...I shall let [Anne] Wallace put the case herself, at what I think is necessary length:'As travel in general becomes physically easier, faster, and less expensive, more people want and are able to arrive at more destinations with less unpleasant awareness of their travel process. At the same time the availability of an increasing range of options in conveyance, speed, price, and so forth actually encouraged comparisons of these different modes...and so an increasingly positive awareness of process that even permitted semi-nostalgic glances back at the bad old days...Then, too, although local insularity was more and more threatened...people also quite literally became more accustomed to travel and travellers, less fearful of 'foreign' ways, so that they gradually became able to regard travel as an acceptable recreation. Finally, as speeds increased and costs decreased, it simply ceased to be true that the mass of people were confined to that circle of a day's walk: they could afford both the time and the money to travel by various means and for purely recreational purposes...And as walking became a matter of choice, it became a possible positive choice: since the common person need not necessarily be poor. Thus, as awareness of process became regarded as advantageous, 'economic necessity' became only one possible reading (although still sometimes a correct one) in a field of peripatetic meanings that included 'aesthetic choice'.'It sounds a persuasive case. It is certainly possible that something like the shift in consciousness that Wallace describes may have taken place by the 'end' (as conventionally conceived) of the Romantic period, and influenced the spread of pedestrianism in the 1820s and 1830s; even more likely that such a shift was instrumental in shaping the attitudes of Victorian writing in the railway age, and helped generate the apostolic fervour with which writers like Leslie Stephen and Robert Louis Stevenson treated the walking tour. But it fails to account for the rise of pedestrianism as I have narrated it.
Travel became distinguishable from pain and began to be regarded as an intellectual pleasur...These factors--the voluntariness of departure, the freedom implicit in the indeterminancies of mobility, the pleasure of travel free from necessity, the notion that travel signifies autonomy and is a means for demonstrating what one 'really' is independent of one context or set of defining associations--remain the characteristics of the modern conception of travel.Eric Leed
We are leading as thorough a study of 'alienation's positive pole' as of its negative pole. As a consequence of our diagnosis of the poverty of wealth, we are able to establish the world map of the extreme wealth of poverty. These speaking maps of a new topography will be in fact the first realization of 'human geography.' On them we will replace oil-deposits with the contours of layers of untapped pedestrian consciousness.
...the assessment of psychological drift, that is the way in which an undirected pedestrian tends to move about in a particular quarter of the town, tending to establish natural connections between places, the zones of influence of particular institutions and public services, and so forth. It may well be objected that these techniques are un-scientific, disorderly and too subjective, but the fact remains that the Situationists are studying the actual texture of towns and their relationship to human beings more intensively than most architects and in a more down-to-pavement manner than most town planners.
First, if it is true that a spatial order organizes an ensemble of possibilities (e.g., by a place in which one can move) and interdictions (e.g., by a wall that prevents one from going further), than the walked actualizes some of these possibilities. In that way, he makes them exist as well as emerge. But he also moves them about and he invents others, since the crossing, drifting away, or improvisation of walking privilege, transform, or abandon spatial elements.
I walked slowly on, without envying my companions on horseback: for I could sit down upon an inviting spot, climb to the edge of a precipice, or trace a torrent by its sound. I descended at length into the Rheinthal, or Valley of the Rhine; the mountains of Tyrol, which yielded neither in height or in cragginess to those of Appenzel, rising before me. And here I found a remarkable difference: for although the ascending and descending was a work of some labor; yet the variety of the scenes had given me spirits, and I was not sensible of the least fatigue. But in the plain, notwithstanding the scenery was still beautiful and picturesque, I saw at once the whole way stretching before me, and had no room for fresh expectations: I was not therefore displeased when I arrived at Oberried, after a walk of about twelve miles, my coat flung upon my shoulder like a peripatetic by profession.-William Coxe
[William] Coxe expresses...both the pedestrian's advantage of complete freedom of movement, and the inspiring effect of the combination of continual change of scene with maximum time for appreciation that characterises the mobile gaze of the pedestrian traveller. If not a peripatetic by profession, Coxe is clearly one by choice.
[Robert] Newell's recommendation of walking is also interesting:'The best way undoubtedly of seeing a country is on foot. It is the safest, and most suited to every variety of road; it will often enable you to take a shorter track, and visit scenes (the finest perhaps) not otherwise accessible; it is healthy, and, with a little practice, easy; it is economical: a pedestrian is content with almost any accommodations; he, of all travellers, wants but little, 'Nor wants that little long'. And last, though not least, it is perfectly independent.'Newell cites independence, as do a number of the 'first generation' of Romantic walkers I have already surveyed; more striking are his commendation of walking as the safest option, which reflects a very altered perception of the security of travel from that which prevailed in the eighteenth century, and his advocacy of the practical and health benefits of pedestrianism, which against suggests its institutionalisation as a form of tourism and its extension to lower reaches of the middle classes.
We are happy to observe an increasing frequency of these pedestrian tours: to walk, is, beyond all comparison, the most independent and advantageous mode of travelling; Smelfungus and Mundungus may pursue their journey as they please; but it grieves one to see a man of taste at the mercy of a postilion.'For the 'man of taste' to be actively recommended the pedestrian alternative indeed shows that a decisive reversal of educated attitudes has taken place, and within a relatively narrow span of years.
I hope that the examples I have given have gone some way towards demonstrating that pedestrian touring in the later 1780s and the 1790s was not a matter of a few 'isolated affairs', but was a practice of rapidly growing popularity among the professional, educated classes, with the texts it generated being consumed and reviewed in the same way as other travel literature: compared, criticised for inaccuracies, assessed for topographical or antiquarian interest, and so on.