"Paris to a stranger is a desert full of knaves & whores – like London:" Thomas Manning's European encounter, 1802-1805
- Číslo 57 
PublisherUniverzita Karlova, Filozofická fakulta
SourceLitteraria Pragensia, 2019, 57, 75-90
KeywordsKeywords not found
Thomas Manning (1772-1840), like many of his countrymen, took advantage of the Peace of Amiens to cross the Channel and visit France in 1802. In his thirtieth year, this Norfolk-born son of an affluent Anglican Rector arrived in France with good connections and broad horizons. A friend of Charles Lamb, and acquaintance of Coleridge, Manning was well-placed to enjoy Paris’s famous salon culture; and its allure is apparent in the letters he sent to his father and to Lamb. These social circles served as a stimulus to creativity, but were also a vital means of knowledge-sharing, networking and introduction. Manning arrived in Paris with several ambitious (if somewhat nebulous) cultural objectives, chief among which was to begin the study of the Chinese language – the first step towards a broader study of Chinese history and society. But Paris, a major centre for European mathematics, was also somewhere Manning hoped he could find new inspiration for the mathematical research he had continued after leaving Cambridge in 1795. It further served as the base for a typically idiosyncratic “Grand Tour,” which provided an opportunity for Manning to record his sociological and anthropological observations on rural locales. After eighteen months on the Continent, and on the cusp of returning to England, he was interned at Angers due to the resumption of war with Britain. Not until the end of his third year in France did he receive special permission to leave the country. Making original use of archival sources, this article contextualizes Manning’s Chinese project amid his myriad intellectual pursuits – mathematical, linguistic, sociological and anthropological – and suggests that it be understood as part of the wider zeitgeist of cultural reform.