In 1755, the tutor William Whitehead defended the German itinerary of his two charges, George Bussy Villiers, later 4th earl of Jersey, and George Simon Harcourt, Viscount Nuneham and later 2nd earl Harcourt, protesting to Villiers’ father that:

Your Lordship seems very apprehensive that we prefer things to men, which is by no means our case; we hardly ever see things but merely out of Complaisance to the several Courts as we pass … Our whole time is spent in Company. 2

Given the tendency of Grand Tour scholarship to focus upon ‘things’ rather than ‘men’, Whitehead’s vehement denial of this preference is perhaps surprising. The current scholarship on the eighteenth-century elite masculine British Grand Tour presents a conundrum. Scholars are unanimous in identifying the Tour as a form of educational travel that was an important rite of passage into adulthood. Ideally, it developed the adult masculine identities of participants, endowing them with the skills and virtues most highly prized by the elite. 3 Correspondingly, survey studies list the Tour’s ambitious array of destinations and activities, in which social formation and activity, alongside non-Italian destinations, are often fleetingly mentioned. In practice, as discussed in the Introduction, a far more limited investigation has taken place. The traditional focus on Italy and its itinerary of arts, antiquities and architecture has been partially rectified by some consideration of France’s role in the formation of a polite masculine identity, but overall a significant proportion of the Tour’s route and activities remains neglected. 4 This has resulted in the perception that the Tour represented a limited, ineffective element in the formation of elite masculinity, and one that focused primarily upon its polite and virtuoso elements. As recent revisions of eighteenth-century masculinity have increasingly moved beyond the hegemonic theory of politeness to acknowledge more complex interactions between multiple, co-existent masculine identities, a reappraisal of the Grand Tour’s overall aims, itineraries and its role in masculine formation becomes necessary. 5