James Plumptre’s Britain
‘I am ashamed to think how much I travelled and to how little advantage to myself and others,' James Plumptre wrote in 1811, by then a middle-
This characteristically modest, self-
His hasty, sometimes breathless writing provides, quite unintentionally, a portrait of Britain during a restless and often unhappy decade of change, when the middle class worried about the spread of seditious ideas from France, or the threat of invasion by Napoleon, and the rural working class struggled with economic depression and the effects of enclosure.
And at the same time it provides, quite as unintentionally, a portrait of the writer himself, in 1790 a Cambridge undergraduate more preoccupied with Romantic poetry and the stage than his studies, who a decade later was a devout Evangelical, doing his best to repress an innate sense of fun and already embarked on his career in the church. Unpublished in his lifetime and then quietly forgotten, Plumptre's journals richly deserve to see the light of day at last in this selected edition published some two hundred years after they were written.