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This is the earliest description of British society to be written in Polish, translated here for the first time. Krystin Lach-Szyrma vividly recounts his time in early nineteenth-century London.

London Observed

A Polish Philosopher at Large, 1822-24

Krystin Lach-Szyrma

Edited and annotated by Mona Kedslie McLeod
Foreword by Neal Ascherson

The philosopher and writer Krystin Lach-Szyrma came to Britain in 1820 as tutor to two Polish princes, as their Grand Tour took them to Enlightenment Scotland, where they spent two years studying at Edinburgh University. After a short tour of continental Europe they returned in 1822 to England to enjoy the delights of London and observe its monuments and people. Over a period of 18 months they visited prisons, hospitals and factories as well as art galleries and museums and were entertained by individuals of the calibre of Elizabeth Fry and Robert Owen. The philosopher and his princely charges familiarised themselves with the Houses of Parliament the Stock Exchange and Westminster Abbey, but were also intrigued by London’s inns and theatres. Looking at the capital’s financial, religious and academic institutions, they analysed its class system and law-and-order problems, pondering such issues as the origins of the term Cockney and the nature of English breakfasts. With insatiable curiosity and good humour, Lach-Szyrma recorded his impressions of London and Londoners in perceptive and readable style. Of peasant origins, Lach-Szyrma was no snob. His observations are shrewd, witty and irradiated by the enthusiasm of a Romantic. On his return to Poland Lach-Szyrma was appointed Professor of Philosophy at Warsaw University and in 1828 published his Reminiscences of a Journey through Scotland and England, of which this book forms the second part. The earliest description of British society to be written in Polish, it aroused great interest at a time when both English and Scottish institutions were widely admired and London had become the most vibrant city in Europe. Translated for the first time, Lach-Szyrma’s record of London life retains its original freshness and offers new insights into the rapidly evolving city.

Mona Kedslie McLeod is a retired lecturer from the Extra Mural Department of Edinburgh University. Recent publications include Agents of Change: Scots in Poland 1800-1918 and an edited translation of Lach-Szyrma’s Reminiscences under the title From Charlotte Square to Fingal’s Cave. Her mother’s family lived in Poland for 100 years.

£12.99 paperback

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2009
256 pages, 215x140
ISBN: 9781904955641