The general turn in feeling, giving value to things which were previously valueless – a snow-clad mountain, perhaps, or a barren strip of sea-coast, came in the 1760s and it particularly affected touring to Switzerland.
In 1763 the treaty of Paris brought the Seven Years war to an end and facilities for travel began to improve. By 1783 Gibbon, who had settled in Lausanne, was objecting that ‘the fashion of viewing the mountains and glaciers has opened us on all sides to the incursions of foreigners’. Two years later be wrote (Miscellaneous Works, II, 383): ‘I am told, but it seems incredible, that upwards of forty thousand
English, masters and servants, are now absent on the continent; and I am sure we have our full proportion, both in town and country, from the month of June to that of October’. The movement brought notable English artists to Switzerland, beginning with Pars, whose Swiss drawings were exhibited in London in 1771, and including Cozens (in 1776), Towne (in 1781), Turner and Ruskin.
The changed attitude to nature affected the English Lakes in the same way. Before long ‘the tour to the Lakes had become so fashionable that’, as Wilberforce complained, ‘the banks of the Thames were scarcely more public than those of Windermere’.
After the 1760s foreign travel became a dominant passion, in England especially, for those who could afford it. ‘Where one Englishman travelled’, wrote an observer in 1772, in the reigns of the first two Georges, ten now go on a grand tour’.
Adam Smith, the father of economics, noted in the Wealth of Nations (1776) that ‘In England, it becomes everyday more and more the custom to send young people to travel in foreign countries immediately upon their leaving school, and without sending them to any university’.