The Campaigners for Real Time claim that just as easy travel eroded the differences between one country and another, and between one world and another, so time travel is now eroding the differences between one age and another. “The past,” they say, “is now truly like a foreign country. They do things exactly the same there.”
– Life, The Universe, and Everything, chapter 11 (Douglas Adams)
Instead of what would inevitably be mundane and myopic dispatches from Fellowship Application Writing Land, where I have taken up temporary residence, here’s another tidbit from my foreign travels back in August. In fact, it is a timely piece of advice as I’m in the middle of planning another Europe trip for January.
In 1781, Henri-Abraham Chatelain wanted parents of students to know the benefits of travel for their daughters. It would, he rhapsodized, allow students:
a. To extend their knowledge and augment their enlightenment.
b. To develop their judgement and perfect their taste.
c. To acquire a more special knowledge of men.
d. To train themselves in good manners and the customs of the world.
e. To make themselves more skilled in their profession.
Have your life travels done all that for shaping your character? I don’t have a definitive assessment for you of whether I have augmented my enlightenment and acquired a more special knowledge of men, but I can tell you that the same day I read the Chatelain pamphlet in France, I also recorded this observation about working in the unusual space of the Bibliothèque nationale:
Today I was placed in one of the seats that must be in high demand come dark, northern winter. Around 3:30 the sun started beating in, making me so kitten-on-the-windowsill sleepy that it took me three minutes to realize the reason I couldn’t understand the book in my hands? It was in Dutch, not German.
a. D’étendre leurs connaissances & d’augmenter leurs lumières. b. De former leur jugement & de perfectionner leur goût. c. D’acquérir une connaissance plus particulière des hommes. d. De se former aux bonnes manières & a l’usage du monde. e. De se rendre plus habiles dans leur profession.
Henri-Abraham Chatelain, L’Éducation mise à la portée de tout le monde (Lausanne: Jules Henri Pott & Comp., 1781), 136.