Hermann von Pückler-Muskau

Fürst Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (1785–1871) is perhaps best known today for the ambitious landscape gardening projects he carried out in his native Germany. When he ran short of money while creating the Park of Muskau, he set off on a tour of Britain in search of a wealthy wife, visiting all the places where affluent society was known to meet. And whilst he ultimately failed as a Fortune hunter, the success of a book based on the letters written on this tour provided him with an income that almost made up for this setback. The English version of the book came out in 1832 and was called Tour in Germany, Holland, and England in the years 1826, 1827 & 1828 and 1829. With Remarks on the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants, and Anecdotes of distinguished Public Characters. In a Series of Letters. By a German Prince.

For Pückler, Harrogate compared more favourably with continental spas than did its English counterparts. ‘This bathing-place’, he writes, ‘is much after the fashion of ours, and more social than most of the English ones. People meet at table d’hôte, at tea, and at the waters, and thus easily become acquainted.’ He also uses it as an opportunity to make a side-swipe at English society:

Source: Wikimedia Commons
‘At table d’hôte I met about seventy other persons. Though the season is nearly over, there are still about a thousand visitors, most of them of the middle classes; for Harrowgate is not one of the fashionable watering places, though it seems to me far more pleasant than the most fashionable Brighton. An old General of eighty, who was my neighbour at dinner, interested me greatly. He had met with Frederick the Great, Kaunitz, the Emperor Joseph. Mirabeau, and Napoleon, on various occasions of his life, and told me many interesting particulars about them. He had likewise been Governor of Surinam and of the Isle of France; had commanded for a long time in India, and was now what we call General of Infantry, (next rank to a Field Marshall). All this would give him a high station with us: here - no such thing; and this he remarked himself, “Here” said he “the aristocracy is everything: without family influence, without connection, without some person of rank by whom a man may be pushed, he may indeed attain a high rank in the army; but, except under some very peculiar circumstances, this gives him no consideration. I am only a baronet” added he “yet that empty and trifling title gives me more consideration than my long services or my high military rank; and I am not called General, - or as I should be with you, Euer Excellence, but Sir Charles.” (28th and 29th September 1827)

This site has been conceived in conjunction with the HERA-funded research project The European Spa as a Transnational Public Space and Social Metaphor. Conception: Astrid Köhler, Text © Astrid Köhler and Karen Southworth, Design © Jana Riedel.