1862 - Leslie Stephen, Writer, Mountaineer and Tourist
Arsenic for Tourists?
[The doctor] recommended me to lie down on the sofa, and keep my foot higher than my head. I obeyed his directions, and remained in this attitude (which is rather commodious than elegant) for eight consecutive days of glorious summer wheater. I had the pleasure (through a telescope) of seeing my friends one day on the Wetterhorn and another on the Eiger.
I read through the whole literature of the village, consisting of an odd number of the “Illustrated”, half a “Bell’s life”, and Tennyson’s “Princess”, about a dozen times, and occasionally induced two faithful companions to trot me round the house in a chaise-à-porteurs.
I studied with a philosophic eye the nature of that offensive variety of the genus of primates, the common tourist. His main specialities, as it seems to me from many observations, are first and chiefly, a rooted aversion to mountain scenery; secondly, a total incapacity to live without the Times; and thirdly, a deeply-seated conviction that foreigners generally are members of a secret society intended to extort money in false pretences. The cause of his travelling is wrapped in mystery. Sometimes I have regarded him as a missionary intended to show by example the delights of the British Sunday. Never, at least, does he shine with such obvious complacency as when, armed with an assortment of hymn-books and bibles, he evicts all the inferior races from the dining room of a hotel. Perhaps he is doing penance for sharp practices at home; and offers himself up for a time to be the victim of the despised native, as a trifling expiation of his offences. This view is confirmed by the spirit in which he visits the better known places of pilgrimage. He likes a panoramic view in proportion to the number of peaks which he can count, which, I take it, is a method of telling his beads; he is doomed to see a certain number of objects, and the more he can take in at one dose, the better. Further he comforts himself for his sufferings under sublime scenery by enjoying those conundrums in stone – I they may be so called – which are to be found even in the mountains. A rock that imitates the shape of the Duke of Wellington’s nose give him unspeakable delight; and he is very fond of a place near Grindelwald where St. Martin is supposed to have thrust his staff through one hill and marked the opposite slope by sitting down with extreme vigour. Some of the kind of lingering fetish worship is probably to be traced in these curious observances. Although the presence of this species is very annoying, I do not think myself justified in advocating any scheme for their extirpation, such as leaving arsenic about, as is done by some intelligent colonists in parallel cases, or by tempting them into dangerous parts of the mountains. I should be perfectly satisfied if they could be confined to a few penal settlements in the less beautiful valleys. Or, at least, let some few favoured places be set apart for a race, who certainly are as disagreeable to other persons as others can be to them, I mean the genuine enthusiasts, or climbing monomaniacs.
Milder sentiments returned as my health improved.
The Playground of Europe