By Pieter François
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Extra resources for ‘A Little Britain on the Continent’: British Perceptions of Belgium, 1830-1870
Moens remarks on Belgium’s distinctiveness when compared with other countries. On the occasion that his steam yacht slowly crossed the border between France and Belgium, he wrote: “The banks were higher here, and we could see in Belgium already a change in the aspect of the country, which appeared very rich with farms, many churches and spires showing the distance”94. Of course, this claim can be true or partly true. However, it also reveals that he was expecting a difference and he might 36 Pieter François have anticipated this feeling the moment he crossed the border.
They criticised the fact that the guides no longer promoted the full diversity of Belgian places of interest, but had reduced their focus to a small canon of historical-cultural cities; namely Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels (with Waterloo). They claimed that ‘authentic Belgium’ had been sacrified in the name of pace, efficiency, and economy. Every place that did not correspond with a typical one-day visit and was not easily accessible by train was left out of the standardized tour. Already in 1843, Henry Addison expressed a strong criticism of the suffocating influence of the extreme standardization and homogenization of the travels to Belgium: It is too often a mistake on the part of the English traveller, after visiting Antwerp, Brussels, and Waterloo, to hurry on at railway speed for the Rhine, fancying that he has seen all that is worth of notice in Belgium, but his mistake is as unfortunate for himself, as his ignorance is deplorable71.
W. Trollope, author of Belgium since the Revolution of 1830, is, for example, ridiculed by the “Monthly Review”: In so far as the intelligence and opinions of the author are concerned, the work is not of a high order. At least he does not appear to have a penetrating mind, or to have cultivated such habits as would prevent him from coming to hasty and harsh conclusions. His prejudices indeed are characteristic of John Bull; and accordingly he is apt to measure things in the lump and with a weep79.