true creator (Blake 572). Despite this animosity, Blake seems to have tried to preserve a good relationship with Ann. Ann admired Blake's art, got on well with Catherine Blake, and seems to have done her best to ease tensions between the friends when possible. As Blake wrote in his epigram "To Nancy F—"

How can I help thy Husbands copying Me
Should that make difference twixt me & Thee
(Blake 507)
Blake's grievances, real or imagined, were not to interfere in the friendship between him and Ann.

13.        Ann's circle of friends, of course, included many people besides the Blakes, and that circle was particularly large during the years in Rome. John's studio there attracted many visitors, including European artists like Angelica Kauffmann, Antonio Zucchi, and Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun; antiquarians like Sir William Hamilton, long-time British ambassador to Naples; and dignitaries like Viscountess (Margaret) Spencer, who commissioned John's Aeschylus drawings and to whom Ann became fondly attached through her friendship with Georgiana Hare-Naylor. The Flaxmans' more intimate friends in Rome included the French architect Charles Percier; the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova; the Irish portraitist Hugh Douglass Hamilton and his family, their closest friends in Italy until the Hamiltons left in 1791; the young English architect Samuel Bunce; and the English artist Guy Head, who supposedly associated only with Canova and Flaxman, scorning the rest of the English arts community as "most infamously debauched with respect to women" (Add. Mss. 39780, f. 45; Add. Mss. 36496, f. 220, qtd. in Ingamells 480). They also became acquainted with an ever-changing host of other British visitors to Rome, some identifiable and some now lost to history.

14.        By the time the Flaxmans left Rome in 1794, John was relatively famous for his Homer illustrations, and he had completed several important sculpture commissions. But back in 1787, when the Flaxmans packed their things and shipped some boxes to Rome in preparation for what was planned as a visit of just two years (Constable 28), they were still rather ordinary and very poor—not at all the sort of people to be sought out by high connections. Most British and European travellers to Italy were far wealthier than the Flaxmans. Most came from far more illustrious backgrounds. But this atypical social and economic standing is precisely what makes Ann's travels so extraordinary.

The Journey to Rome

15.        The most entertaining story about how the Flaxmans got to Rome may be a fiction, according to those familiar with Sir Joshua Reynolds's attitudes, but, because it is part of the cult that grew up around Ann Flaxman in the mid-19th century, it is worth retelling here. In the words of Lydia Maria Child's Biographies of Good Wives (1846), shortly after the Flaxmans' wedding Reynolds tried to make John Flaxman doubt the wisdom of marriage for any artist:

[H]appy in the company of one who had taste and enthusiasm . . . [John] never doubted that in the company of her whom he loved he should be able to work with an intenser spirit; but of another opinion was Sir Joshua Reynolds. "So, Flaxman," said the President one day, as he chanced to meet him, "I am told you are married; if so, sir, I tell you you are ruined for an artist.["] Flaxman went home, sat down beside his wife, took her hand, and said with a smile, "I am ruined for an artist," "John," said she, "how has this happened, and who has done it?" "It happened," said he, "in the church, and Ann Denman has done it; I met Sir Joshua Reynolds just now, and he said marriage had ruined me in my profession. . . .

"I have long thought that I could not rise to distinction in art without studying in Italy, but these words of Reynolds have determined me. I shall go to Rome as soon as my affairs are fit to be left; and to show him that wedlock is for a man's good, rather than his harm, you shall accompany me. If I remain here, I shall be accused of ignorance concerning those noble works of art which are to the sight of a sculptor what learning is to a man of genius, and you will lie under the charge of detaining me."

In this resolution Mrs. Flaxman fully concurred. [2] 

In this telling Ann exists merely to serve John's needs, and in various nineteenth-century reprints of the story, she is held up as the model of a good woman willing to sacrifice even family ties and country to facilitate her husband's career.

16.        The reality, however, was quite different: Ann was every bit as enthusiastic to see Rome as her husband and definitely better prepared for the trip. Her French got them through the first part of the tour, even if she claims it was inadequate for following comic theatre, and served her particularly well during a visit to the Duke of Bouillon's court in Navarre made on behalf of Wedgwood. As John wrote to his parents from France, "My dear Nancy is meat drink Cloathes & Lodging to me, as she procures all these advantages with wonderful readiness by her eloquence in the language of the country" (1 October 1787, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 39). Playing translator sometimes grew tedious, and at one point Ann wrote to her father that "I am almost tired of talking French as I have a double task to perform in that way; though by the way Mr. F begins to speak that language tolerably well; he can go to the shops for Books and paper etc. and make himself understood very well." At the same time, however, she took pride in being able to hold her own: "I must tell you your Daughter got some Praise for her Pronunciation and Phraseology, (but vanity avaunt)" (Add. Mss. 39780, ff. 162-3, qtd. in Houpt 136). Although she calls her Italian "almost unintelligible" during her first months in Italy, she quickly improved enough to make possible the day-to-day practicalities without which art is not possible, like negotiating with landlords and doing the shopping—at least until she discovered that even a bold Englishwoman could not break through the Italian taboo against unaccompanied women in public (Journey f. 54v) [3] . By July 1788, she writes her father that "I have learnt the true Italian shrug & get great Credit in talking the Language freely—we have Italians visit us who cannot speak a word of English & with these we discourse for hours together, sometimes I serve in Capacity of Interpreter between them & Flaxman who has not given so much time to study it as I have" (17 July 1788, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 177). Ann seems to have had some Latin as well, although not as much as John, who knew enough to converse in that language with the priests he met during his travels. While in Rome she mentions reviewing her Latin, and she may tried to learn a little Greek then or later: in 1800 she writes that she has been construing a few lines of Homer "by the help of Hederici"—Benjamin Hedericus, author of the Latin-language Lexicon Manuale Graecum (letter to John Flaxman, 2 October 1800, Add. Mss. 39780, ff. 230v-31).

17.        Ann was also the family financier. John had worked out an arrangement with Wedgwood to execute some models as well as supervise an employee while in Rome, but a good portion of the funds for the Italian journey was borrowed from Ann's family (Bindman, John Flaxman 48; Constable 110-11; Irwin, John Flaxman 29 and note 1). During her travels Ann writes frequently about money and is always glad when she can strike a good bargain for lodging or meals. Although John later bragged to Joseph Farington that they lived on £120 a year while in Rome and that other British artists should be able to do the same, Sarah Symmons has found that from 1790-94 the Flaxmans were supported not by John's earnings but by loans, never repaid, from the Denmans and from Ann's uncle James Kirk (Farington, 16 December 1795, 2.445; Symmons 71 and note 14). Indeed, even once his commissions began increasing, John Flaxman was never prosperous: he consistently charged too little for his work and he hated competing with other artists. Ann's careful management made the sojourn in Italy possible.

18.        The Flaxmans set off in September 1787 in a party of seven. Least in status, though easiest as company, were Mr. and Mrs. John Devaere (whose name both Flaxmans invariably spell as Deveare or Devear). Devaere was a young employee of Wedgwood who was being sent to study in Rome; John had agreed to supervise his work and choose the best statues for Devaere to cast for Wedgwood. Ann seldom writes of Mrs. Devaere, but they were close enough to enjoy an excursion to Frescati together the following year. John Flaxman and John Devaere, meantime, got along well enough that Devaere shared John's studio in the Via Felice for some time. The remaining members of the party were Dr. Benjamin Bates of Little Missenden, a physician and arts patron; his teenage daughter Lydia, a budding artist; and a friend of Bates referred to only as "friend Eliot." The Bateses and Flaxmans got along well initially, but by 1791 John Flaxman was writing home that Dr. Bates "behaved himself in such a manner here that when he went away he had not one friend; those who were most intimate with him were most embroiled by his caprice & vanity & everyone was glad when he was gone" (postscript to an undated letter from Ann Flaxman to Mary Flaxman, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 54). Lydia, meantime behaved in such a way that one twentieth-century source claims, without evidence, that she "had an unsatisfactory love affair with Flaxman" (Nicolson, note to plate 97). Ann's own language concerning Lydia makes it seem more likely that Lydia merely tired of the friendship as the two families got on one another's nerves. Writing to her sister-in-law after Lydia's departure, Ann mentions "my once affectionate Lydia," expresses uneasiness that Lydia now refuses to live with either of her (separated) parents, claims that "ingrate as she is, I still love her," and then suggests that Mary "mention my name to her" if she visits "& tell me how she likes the sound of it" (21 November 1791, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 55v). Such troubles were well in the future, but even during the journey, small frictions arose. Once Ann reaches Florence and the rest of the party scatters, she writes with relief of having some time to herself at last.

19.        One final member of the party deserves mention, if only for the amusement and trouble she gave her masters: the Flaxmans' little dog Priscilla or "Miss Prissy," who survived carriage overturns with solemn grace only to run away for several days as soon as the party reached Rome. Along the way the Flaxmans also travelled with new-found friends ranging from a former pupil of Rousseau's whom John jokingly called "Jean Teagues Rousseau" to a comically choleric Englishman, Major John Gardner, whom they met their first day in Rome and with whom they would spend considerable time touring the sights of Rome and Naples.

20.        The journey itself is documented not only in Ann's journal but also in various sketchbooks and notebooks of John's, and in letters from both Ann and John to their respective families, hers more regular than his. Ann's Journey to Rome was clearly intended for an audience, as discussed below, but the couple showed the whole range of their journals and sketchbooks to friends once they returned to England, and their heirs continued to do so after their deaths (Symmons 65 and note 4; Crabb Robinson 120). John's sketches include copies of important art, casual sketches from life, and little things that Ann asked him to draw as a record of their experiences, like a "curiously ugly" fork.

21.        After crossing the Channel on a packet boat, the travellers rented coaches, like most English visitors to Europe. Several times Ann writes gleefully of stuffing the pockets of her carriage with picnic food to avoid the bad fare available in places that saw few tourists, but in fact the Flaxmans' route was among the most common for English travellers headed to Rome. Still, travelling was seldom simple even in the 1780s. Between tourist stops amenities were few and tourist accommodations themselves were often lacking. Contemporary guidebooks recommended, for instance, that travellers carry their own sheets to avoid bedbug attacks. Complaints about bugs are a staple of eighteenth-century travel diaries, and Ann mentions buggy beds on several occasions. Lodging, however, was usually easy to procure; the one time the Flaxmans struggle to find accommodation, on a side trip to Naples, they have misunderstood a villager's directions and gotten stranded between two standard stopping points.

22.        Ann clearly travelled with several guidebooks: her discussion of Naples borrows heavily from Lalande's Voyage d'un François en Italie, footnotes mention Moore's A View of Society and Manners in Italy and an unidentified "description of France," and she twice refers readers to Vasi's "Description" (Itinerario istruttivo di Roma, o sia Descrizione general della opere più insigni di Pittura, Scultura e Architettura), which she probably consulted in French translation before her journey. Moreover a large section from volume five of Lalande's Voyage is copied into the same notebook as the Journey to Rome, perhaps as a translation exercise. Standard guidebooks like Moore's and Lalande's gave exchange rates (which Ann copied into her footnotes), detailed the post routes, recommended particular lodging houses where English tastes could be accommodated, and so on. The Flaxmans' party took one of the most common routes: Brighton, Dieppe, Rouen, Menlan, St. Germains, Paris, and so on through France, across the Alps, and on toward Rome. And once the Flaxmans reached Rome, they settled, predictably, in the heart of the international or "English" quarter, right on the Piazza di Spagna. That area, the Spanish Steps, was heavily dominated by British visitors and residents. It had been an artists' district since the seventeenth century, and the Via Paolina at one end (now Via del Babuino) contained many tourist inns and galleries. In April 1788 John Flaxman set up a permanent studio on the nearby Trinità dei Monte. The Flaxmans stayed in the English district throughout their time in Rome, living for much of their stay in the Piazza Mignanella and ultimately moving to the Strade Felice, now Via Sestina (Houpt 152, 201). They would not return to England until 1794, by which time they would have to dodge Napoleon's troops in their journey north. But to hear the Journey to Rome tell it, they had reached perfection, the "enchanting city" where Ann claims she would contentedly dwell forever were it not for friends back home, and in which, she writes to her aunt, "years seem as months, months as days, days as little hours,"  (ff. 44v, 39v; letter to Ann Kirk, 16 June 1788, Add. Mss. 39780. f. 176v).

Rome and the Arts

23.        "A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see" (Boswell, 11 April 1776, 3.36). The "man" to whom Samuel Johnson here refers is of course the ideal eighteenth-century gentleman, whose education was still expected to include a Grand Tour culminating on Italian shores. Yet Johnson's statement applied even more to visual artists. For painters and sculptors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, study in Italy was nearly essential. Italy was the great school for the arts. It housed the world's the most vibrant arts community. Not least, it offered artists their best opportunity for life-long commercial success.

24.        Nowhere in the world offered as rich a collection of museums as Italy. True, the British had for centuries been bringing back both original and copied art. John Flaxman had seen illustrations of Sir William Hamilton's collection of excavated Greek vases before going abroad, and he had grown up among the plaster copies of classical sculpture produced by his father's shop (Bindman, John Flaxman 48). But for the Flaxmans, as for every British artist who wrote about his or her experiences, Italy was a revelation. The sheer number as well as the quality of works to be seen in Florence, Bologna, Venice, and Rome were an irresistible lure to artists and tourists alike. Ann Flaxman writes of admiring the Venus di' Medici and Caravaggio's Sleeping Cupid in adjoining rooms of the Uffizi (the "Duke's Gallery"); shortly thereafter she crosses the river to the Pitti Palace and runs into her friend Georgiana Hare-Naylor copying Raphael's Madonna della Sedia. In Rome, artists fascinated by antiquities could spend weeks studying in the Capitoline Museum and the Museo Pio-Clementino (now the Vatican Museums), both founded in the eighteenth century and still growing steadily as archeological excavations continued to produce new finds. Ann Flaxman's apartment in Rome is within easy visiting distance of St Peter's, the Colosseum, and the gardens of the Villa Borghese. Wherever she goes, she spends significant portions of her account listing the art that has most impressed her and that she wants to remember once she returns to England. John's letters home are equally full of the sketches he has done and the impressions he has felt: Paestum, for instance, has filled his mind with "the sublime of Architecture" (qtd. in Houpt 159).

25.        For a sculptor, of course, the chance to draw and model from the greatest surviving classical works, not merely from replicas or art books, was infinitely precious. But artists of all kinds gathered in Rome's lively international arts community. The Flaxman archives include a list of 23 British artists working in Rome in 1793, a year in which travel was already much depressed by war; Ingamells's massive Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 reveals how much larger the community usually was (Add. Mss. 39790, f. 16). Artists with limited time spent it visiting museums and private collections. Those able to stay longer could, like Mrs. Hare-Naylor, apply for permission to train their eyes and hands by making copies of great works. Whether attending life drawing classes, working under the direction of more established artists, making reproductions for purchasers, acting as artistic guides for Grand Tourists, giving art lessons to travellers, or simply arguing about art in the English coffee house, artists in Rome could immerse themselves completely in their trade. And not only visual artists made Rome their destination: Goethe, for instance, had left Rome just eight months before Ann and John Flaxman arrived.

26.        An Italian tour was also a business venture. Like John Flaxman, many artists met future patrons in Rome or received commissions when wealthy travellers toured their studios. British artists in particular profited from the ever-increasing numbers of British travellers pouring into France and Italy between the 1763 Peace of Paris and the Napoleonic wars. Ilaria Bignamini calls 1764-96 the "golden age of the British Grand Tourist." Record numbers of Britons went abroad and record numbers had themselves painted while there; Batoni alone painted 154 British tourists (Bignamini 33; Black 184). Record numbers of licenses to excavate or to export art were granted to Britons as well, although by the time the Flaxmans visited, the wholesale pillaging of Italy had been slowed by laws limiting the export of antiquities and giving the papal museums first right of purchase (Bignamini 34; Johns 31-33). Although many Britons abroad had their portraits painted by Italian artists, and a few hired Italian artists or architects to help them outfit homes in Britain, many others patronized their countrymen, commissioning paintings, architectural plans, sculptures, illustrated books, and the like from British artists whose work or personalities first charmed them in Rome. Nor did residence in Italy cut an artist off from the English arts world: artists could send back works for exhibition at the Society of Artists or the Royal Academy of Arts while abroad (Black 182). For a sculptor, the potential contacts made through an Italian tour were especially important. Sheer reasons of scale meant that almost all John Flaxman's sculptural work was done on commission. Most of his income would depend on winning contracts for public monuments or tombs for the wealthy.

27.        Rome was also the cradle of art criticism—a new field, and one in which Ann Flaxman engaged in her own small way as she recorded her opinions of the various treasures she saw. In Rome Johann Winckelmann, the Prefect of Papal Antiquities, had written his foundational Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (1764; tr. 1765 by Fuseli as Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks). Ann cites him several times in the journal as the authority on a particular classical work. He was also a figure of envy for her: Ann imagines how happy he must have been in the Villa Albani, where he could "live undisturb'd amidst the finest things in which his Soul so much delighted." Rome had also figured prominently in An Account of Some of the Statues, Bas-reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy by Jonathan Richardson père et fils (1722), a text that aimed, Bruce Redford has argued, to "teach taste" by introducing visitors to Italy to "an elementary vocabulary of analysis" and telling them what to think of the works discussed in the Account. Whether the Flaxmans had their own copy of the Richardsons' work is unknown, but Ann is attentive to everything that the Account had taught English visitors to observe: artist, period, medium, genre, size, composition, aesthetic quality, emotional impact (Redford 36-38). In this she resembles the authors of many published guidebooks to France and Italy, who took pains to inform their readers which artworks were worth visiting.

28.        Ann Flaxman's journal reflects multiple aspects of Italy's artistic importance, but stresses the educational. Both she and John saw Rome more as an opportunity to learn than as a business venture—one reason, perhaps, that they returned from Italy almost as poor as when they left. On 30 August 1788 John wrote to his father that he found the competition and faction among English artists highly disagreeable: "I never go to the English Coffee house, this place is the rendezvous of the Artists, here is always some party, some disagreement & the flame is continually kept up, when winter comes & the people of Quality come here, they [the artists] are then ready to tear each other in pieces for business" (Add. Mss. 39780, f. 45v). The broader English community in Rome was apparently just as fractured as the artistic community. The painter James Irvine wrote from Rome in 1785 that:

our Countrymen are divided into two parties equally prejudic'd: the one in favour of England, the other of Italy. The newcomers relish nothing that is not English: Others again have been so long out of their own country that they hardly know what it is & as they are settled here & have little prospect of returning home except it be just to die, they seem to have endeavour'd to create in themselves a contempt for their own country & an admiration of this . . . there are furious disputes between the parties. (qtd. in Ingamells 544)
Whether because the atmosphere was unpleasant or because they had better things to do, Ann wrote to her aunt Kirk in 1788 that "we scarce visit any Body here, but apply ourselves wholly to study" (16 June 1788, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 175v). Two years later she says almost the same to another friend: although there are currently "200 English" in Rome, "yet do we see very few of them" (letter to Mrs. Sanders, 17 July 1788, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 48). The couple did not cut themselves off from the social advantages of Rome. They made both business contacts and good friends, many of the latter fellow artists. Still, the Flaxmans lived a relatively retired life, working most of the time.

29.        Indeed, in their first year in Rome Ann's attention was focused not only on maintaining a household, but also on improving her own artistic talent:

to be in Rome & not to pursue some branch of the arts, is to set down to a good Dinner with an Appetite & not to eat; for the Multiplicity of fine things that are everywhere scatter'd about this Place, Create in one a wish to Imitate them, & the much leisure time & good opportunity invite to the trial; I have enter'd a volunteer & generally spend six or seven hours a day in Mr. Flaxmans study in drawing; he gives me great Praise for some large heads that I have copied, but I hope to do much better in a very Short time, this with reading a voluminous french work (being a History of the Arts) takes up all my time at present. (letter to Ann Kirk, 16 June 1788, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 175v)
John calculated her diligence even higher: "My Nancy improves much in her drawing to which she gives 8 & 10 hours a day" (letter to William Hayley, 17 July 1788, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 44v). His own habits were equally industrious: in 1792 Ann writes of him spending days at the studio followed by long evenings working on the Dante and Homer illustrations (letter to Mary Flaxman, 15 December 1792, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 197).

30.        At first John's art seems to have drawn little attention, but he gradually became better known. Nonetheless, he never achieved the financial success of some of his compatriots, and Ann was less pleased than John with the results of their self-expatriation. Early in 1790 John writes to his parents that "I have no reason to be discontented with Rome for I have been treated with particular attention by most of the Artists of the first eminence, both Englishmen and foreigners." But Ann's long postscript to an enclosed letter hints at a wish that more of those who appreciated her husband were buyers. Of English visitors to Rome in 1790 she writes that "some demi Score of the most knowing ones call to look at Friend Flaxman's performances & if we may believe their words, retire much delighted, but oh my friend how hard it is to believe in such a Land of deceit as this is!" (26 January 1790, Add. Mss. 39780, ff. 47v, 48v). Indeed, the Flaxmans determined to return to England in 1790 not only because of homesickness, which is often mentioned in Ann's letters from around that time, but also because so few commissions had come John's way that the couple could not afford to extend their stay (Bindman, John Flaxman 28, Symmons 71).

31.        One crucial change came in the spring of 1790, when John received his most important commission to date, The Fury of Athamas. Poor planning on John's part made this commission, from the Earl of Bristol, a financial disaster: he failed to get an advance, set his price far too low, and underestimated the time needed to complete the work (Bindman, John Flaxman 28, 33). Nor did he realize that Bristol was notoriously slow in paying artists, "one of the most unreliable and unscrupulous patrons in the history of art," according to Julius Bryant (35). This commission, however, helped attract others, and by the end of 1792, when John stopped accepting new commissions to be done in Italy, he was so overwhelmed with work that it was another two and a half years before he could depart (Add. Mss. 39780, ff. 57v-58; Bindman, John Flaxman 28).

32.        A more important change for the Flaxmans came not from sculptural commissions but from a series of commissions for drawings from classical texts: Georgiana Hare-Naylor's for a series of line drawings from Homer (completed and published in 1793); Lady Margaret Spencer's for a series from Aeschylus (completed in 1793 but not published until January 1795); and Thomas Hope's for a series from Dante (completed in 1793 but not published until 1807 because Hope refused to allow them to be printed except in a small private edition). All three series were line drawings modelled on the clean lines of Greek vases. The Homer and Aeschylus were engraved for publication by Piroli, with a few added engravings by Blake in the 1805 edition of Homer, and were sold as expensive art books. John, alas, owned the copyright only to the Aeschylus illustrations, meaning that after his initial payment (a guinea an illustration in the case of the case of the Homer illustrations), only the patron or the publisher to whom that patron then sold the plates made any money (Bindman, John Flaxman 33, quoting the unpublished diary of C. R. Cockerell). But the Homer and Dante drawings would make him, in Goethe's words, "the idol" of all who appreciated the arts, and a key figure in the neoclassical movement (qtd. in Irwin, John Flaxman 67).

33.        For Ann, the string of commissions that arrived between 1790 and 1792 were a mixed blessing. Much as she liked Rome, and much as the Flaxmans needed the income from the illustrations and sculptural commissions, Ann had been counting on a speedy return home. John had already ordered packing cases for the work done in Rome when the Earl of Bristol visited the studio and agreed to commission a major new work. John's comments afterwards suggest that Ann's pride concerning this opportunity was tempered by personal disappointment:

I must tell [you] that my Nancy in the advice she gave me concerning Lord Bristol's commission gave me a proof of her attachment to my interest in preference to the gratification of her own feelings for notwithstanding she was intirely possessed with desire of returning to her Country & Friends, she advised me by no means to neglect an offer which would certainly establish my reputation & assured me she would accommodate her wishes to my fortune"(qtd. in Houpt 178).
Ann's father had died not long before John received the commission for The Fury of Athamas. Around that time she wrote touchingly to her friend Mrs. Sanders about the pain of distance: "I have lost an only Parent & a good one & that without the Consolation of an everlasting adieu or the opportunity of Comforting his last moments with an assurance of doing what little I was able toward the support of his helpless offspring" (postscript to a letter from John to Mr. Sanders, 26 January 1790, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 48). And in 1791 Ann would write to her sister-in-law Mary that "I would give up the long Gallery of the Pope's Museum at any Moment for your long dining room fill'd with such friends as we have left behind" (21 November 1791, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 55v).

34.        The moments of homesickness and sorrow were worth their cost, however. Ann made a host of good friends in Rome between 1790 and 1794, and John's reputation was made during their extended stay. His fame only continued to grow once the couple was back in England: he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1797, elected a full Academician in 1800, and named the inaugural professor of sculpture in 1810. He died as he had lived, possessed only of very modest means, but scholars agree that the Italian years were crucial to everything he created from 1790 to the end of his life in 1826, six years after Ann's own death.

Italy and the British Imagination

35.        Like all travellers, the Flaxmans viewed Italy through the filter of their own expectations. Horace Walpole perhaps put it best: "Our memory sees more than our eyes in this country" (qtd. in Stainton 141). Even the best-intentioned traveller was unlikely to see much of Italy beyond the major cities, and those without fluent Italian were unlikely to get beyond initial impressions and stereotypes. But memory, on the other hand . . . what European visitor was unfamiliar with the land of Virgil, Horace, and Dante? What British schoolboy had not learned Roman history? Ann Flaxman was better educated than average, but she took it for granted that every reader, male or female, would understand her excitement at seeing a temple built by Augustus that incorporated columns from an earlier temple in which Cicero had called the Senate together to condemn the Cataline conspirators.

36.        The classical ruins of Italy were particularly evocative for British tourists. Christopher Woodward's lyrical meditation on the meanings of ruins argues cogently that relics of classical Greece and Rome represented many different things to the British imagination. Here was the zenith of human achievement, tremendous feats of architecture and sculpture. To Britons, who claimed classical Rome as their own heritage, the excavations and discoveries of the eighteenth century provided particular validation. Mirella Agorni has argued that Italy was used "for the creation of the myth of British cultural prestige, modelled on the splendour of classical Rome": the imperial eye made of the landscape what it wanted to see (Agorni 104-5). Yet at the same time, British visitors frequently remarked the contrast between what had been and what was, between the artistic triumphs of the ancient world and their perception of modern Italy: divided, badly governed, and shockingly poor. In this way classical ruins became a reminder that human achievements must perish, a melancholy warning about the dangers of overweening ambition or overextended empires (Woodward 2-11). Thus in Capua, seeing "the humble remains of the ancient splendor of that City," Flaxman exclaims "O how fallen" (f. 60).

37.        Flaxman only rarely ponders mutability in the Journey to Rome. More often she sees classical Italy through the eyes of an artist and artist's wife. To her, classical sculpture and architecture, even ruined, are troves of information and beauty. She is pleased when an ancient work survives mostly intact to be captured by Flaxman's pen, distressed when she sees disturbances caused by modern antiquities hunters (ff. 39v-40). Although she sees modern Italy through the lens of the past, she does so less through philosophy than through art: near Naples "the women sit out at their doors spinning & Knitting with their heads dress'd exactly like those represented on the Etruscan vases & indeed their faces & figures much resemble them also" (f. 61v).

38.        Other preconceptions likewise governed what British travellers saw or thought they saw. Catholicism is a frequent bogeyman in English writing about Italy. Italian priests were presumed to be always on the look-out for weak-minded travellers: young Grand Tourists in one century, silly middle-class tourists in the next. As John Cunningham's Cautions to Continental Travellers warned in 1818, tourists in his time are regrettably often "a class likely to be much influenced by the scenes they visit" and thus easily tainted by Catholicism unless they make special efforts to preserve the Sabbath and read Protestant works while abroad (qtd. in Dolan 231-2). Ann Flaxman, who had been 15 when the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots killed hundreds in London, shared some of this bigotry, although not her countrymen's fear of priests. What troubles her is not Catholicism per se; she admires the churches of France and Italy and speaks well of the art-loving clerics she meets. But she looks down on practicing Catholics as the "dupes" of "ridiculous Ceremonies and Ignorant Superstitions," is condescendingly amused when she is excluded from a male order's refectory, and goes on at some length about the placing of portionless younger daughters in convents: "in the Convent of St Claire there are 200 of these unhappy Girls & in all the other convents in Proportion — Oh England how enviable is thy free Land — Britons be firm & protect us poor females for which ye were born —" (ff. 45, 49v-50, 63v). Still, her private letters suggest that she arrived in 1787 with a relatively open mind or else moderated her tone for the more public Journey to Rome. A letter to her father the next year exhibits more overt prejudice: "I never met with such a Credulous, Ignorant set as the Middling and lower ranks of these People are, but how should it be otherwise when scarce any of them especially the females know how to read, & those that do are forbid to read the scriptures & judge for themselves" (17 July 1788, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 177v).

39.        Poverty also influenced many English visitors' perceptions about Italians. Flaxman is shocked by the depth of rural poverty when her benighted party must spend one night on the road to Naples in a hovel filled with desperately poor laborers (ff. 54v-55v). She is less sympathetic, however, to the beggars she sees in cities. Despite her radical leanings, she blames their prevalence on pervasive Italian laziness rather than on population growth and the uneven distribution of wealth. In Florence the beggars are "so Saucy that when you tell them you have no Quattrini or small Money, they tell you they will give you Change" (f. 31v). In Naples all the people are "most notoriously Idle," and beggars are as much a plague to the city as its malarial marshes are to Rome: "[T]hey say there are 40 thousand Lazeroni here — these are People who actually do nothing — except beg Steal, [and] lye altogether in holes under the Mountains" (f. 66). Although she calls the inhabitants of Florence "Civil & honest to a Proverb," she distrusts every Italian landlord she meets, expecting, sometimes quite rightly, that everyone who deals with English tourists sees them as "Blockheads" ready for fleecing (ff. 30v, 57v). The journal remains more moderate than her personal letters, however: writing to her aunt Kirk on 16 June, 1788, she rhapsodizes about her "most happy!" life in Rome but dismisses the Romans out of hand: "Well Rome is an enchanting Place to be sure, but the Romans I detest, Lazy & filthy, to a Proverb" and "in short they are a nasty filthy sort of Beings as ever Existed and Ill [I'll] say no more about them — " (Add. Mss. 39780, ff. 176v, 175, 176).

40.        Rome was the subject of especially many preconceptions related to art. There were actually many Romes swirling in the heads of British visitors. Classical Rome, with its amazing architecture and sculpture newly revealed by eighteenth-century excavations, inspired the same enthusiasm in nearly every visitor that Ann Flaxman felt on her first entrance to the city. (James Boswell, visiting in 1765, was so struck by the Palatine Hill ruins that he insisted on conversing entirely in Latin with his bemused guide, the painter and antiquary Colin Morison: "we have harangued on Roman antiquities in the language of the Romans themselves" [qtd. in Paul 37].) Trecento, quattrocento, and cinquecento Rome still breathed in museums crammed with Giotto, Michelangelo, Raphael, and da Vinci. Scenic Rome, with its cattle grazing among the ruins on the Campo Vaccino, its pastoral landscapes, and its nearby waterfalls at Tivoli, lived on the canvasses of innumerable artists. Papal Rome offered richly sensory ritual plus political intrigue to provoke the imagination. When the Flaxmans reached Rome Italian light had not yet been fetishized to the degree it would be in the nineteenth century. Still, the connection between climate and creativity was widely accepted. Winckelmann had argued that classical and even Renaissance Roman art had been much influenced by the air and soil of Rome. Some even believed that a soil full of ruins inevitably changed the air, enhancing the appreciative powers of visitors who breathed it (Wrigley 92-96). Flaxman does not seem susceptible to such romantic myths, but her glee at reaching "the mistress of the world" is matched only by her delight in exploring Rome's treasures.

Flaxman and the Grand Tour

41.        By the 1780s, visitors' expectations of Italy had been shaped most forcefully by its role as the ultimate Grand Tour destination. Starting in the sixteenth century, throughout Britain and indeed much of Europe, elite young men were expected to finish their education with a multi-year tour of France and Italy, and on rare occasions more exotic destinations: Germany, Switzerland, and Corsica for Boswell; Sicily and Malta for Brydone; Eastern Europe and Scandinavia for William Coxe; Greece for Byron. The "typical" Grand Tourist before Flaxman's era was a wealthy male in his mid- to late teens from the aristocracy or gentry. Accompanied by an older tutor, he studied classical and modern languages, spent considerable time in foreign courts, visited famed architectural sites and important art collections, kept a diary of information meant to prove useful to his country, and often sowed his wild oats before returning to life as a member of England's ruling classes. [4] 

42.        Today the Grand Tour is less visible through such Tourists themselves than through other, more skeptical, sources. A few historians have done the painstaking archival research necessary to speak definitively about the mass of Grand Tourists. [5]  Most students of travel, however, know the Tour through the writings of the older, wiser travellers who published the eighteenth century's great travel literature, sometimes expressly defining themselves against the Grand Tour. The Tour had originated in the courts of the sixteenth century, when Queen Elizabeth encouraged the travels of rising young courtiers; it played a valuable role in espionage but also quickly became the mark of the elite. By the eighteenth century, however, although the Tour was still an essential part of any gentleman's education, it was a frequent subject for artistic and literary caricature. As Pope's orator proclaims in The Dunciad,

Led by my hand, he saunter'd Europe round,
And gather'd ev'ry Vice on Christian ground;
Saw ev'ry Court, heard ev'ry King declare
His royal Sense, of Op'ra's or the Fair;
The Stews and Palace equally explor'd,
Intrigu'd with glory, and with spirit whor'd;
Try'd all hors-d'oeuvres, all liqueurs defin'd,
Judicious drank, and greatly-daring dined;
Dropt the dull lumber of the Latin store,
Spoil'd his own language, and acquir'd no more;
All Classic learning lost on Classic ground;
And last turn'd Air, the Echo of a Sound!  
(IV. 311-22)
National rivalries, religious prejudice, and the recognition that some young Tourists learned little during their travels all helped inspire such criticism. Grand Tourists were accused of flocking with their countrymen, ignoring their studies in favor of fashion and amours, forgetting their own country as they picked up foreign habits, and bringing venereal disease home to England. For every sober Addison in his late twenties, there were doubtless a dozen young men like Lord Belgrade, whose indifference to the Uffizi's treasures greatly annoyed Ann Flaxman: "Ld Belgrade was unfortunately in the Party apposited for the day on which we saw them & by the impropriety & Boyishness of his Behaviour not half were shew'd " (note to f. 32v). Yet despite the caricatures and mockery, a Grand Tour remained the unquestioned capstone of a true gentleman's education even into the ninteenth century. The difficulty of travelling during the Napoleonic Wars (something Flaxman herself experienced on her return trip) greatly reduced the number of Tourists around the turn of the century, but the cultural capital imparted by the Grand Tour would not really vanish until the emergence of middle-class and then mass tourism.

43.        For an eighteenth-century artist, time spent in Italy conferred some of that same cultural capital. A strange sort of pseudo-equality was created by having done the equivalent of making an aristocratic Grand Tour. True, the painter or sculptor who knew the classical and renaissance masters at first-hand might be inferior by birth to those who commissioned him, but he shared the knowledge of all Grand Tourists: like them he had walked the gardens of Versailles, crossed the Alps, seen the Colosseum with his own eyes, admired the Laocoön in the Pio-Clementine Museum. Although his dinner companions in Rome had almost certainly been artists, not lords, he had met lords when they visited his studio. Like his patrons he was comfortable in foreign lands, and possibly more comfortable in foreign tongues, as he was likely to have spent years rather than months in one country. In an age when, Edward Cheney has claimed, the Grand Tour had "become almost synonymous with artistic concerns," he had true artistic knowledge; not for him the superficial show that Smollet mocked in Travels Through France and Italy, in which Britain's "raw boys" suddenly learn to "talk familiarly of the arts, and return finished connoisseurs and coxcombs, to their own country" (Chaney 203; Smollett 241). And while he was only an artist, he was likely to be a successful artist once he headed home carrying the cachet of his art tour with him; a canny upper-class patron might well cultivate his acquaintance by hiring him to do a Grand Tour portrait or commissioning him to find good reproductions with which to fit out a country house. When the Royal Academy began sending prize-winning students to Italy it intended to train eye and hand, but in the process it offered young artists a chance to win reputation, financial success, and a different relationship with the conventional Grand Tourists who were England's main arts patrons.

44.        Women could not be Grand Tourists. The institution was explicitly male. Nonetheless, four Englishwomen published successful variants on the Grand Tour account during Ann Flaxman's lifetime, and more travelled the traditional route of the Tour, usually accompanying a husband. The first published female semi-Tourist was Anna Riggs Miller (1741-1781), whose Letters from Italy, Describing the Manners, Customs, Antiquities, Paintings, &c of that Country, in the Years MDCCLXX and MDCCLXXI appeared anonymously in 1776. It was praised by the leading periodicals of the day, even though Horace Walpole grumbled that Miller "does not spell one word of French or Italian right through her three volumes of travels" (Letters 24.197). Miller's book was successful enough that a second "corrected" edition appeared the next year. Although more utilitarian than literary, it remains a leading example of the travel account as fine arts guidebook or essay in arts criticism. Miller describes hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and works of architecture in great detail, giving her opinions and noting which are worth a visit; while she pays particular attention to Renaissance art, there is even a section on up-and-coming young artists worth patronizing. Letters from Italy also broke important new ground in its attention to gender: far more than its male-authored predecessors, Letters to Italy discusses gendered themes and women's lives.

45.        A second successful writer, Elizabeth Berkeley Craven (1750-1828), was only tangentially concerned with the Grand Tour, although the first third of her account fits loosely into that tradition. Baroness Craven, later Margravine of Anspach, published A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople. In a Series of Letters from the Right Honourable Elizabeth Lady Craven, to His Serene Highness the Margrave of Brandebourg, Anspach, and Bareith in 1789. Her book became an international success largely because of the scandal attached to its author: having parted from her unfaithful husband in 1780, Craven consoled herself by travelling, and at Anspach became the mistress of the Margrave named in her title, whom she married after her husband's death. Her book still feels stylish and spirited, somewhat in the tradition of Sterne's A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. Like traditional Grand Tourists, Craven describes scenery, visits palaces and museums, seeks out famous works of art, and is amused by Italian reactions to a side-saddle. She also creates a persona with whom any sensible Margrave would fall in love.

46.        The third and by far the most important female Grand Tourist was Hester Thrale Piozzi (1741-1821). Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey Through France, Italy, and Germany was published in 1789 and, although the its author's fame may have accounted for its initial popularity, has long been recognized as one of the eighteenth century's more interesting travel books. In 1784, after three years as a widow, Hester Thrale chose to remarry despite the fierce opposition of her children and friends, most notably that of her longtime friend Samuel Johnson. Her second husband was Italian and Catholic, and the outcry against the match was so extreme that she and Gabriel Piozzi removed themselves from England from 1784 to 1787, travelling through Europe and spending an extended period in Italy. The resulting book is deliberately literary. It includes some discussion of art, but the author's real interests are society and customs. Piozzi pays extensive attention to women's lives and roles. She focuses on modern Italy more than on its classical heritage, and as the wife of an Italian she has an insider's view of much that her compatriots could only observe from a distance. While Flaxman's Journey to Rome cannot match the consistency of Piozzi's published work, some of the same interests and impulses mark these two lively near-contemporary texts.

47.        Flaxman knew personally the fourth woman to publish variations on the Grand Tour account, Mariana Starke (1762?-1838). Starke did not publish her first travel book until 1800, but she was already the author of multiple plays when Ann Flaxman met her in Rome in 1793. Starke had been in Italy since May 1792 tending her elderly parents; she would stay until 1798, with frequent removes for her mother's health and then to avoid the worst of the French invasions. Flaxman speaks admiringly of her "almost unexampled attention to her Mother whose state of health is very indifferent" (qtd. in Houpt 204), and that experience became part of Starke's first travel book, Letters from Italy, Between the Years 1792 and 1798, Containing a View of the Revolutions in That Country, from the Capture of Nice by the French Republic to the Expulsion of Pius VI. From the Ecclesiastical State; Likewise Pointing out the Matchless Works of Art Which Still Embellish Pisa, Florence, Siena, Rome, Naples, Bologna, Venice, &c. With Instructions for the Use of Invalids and Families Who May Not Choose to Incur the Expence Attendant Upon Travelling with a Courier (1800; revised ed. 1815). As its title suggests, Starke's Letters was not only meant to assist invalids; it was also an account of the war and a practical guidebook for travellers. Principally, however, it was a guide to art, and as such, yet another entry in the tradition of the Grand Tour as arts education. Although rather dry reading, Starke's book went through multiple editions and translations and was followed by a series of sequels.

48.        Other British women writers of Flaxman's era published travel books, but these were distinguished from the Grand Tour tradition by their destinations—the Grand Tour inevitably culminated in Italy even after it became popular to push further afield; their interests—art and the classical world lay at the heart of the eighteenth-century Tour; or their self-positioning—Miller, Piozzi, and Starke define themselves against the Grand Tour tradition, as does Flaxman. Other women who published travel books about Europe during Flaxman's lifetime branched out in other directions: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in Turkey, Elizabeth Justice and Jane Vigor in Russia, the Duchess of Northumberland and Ann Radcliffe in Holland and Germany, Mary Wollstonecraft in Scandinavia, Helen Maria Williams and several anonymous writers in Revolutionary France and Switzerland. The next important books about Italy by women would not appear until 1820 and 1821 respectively: Three Months Passed in the Mountains East of Rome During the Year 1819 by Maria Graham and Italy by Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan. By then Flaxman would be dead.

49.        Despite her sex and economic status, Flaxman can certainly be seen as belonging to the Grand Tour tradition. She follows the standard routes, studies classical texts and languages, collects the expected information about practices ranging from public hospitals to papal inauguration rites, takes more than the usual interest in art and in ruins, even mingles occasionally with continental nobility. She differentiates herself carefully from more typical male Tourists, though she is not as harsh about them as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had been during her Italian years, and she is well aware of male guidebook writers, although she does not spend time correcting them as do Miller and Piozzi. But gender is probably less important to her manuscript than her other difference from the typical Tourist, class. As a relatively poor Englishwoman who must stretch every shilling, and as a woman who travels not just for pleasure but also to advance her husband's career and augment her own ability to assist his business, she brings a fresh perspective to the Italian Tour, and she makes the most of these differences.

Themes, Style, Audience

50.        Despite her unconventional position, Flaxman's journal includes many topics conventional to travellers in Italy and particularly to Grand Tour writers. Like most visitors, she is interested not just in modern Italy but also in the ancient civilizations to be traced in its ruins and masterworks. On first seeing the Appian Way, she expresses distress at its being "disturb'd by the moderns searching as I conjecture for antiquities" (ff. 39v-40). Ruins more often lead her to reflect on architectural features than to muse on the fates of empires; still, crossing the Gulf of Naples she is overwhelmed by the sheer density of history: the houses of Caesar and Pompey and Marius, the spot on which Hadrian died, and even, according to the party's guides, the burial spot of Ulysses's companions and the site of one of Hercules's battles. Although little is left but "some old walls &c," she fancies that "I saw all these great Warriors, or at least their shadows haunting about their old habitations, I call'd to mind (as much as my treacherous memory would permit) all their past Deeds & took a lesson on human greatness, vanity, & war" (ff. 66-66v).

51.        More recent art stirs Flaxman as well. Childless herself, she has an especial fondness for art involving children; among the many paintings singled out for praise in her account are Dou's The Dropsical Woman for the look of "utmost affection" with which the servant regards the crying child at its mother's feet, del Sarto's picture of a "Saint raising dead Children to life," and many representations of the Madonna and child (ff. 22, 31v). Her tastes in painting run to the "beautiful and delicate" and the "sweetly composed" rather than the bold (ff. 27v, 42), although she appreciates the grandeur of classical sculpture: the "majesty Beauty & Irresistable Power" of the Apollo Belvedere is such that "one is never tired of contemplating" it, while the beholder of the Laocoön "must sympathize with the suffring of this unfortunate Father & his sons" (ff. 51v, 52). She can equally admire the magnificence of a medieval cathedral, the drama of David's The Death of Socrates, or the humor of a beautiful Cupid "in the action of defying Jupiter who threatens to clip his wings" (f. 33v).

52.        Scenic beauty also comes in for mention throughout the journey, and here Flaxman shows her awareness of what William Gilpin had recently popularized as the picturesque. [6]  Flaxman can appreciate the sublime in snow-capped mountains or the beauty of productive farmland "with Village Churches rising in the distance" (f. 15v). She enjoys "high rocks with Castles" or a "subterraneous vault" but can take equal pleasure in "pleasant shady walks & Fountains" (ff. 15v, 18, 41v). Crossing the Alps, she articulates this dichotomy as clearly as anything in Burke's Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful: "not knowing which to admire most the Stupendous Rocks with their Tops cover'd with Snow uniting themselves by the Clouds which form'd Aerial Bridges from Rock to Rock, or the fertility of the Vallies ornamented with scattered Cotages the Lambs grazing in the little meadows at the foot of the mountains" (f. 19).

53.        Cultural comparisons were the norm in travel books, and here too Flaxman fits the pattern. Paris is "a Dirty filthy Place as ever I was In in my life" and a "thorough Mixture of Magnificence & Filth Pride & Poverty." The Savoyards "are esteem'd a Laborious hospitable People, not so the Piedmontese." Florentines are "very Civil & honest to a Proverb" but the women "are intolerably fond of Finery" and "furious to imitate the English fashion." Everyone in Naples is extravagantly polite though she hears "they will murder with their Rosary in their hand." Carnival, usually a tourist draw, is "a foolish piece of Business, & would be thought nothing of in England" (ff. 13v, 14, 18v, 30v, 35, 64, 64v).

54.        The anti-Catholicism behind some of Flaxman's cultural comparisons was yet another norm, as previously mentioned. Like many another Protestant traveller, Flaxman was mystified and slightly alarmed by Catholic ritual. The nativity scenes displayed at Christmas time in churches and private homes annoy her as "a very pretty deception for children of all ages & Sizes" and a "waste of oil" (f. 51). She scorns to see the Colosseum turned into a site of Catholic worship:

those who wish to Indulge serious reflexion may here find ample Food — they (sic) Eyes are delighted with the most magnificent Ruin that is perhaps anywhere to be found, they call to mind the cruelties that have been perform'd in it & the Inexpressible sufferings of their fellow Creatures — & they see at this moment thousands of others who are made dupes of by a few designing men passing their time in ridiculous Ceremonies & Ignorant Superstitions (ff. 44v-45).
Yet even as she writes such things, Flaxman repeatedly praises Christmas church music or seeks out those religious traditions with which she can identify: the little church of Quo Vadis, the chains with which Peter was bound by Herod, even the statue of St. Peter with its toe nearly worn away by the kisses of the faithful.

55.        Like other women travel writers, Flaxman is also more attuned to gender than most of her male peers. The first thing she records in France is the heavy labor done by women: "I here gloried in being born an Englishwoman — Orpheus sure was never heard of here. the Women Labor the Men Smoke; and Strangers are astonish'd . . . I saw women carrying great stones in baskets which were fastened to their shoulders to fill a frame of a mole, as they are going to make a new canal from this place to Paris" (f. 3 and note). Outside Paris she again remarks on "women at Plough in several Places & doing all those Laborious Offices which in Our Country are allotted to Men" (f. 15). In Naples she notes how the proverbial male jealousy restricts women: although ladies of quality can go out in their own carriages accompanied by a cicesbeo or a friend, "the wives' of the tradespeople never walk out alone & even now in some Parts of the City the husbands accompany their wives to hear Mass" (f. 63v). She often briefly notices women's fashions or ordinary female duties like spinning or washing. In Naples she is pleased to find actresses, as in England and France: "Women are allow'd on the theatre's here which makes it more agreeable than at Rome" (f. 64). And she is quite amused when at the Bonne Femme in Turin, not a woman is to be seen, "bad or good," about the inn (f. 21v).

56.        After the period covered in the Journey to Rome ends, Ann's letters to family continue to mention the barriers gender roles place on her daily life, let alone her ability to engage in art tourism:

a woman never goes out alone, when I first came to Rome I was determined to get the better of this Silly Custom, and also of another that of going to Market, a thing the women never do in this Country; but I soon found I must give up these things, for when I only went the length of a little Street to call on Lydia Bates sometimes, if I met any English who are Resident here & acquainted with these Particularities, they would accost me with how do you do? what are you out alone according to English Liberty,? but you'll soon find you must give it up — if I pass'd by a frenchman or Italian they would exclaim ah (una Donna Sola) ah, a Lady & alone! if I pass'd by women, they would stare after me & chatter something to each other (letter to Ann Kirk, 16 June 1788, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 175v)
Analyzing the deep attraction of Florence for the English during the long eighteenth century, Rosemary Sweet contrasts the cultures of Florence and Rome as they affected women travellers. Seeing the antiquities in Rome required excursions—sometimes quite lengthy—on horseback or on foot, neither an easy possibility for women. Many women also lacked the classical education that would make sense of what they were seeing. Flaxman, of course, had a strong education, was accompanied by her husband, and was lucky enough to know a compatriot with a carriage. She thus managed quite extensive sightseeing during the first months of her stay. Once the Flaxmans settled into their daily routine, however, she was far less free to explore Rome and its antiquities. In Florence, by contrast, Sweet notes that "the object was not so much the pursuit of antiquity, but the appreciation of art and the cultivation of polite sociability in the conversazione, the theatres, and the opera houses" (Sweet 846-47). Florence was thus especially attractive to the woman traveller, and Ann's extensive commentary on the museums of Florence suggests that she took full advantage of its artistic opportunities.

57.        One last aspect of the Journey to Rome typical of many eighteenth-century tours, though not of most women's travel books—partly because of that difficulty in exploring unless accompanied—is Flaxman's interest in all things classical. Numa, Tarquin, Plato, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Pompey, Cicero, Cato, both Caesars, Tiberius, Caligula, and many more make their appearance in the Journey to Rome, as do mythical heroes ranging from Aeneas and Ulysses to Hercules and Aesculapius. After a day's exploring Flaxman particularly likes going back to her inn to "read the Historical accounts of that days Adventure" (f. 41). She is especially devoted to Homer, whom she reads aloud in the Borghese gardens while John draws; indeed, her highest praise for the Apollo Belvedere is that "this one Figure gives a fine Idea of all the Gods & heroes in Homer" (ff. 90v, 52).

58.        In other respects, however, Flaxman's narrative deviates dramatically from the norms of later eighteenth-century travel writing. To begin with, Flaxman was staunchly republican. In Navarre she cannot help but be flattered by her treatment and the Duke's compliments, but still records her disapproval: "I am in Sancho's Opinion and had rather Eat my Morsel in a Corner, Quiet and unobserv'd — The novelty of a Court may please for a time but its Parade & Adulation must soon sicken" (f. 6). She records the huge income gap between rich and poor in Turin, although both groups strike her as inordinately lazy: "the Inhabitants seem'd to me to be divided into two Classes the one were cloath'd with swords & Bags the other in Filth and Rags the Rich walk about & do Nothing the Poor Stand Still & do the same" (f. 22v). The desperate poverty in parts of the Italian countryside amazes her. She often waxes indignant about the idleness of the wealthy in Rome and Naples, and is even more troubled by those who bankrupt themselves in trying to keep up with the display of finery: "for the sake of making this appearance [they] must go without their & next Day's dinner & perhaps were they to be examin'd their under garments would not be found worth taking off a Dunghill " (f. 46-46v).

59.        Flaxman does not argue for the abolition of class, only for the tempering of its effects. She approves of noblesse oblige, writing from Paris that

Near this Palace in the hard winter of 1784 the poor People who had been much reliev'd by the bounty & care of the present King Erected an Obelisque of Snow & dedicated it to Louis 16 every one came to Pay a tribute of gratitude by fastening Inscriptions of Thanks among them was this — 'Louis, the Indigent whom thy Bounty has protected could only raise to thee this monument of Snow but this will please thy generous heart more, than of marble paid by the Bread of the Unhappy' (f. 12).
She approves too of the Sevres factory's attempt to educate the children of its workers in the arts, "so that when they are capable they get their living under the same Roof with their Parents thus they form a Body Comfortable happy & Industrious" (ff. 11-11v). Still, the relaxation of class boundaries would clearly please her. Among the greatest pleasures of the open-access Borghese gardens is, for Flaxman, its democratic character: "thus have I seen in the same Instant Dukes Princes Lords Ladies Cardinals Prelates Shopkeepers Peasants all carelessly mingled as nature meant" (f. 44).

60.        Because of her own class standing, Flaxman's account is also atypically preoccupied with household economics. Most travellers worried about being charged too much or puzzled over exchange rates, but few of Flaxman's contemporaries sprinkle their journals with detailed accounts of petty bargaining and tiny economic victories. As the most fluent speaker of French and Italian in her little party, Flaxman frequently finds herself having to wrangle with innkeepers and landlords. She prides herself on disputing unusual charges and avoiding tourist traps: "the men here have a few old Coins which they want to change for modern ones but being rather extravagant in their expectation they were disappointed & so carefully wrapt them up again hoping to have better success with the next English Blockheads who might pass that way" (f. 57v). Bethan Stevens's perceptive article on the Flaxmans' travel journals discusses how much substantive labor and organizational skill Ann contributed to the expedition, as demonstrated by Ann's relief on reaching Florence:

it had been all hurry & bustle for some time before I quitted England and during the whole of this journey I had been much harass'd having to manage for the whole party Especially after we lost Mr Deveare — here I had nothing to do but for myself — My time was chiefly employ'd in putting to rights some of the wrecks occasion'd by our Journey & visiting those Places where the fine things were for which this City is so famous (f. 30)
Rather than managing for everyone else, she can finally please herself, and does. This comment is immediately followed by a description of Florence and its environs, remarks on the Florentine character and habits, and then detailed comments on art and architecture. Household economics are temporarily forgotten as for once Flaxman can simply enjoy the pleasures of visiting one of the world's great arts centers.

61.        Also atypical is the way in which, over and over, Flaxman turns ordinary events into a series of lively adventures. Her journal begins as a comic tale of near-starvation: with the coach badly delayed and no innkeeper willing to offer anything besides a sit-down dinner, "I began to grow Marvellous hungry," and sang "all the Songs I could think of & some that I could not think of too" in hopes of distraction. "At length passing through a little Village the good Dr took Compassion on my Sufferings & in Spite of the railings of an old woman he rush'd into her Pantry & got a small Sandwich which being divided into four parts afforded a mouthful to four of us" (ff. 1-1v). Dramatic events, told in the same amusing tone, continue. On board the boat "Our heads soon became as windmills in full sail." The first postillion in France ignores his horses to "gossop" with a companion and nearly tumbles the chaise into a ditch. At their first stop, the landlady is so determined to get their trade that she deafens the party with her cries, "pushing the Dishes into our very mouths " (ff. 2-4).

62.        Such comic adventures continue throughout the Journey. In Radicofani the party captures and cooks its own sausages from the ceiling when the good Catholics running the inn refuse to prepare meat on a fast day. On the road to Naples, the party is benighted at a rural hut beset by fleas, hunger, and "a Combination of the vilest Scents that ever offended human nostrils" (f. 55). An ordinary overturn of the coach in which "no great harm was done" leads to drama mingled with comedy:

we hobbled over the hedge to the field which was close at hand, sat down on a bank & refresh'd our shatter'd spirits with some smoky Rum — which we had the day before despis'd, but t'was no longer bad; we had all this time totally forgot <that> the little Dog was of the Party, who quietly presented herself . . . as soon as she saw [us] a little compos'd, all muddy & miserable (ff. 60-60v)
Ann cheerfully climbs a high mountain to see the "ruins of a Palace built by Theodoric a Gothic King that besieg'd Rome" but spends the next day remembering her adventure: "my poor Limbs seem'd almost dislocated" (f. 56v). Later she climbs Vesuvius, accidentally taking an unfrequented route, and records the sights and smells in vivid detail. Her zest for adventure makes her account resemble those of her professional nineteenth-century female successors more than her eighteenth-century peers.

63.        Flaxman does not always employ this teasing mock-heroic style, but even when she is simply trying to capture facts, her prose is never dry. In Lyons, for instance, the hotel is in "an airy Pleasant Street," while the city is bordered by the "rapid Rhone" and the "milder Soane," charming even though Lyons contains "but few things Interesting to an Artist especially who is on his way to the mistress of the world" (f. 16). In her pages from France, Flaxman sometimes employs the sentimental note first popularized by Laurence Sterne's novel A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768). On folio 15v we get the touching story of a French officer's reunion with his elderly parents, on 16 the tale of an injured dog which lays its head in Ann's lap, on 19v a paean to Marmontel's sentimental Shepherdess of the Alps, and, to get us attuned to such sensibility, when the party visits the menagerie at Versailles, a poor caged cat that Flaxman compares to Yorick's starling sighing "for Liberty" (f. 10v).  

64.        Sentiment, invented adventure, and vivid scenic description become less necessary once Flaxman reaches destinations about which there is much to write—and at which Flaxman prefers to spend her time admiring art rather than writing her account. In Florence and Rome the Journey to Rome employs the vocabulary of art criticism to describe Flaxman's reactions to what she sees, though it just as often expresses unbridled enthusiasm for the things that move her most. Occasionally the writing degenerates into a mere list of marvels: presumably Flaxman assumes her audience would be so familiar with these iconic works of art that no comment is necessary, or knows her written text can be supplemented by John's sketches and the prints the Flaxmans sometimes purchased. Unlike those of her compatriots who wrote for publication, she does not need to offer any kind of comprehensive or guidebook-style view. All she needs to do is entertain her audience, and herself.

65.        That audience clearly existed, although it is unclear how large it was intended to be. In a letter to Mary Ann Flaxman, Ann writes that "I am keeping a private account for my own gratification which you shall Inspect on my return" (3 October 1787, 39780, f. 39v). The last clause, like the comments about audience on page one of Journey to Rome, makes clear that the "private" journal was private only in the sense that it was unpublished; it was frequently circulated among friends and family. The polished state of the Journey, with its numerous additions, emendations, and footnotes, also indicates that Flaxman wrote for an audience. The style of the Journey is remarkably similar to her best letters from this period, and remarkably dissimilar to the truly private journal she kept in 1791-93, discussed below. John Flaxman at one point calls her Journey "a Geographical account of the distant Countries and wonderful Regions we have visited" (letter to Byerley, 24 December 1788, qtd. in Constable 113). But the Journey is geographical only in the sense that it follows the travellers' route, and it is far from the usual dull "account" of other nations and customs. Ann's personality comes across in ways that must have delighted those whom she permitted to "Inspect" her work: her probably annoying penchant for singing loudly when hungry or bored; her fondness for animals; her regret at leaving "Old England"; her delight when the servant at Montefiascone, asked for a bellows, kneels, blows, and says wittily that "these are the bellows used at Montefiascone"; her deeply physical reaction to Rome: "my head was too full of the new world I was come into to eat much, instead of which we were tormenting the people with enquiries" (ff. 2, 37, 38v),

Later Life and Writings

66.        The Journey to Rome ends in late February, 1788, when the Flaxmans settle into their first permanent residence in Rome. Several sources document the remainder of Ann Flaxman's time in Rome. The Journey notebook records three visits to Frescati in 1788-89, included here. Another source is a small pocket diary spanning the period from February 1, 1791, to March 30, 1793. Most of this little book is a simple day-by-day chronicle of social activities. Each day is recorded on its own line, usually in highly abbreviated form:

Thursday Holy — went in Evening to see Cross illumin'd met Smith & freerson
F F[laxman] went to museum alone could not get in King of Naples there — head [Guy Head] call'd late
Sat went to St Peters to see [...]
Sun Th(?) of N — din'd at Borghese went to St P— rec'd Benediction saw the course of horses saw the Girandola from own Logia —
Mon walk'd to Termini [...] with Jane
Tues at home walk'd in V[illa] Med[ici] with Penant
Wed at home Iron'd gown
Th at Mrs Naylors Ldy Cooper & M Conway there
F — at home — in the night ill
Sat — went to Raphael's rooms with Naylor, dr[ank] tea there
Sunday May 1st — walk'd in Borghese Ro Swam across the Canal dr[ank] tea with Harriot

67.        Much of the pocket-diary is even less literary than this: the middle dozen pages are a collection of recipes for everything from "Paste for Paper" to strawberry jam. There are also a few pages recording expenditures and earnings, some lists of books to read, and a page of collected quotations or possibly riddles. In short, this is a very different sort of text from the Journey to Rome: not a polished public work but a private jog to memory. Yet interesting information about Flaxman's daily routines and life in the English quarter comes through despite the brevity of the diary entries. Nearly every day Flaxman visited or was visited by someone, mostly a gradually shifting array of visiting artists, but also much higher connections whom she met through Georgiana Hare-Naylor or through her husband's work. Nearly every day she exercised, walking for several hours in the Borghese gardens or elsewhere. She probably read every day; the diary sometimes records specific works and once mentions a list of books obtained from the Flaxmans' friend Guy Head—something for which she must have been grateful, as her letters several times complain of the difficulty of getting books or request a specific book from England. Most of her choices were classics or histories, though they included contemporary works like Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Anstley's Bath Guide, and Johnson's Lives of Poets.

Sat. read at Study Virgil
F[ri.] read at Study Persian Tales
M. le Brun call'd at Study
Mon read explanation of Homer's apotheosis
The "study" was John's sculpture studio. While the normal occupations of daily life go largely unmentioned, several times Flaxman records cutting out a new jacket or ironing a gown. The scanty entries tell nothing of her emotional life and offer none of the wit and zest in Journey to Rome, but they are interesting in another way.

68.        The pocket diary has also provided a little information for art historians trying to learn what John Flaxman saw during his years in Italy. The entries for February 1791, for instance, cover an excursion to Sienna, Pisa, and Florence. The route north went via Ronciglione, Viterbo, Acquependente, Radicofani, Sienna (Flaxman mentions the paintings), Lucca, Pisa (she and John "went to Campo Santo to draw"), and Florence ("this Charming City"). They returned to Rome "round the Appenines" and via Tavarnelle, Poggibonsi, Sienna, the Lake of Bolsena, and Viterbo. During this excursion Flaxman makes one short attempt at the lively narration that characterizes the Journey to Rome when she describes the other guests at an inn near Sienna:

a Franciscan friar who was going to convert the Turks at Jerusalem, & a Polish Priest — with a Gentleman & woman — they warm'd themselves by our fire & the 2 Priests from our supper — they complain'd of no appetite yet Eat like Beasts, Emptied all the dishes & butter, had plenty yet complain'd
That same evening the wind down the chimney is enough to "blow us out of the bed" (f. 6). Even this section of the diary, however, consists largely of notes on routes, food, and a handful of sights.

69.        Like the remainder of their time in Rome, the Flaxmans' return to England in 1794 is documented in a few surviving letters. The journey was made challenging by the need to avoid France, with which England was at war, and by the presence of French troops in Piedmont. The Flaxmans detoured as far as Venice before heading north to Holland. First, though, they enjoyed five weeks in Florence, where John drew "from morning till night," then spent a month in Carrara to purchase marble for Flaxman's next works (to Ann Kirk, 26 July, 1794, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 203). Once the northward trip began, conditions were grim, as Ann wrote to her aunt: "every Place is so full of the unfortunate French Families who are flying from their own Blood to take refuge in the Land of Strangers, I have often wept for & with them since I left Italy" (28 October 1794, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 204). The Flaxmans were forced to pay ruinous prices for food and lodging, when those were available at all, and feared running out of money altogether. They also narrowly avoided active battle areas:

We should certainly have been in great danger had we pursued our first Plan of coming down by the Rhine but we fortunately met with General Fischer who was going to join the Austrian army in Piedmont & he advised us as we valued our Safety to make a longer Tour & pass by Cassel & Munster, we have certainly done right in following his advice for we have pass'd very quietly tho' we have been within 12 miles of the Enemies fire" (letter to Ann Kirk, 28 October 1994, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 204v)

70.        To another correspondent Ann writes that they "pass'd within 12 miles of the French Army but were not taken, having the Duke of York's Camp between us" (letter to Mrs. Clarke, 30 October 1794, Add. Mss. 39780, f. 206v). A decade later, remembering that journey, John focused on Ann's suffering:

You will remember that I have told you that your sister Flaxman in our return from Rome travelled 6 days & nights in a Diligence no better than a Common Covered Cart; when the Carriage stopped at the Inns, she rarely got a Chair to sit down on, & victuals to eat, but now & then by good luck, when her legs swelled & she was nearly exhausted I offered half a guinea for her to lay down on a bed for two hours at an Inn; but this was refused; yet bad as this was we fared better than Prince Edward whom we met going to Arnheim, & how much better than the poor people we continually saw flying before the Armies! (letter to Mary Flaxman, Add. Mss. 37980, ff. 88-89, qtd. in Houpt 388-89).
Little wonder that Ann's first letters from England are filled with joy.

71.        One other notebook from the years in Italy has sometimes been misidentified as a journal by Ann Flaxman. Bound into British Library Add. Mss. 39790 are several small notebooks in which Flaxman practiced her French and Latin by transcribing information that interested her. The first notebook, ff. 74-143, has been correctly identified as containing some transcriptions. The second, ff. 147-167, is misidentified in the British Library catalogue as "Journal of Mrs. Flaxman in Northern Italy 1794," an error picked up by Irwin (John Flaxman), Houpt, and Symmons, who refer to it as the notebook of her time in Venice. In fact, ff. 147-167 consist of transcriptions from guidebooks: a so-far-unidentified guide to France and Lalande's Voyage d'un françois en Italie (1769). [7]  Nearly the entirety of the Venice section is a translation from volume eight of Lalande: his topics, his order, often his exact words. Two atypically opinionated paragraphs do appear to be Flaxman's additions, although they are enough in keeping with Lalande that an exhaustive search might prove this wrong. One expands from food to a sweeping denunciation of the Romans:

the common wine is not very good but for about 30 Pauls per barrel, containing about 60 or 65 bottles it is pretty tolerable, — Beer is not drank here after dinner they take Liqueurs & after that Coffee — instead of setting down comfortably with a friend to Tea at six o'Clock like the English, they disperse themselves the Men to the Coffee house for Lemonades or Ices & the women remain at home to look out of Window — Indeed to me these People seem to have no Idea either of true Felicity real Comfort or passing Cleanliness, but on the Contrary are Slanderous Filthy Indolent & Proud & this is the best I can say of the Romans with a very few Exceptions —
The other offers a tart comment on daily life among the Romans:
The Manner of Living among the great is for the female part chiefly this, all the Morning is spent is dressing and perhaps to Mass sometimes, the afternoon in Coaches training up and down the Corso, & after Ave Mare to the Opera or Conversationi's that of the men has but this difference that instead visiting the Church to hear Mass they visit their favorite Ladies &c the Middly set of people pass their time chiefly in hanging out of windows & the Men at their Shop doors gossoping the poor in all countries must work. here they do as little as they possibly can to get a bit of Bread —

72.        After her return to England, Ann Flaxman's life was far less dramatic. She carried on an active social life, helped John with the running of his studio, collected art, and cared for the ad hoc little family that grew up around them. Not long after their return from Italy, William Haley's son Tom came to live with them as John's apprentice. Some time thereafter, the Flaxmans informally adopted Ann's sister Maria Denman (Maria Denman to Robert Mathers, Add. Mss. 39783, ff. 16-18, qtd. in Houpt 619), and a few years after Tom's unfortunately early death, John's half-sister Mary Ann Flaxman also became part of the family.

73.        Ann never lived abroad again, but she travelled fairly regularly within England for the rest of her life. In 1802 she and John spent three weeks in Paris seeing works of art seized from Italy by Napoleon; they also made an extended visit to Scotland in 1813 (Houpt 498). Ann's other journeys were more mundane; she visited friends and vacationed in many different parts of England, often in company with her sister Maria. We have a fair number of letters from such excursions because John's work usually prevented him from joining her. As he once wrote to Blake, "I am bound to my sculpture & cannot make my rocks travel with me" (31 July 1801, enclosed in a letter to William Hayley, qtd. in Houpt 326). But she apparently never again attempted the kind of extended literary work she had created in the Journey to Rome.

74.        Meeting her in 1810, when she would have been fifty, Henry Crabb Robinson described Flaxman as "a shrewd lively talkative woman" (1.164). James Northcote once accused her of being "the most affected woman He had ever known" but Benjamin West called her "a very well informed woman of great sense & prudence" (Farington, 12 September 1802, V.1850; 12 June 1807, VII.3065). Certainly Ann's charming letters from the 1800s show that she never lost the wit and humor shown in her Journey to Rome. During the final years of her life, however, her health degenerated. In 1814 she suffered a "paralytic stroke" from which she gradually recovered, only to break a leg falling downstairs (Crabb Robinson 1.239). From then until her death in February, 1820, Ann's health varied widely, and many of her surviving letters are written from seaside towns or Bath. Henry Crabb Robinson recorded her death in his diary:

Mrs. Flaxman died. A woman of great merit, and an irreparable loss to her husband. He, a genius of the first rank, is a very child in the concerns of life. She was a woman of strong sense, and a woman of business, too,—the very wife for an artist. Without her, he would not have been able to manage his household affairs early in life. Now, his sister and the youngest sister of his wife will do this for him. (Crabb Robinson 1.347)
John Flaxman survived "the love of my youth and the revered friend of my age" by only six years (letter to John Hawkins, 11 August 1820, Add. Mss. 39790, f. 6v). When he died, Mary Ann Flaxman and Maria Denman inherited an estate worth just four thousand pounds: despite Ann's hard work and John's great artistic success, the Flaxmans had never been rich.

75.        Ann's friend William Blake outlived John by one year, and in 1852 Crabb Robinson would write that "Stothard's work is well known; Blake's is known by very few" (2.48). Time has reversed that order, and left Blake better known than Stothard or Flaxman. But John Flaxman's memory remains alive, and because of that and her friendship with Blake, Ann has not been forgotten. Her sense, dry wit, passion for the arts, and acute observation still live in the Journey to Rome, now available again to a wider circle of potential friends.

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[1] Although known to her husband and close friends as Nancy, Ann signed herself "Ann" or "A" Flaxman throughout her life. Scholars working on John Flaxman or on Blake have often written of her as "Nancy," but, as in the parallel case of Frances ("Fanny") Burney, another woman artist long referred to by a diminutive personal name, respect suggests that Ann Flaxman the writer should be called by the name she always signed. BACK

[2] Child 115-16. Child takes the story directly from Cunningham (251), who seems to have created it based on these few lines from Joseph Farington's diary: "Soon after Flaxman was married He was walking in the street with his Wife and met Sir Joshua to whom He bowed & spoke while His wife went forward. Sir Joshua asked him who she was. Flaxman told him. What are you married.—Yes.—said Sir Joshua, your improvement is at an end" (18 October 1803, 6.2145). The Cunningham version also appears in Women of Worth and in Lee. Smith gives a version closer to Farington's: "So, Flaxman, you are married; there's no going to Italy now" (2.449). BACK

[3] Journey to Rome, Add. Mss. 39787, f. 54v. All subsequent quotations from the Journey are noted by folio number alone. BACK

[4] Towner, who made the first serious statistical study of the Grand Tour, argues that in about the 1780s, the "professional middle classes" began to outnumber the landed classes on the route of the Grand Tour, although he acknowledges that the "middle class expansion" in his sample is "principally related to the rise of professional writers." He finds that family travel became more frequent starting about the 1760s, and the average age of the Grand Tourist rose to nearly 40 in the last decades of the century ("The Grand Tour" 310-12). Towner would probably rank artists in training among the professional middle classes, but the Flaxmans' financial circumstances would have separated them from wealthier middle-class professionals making the Grand Tour for pleasure. BACK

[5] See Towner, "The Grand Tour," and Black. BACK

[6] Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, &c. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, Made in the Summer of the Year 1770 (1782) and Observations, relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, made in the year 1772 on several parts of England, particularly the mountains and lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland (1786). For a good overview of the picturesque's role in domestic tourism, see Andrews. Elizabeth Bohls offers an excellent analysis of how late eighteenth-century women writers used scenic description and the traditions of sensibility to legitimize travel and travel writing by women (66-107). BACK

[7] See McAllister, "A Flaxman Mystery Solved." BACK