‘Cornwall on a side saddle’

For my first text I selected Celia Feinnes 1685-1703 ‘Through England on a Side Saddle: To Lands End pp?? ‘.

About the Text

Celia Fiennes (7 June 1662 – 10 April 1741) was born in Wiltshire, the daughter of Nathaniel Fiennes, a politician who had been a a Parliamentarian colonel in the English Civil War and the second son of William Fiennes, 1st Viscount Saye and Sele. Fiennes never married. In 1691 she moved to live with a married sister in London. She travelled around England on horseback between 1684 and about 1703, “to regain my health by variety and change of aire and exercise” (Journeys). At this time the idea of travel for its own sake was still novel, and Fiennes was exceptional as an enthusiastic woman traveller. Sometimes she travelled with relatives, but she made her “Great Journey to Newcastle and Cornwall” of 1698 accompanied only by one or two servants. Her travels continued intermittently until at least 1712 and took her through most of England.

Fiennes worked up her notes into a travel memoir in 1702 but the was intended for family reading and never published. which she never published, intending it for family reading. The original text had no chapters and it has been edited and published in many different formats. Robert Southey published extracts in 1812, and the first complete edition appeared in 1888 under the title Through England on a Side Saddle. A scholarly edition called The Journeys of Celia Fiennes was produced by Christopher Morris in 1947. The version used here was a Penguin 2009 edition

Text content and summary

The diaries are written in a very informal, spontaneous, but factual manner, providing a vivid portrait of a still largely unenclosed countryside with few and primitive roads, although signposts (“posts and hands pointing to each road with the names of the great towns or market towns that it leads to”) were appearing.  Fiennes focuses on anything new, in innovations, bustling towns and in the commerce and “production and manufactures of each place”. She spends a long time describing towns like Penzance, and there are long passages describing working conditions in the tin and copper mines. She also describes the aristocratic stately homes where she stays with people known to her family, as well as some of the inns and food where she stopped off. She is obviously observant and also has empathy for the people she meets, but her narrative is very much focused on herself and her perspective is that of an aristocrat – she does not question class and gender inequalities or satyrise those in power like her contemporary Jane Austen or slightly later novelists like George Elliot and Charlotte Bronte.

Developing my creative response

As the text is a travelogue, I decided to treat the illustrations chronologically. I started by scanning and annotating the text extract.

I then highlighted and marked in where I thought the sketches would illustrate the journey without duplication and with maximum variation and interest in content and style and sketched a series of thumbnails.

I then did a layout mockup in InDesign, experimenting with different ways of integrating the text. I decided that laying the text over the images, and reducing the size of the images was more interesting that putting whole page images opposite pages of text. Provided this could be done while maintaining the legibility of the text.

I then did a Google search on 1700 illustration to start to think about different types of graphic style.

Mr. and Mrs. Andrews (1745-46) by Thomas Gainsborough

Developing the illustrations

I started doing the illustrations using the watercolour brushes in Adobe Fresco – I really like the ways these flow, and the very moody effects that can be achieved. But I found them rather difficult to control, particularly when I wanted to experiment with text. I also got the idea of using some collage with from internet images eg for Celia herself, the buildings and Corsnish characters. At least as a mockup for this project, and the Adobe mobile Aps do not have a good selection tool for collage without moving a lot between Aps and also does not have features for photo manipulation.

So I decided to proceed with Procreate, developing my own watercolour brushes and image adjustment features from the new Procreate 5 version, on top of an imported picture of a blank sketchbook page for texture and working in layers on top of the text layer and exporting as the images below. The collage images were a mixture of cutout 1700 paintings and contemporary images digitally drawn over with the same colours and/or further cutouts from the original paintings. This process also led to some re-thinking on the number and placement of images, and ways of splitting the text.

The final layout was then done in InDesign (I have to export as jpg images because no matter what setting I put on the pdf it will not import as spreads into WordPress, only single pages and the layout is done as a set of spreads.


I like the effect of the collage – a very real woman in all her finery, with muted versions of old engravings for the Cornish mines and people, against the whimsical watercolour of the countryside. Though some of the images need quite a lot of work still – after I have had more practice with this new Procreate and also cartooning in the VisRes module. The approach, like that of Feinnes herself, is ‘picturesque’ rather than critical or dramatic – very ladylike.

In terms of the questions, I think I need to do a lot more background research on 1700 illustration that cannot be found on the Internet. In the case of this Travelogue, it would have been difficult to start with the conclusion or take a non-chronological approach unless I was only doing one illustration. There were however multiple possibilities for more smaller illustrations eg in the margin that would have given a more comic approach. I could also have taken a more satirical standpoint, satirising the views of Feinnes herself – as for example in the illustrations by Ralph Stedman for Will Self’s Psychogeography, but I need to develop my cartooning skills first. That would bring in my own voice much more.