Marcus Köhler (Technische Universität Dresden)
The immediate traveler: Friedrich Karl von Hardenberg's travels to France and England in the 1740s
When Friedrich Karl von Hardenberg (1696-1763), surveyor of court gardens and buildings in the electorate of Hanover, travelled to France (1741/42) and England (1744/45), he wrote travel descriptions who – inherited by his nephew, the state minister Prince Karl August von Hardenberg – are kept in two different archives today. The diaries who resemble lots of smaller notices were never meant to be published. Therefor they offer – together with further archival material (letters, pamphlets, listings, receipts) – a very intimate insight in Hardenberg’s personal and political interest. To several fields he paid attention: for instance art and architecture, theatre and opera, natural history, technical instruments but also economy, military and agriculture. Next to this he reports on encounters with his contemporaries, their anecdotes and peculiarities, their family connections but also on their character and sentences: with Handel he had a chat on singleness, and with the former Prime Minister Walpole he discussed the special misfortune of his government.
Next to the multiple and rich information on art and culture (he writes down long lists of paintings, artists and topics in private collections, for instance) he sketches a „Mentalitätsgeschichte” of two countries. On the one hand side he visits the usual sites as done by any traveller of distinction in his days but on the other side he gained special experience and understanding: he was possibly the only voyager who sat down with the queen of France to share German sausages or examine creatures under the microscope with King George II.
In introducing Hardenberg’s travel diaries (or rather notices) I want to put a literary source into discussion that was not written for a certain circle of recipients. Although strongly subjective the diaries may give us a more immediate idea of the period than others that received an editorial process.