Letters from Abroad to Kindred at Home/Place VII
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Place VII. London
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London, 14th.—Here we are, with a house to ourselves, in modest, comfortable, clean lodgings (but is not all England clean?) in Halfmoon-street. It is the London season, so called from Parliament being in session, and all the fashion and business of the kingdom congregating here at this time. We are told that we are fortunate in getting any lodgings at the West End, while the town is so filled; and at the West End you must be if you would hope to live in the daylight of the known, that is, the fashionable world.
Would you know what struck me as we drove from the depôt of the western railroad to our lodgings? the familiar names of the streets, the neutral tint of the houses, the great superiority of the pavements to ours, and, having last seen New-York, the superior cleanliness of the streets. I have all my life heard London spoken of as dismal and dark. It may be so in winter; it is not now. The smoke colour of the houses is soft and healthy to the eye, so unlike our flame-coloured cities, that seem surely to typify their destiny, which is, you know, to be burned up, sooner or later—sooner, in most cases. And, having had nothing to do to-day but gaze from our windows, what think you has struck us as quite different from a relative position in our own city? The groups of ballad-singers, consisting usually of a man and woman, and one or two children. I have seen such in New-York half a dozen times in my life, and they are always people from the Continent of Europe. Here, not half an hour passes without a procession of these licensed, musical, and, to us novices, irresistible beggars. Then there are the hawkers of flowers, as irresistible, lovely bouquets of moss-rosebuds, geraniums, heliotropes, and what not. As we are in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly and the parks, our street is quite a thoroughfare, and we are every moment exclaiming at the superb equipages that pass our window. Nothing I presume, of the kind in the world exceeds the luxury of an English carriage with all its appointments; and yet, shall I confess to you that, after my admiration of their superb horses was somewhat abated, I have felt, in looking at them, much as I have at seeing a poor little child made a fool of by the useless and glittering trappings of his hobbyhorse. What would our labouring men, who work up the time and strength God gives them into independence, domestic happiness, and political existence—what would they, what should they say, at seeing three—four servants—strong, tall, well-Made young men (for such are selected)—attached to a coach, one coachman and three footmen, two, of course, perfect supernumeraries? We "moralize the spectacle," too; observe the vacant countenance and flippant air of these men, chained, to the circle of half a dozen ideas, and end with a laugh at their fantastical liveries; some in white turned with red, and some in red turned with white. Fancy a man driving, with a militia general's hat, feathers and all, with three footmen, one seated beside him and two behind, all with white coats, scarlet plush breeches, white silk stockings, rosettes on their shoes, and gold-headed batons in their white-gloved hands. There must be something "rotten in the state," when God's creatures, "possible angels," as our friend Doctor T. calls all humankind, look up to a station behind a lord's coach as a privileged place. "Possible angels" they may be, but, alas, their path is hedged about with huge improbabilities!
London.—Since the first day of our arrival here, my dear C., we have been going on with the swiftness of railroad motion. I have made, en passant, a few notes in the hope of retaining impressions that were necessarily slight and imperfect; and now, at my first leisure, I am about to expand them for you. You shall have them honestly, without colouring or exaggeration. I can scarcely hope they will have any other merit; for, without any humble disclaimers which might be made as to the incompetency of the individual—that individual a woman always more or less hampered—what is one month in London? one month among two millions of people!
Coming to the cities of the Old World, as we do, with our national vanities thick upon us, with our scale of measurement graduated by Broadway, the City-Hall, the Battery, and the Boston-Common, we are confounded by the extent of London, by its magnificent parks, its immense structures, by its docks and warehouses, and by all its details of convenience and comfort, and its aggregate of incalculable wealth. We begin with comforting ourselves with the thought "why these people have been at it these two thousand years, and Heaven knows how much longer." By degrees envy melts into self-complacency, and we say "they are our relations;" "our fathers had a hand in it;" we are of the same race, "as our new-planned cities and unfinished towers" shall hereafter prove. Mr. Webster said to me after we had both been two or three weeks here, "What is your impression now of London? my feeling is yet amazement."
I got my best idea of the source of the wealth and power of the country from visiting the docks and warehouses, which we did thoroughly, under the conduct of our very kind countryman, Mr. P. Vaughan, whose uncle, Mr. William Vaughan, had much to do with the suggesting and planning these great works. Do not fear I am about to give you a particular description of them, which you will get so much better from any statistics of London. Our "woman's sphere," the boundaries of which some of my sex are making rather indefinite, does not extend to such subjects. We yet have the child's pleasure of wonder, and we had it in perfection in passing through an apartment a hundred feet in length, appropriated to cinnamon, the next, of equal extent, to cloves, and so on and so on to a wine-vault under an acre of ground.
I never enter the London parks without regretting the folly (call it not cupidity) of our people, who, when they had a whole continent at their disposal, have left such narrow spaces for what has been so well called the lungs of a city; its breathing-places they certainly are. I do not know the number of squares in London. I should think a hundred as large as our boasted St John's Park, the Park, Washington and Union Squares. Their parks appear to me to cover as much ground as half our city of New-York. The Regent's Park, the largest, contains 450 acres; Hyde Park, 395. Besides these, there are Green and St. James's Parks, which, however, are both much smaller than Hyde Park. I wonder if some of our speculating lot-mad people would not like to have the draining of their adorning-waters, and the laying out of the ground into streets and building-lots, a passion as worthy as Scott's old Cummer's for streaking a corse. It would, indeed, be changing the living into the dead to drive the spirit of health and the healthiest pleasure from these beautiful grounds. The utilitarian principle, in its narrowest sense, has too much to do in our country. I can fancy a Western squatter coming into Regent's Park and casting bis eye over its glades, gardens, and shrubberies, exclaim, "Why, this is the best of parara land; I'll squat here!"
Yes, dear C., that surely is a narrow utilitarianism which would make everything convertible to the meat that perisheth; and to that would sacrifice God's rich provisions for the wants of man's spirit. The only chance a London tradesman has to feel that he has anything nobler in his nature than a craving stomach, is when he comes forth on Sunday from his smoky place of daily toil into these lovely green parks, where he and his young ones can lay themselves down on the green sward, under the shadow of majestic trees, amid the odour of flowers and the singing of birds: all God's witnesses even to their dulled senses. We have 300,000 souls now in New-York. We shall soon have our million; but, alas! we have no such paradise in preparation for them!
The Zoological Garden is in Regent's Park. As a garden merely, it is very beautiful; and I do not doubt its planner or planners bad reference to the original type of all gardens. Its various and vast number of animals remind you at every turn of Milton's Paradise, though the women in blue and purple satin, and the men in the last fashion of Bond-street, bear tittle resemblance to the original specimens of those who, with their loyal subjects, were "to find pastime and bear rule."
"For contemplation, he and valour formed;
All the representatives of the bird and animal creation that were housed in the ark appear to have their descendants here; and, as if to guard them against dying of homesickness, they have their little surroundings made as far as possible to resemble their native places. They are accommodated according to the national taste, with private lodgings, and space to roam and growl at will . There is sparkling water for aquatic birds, and ponds for the otter to dive in. There is space for the dainty giraffe, who seems hardly to touch the ground for very delicateness, to rove over, and trees, to whose topmost branches he stretches his flexible neck. The bear has his area, with poles to hug and climb, and the elephant his tank to swim in, and forest-like glades to lumber along; and camels we saw in the distance grazing on fields of green grass; and then there are "rows of goodliest trees" and "verdurous walls;" "blossoms and fruits;" all the luxuries of paradise, save authority, solitude, innocence, and a few such light matters. The garden has not been open more than twelve years. The price of admission is only one shilling English. This we should think liberal enough in our democratic country. The pleasure is made more exclusive on Sunday by the requisition of a member's ticket, but these are easily obtained. Several were sent us unasked, if you care for such shows, you may then, in addition to the birds and beasts, see the gentry and nobility!
I fancy that most of our people, when they arrive in London, go to the Tower and Westminster Abbey, as the sights they have most and longest thirsted for. I have been told that Webster had not been half an hour in London when he took a cab and drove to the Tower; and I liked the boyish feeling still fresh and perceptible, like the little rivulet whose hue marks it distinctly long after it has entered some great river. I have not seen the Tower; not for lack of interest in it, for, ever since in my childhood my heart ached for the hapless state-prisoner that passed its portals, I have longed to see it. We went there at an unfortunate hour; the doors were closed; and I was like a crossed child when I felt that I should never see the Black Prince's armour, nor the axe that dealt the deathblow to Anne Boleyn, nor the prison of Sir Walter Raleigh, nor any of (he Tower's soul-moving treasures. We were admitted within the outer wall, which encloses an area where three thousand people live; a fact that, as it is all I have to communicate, will, I hope, surprise you as much as it did me.
We went three times to Westminster Abbey, and spent many hours there; hours that had more sensation in them than months, I might almost say years, of ordinary life. Why, my dear C., it is worth crossing the Atlantic to enter the little door by "which we first went into the Abbey, and have your eyes light on that familiar legend, "O rare Ben Jonson!" And then to walk around and see the monuments of Shakspeare, Spenser, Milton, and of other inspired teachers. You have strange and mixed feelings. You approach nearer to than than ever before, but it is in sympathy with their mortality. You realize for the first time that they are dead; for who, of all your friends, have been so living to you as they? We escaped from our automaton guide, and walked about as if in a trance.There is much imbodied history in the Abbey—facts recorded in stone. And there are startling curiosities of antiquity, such, for example, as a coronation-chair as old as Edward the Confessor's time, and the helmet of Henry V., and his saddle, the very saddle he rode at Agincourt I thought, as I looked at it, and felt the blood tingling in my veins, that his prophecy of being "freshly remembered," even "to the ending of the world," was in fair progress to fulfilment.
The Gothic architecture of parts of the Abbey is, I believe, quite unequalled; but the effect of the whole is impaired by Protestant spoliations and alterations. Henry the Seventh's chapel, with its carved stone-ceiling, is a proverb and miracle of beauty.
I was grievously disappointed in St. Paul's. I early got, from some scboolbook, I believe, an impression that it was a model of architecture, that Sir Christopher Wren was a Divine light among artists, and sundry other false notions It stands in the heart of the city of London, and is so defaced, and absolutely blackened by its coal-smoke, that yon would scarcely suspect it to be of that beautiful material white marble. A more heavy, inexpressive mass can hardly be found cumbering the ground. It takes time and infinite pains, depend on't, to educate the Saxon race out of their natural inaptitude in matters of taste. As you stand within and under the dome, the effect is very grand and beautiful. The statues here and at Westminster struck me as monstrous, and even curious, productions For an age when Grecian art was extant, or, indeed, for any age; for there is always the original model, the human form. The artists have not taken man for their model, but the English man, of whom grace can scarcely be predicated, and the Englishman, too, in his national, and sometimes in his hideous military costume.
One of the sights that much pleased me was the Inns of Court. The entrance to it is from one of the thronged thoroughfares (Fleet-street, I believe), to which it seems a sort of episode, or, rather, like a curious antique pendent to a chain of modem workmanship. The ground, now occupied by the lawyers, was formerly appropriated to the Knights Templars. Their chapel still remains; a singular old structure it is. A part of it is in its original condition, as it was when the Du Bois Guiberts of the romantic days worshipped there. When I looked at their effigies in stone, I could almost hear their armour clanking and ringing on the pavement.
As you will perceive from my barren report to you, I have given very little time to sight-seeing, and less to public amusements. I went once to Covent Garden Theatre with Mrs. ——. She has a free ticket, which admits two persons, one of the small fruits of her literary sowing, a species of labour which should produce to her a wide-spread and golden harvest. We went unattended — a new experience to me. Necessity has taught women here more independence than with us, and it has its advantages to both parties; the men are saved much bother, and the women gain faculty and freedom. Mrs. —— proceeded with as much ease as if she were going to her own room at home, and we met with no difficulty or impertinence whatever, not even a stare. The play was Henry V., as it is restored by Macready, who, with a zeal that all true lovers of Shakspeare must venerate, is effacing the profane alterations of the poet's text; such mangling, for instance, as Garrick made of the last scenes of Lear; and, besides, is adding indescribably to the dramatic beauty of the representation by an elaborate conformity to the costume of the period which the play represents. Shakspeare himself would, I suspect, be somewhat startled by the perfection of scenic decoration and costume of Macready's presentation of Henry V. While the choruses are rehearsing by Time, there is a pictorial exhibition of the scenes he describes; and this is managed with such art as to appear to the spectator, not a picture, but an actual scene. As he finishes, a curtain, which seems like a dissolving cloud, is withdrawn, and discloses the actors.
Garden Theatre is much larger, more elegant, and more commodiously arranged than the best of ours. There is a certain indefinite pleasure proceeding from seeing a play of Shakspeare played in the land where he lived; where he has seen them enacted, and himself enacted them. It is something like going to a friend's house for the first time after a long and close friendship with him. A few days since we were at Southampton, and passed through the arch under which Henry led his army when he embarked for the "fair and lucky war." This, and the recurrence of the names of localities that are now within our daily drives, gave me the realizing sensation of which you may well be tired of hearing by this time. And, by-the-way, how could I describe this sensation without our expressive American (New-England?) use of this word realize?
We went once to the Italian opera, and sat in the pit. The intermixture of gayly-dressed ladies with men in the pit gives it a civilized and lively aspect; it is something like turning a forest into a flower-garden. The pit of the opera is filled with people of respectable condition, as you may suppose from the cost of any box large enough for five or six people being seven or eight guineas. We paid two dollars for a seat Mrs. —— was with us, expounding to us, and enjoying, as none but those who have the genius to the fingers' ends that makes the artist, can enjoy. The people who have the reputation of being the first singers in the world, sang: Grisi, the young Garcia, Perasiani, La Blache, Tamburini, and a very interesting young man, the son of an Italian marquis, whose nom-de-guerre is Mario. The little queen was in her box behind a curtain, as carefully hidden from her people as an Oriental monarch; not from any Oriental ideas of the sacredness of her person, but that she may cast off her royal dignity, and have the privilege of enjoying unobserved, as we humble people do. No chariness of her countenance could make her "like the robe pontifical, ne'er seen but wondered at." She is a plain little body enough, as we saw when she protruded her head to bow to the high people in the box next to her: the queen-dowager, the Princess Esterhazy, and so on. Ordinary is the word for her; you would not notice her among a hundred others in our village church. Just now she is suffering for the tragedy of Lady Flora, and fears are entertained, whenever she appears, that there will be voices to cry out "Where is Lady Flora?" a sound that must pierce the poor young thing's heart Ah! she has come to the throne when royalty pays quite too dear for its whistle!
We had the ballet ha Gitana after the singing—and Taglioni. No praise of her grace is exaggerated. There is music in every movement of her arms; and if she would restrict herself within the limits of decency, there could not be a more exquisite spectacle of its kind than her dancing. I would give in to the ravings of her admirers, and allow that her grace is God's beautiful gift, and that fitting it is it should be so used. But could not this grace be equally demonstrated with a skirt a few inches longer and rather less transparent? To my crude notions her positions are often disgusting; and when she raised her leg to a right angle with her body, I could have exclaimed, as Carlyle did, "Merciful Heaven! where will it end?"
Familiarity must dull the sense to these bad parts of the exhibition; for Mrs. —— quoted a French-woman, who said, on seeing Taglioni, "Il faut être sage pour danser comme ça" (one must be virtuous to dance like that). I should rather have said, "Wolstoncrafts, but into men, women, and ballet-dancers. For surely a woman must have forgotten the instincts of her sex before she can dance even as Taglioni does. I am not apt, as you know, my dear C., to run a tilt against public amusements; but I hold this to be an execrable one; and, if my voice could have any influence, I would pray every modest woman and modest man, for why should this virtue be graduated by a different scale for the different sexes? every modest man and woman, then, in our land to discountenance its advancement there. If we have not yet the perfection of a matured civilization, God save us from the corruptions that prelude and intimate its decline!." And I would divide the world, not as our witty friend —— does into men, women, and Mary
We spent a morning at the British Museum, and could have passed a month there profitably. It is on a magnificent scale, worthy this great nation. We have made few excursions out of London. We took the fourth of July to drive to Hampton Court; and so bright and warm it was that, as far as the weather was concerned, we might have fancied ourselves at home, keeping our national festival. "Hampton's royal pile" was begun by Wolsey, who, "though of an humble stock," was born with a kingly ambition, and "fashioned to much honour from his cradle." His expenditure on this palace was most royal, and furnished, as you know, a convenient pretext for his master's displeasure, Henry put forth the lion's right—might—and took possession of it; and the royal arms and badges of the Tudors are carved over the devices and arms of Wolsey. That part of the edifice which belongs to the age of the Tudors seemed to me alone to have any architectural interest or much beauty. It bears the marks of that era when feudal individual fortifications were giving place to the defences of a higher civilization; when the country-house was superseding the castle. From the time of Henry VIII. to the first two Georges it has been at various times enlarged, and has been one of the regular establishments of the reigning family. It is now, with its extensive and beautifully-ornamented grounds, given up to the public, who are admitted within the gates without a fee! There is no picturesqueness, no natural beauty in the grounds, or, rather, to speak; more accurately, in the face of the ground; for who shall presume to say that trees are not natural beauties, and such trees as the magnificent elms, chestnuts, and limes of Hampton, the most surpassingly beautiful of all natural beauties?
There is one walk of a mile to the Thames, and there is shrubbery, and fountains, and artificial bits of water, and aquatic birds, and plants, as we have good reason to remember; for one of our girls, fancying, with truly American naiveté, they were growing wild, and unchecked by the pithy admonition on sundry bits of board, "It is expected the public will protect what is intended for public enjoyment," tempted our friend P. to pluck a lotus for her. He was forthwith pounced on by a lad, one of the police curs, who seized for "the crown and country" the poor water-lily, and compelled P. to appear before one of the officials. The regular fine was ten shillings English; but the man was lenient; and, on consideration of our being Americans (semi-barbarians?), P. was let off with paying a slight penalty for his good-natured gallantry. We left the gardens with reluctance for the duty of seeing the interior of the palace, and, beginning with a princely hall one hundred feet in length, we circulated through more banqueting-rooms, drawing-rooms, "king's sleeping-apartments," "queen's bed-chambers," "king's presence-chambers," "king's and queen's dressing-rooms," "queen's galleries," tapestry galleries, and what not, than ever rose above the horizon of your plebeian imagination.
The apartments are nearly all hung with pictures. There is little furniture, strictly so called, remaining, and what there is, is faded and timeworn.
I give you the following opinion with all modesty, knowing that I am not a qualified judge; the collection of pictures struck me as proving that art is not native to the country. Of course the pictures are chiefly by foreign artists, but obtained by English-men who had an unlimited power of patronage and selection. In the immense number of pictures there are few to be remembered. The celebrated portrait of Charles the First on horseback, by Vandyke, rivets you before it by its most sad and prophetic expression. It is such a portrait as Shakspeare would have painted of Charles had he been an outside painter.
Sir Peter Lely's flesh-and-blood beauties of Charles the Second's time fill one apartment Hamilton and Mrs. Jameson have given these fair dames an immortality they do not merit They are mere mortal beauties, and not even the best specimens of the kind. They are the women of the coarsest English comedies; not such types of womanhood as Juliet, Desdemona, and Isabella. They have not the merit of individuality. They have all beautiful hands—probably because Sir Peter Lely could paint beautiful hands—and lovely necks and bosoms, most prodigally displayed. There is a mixture of finery and negligence in their dress that would seem to indicate the born slattern transformed into the fine lady. It would take a Mohammed's heaven of such beauties to work up into the spiritual loveliness of an exquisite bead of St. Catharine, by Correggio, in another apartment of this gallery. What a text might be made of these counterfeit presentments of the sinner and the saint for an eloquent preacher in a Magdalen chapel!
Holbein's pictures were to me among the most interesting in the collection. Some one says that Holbein's pictures are "the prose of portrait-painting," the least poetic department of the art. If for "prose" you may substitute truth (and truth, to the apprehension of some people, is mighty prosaic), the remark is just. The truth is so self-evident, the individuality of his pictures so striking, that his portraits impress you as delineations of familiar faces; and there are the pictures of Wolsey, of Sir Thomas More, of Harry the Eighth at different epochs of his life, and of Francis the First. Think of seeing contemporaneous pictures of these men by an exact hand! "Oh, ye gentlemen who live at home at ease," ye may sometimes envy us; and this I say while every bone is aching with the fatigue of this sight-seeing day.We wound up with the gallery of Raphael's cartoons, so named, as perhaps you do not know, from their being done on a thin pasteboard, called in Italian cartone. They were done by the order of Leo the Tenth, to serve as models for the tapestry of one of the halls of the Vatican, and sent to Brussels, where the tapestry was to be woven. After vicissitudes whose history would make a volume, William the Third had this gallery constructed for them, and they were taken from the boxes, in which they were found carelessly packed, and in slips, and put together, and placed in plain frames. These cartoons are the delight of the artistic world. Perhaps the sketches and unfinished paintings of great artists give the best indications of those revelations of beauty that are made to their minds, and to which they can never give material expression. Can ideal perfection be manifested by form and colour? My admiration of the cartoons was very earnest, albeit unlearned. Paul preaching at Athens struck me as the grandest among them.
We returned to London through Bushby Park, where the trees are the most magnificent I ever beheld, not excepting those of Western Virginia. We passed by Twickenham and Strawberry Hill, and came to Richmond Hill (Riche-mont) to dine. The view from this hill has been lauded in poetry and prose, and filled so many dull pages of dull journals, that I, in much mercy, spare you a repetition. If an Englishman were to select a single view in his country to give a stranger the best idea of the characteristics of English rural scenery, it would probably be that of Richmond Hill. It is a sea of cultivation, nothing omitted, imperfect, or unfinished. There are no words to exaggerate these characteristics. It is all strawberries and cream; satingly rich; filled
" With hills, and dales, and woods, and lawns, and spires,
And yet, shall I confess it to you, I would have given all the pleasure I should get from it for a lifetime for one glance from S——'s hill at the valley with its wooden houses, straggling brown fences, and ragged husbandry! Yes, and apart from home associations, is there not more to kindle emotion in that valley, lying deep in her encircling hills with their rich woodlands and rocky steeps, than in this monotonous beauty? The one is a drawing-room lady, the other a wood-nymph.
We sent away our carriage, and came home in a steamer, which was crowded when we got on board. At first we looked around in the most self-complacent manner, expecting, with our American notions, that seats would be offered on every side, as they would assuredly have been to all us womankind in one of our own steamers. Not a foot stirred. Some of us were positively unable to stand, and for those Mr. P. made an appeal to some men, who refused without hesitation, appearing to think our expectations were impertinent. We were too far gone to be fastidious, so we adopted the backwoods' expedient, and squatted upon what unoccupied territory we could find. If such personal selfishness and discourtesy is the result of a high civilization, I am glad we have not yet attained it. The general indifference of our companions in the steamer to the scenery of the river reminded us of the strictures of English travellers in America in similar situations. Nothing can be more fallacious than the broad inferences drawn from such premises. They were probably people intent on errands of business, or, like us, tired parties of pleasure; and I am sure, at that moment, nothing less than Niagara or the Alps could have excited us to express an emotion. We landed at Hungerford stairs: R. said it reminded him of the landing-place at Chicago. It was rude enough for the Far West. You may imagine our wearied condition when I tell you that when we arrived at home, the girls voluntarily let me off from a promise to chaperone them to Mrs. B——'s concert, where Grisi and the other Italian stars were "choiring—to young-eyed cherubims," no doubt.
We have been to Windsor, with the great advantage of Mrs. —— for our companion and guide. She puts a soul and a voice into dumb things, and her soul! We failed to get a permission to see the private apartments, though Lady B. and some other potent friends stirred in our behalf. Only a certain number of tickets are issued during the week, and our application was too late; so we could not see the luxurious furnishings for royal domestic life, if royalty may have domestic life, or ever in
Windsor Castle, you know, is rich with the accumulated associations of ages, having been begun by Henry III., and enlarged and enriched from time to time down to George I., who put it in complete order. It stands on an eminence just above the little town of Windsor, which, built of brick and stone, is compact and clean, as is everything English, individual and congregate. It is said to be the best specimen of castellated architecture in England. Certainly it is very beautiful, and the most beautiful thing about it is the view from the terrace, which it would be little better than impertinent to describe in any other words than Gray's, in his invocation to those who stand on the terrace:
" And ye, that from the stately brow
We spent some hours in going through the magnificent apartments of the palace, looking at the pictures, the Gobelia tapestry, &c, &c. The quaint curious banqueting-room of the knights of the garter, with their insignia, pleased me best. Vacant places are left for future knights; but how much longer an institution will last that is a part of a worn-out machine, is a question which your children, dear C., may live to see solved.
We had enough of the enjoying spirit of children to be delighted, and felt much in the humour of the honest man who stud to Prince Esterhazy when he was blazing in diamonds, "Thank you for your diamonds." "Why do you thank me?" naturally asked the prince. "You have the trouble of them, and I the pleasure of looking at them." Wise and happy man! He solved a puzzling problem. In truth, the monarch has not the pleasure of property in Windsor Castle that almost every Amencan citizen has in the roof that shelters him. "I congratulate your majesty on the possession of so beautiful a palace," said some foreign prince to whom Victoria was showing it. "It is not mine, but the country's," she replied. And so it is, and all within it. She may not give away a picture, or even a footstool.
We went into St George's chapel, which is included in the pile of buildings. We saw there the beautiful effect produced by the sun shining through the painted windows, throwing all the colours of the rainbow on the white marble pillars and pavement. The royal family are buried in the vaults of this chapel. There is an elaborate monument in wretched taste in one corner, to the Princess Charlotte. We trod on a tablet in the pavement that told us that beneath it were lying the remains of Henry VIII. and Jane Seymour! It is such memorials as these that we arc continually meeting, which, as honest uncle Stephen says, "give one feelings."
Lady B. had said to me in a note, "if you attend service in St. George's chapel, observe the waving of the banners to the music. It seems like a strange sympathy with the tones of the organ before one reflects on the cause." We did attend the service, and realized the poetic idea. The banner of every knight of the garter, from the beginning of the institution, is hung in the choir.
This was the third time we had been present, since we came to England, at worship in the temples into which art has breathed its soul. First in Winchester Cathedral, then at Westminster Abbey, and now at this old royal chapel. The daily service appointed by the Church was performing with the careless and heartless air of prescription. The clergyman and clerk hurried sing-songing through the forte of prayers, that, perfect as they are, will only rise on the soul's wings. I felt the Puritan struggling at my heart, and could have broken out with old Mause's fervour, if not her eloquence. I thought of our summer Sunday service in dear J.'s "long parlour." Not a vacant place there. The door open into the garden, the children strewed round the doorstep, their young faces touched with an expression of devotion and love such as glows in the faces of the cherubs of the old pictures; and for vaulted roof, columns, and storied glass, we had the blue sky, the everlasting hills, and lights and shadows playing over them, all suggestive of devotion, and in harmony with the pure and simple doctrine our friend Dr. Follen taught us. To me, there was more true worship in those all-embracing words "Our Father!" as he uttered them, than in all the task-prayers I have heard in these mighty cathedrals. Here it is the temple that is greatest. Your mind is preoccupied, filled with the outward world. The monuments of past ages and the memorials of individual greatness are before you. Your existence is amplified; your sympathies are carried far back; the "inexorable past" does give up its dead. Wherever your eye falls you see the work of a power new to you—the creative power of art. You see forms of beauty which never entered into your "forge of thought" You are filled with new and delightful emotions, but they spring from new impressions of the genius of man, of his destiny and history. No; these cathedrals are not like the arches of out forests, the temples for inevitable worship, but they are the fitting place for the apotheosis of genius."
I promised to give you honestly my impressions, and I do so. I may have come too old and inflexible to these temples; but, though I feel their beauty thrilling my heart and brimming my eyes, they do not strike me as in accord with the simplicity, universality, and spirituality of the Gospel of Jesus. Some modem unbelievers maintain that Christianity is a worn-out form of religion. Is it not rather true that the spirit escapes from the forms in which man, always running to the material, would imbody it?
We took our lunch, and let me, en passant, bless the country where you can always command what is best suited "to restore the weak and 'caying nature," as pathetically called it in his before-dinner grace. For lunch they give you a cold round of beef, juicy and tender; ham, perfectly cured, perfectly cooked, delicious bread and butter, or, indeed, what you will, and all so neatly served. Oh, my dear C., mortifying contrasts are forced on my ever-home-tuming thoughts!
We walked to Eton, and, most fortunately, came upon its classic-play-ground at the moment the boys were let loose upon it. Of course, it was impossible not to recall Gray's doleful prophecy while looking at some former generation of Eton boys, Mrs. —— repeated them :
These shall the fury passions tear,
This is undoubtedly powerful poetry, but is it the true sentiment? I never liked it, and liked it less than ever when looking at these young creatures, among whom are the future teachers and benefactors of their land; it may be a Collingwood, a Wilberforce, a Romilly, a Hallam. Should not the poet have seen within these bounding young frames immeasurable faculties, capacities for love and virtue, that eternity cannot exhaust?
The children here strike me as not having the bright, intellectual countenances of ours, which indicate their early development; but, as a physical production, the English boy, with his brilliant complexion and sturdy frame, is far superior to ours.
We have nothing corresponding, my dear C., to the luxury of space and adornment of this play-ground of Eton. The eye does not perceive its boundaries; the Thames passes through it, and the trees have been growing, and, at a fair rate, for hundreds of years.
My dear C.,
The London breakfast party is a species of entertainment quite unknown to us, and we should not find it easy to acclimate. it It is not suited to our condition of society. Suppose E. attempting such a thing at New-York. She would naturally invite S. S. as the most agreeable woman of her acquaintance. The answer would probably be, "The children are ailing, and she cannot come." She, like most of our mothers, never leaves her house if there be a shadow in the nursery. Then Mrs. B.: "No, she expects a few friends to dinner, and she must overlook her servants;" and so on, and so on. But if the women, whose habits are most flexible, could be managed, where would you find half a dozen men at leisure? D. must be at the office of the "Life and Trust" at nine; and of our agreeable poets—our home-lions—Bryant has his daily paper to get out, and Halleck, like poor Charles Lamb, his (only) "heavy works," his ledger, for his morning task; and, save some half dozen idlers, all the men in town are at their counting-houses or offices, steeped to the lips in business by nine o'clock in the morning. But here the case is quite different; the women are not so hampered with domestic lif, and the men are " " and masters of their time. The breakfast party is not, however, I believe, of long standing here. I have been told that it was introduced by that Mr. Rogers whose household designation among us is "Rogers the poet."
The hour of the breakfast party is from ten to eleven. The number is, I believe, never allowed to exceed twelve; and only corned up to that when the host is constrained, like a certain friend of ours, by his diffusive benevolence, to extend his invitation (his "ticket for six") to a caravan of travellers.
The entertainment is little varied from our eight o'clock breakfasts. There are coffee, tea, and chocolate, rolls, toast, grated beef and eggs, and, in place of our solid beefsteaks and broiled chickens, reindeers' tongues, sweetmeats, fruit, and ices. These are not bad substitutes for heavier viands, and for our variety of delicate hot cakes. You see none of these, unless it be the poorest of them all, a muffin.
On some occasions there were guests invited to come after breakast, to enjoy the social hour that follows it. Now that ideas travel so rapidly from one quarter of the world to another. I trust some steamer will bear to America that which is recently received in England, and has, as long as other cardinal points of philosophy, governed Continental society, viz., that eating and drinking is not a necessary element in social intercourse.
We had the pleasure of a breakfast at Rogers'. Your long familiarity with his poetry tells you the melancholy fact that he is no longer young; a fact kept out of your mind as far as possible, on a personal acquaintance, by the freshness with which he enjoys, and the generosity with which he imparts. I have heard him called cynical, and perhaps a man of his keen wit may be sometimes overtempted to demonstrate it, as the magnanimous Saladin was to use the weapon with which he adroitly severed a man's head from his body at a single stroke. If so, these are the exceptions to the general current of his life, which, I am sure, flows in a kindly current K. told me he met him one winter in Paris, where he found him enjoying art like a young enthusiast, and knowing every boy's name in the street he lived in, and in friendship with them all. Does not this speak volumes?
He honoured our letters of introduction by coming immediately to see us, and receiving us as cordially as if we were old friends. He afterward expressed a regret to me that he had not taken that morning, before we plunged into engagements, to show me Johnson's and Dryden's haunts, the house where our Franklin lived, and other classic localities. Ah! this goes to swell my pathetic reiteration of the general lament, "I have had my losses!"
His manners are those of a man of the world (in its best sense), simple and natural, without any apparent consciousness of name or fame to support. His house, as all the civilized world knows, is a cabinet of art, selected and arranged with consummate taste. The house itself is small; not, I could think, more than twenty-live feet front, and perhaps forty deep, in a most fortunate location, overlooking the Green Park. The first sight of it from the windows produces a sort of coup-de-théâtre, for you approach the house and enter it by a narrow street. Every inch of it is appropriated to some rare treasure or choice production of art. Besides the pictures (and "What," you might be tempted to ask, "can a man want besies such pictures?) are Etruscan vases (antiques), Egyptian antiquities, casts of the Elgin marbles decorating the staircase wall, and endless adornments of this nature. There are curiosities of another species, rare books, such as a most beautifully -illuminated missal, exquisitely- delicate paintings, designed for marginal decorations, executed three hundred years ago, and taken from the Vatican by the French—glorious robbers! In a catalogue of his books, in the poet's own beautiful autograph, there were inserted some whimsical titles of books, such as "Nebuchadnezzar on Grasses."
But the most interesting thing in all the collection was the original document, with Milton's name, by which he transferred to his publisher for ten pounds the copyright of Paradise Lost. Next in interest to this was a portfolio, in which were arranged autograph letters from Pope and Dryden, Washington and Franklin, and several from Fox, Sheridan, and Scott, addressed to the poet himself. Among them was that written by Sheridan just before his death, describing the extremity of his suffering, and praying Rogers to come to him. But I must check myself. A catalogue of what our eyes but glanced over would fill folios. I had the pleasure at breakfast of sitting next Mr. Babbage, whose name is so well known among us as the author of the self-calculating machine. He has a most remarkable eye, that looks as if it might penetrate science or anything else he chose to look into. He described the iron steamer now building, which has a larger tonnage than any merchant ship in the world, and expressed an opinion that iron ships would supersede all others; and another opinion that much concerns us, and which, I trust, may soon be verified—that in a few years these iron steamers will go to America in seven days!
Macauley was of the party. His conversation resembles his writings; it is rich and delightful, filled with anecdotes and illustrations from the abounding stores of his overflowing mind. Some may think he talks too much; but none, except from their own impatient vanity, could wish it were less.
It was either at Mr. Rogers', or at a breakfast a few days after at Mr. R.'s sister's (whose house, by-the-way, is a fair pendant for his), that we had much Monkbarn's humour, from worthy disciples of that king of old bachelors, on the subject of matrimony. H. said there had been many a time in his life when he should have married, if he could some fine day have walked quietly into a village church, and met at the altar a lady baring come as quietly into another door, and then, after the marriage service, each have departed their separate way, with no observation, no speculation upon the engagement, no congratulations before or after. Rogers, who seems resolved to win the crown of celibiat martyrdom (is there a crown for it?), pronounced matrimony a folly at any period of life, and quoted a saying of some wicked Benedict, that, "no matter whom you married, you would find afterward you had married another person."No doubt; but, except with the idealizing lover, I believe the expectation is as often surpassed as disappointed. There is a generous opinion for a single woman of your married fortunes!
I believe, of all my pleasures here, dear J. will most envy me that of seeing Joanna Baillie, and of seeing her repeatedly at her own home: the best point of view for all best women. She lives on Hempstead Hill, a few miles from town, in a modest house, with Miss Agnes Baillie, her only sister, a most kindly and agreeable person. Miss Baillie—I write this for J., for we women always like to know how one another look and dress—Mis Baillie has a well-preserved appearance; her face has nothing of the vexed or sorrowing expression that is often so deeply stamped by a long experience of life. It indicates a strong mind, great sensibility, and the benevolence that, I believe, always proceeds from it if the mental constitution be a sound one, as it eminently is in Miss Baillie's case. She has a pleasing figure—what we call lady-like—that is, delicate, erect, and graceful; not the large-boned, muscular frame of most Englishwomen. She wears her own gray hair: a general fashion, by-the-way, here, which I wish we elderly ladies of America may have the course and the taste to imitate; and she wears the prettiest of brown silk gowns and bonnets fitting the beau ideal of an old lady: an ideal she might inspire if it has no pre-existence. You would, of course, expect her to be, as she is, free from pedantry and all modes of affectation; but I think you would be surprised to find yourself forgetting, in a domestic and confiding feeling, that you were talking with the woman whose name is best established among the female writers of her country; in short, forgetting everything but that you were in the society of a most charming private gentlewoman. She might (would that all female writers could!) take for her device a flower that closes itself against the noontide sun, and unfolds in the evening shadows."
We lunched with Miss Baillie. Mr. Tytler the historian and his sister were present Lord Woodhouselie, the intimate friend of Scott, was their father. Joanna Baillie appears to us, from Scott's letters to her, to have been his favourite friend; and the conversation among so many personally familiar with him naturally turned upon him, and many a pleasant anecdote was told, many a thrilling word quoted.It was pleasant to hear these friends of Scott and Mackenzie talk of them as familiarity as we speak of W., B., and other household friends. They all agreed in describing Mackenzie as a jovial, hearty sort of person, without any indication in his manners and conversation of the exquisite sentiment he infused into his writings. One of the party remembered his coming home one day in great glee from a cockfight, and his wife saying to him, "Oh, Harry, Harry, you put all your feelings on paper!"
I was glad to hear Miss Baillie, who is an intimate friend of Lady Byron, speak of her with tender reverence, and of her conjugal infelicity as not at all the result of any quality or deficiency on her part, but inevitable. Strange this is not the universal impression, after Byron's own declaration to Moore that "there never was a better or even a brighter, a kinder or a more amiable and agreeable bang than Lady B."
After lunch we walked over to a villa occupied by Miss Baillie's nephew, the only son of Dr. Baillie. It commands a view almost as beautiful and as English as that from Richmond Hill; a view extending far—far over wide valleys and gently-swelling hills, all standing thick with corn. Returning, we went to a point on Hampstead Hill overlooking the pretty "vale of 'ealth," as our coachman calls it, and which has been to us the vale of hospitality and roost homelike welcome. This elevation, Miss B. told me, was equal to that of the ball on the dome of St Paul's. We could just discern the dome penetrating far into the canopy of smoke that overhangs all London. Miss B. says Scott delighted in this view. It is melancholy, portentous, better suited, I should think, to the genius of Byron. I have seen sublime sights in my life, a midnight thunder-storm at Niagara and a "gallant breeze" on the seashore, but I never saw so spirit-stirring a spectacle as this immense city with its indefinite boundaries and its dull fight Here are nearly two millions of human beings, with their projects, pursuits, hopes, and despairs, their strifes, friendships, and rivalries, their loves and hates, their joys and anguish, some steeped to the lips in poverty, others encumbered with riches, some treading on the confines of Heaven, others in the abysses of sin, and all sealed with the teal of immortality.
The dinner-hour in London, my dear C., is from six to eight I think we have received no invitation later than for half past seven. You know the London—the English world, is divided into castes, and our letters have obtained access for us to families that never come together here in social life. We have dined with the suburban gentry, people who, enjoying an income of as many pounds as our country gentleman has dollars, give you a family-dinner of two or three dishes with some simple dessert. For such a dinner, one of our country ladies would be apt to make an apology; the mortifying truth is, that hospitality does not run so much into eating and drinking here, as with us. Everything is of the best quality and served in the best manner, but time is no overloading. Without exaggeration, I believe that the viands for a rich merchant's dinner-party in New-York would suffice for any half dozen tables I have seen here; and I am not sure that the supper-table at S.'s ball, just before I left New-York, would not have supplied the evening parties of a London season. The young men there drank more Champagne than I have seen in London. May we not hope that in three or four seasons we may adopt these refinements of civilization? No, not adopt these precisely. The modes of one country are not transferable, without modification, to another. A people who dine at three or four o'clock need some more substantial refection at ten than a cup of black tea; but they do not need a lord-mayor's feast, than which nothing can be more essentially vulgar.
I told you, my dear C., that I was going to dine at L—— house. I went, and I honestly confess to you that, when I drove up the approach to this great lord's magnificent mansion, I felt the foolish trepidation I remember to have suffered when, just having emerged from our sequestered county home, I first went to a dinner-party in town. I was alone. I dreaded conventional forms of which I might be ignorant, and still more the insolent observation to which, as a stranger and an American, I might be exposed. But these foolish fears were dissipated by the recollection of the agreeable half hour I had already passed with Lord L., when I had quite forgotten that he had a lordship tacked to his name, or that he was anything but a plain, highly-informed gentleman." I felt, too, that an unpretending woman is always safe in her simplicity; and when I alighted and was received by half a dozen servants in white and crimson liveries, and announced through magnificent apartments, I felt no more embarrassment than, as a passably modest woman, I should have done in entering alone a gentleman's house in New-York. Lady L. has an air of birth and breeding, and still much beauty, not merely "the remains" of beauty, for so we always speak of a woman past forty. Lady L. was courteous, not condescending, the least acceptable grace of those who stand on a higher level than their associates, since it betrays the consciousness of elevation. There were several persons in the drawing-room to whom I had before been introduced, and I soon forgot that I was a stranger. The modes of English life are identically our own, and there was nothing to remind me I was not at borne, save more superb apartments, a larger train of servants and in livery, a dinner-service all of plate, and those most covetable luxuries, first-rate pictures and sculpture. I perceived nothing of the studied stillness we have heard alleged of English society. Everything was natural and easy. Lord L. laughed as heartily as T. does, and M. talked to me across the table.
My dinner the next day was far more trying in its circumstance than that at L—— house. Accident had prevented my seeing the lady who invited me. I unwarily accepted the invitation; for, till you have passed the threshold of acquaintance, it is very awkward to plunge into a dinner-party. My invitations had usually been at seven. I had carelessly forgotten the hour named in Mrs. ——'s note, and we concluded it was safest to take the average hour. The distance was three miles from Halfmoon-street, longer than I supposed; our dawdling coachman drove slower than usual; and all the while I was tormenting myself with the fear I might be too late, and that Mrs. —— was thinking what a bore it was to be compelled to civility to a blundering stranger. To put the last drop in my brimming cup of vexation, the coachman made a mistake, and had twice to drive round a large square; and when J finally arrived I was ushered into an empty room—"portentous!" thought I. The gentleman of the house entered, and, disconcerted at my awkward position, and humanely hoping to help me out of it, he said, stammering, "There is some mistake!" "Heaveans, yes!" I groaned, inwardly. "Our invitation," he continued, "mentioned six as our dinner hour. We waited till seven, and it is now past" (past! it was nearly eight)—"you can do as you please about going in!" I looked to the window—the carriage was gone; my ear caught the last faint sound of its receding wheels. There was no escape. A hen, the most timid of breathing things, is courageous when there is no alternative but "to do or die," and so was I. I begged ten thousand pardons, assured Mr. —— that the dinner was a perfectly unimportant circumstance to me; that I would not lose the only opportunity I might have of seeing Mrs. ——, &c. So, with a dim smile, he gave me his arm, and I entered the dining-room. There were ten or twelve people present. There was an awful silence, an obvious suspension of the whole ceremony of dinner awaiting my decision. My courage was expended; I felt it ebbing, when H., who was sitting next the lady of the house, came to my relief, both hands extended, as if to save a drowning creature. He is, as I have told you before, the very imbodiment of the kindly social principle. He stopped my apologies by assuming that I was the injured party, and dealt his blows to our host and hostess on the right and left. He declared that Mrs. —— wrote a hand no one could decipher. He never, in a long acquaintance, had made out a note of hers, and he was sure I had not been able to tell whether I was invited at six or eight! He would know "how —— had received me." He was certain "he had made some blunder, it was so like him!" I answered, with strict truth, that Mr. —— "had made me feel comfortable in a most uncomfortable position." To my dismay, and in spite of my protestations, Mrs. —— insisted on re-beginning at the Alpha of the dinner the guests had reached the Omega. The soup was brought back. H. averred that it was moot fortunate for him; he had been kept talking, and had not eaten half a dinner; so he started fresh with me, and went bona fide through, covering me with his ægis as I run my gauntlet through the courses. The age of chivalry is not past. Match this deed of courtesy, if you can, from the lives of the , taken from their sunrising to their sunsetting. This dinner, like many other things in life, was bitter in its experience and sweet in its remembrance.Our pleasantest dinner, I think, was at K.'s; he who gave us "the ticket for six" to his breakfast; I knew him before coming here as the friend of many of our friends, and the author of very charming published poetry. He seems to me the personification of the English gentleman of Addison's time, "a heart of gold." I do not know that he is celebrated for wit, but I have heard more clever things from him than from any one else in London. No, it is not wit; in that I think there is a drop—it may not be more, but a drop—a tang of bitterness; but wit's innocent, sportive, and most lovely child, humour—the infant Bacchus among the higher divinities. K.'s manners are those of a man who has all the world's conventionalities at bis command, and yet whose nature is too strong for them, so that the stream of humanity comes gushing fresh from its fountain, without heeding the prescribed channels, watermarks and barriers that custom and fashion have decreed. The enjoyment of an agreeable, well-bred society is something like passing over a good road through a well-ordered country: delightful in the passage but no overturns to be remembered. And so I remember nothing of K.'s dinner but that I sat opposite to his picture, which the punter has, in spite of the original's superb head and intellectual eye, made to look so of the earth earthy, that some one said to him, "You should not let that picture hang there: it makes one doubt the immortality of the soul;" and that I sat next Proctor. He is so well known to you as "Barly Cornwall," that you have perhaps forgotten that is merely his nom-de guerre. He was one of the intimate friends of Charles Lamb, and spoke of him in just the way that we, who look upon him with something of the tenderness that we do upon the departed members of our own household, would like to hear him spoken of. Proctor made inquiries about the diffusion of English literature in America, and showed a modest surprise at hearing how well he was known among us.
My Dear C.,
I may say that we have scaled the ladder of evening entertainments here, going from a six o'clock family tea up to a magnificent concert at L—— house; and the tea at this home-like hour was at Carlyle's. He is living in the suburbs of London, near the Thames; my impression is, in ranker an humble way; but when your eye is filled with a grand and beautiful temple, you do not take the dimensions of surrounding objects; and if any man can be independent of them, you might expect Carlyle to be. His head would throw a phrenologist into ecstasies. It looks like the "forge of thought" it is; and his eyes have a preternatural brilliancy. He reminded me of what Lockhart said to me, speaking of the size of Webster's bead, that be "had brains enough to fill half a dozen hats." Carlyle has as strong a Scotch accent as Mr. Combe. His manner is simple, natural, and kindly. His conversation has the picturesqueness of his writings, and flows as naturally, and as free from Germanism, as his own mountain streams are from any infusion of German soil. He gave us an interesting account of his first acquaintance with E——n. He was living with hid wife in a most secluded part of Scotland. They had no neighbours, no communication with the World, excepting once a week or fortnight, when he went some miles to a postoffice in the hope of a letter or some other intimation that the world was going on. One day a stranger came to them—a young American—and "he seemed to them an angel." They spoke of him as if they had never lost their first impression of his celestial nature. Carlyle had met Mr. Webster, and expressed a humorous surprise that a man from over the sea should talk English, and be as familiar as the natives with the English constitution and laws.
"With all that priest or jurist saith,
He said Webster's eyes were like dull furnaces, that only wanted blowing on to lighten them up. And, by-the-way, it is quite interesting to perceive that our great countryman has made a sensation here, where it is all but as difficult to make one as to make a mark on the ocean. They have given him the soubriquet of "the Great Western," and they seem particularity struck with his appearance. A gentleman said to me, "His eyes open, and open, and open, and you think they will never stop opening;" and a painter was heard to exclaim, on seeing him, "What a head! what eyes! what a mouth! and, my God! what colouring!"
We had a very amusing evening at Mr. Hallam's, whom (thanks to F., as thanks to her for all my best privileges in London) I have had the great pleasure of seeing two or three times. But this kind of seeing is so brief and imperfect that it amounts to little more than seeing the pictures of these great people Mr. Hallam has a very pleasing countenance, and a most good-humoured and playful manner. I quite forgot be was the sage of the "Middle Ages." He reminded me of ——; but his simplicity is more genuine; not at all that of the great man trying to play child. You quite forget, in the freedom and ease of the social man, that he is ever the hero in armour. We met Sidney Smith at his house, the best known of all the wits of the civilized world. The company was small; he was in the vein, which is like a anger bang in voice, and we saw him, I believe, to advantage. His wit was not, as I expected, a succession of brilliant explosions, but a sparkling stream of humour, very like —— when he is at home, and i' the vein too; and, like him also, he seemed to enjoy his own fun, and to have fattened on it.
He expressed unqualified admiration of Dickens, and said that 10,000 of each number of Nicholas Nickleby was sold. There was a young man present, who, being flushed with some recent literary success, ventured to throw himself into the arena against this old lion-king, and, to a lover of such sport, it would have been pleasant to see how he crackled him up, flesh, bones, and all.
The concert at L—— house was in a superb gallery of sculpture, with a carved and gilded ceiling, and other appropriate and splendid accompaniments. I am told that it is one of the choicest collection of antiques in the Kingdom, but I had no opportunity of judging or enjoying, for the marble divinities were hidden by the glittering mortals. When K. and I entered, the apartments were filled with some hundreds of people of the first station and fashion in the land; luxuriously dressed and sparkling with diamonds, a sea of faces as strange as their diamonds to me. It was an overpowering kind of solitude. Lady L. had politely directed me to a favourable position, and I slunk into the first vacant place I could find, where I was beginning to feel quite comfortable in my obscurity, when K. said to me, with something of the feeling of Columbus' men when they first cried "land!" "there is Mr. —— and Mr. ——!" These gentlemen soon after made their way to us, and dissipated our forlornness. In the course of the evening we met many agreeable persons to whom we had been before introduced, and several of the most noted lions of the London menagerie were pointed out to us, Bulwer, Taylor, and Talfourd. Lady Seymour was there, a superb beauty certainly, and well entitled to the elective crown she is to wear, of Queen of Love and Beauty. I was introduced to Mrs. Norton, who is herself a most queenly-looking creature, a Semiramis, a Sappho, or an Amazon (the Greek ideal Amazon, remember, uniting masculine force, with feminine delicacy, or anything that expresses the perfection of intellectual and physical beauty). There is another of these Sheridan sisters celebrated for her personal charms. I had read but a few mornings before, as I mentioned to you, that miserable deathbed letter from their pennyless grandfather, and I was somewhat struck with the shifting scenes of life when I saw these women occupying the most brilliant position of the moat brilliant circle in London. But what are gold and lands to the rich inheritance of Sheridan's genius and Miss Linley's beauty?
It is indeed a royal entertainment to give one's guests such singing as Grisi's, Garcia's, Lablache's, and Rubini's, and can, I suppose, only be given by those who have "royal revenues."
We passed an evening at Miss C's; she is truly what the English call a "nice person," as modest in her demeanour as one of our village girls who has a good organ of veneration (rare enough among our young people), and this is saying something for the richest heiress in England. I was first struck here, and only here, with the subdued tone we hear so much of in English society. "When we first entered Miss C's immense drawing-room, there were a few dowagers scattered up and down, appearing as few and far between as settlers on a prairie, and apparently finding intercommunication quite as difficult. And though the number soon multiplied, till the gentlemen came genial from the dinner-table, we were as solemn and as still as a New-England conference meeting before the minister comes in. This, I think, was rather the effect of accident than fashion, the young lady's quiet and reserved manner having the subduing influence of a whisper. Society here is quieter than ours certainly. This is perhaps the result of the different materials of which it is oompounded. Our New-York evening-parties, you know, are made up of about seventy-five parts boys and girls, the other twenty-five being their papas and mammas, and other ripe men and women. The shunts of a mass of young people, even if they be essentially well-bred, will explode in sound; thence the general din of voices and shouts of laughter at our parties.
I have rarely seen at an evening-party here anything beyond a cup of black tea and a bit of cake dry as "the remainder biscuit after a voyage." Occasionally we have ices (in alarmingly small quantity!) and lemonade, or something of that sort. At L—— house there was a refreshment-table spread for three or four hundred people, much like Miss D.'s at her New-York soirées, which, you may remember, was considered quite a sumptuary phœnomenon. I am thus particular to reiterate to you, dear C., that the English have got so far in civilization as not to deem eating and drinking necessary to the enjoyment of society. We are a transition people, and I hope we shall not lag far behind them.
I have met many persons here whom to meet was like seeing the originals of familiar pictures. Jane Porter, Mrs. Opie, Mrs. Austen, Lockhart, Milman, Sir Francis Chantry, &c. I owed Mrs. Opie a grudge for having made me, in my youth, cry my eyes out over her stories; but her fair, cheerful face forced me to forget it. She long ago forswore the world and its vanities, and adopted the Quaker foith and costume; but I fancied that her elaborate simplicity, and the fashionable little train to her pretty satin gown, indicated how much easier it is to adopt a theory than to change one's habits. Mrs. Austen stands high here for personal character, as well as for the very inferior but undisputed property of literary accomplishments. Her translations are so excellent that they class her with good original writers. If her manners were not strikingly conventional, she would constantly remind me of ——; she has the same Madame Roland order of architecture and outline, but she wants her charm of naturalness and attractive sweetness; so it may not seem to Mrs. A.'s sisters and fond friends. A company attitude is rarely anybody's best.
There is a most pleasing frankness and social charm in Sir Francis Chantry's manner. I called him repeatedly Mr. Chantry, and begged him to pardon me on the ground of not being "native to the manner." He laughed good-naturedly, and said something of having been longer accustomed to the plebeian designation. I heard from Mr. R. a much stronger illustration than this of this celebrated artist's good sense and good feeling too. Chantry was breakfasting with Mr. R., when, pointing to some carving in wood, he asked R. if he remembered that, some twenty years before, he employed a young man to do that work for him. R. had but an indistinct recollection. "I was that young man," resumed Chantry, "and very glad to get the five shillings a day you paid me!" Mr. B, told a pendant to this pretty story. Mr. B. was discussing with Sir Francis the propriety of gilding something, I forget what B. was sure it could be done, Chantry as sure it could not; and "I should know," he said, "for I was once apprenticed to a carver and gilder." Perhaps, after all, it is not so crowning a grace in Sir Francis Chantry to refer to the obscure morning of his brilliant day, as it is a disgrace to the paltry world that it should be so considered.
I have seen Owen of Lanark, a curiosity rather from the sensation he at one time produced in our country, than from anything very extraordinary in the man. He is pushing his theories with unabated seal. He wasted an hour in trying to convince me that he could make the world over and "set all to rights," if he were permitted to substitute two or three truths for two or three prevailing errors; and on the same morning a philaothropical phrenologist endeavoured to show me how, if bis theory were established, the world would soon become healthy, wealthy, and wise. Both believe the good work is going on—happy men! So it has always been; there must be some philosopher's stone, some shorthand process, rather than the slow way of education and religious discipline which, to us, Providence seems to have ordained.
You will perhaps like to know, my dear C., more definitely than you can get them from these few anecdotes of my month in London, what impressions I have received here; and I will give them fairly to you, premising that I am fully aware how imperfect they are, and how false some of them may be. Travellers should be forgiven their monstrous errors when we find there are so few on whose sound judgments we can rely, of the character of their own people and the institutions of their own country.
In the first place, I have been struck with the identity of the English and the New-England character—the strong family likeness. The oak-tree may be our emblem, modified, but never changed by circumstances. Cultivation may give it a more graceful form and polish, and brighten its leaves, or it may shoot up more rapidly and vigorously in a new soil; but it is always the oak, with its strength, inflexibility, and "nodosities."
With my strong American feelings, and my love of home so excited that my nerves were all on the outside, I was a good deal locked to find how very little interest was felt about America in the circles I chanced to be in. The truth is, we are so far off, we have so little apparent influence on the political machinery of Europe, such slight relations with the literary world, and none with that of art and fashion, that, except to the philosopher, the man of science, and the manufacturing and labouring classes, America is yet an undiscovered country, as distant and as dim a—Heaven. It is not, perhaps, to be wondered at. There are new and exciting events every day at their own doors, and there are accumulations of interests in Europe to occupy a lifetime, and there are few anywhere who can abide Johnson's test when he says that, "whatever withdraws us from the power of of our senses; whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings." Inquiries are often put to me about my country, and I laugh at my own eagerness to impart knowledge and exalt their ideas of us, when I perceive my hearers listening with the forced interest of a courteous person to a teller of dreams.
One evening, in a circle of eminent people, the question was started, "what country came next in their affections to England?" I listened, in my greenness expecting to hear one and all say " America;" no, not one feeble voice uttered the name. Mrs. ——, with her hot love of art, naturally answered, " Italy is first to us all." "Oh, no," replied two or three voices, "England first, and next—Germany." "England first," said Mrs. A., "Germany next, and I think my third country is—Malta!" I thought of my own land, planted from the English stock, where the productions of these very speakers are most widely circulated, and, if destined to live, must have their longest life; the land where the most thorough and hopeful experiment of the capacity of the human race for knowledge, virtue, happiness, and self-government is now making; the land of promise and protection to the poor and disheartened of every country; and it seemed to me it should have superseded in their affections countries comparatively foreign to them.
I have seen instances of ignorance of us in quarters where you would scarcely expect it; for example, a very cultivated man, a bishop, asked K. if there were a theatre in America! and a person of equal dignity inquired "if the society of Friends was not the prevailing religious sect in Boston!" A literary man of some distinction asked me if the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews were read in America; and one of the cultivated women of England said to me, in a soothing tone, on my expressing admiration of English trees, "Oh, you will have such in time, when your forests are cut dawn, and they have room for their limbs to spread." I smiled and was silent; but if I saw in vision our graceful, drooping, elm-embowering roods of ground, and, as I looked at the stiff, upright English elm, had something of the pharisaical "holier than thou" flit over my mind, I may be forgiven.
I was walking one day with some young Englishwomen, when a short, sallow, broad man, to whom Nature had been niggardly, to say the least of it, passed us. "I think," said I, "that is a countryman of mine; I have seen him in New-York." "I took him for an American," said one of my companions, with perfect nonchalance. "Pray tell me why." "He looks so like the pictures in Mrs. Trollope's book!" It is true, this was a secluded young person in a provincial town, but I felt mortified that in one fair young mind Mrs. Trollope's vulgar caricatures should stand as the type of my countrymen.I have heard persons repeatedly expressing a desire to visit America—for what? "To see a prairie"—"to see Niagara"—"to witness the manner of the help to their employers; it must be so very comical!" but, above all, "to eat canvass-back ducks!" The canvass-backs are in the vision of America what St. Peter's is in the view of Rome. But patience, my dear C. In the first place, it matters little what such thinkers think of us; and then things are mending. The steamers have already cancelled half the distance between the two continents. The two worlds are daily weaving more closely their interests and their friendships. I have been delighted with the high admiration expressed here in all quarters of Dr. Channing, and, above all, to find that his pure religion has, with its angel's wings, surmounted the walls of sectarianism. I have heard him spoken of with enthusiasm by prelates as much distinguished for their religious zeal as for their station. Prescott's History is spoken of in terms of unqualified praise. I have known but one exception. A reviewer, a hypercritic "dyed in the wool," sat next me at Mrs. ——'s dinner. He said Mr. Prescott must not hope to pass the English custom-house unless he wrote purer English, and be adduced several words which I have forgotten. I ventured to say that new words sprung out new combinations of circumstances; that, for example, the French revolution bad created many words. "Yes," he replied, "and American words may do for America; but America is in relation to England a province. England must give the law to readers and writers of English." After some other flippant criticisms, he ended with saying that the History of Ferdinand and Isabella was one of the best extant, and that Mr. Prescott had exhausted the subject.
He said, what was quite true before the habits of Colonial deference had passed away, but is no longer, "that an American book has no reputation in America till it is stamped with English authority, and then it goes off edition after edition." He uttered sundry other impertinences; but, as he seemed good-natured and unconscious that they were so, I sat them down to the account of individual ignorance and prejudice, not to nationality, which has too often to answer for private sins.
Society, as I have before told you, has the same general features here as with us. The women have the same time-wasting mode of making morning visits, which is even more consuming than with us, inasmuch as the distances are greater. What would Mrs. —— do in London, who thought it reason enough for removing from New-York to the country, that she had to spend one morning of every week in driving about town to leave visiting-cards? One would think that the proportion which circulates as andeniable truth, that time is the most valuable of possessions, would prevent this lavish expenditure. But it is not a truth. Nothing is less valuable to nine tenths of mere society people, or less valued by them, than time. The only thing they earnestly try to do is to get rid of it.
I have seen nothing here to change my opinion that there is something in the Anglo-Saxon race essentially adverse to the spirit and grace of society. I have seen more invention, spirit, and ease in one soirée in a German family at New-York, than I have ever seen here, or should see in a season in purely American society. An Englishman has an uncomfortable consciousness of the presence and observation of others; an immense love of approbation, with either a shyness or a defiance of opinion.
Thoroughly well-bred people are essentially the same everywhere. You will find much more conventional breeding here than with us, and, of course, the general level of manners is higher and the surface more uniform.
"Society is smoothed to that excess,
They are more quiet, and I should say there was less individuality, but from a corresponding remark having been made by English travellers among us. I take it the impression results from the very sight revelations of character that are made on a transient acquaintance. There is much more variety and richness in conversation here, resulting naturally from more leisure and higher cultivation. But, after all, there seems to me to be a great defect in conversation. The feast of wit and reason it may be, but it is not the flow and mingling of soul. The Frenchman, instructed by his  Conversation seems here to be a great arena, where each speaker is a gladiator who must take his turn, put forth his strength, and give place to his successor. Each one is on the watch to seize his opportunity, show his power, and disappear before his vanity is wounded by an indication that he is in the way. Thus conversation becomes a succession of illuminations and triumphs—or failures. There is no such "horreur" as a bore; no such bore as a proser. A bore might be defined to be a person that must be listened to. I remember R. saying that "kings are always bores, and so are royal dukes, for they must not be interrupted as long as they please to talk." The crowning grace of conversation, the listening with pleased eagerness, I have rarely seen. When Dr. C. was told that Coleridge pronounced him the most agreeable American he had eyer seen, he replied, "Then it was because he found me a good listener, for I said absolutely nothing!" And yet, as far as we may judge from Coleridge's Table-Talk, he would have been the gainer by a fairer battle than that where, said truly, "tout le monde aime planter son mot."
"One side only gives and t'other takes the blows."
A feature in society here that must be striking to Americans, is the great number of single women. With us, you know, few women live far beyond their minority unmated, and those few sink into the obscurity of some friendly fireside. But here they have an independent existence, pursuits, and influence, and they are much happier for it; mind, I do not say happier than fortunate wives and good mothers, but than those who, not having drawn a husband in the lottery of life, resign themselves to a merely passive existence. Englishwomen, married and single, have more leisure and fer more opportunity for intellectual cultivation, than with us. The objects of art on every side of them, exciting their minds through their sensations and filling them with images of beauty. There is, with us, far more necessity, and, of course, opportunity, for the development of a woman's faculties for domestic life, than here; but this, I think, is counterbalanced by women's necessary independence of the other sex here. On the whole, it seems to me there is not a more loveable or lovely woman than the American matron, steadfast in her conjugal duties, devoted to the progress of her children and the happiness of her household, nor a more powerful creature than the Englishwoman in the full strength and development of her character.
Now, my dear C., a word as to dress for the womankind of your family. I do not comprehend what our English friends, who come among us, mean by their comments on the extravagance of dress in America. I have seen more velvet and costly lace in one hour in Kensington Garden than I ever saw in New-York; and. it would take all the diamonds in the United States to dress a duchess for an evening at L—— house. You may say that lace and diamonds are transmitted luxuries, heir-looms (a species of inheritanc ewe know little about); still you must take into the account the immense excess of their wealth over ours, before you can have a notion of the disparity between us.
The women here up to five-and-forty (and splendid women many of them are up to that age) dress with taste—fitness; after that, abominably. Women to seventy, and Heaven knows how much longer, leave their necks and arms bare; not here and there one, "blinded, deluded, and misguided," but whole assemblies of fat women—and, tempora! O mores!—and lean. Such parchment necks as I have seen bedizzened with diamonds, and arms bared, that seemed only fit to hold the scissors of destiny, or to stir the caldron of Macbeth's witches. —— dresses in azure satins and rose-coloured silks, and bares her arms as if they were as round and dimpled as a cherub's, though they are mere bunches of sinews, that seem only kept together by that nice anatomical contrivance of the wristband on which Paley expatiates. The post-mortem demonstration is perhaps after all, an act of penance for past vanities, or perhaps it is a benevolent admonition to the young and fair, that to this favour they must come at last! Who knows?
The entire absence of what seems to us fitness for the season may in part result from the climate. In June and July, you know, we have all our dark and bright colours, and rich stuffs—everything that can elicit the idea of warmth, laid aside; here we see every day velvets and boas, and purple, orange, and cherry silks and satins. Cherry, indeed, is the prevailing colour; cherry feathers the favourite headdress. I saw the Duchess of Cambridge the other evening at the opera with a crimson-velvet turban! Remember, it is July!
We have seen in the gardens plenty of delicate muslins over gay-coloured silks; this is graceful, but to us it seems inappropriate for as out-of-door-dress.
The absence of taste in the middling classes produces results that are almost ludicrous. I am inclined to think taste is an original faculty, and only capable of a certain direction. This might explain the art of dress as it exists among the English, with the close neighbourhood of Paris, and French milliners actually living among them; and this might solve the mystery of the exquisite taste in gardening in England, and the total absence of it in France.
As you descend in the scale to those who can have only reference to the necessities of life in their dress, the English are far superior to us. Here come in their ideas of neatness, comfort, and durability. The labouring classes are much more suitably dressed than ours. They may have less finery for holy-days, and their servants may not be so smartly dressed in the evening as are our domestics, but they are never shabby or uncleanly. Their clothes are of stouter stuffs, their shoes stronger, and their dress better preserved. We have not, you know, been into the manufacturing districts, nor into the dark lanes and holes of London, where poverty hides itself; but I do not remember, in five weeks in England, with my eyes pretty wide open, ever to have seen a ragged or dirty dress. Dirt and rags are the only things that come under a rigid sumptuary law in England.
Order is England's, as it is Heaven's, first law. Coming from our head-over-heels land, it is striking and beautiful to see the precise order that prevails here. In the public institutions, in private houses, in the streets and thoroughfares, you enjoy the security and comfort of this Heaven-born principle. It raises your ideas of the capacities of human nature to see such masses of bongs as there are in London kept, without any visitation of the liberty, within the bounds of order. I am told the police system of London has nearly attained perfection. I should think so from the results. It is said that womenmay go into the street at any hour of the night without fear or danger; and I know that Mrs. —— has often left us after ten o'clock, refusing the attendance of our servant as superfluous, to go alone through several streets to the omnibus that takes her to her own home.
The system of ranks here, as absolute as the Oriental caste, is the feature in English society most striking to an American. For the progress of the human race it was worth coming to the New World to get rid of it. Yes, it was worth all that our portion of the human family sacrificed, encountered, and suffered. This system of castes is the more galling, clogging, and unhealthy, from its perfect unfitness to the present state of freedom and progress in England.
Travellers laugh at our pretentions to equality, and Sir Walter Scott has said, as truly as wittily, that there is no perfect equality except among the Hottentota. But our inequalities are as changing as the surface of the ocean, and this makes all the difference. Each rank is set about here with a thorny, impervious, and almost impassable hedge. We have our walls of separation, certainly; but they are as easily knocked down or surmounted as our rail-fences.
With us, talents, and education, and refined manners command respect and observance, and so, I am sorry to say, does fortune; but fortune baa more than its proverbial mutability in the United States. The rich man of to-day is the poor man of to-morrow, and so vice versa. This unstableness has its evils, undoubtedly, and so has every modification of human condition; but better the evil that is accidental than that which is authorized, cherished, and inevitable. That system is most generous, most Christian, which allows a fair start to all; some must reach the goal before others, as, for the most part, the race is ordained to the swift, and the battle to the strong.
But you would rather have my observations than my speculations; and as, in my brief survey, I have only seen the outside, it is all I can give you, my dear C. I have no details, of the vices of any class. I have heard shocking anecdotes of the corruption prevailing among the high people; and men and women have been pointed out to me in public places who have been guilty of notorious conjugal infidelities, and the grossest violations of parental duty, without losing caste; and this I have heard imputed to their belonging to a body that is above public opinion. I do not see how this can be, nor why the opinion of their own body does not bear upon them. Surely there should be virtue enough in such people as the Marquis of Lansdowne and the Duchess of Sutherland to banish from their world the violators of those laws of God and man, on which rest the foundations of social virtue and happiness.
Those who, from their birth or their successful talents, ere assured of their rank, have the bed manners. They are perfectly tranquil, safe behind the intrenchments that have stood for ages. They leave it to the aspirants to be the videttes and defenders of the outworks. Those persons I have met of the highest rank have the amplest and most informal manners. I have before told you that Lord L—— and the Bishop of —— reminded me of our friends Judge L—— and Judge W——, our best-mannered country-gentleman. Their lordships have rather more conventionalism, more practice, but there is do essential difference. Descend a little lower, and a very little lower than those gentry who by birth and association are interwoven with the nobility, and you will see people with education and refinement enough, as you would think, to ensure them the tranquillity that comes of self-respect, manifesting a consciousness of inferiority; in some it appears in servility, as in Mrs. ——, who, having scrambled on to ——'s shoulder and got a peep into the lord-and-lady world, and beard the buzz that rises from the precincts of Buckingham Palace, entertained us through a long morning visit with third or fourth hand stories about "poor Lady Flora;" or in obsequiousness, as in the very pretty wife of ——, whose eyes, cheeks, and voice are changed if she is but spoken to by a titled person, though she remains as impaasive as polar ice to the influence of a plebeian presence. Some manifest their impatience of this vassalage of caste in a petulent but impotent resistance, and others show a crushed feeling, not the humility of the flower that has grown in the shade, but the abasement and incapacity ever to rise of that which has been trodden under foot. Even the limbs are stiffened and the gait moved by this consciousness that haunts than from the cradle to the grave.
A certain great tailor was here yesterday morning to take R.'s direction. His bad grammar, his obsequiousness, and his more than once favouring us with the information that he had an appointment with the Duke of ——, brought forcibly to my mind the person who holds the corresponding position in S——. I thought of his frank and self-respecting manner, his well-informed mind, his good influence, and the probable destiny of his children. I leave you to jump to my conclusion.
The language of the shopmen here indicates a want of education, and their obsequiousness expresses their consciousness that they re the "things that live by bowing," And, by-the-way, I see nothing like the rapidity of movement and adroitness in serving that you find in a New-York shop. You may buy a winter's supply at Stewart's while half a dozen articles are shown to you here. If you buy, they thank you; and if you refuse to buy, you hear the prescribed automaton, "Thank you!" I say "prescribed," for you often perceive an undercurrent of insolence. You will believe me that it is not civility to which I object.
As you go farther down from the tradesman to file servant, the marks of caste are still more offensive. Miss —— took me to the cottage of their herdsman. He had married a favourite servant, who had lived, I believe, from childhood in the family. The cottage was surrounded and filled with marks of affection and liberality. Miss —— had told me that the woman belonged to a class now nearly extinct in England. "I verily believe," she said, "she thinks my mother and myself are made of a different clay from her;" and so her manner indicated, as she stood in a comer of the room, with her arms reverently folded, and courtesying with every reply she made to Miss ——, though nothing could be more kindly gracious than her manner. I thought of that dear old nurse who, though wearing the colour that is a brand among us, land not exceeded in devotedness by any feudal vaasal of any age, expressed in the noble freedom of her manner that she not only felt herself to be of the same clay, but of the same spirit with those she served.
I confess I do see something more than "urbanity" in this "homage." I do not wish to be reminded, by a man touching his hat or pulling his forelock every time I speak to him, that there is a gulf between us. This is neither good for him nor me. Have those who pretend to fear the encroachments and growing pride of the inferior classes never any conscientious fears for their own humility? Do their reflections never suggest to them that pride is the natural concomitant of conscious superiority? But to return to these demonstrations of respect; they are not a sign of real deference. I have seen more real insolence here in five weeks in this class of people than I ever saw at home. At the inns, at the slightest dissatisfaction with the remuneration you offer, you are sure to be told, "Such as is ladies always give more." This is meanness as well as insolence.
As we drove off from Southampton a porter demanded a larger fee than we paid. H. called after us to be sure and give the fellow no more. The fellow knew his quarry; he mounted on the coach, and kept with us through a long street, demanding and entreating with alternate insolence and abjectness. He got the shilling, and then returning to the homage of his station, "Do you sit quite comfortable, ladies?" he asked, in a sycophantic tone. "Yes." "Thank you." "Would not Miss —— like better this seat?" "No." "Thank you." Again I repeat it, it is not the civility I object to. I wish we had more of it in all stations; but it is the hollow sound, which conveys to me no idea but the inevitable and confessed vassalage of a fellow-being.
I am aware that the sins we are not accustomed to are like those we are not inclined to, in the respect that we condemn them heartily and en masse. Few Englishmen can tolerate the manners of our tradespeople, our innkeepers, and the domestics at our public houses. A little more familiarity with them would make them tolerant of the deficiencies that at first disgust them, and after a while they would learn, as we do, to prize the fidelity and quiet kindness that abound among our servants without the expectation of pecuniary reward; and they would feel that it is salutary to be connected with this large class of our humble fellow-creatures by other than sordid ties.
If I have felt painfully that the men and women of what is called "good society" in America are greatly inferior in high cultivation, in the art of conversation, and in accomplishments, to a corresponding class here, I have felt quite assured that the "million" with us occupy a level they can never reach in England, do what they will with penny magazines and diffusive publications, while each class has its stall into which it is driven by the tyranny of an artificially constructed society.
While the marks No. 2, No. 3, and so on, are seen cut in, there cannot be the conscious power and freedom, and the self-respect brightening the eye, giving free play to all the faculties, and urging onward and upward, which is the glory of the United States, and a new phase of human society.With your confirmed habits, my dear C., you might not envy the English the luxuries and magnificence of their high civilization; but I am sure you would the precise finish of their skilful agriculture, and the all-pervading comfort of their everyday existence. If you have money, there is no human contrivance for comfort that you cannot command here. Let you be where you will, in the country or in town, on land or on water, in your bone or on the road, but signify your desires, and they may be gratified. And it is rather pleasant, dear C.—it would be with your eye for order—to be in a country where there are no bad—bad! no imperfect roads, no broken or unsound bridges, no swinging gates, no barn-doors off the hinges, no broken glass, no ragged fences, no negligent husbandry, nothing to signify that truth omnipresent in America, that there is a great deal more work to do than hands to do it. And so it will be with our uncounted acres of subdued land for ages to come. But we are of English blood, and we shall go forward and subdue our great farm, and make it, in some hundreds of years, like the little garden whence our fathers came. In the mean time, we must expect the English travellers who come among us to be annoyed with the absence of the home-comforts which habit has made essential to their well-being, and to be startled, and, it may be, disgusted with the omission of those signs and shows of respect and deference to which they have been accustomed; but let us not be disturbed if they growl, for "'tis their nature to," and surely they should be forgiven for it.
July 8.—To-morrow we leave England, having seen but a drop in the ocean of things worthy to be examined. We mean, next year, to travel over it, to see the country, to visit the institutions of benevolence, the schools, &c. We are now to plunge into a foreign country, with a foreign language and foreign customs. It seems like leaving home a second time. If anything could make us forget that we are travellers, it would be such unstinted kindness as we have received here. You cannot see the English in their homes without reverencing and loving them; nor, I think, can an Anglo-American come to this, his ancestral home, without a pride in his relationship to it, and an extended sense of the obligations imposed by his derivation from the English stock. A war between the two countries, in the present state of their relations and intercourse, would he fratricidal, and this sentiment I have heard expressed on all sides.
- As exact details of expenses are useful to inexperienced travellers, I may perhaps do a service to some one by giving the precise cost of our London lodging. We had a drawing and a dining room, a bedroom and dressing-room on the second floor, and three bedrooms on the third floor (all small), for seven guineas a week, andone guinea for firing and attendance. Under the term firing is included cooking. We lived simply, having regularly two dishes meat (or fish and meat), a pudding or tart, and the fruits in season, strawberries and cherries. Our breakfast was coffee and tea, bread, butter, rolls, muffins, and eggs. The cost to each person (one gentleman and five ladies) was a trifle more than two pounds twelve shillings (thirteen dollars) a week. Every article of food was perfect of its kind, and well served. The most fastidious could have found no ground of complaint. The high prices were raging when we left New-York, and we found the common articles of food in London not higher, in some cases lower; for instance, for excellent cauliflowers we gave sixpence—twelve and a half cents.
- A friend has suggested that this censure is unjust in regard toour largest cities, New-York and Philadelphia; that, being built ona limited space enclosed by great bodies of water, our people could not afford to devote building-ground to other purposes. But have they done what they could? What is the justification for the sacrifice of Hoboken? and has anything been done to secure the finement of pleasure-grounds in our smaller towns and villages?
- The Western Anglice for prairie.
- Memoirs de Grammont.
- If perchance there is one among my readers unacquainted with Bryant's Poems, he may thank me for referring to his Forest Hymn, beginning thus:
"The groves were God's first temples. Ere man learn'd
To hew the shaft and lay the architrave,
And spread the roof above them; ere he framed
The lofty vault, to gather and roll back
The sound of anthems; in the darkling wood,
Amid the cool and silence, he knelt down,
And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks
- What would probably be served for an extempore lunch at anAmerican inn? Bread and butter (probably fresh bread, and possibly not fresh butter), pies, cakes, and sweetmeats. May not the superior muscle and colour of the English be ascribed in part to our different modes of feeding? Our inns improve from season to season, and will, in proportion as our modes of living become more wise and salutary.
- We were the next morning, after breakfasting with Mr. R, in the presence of Carlyle speaking of this deed of sale and of Taglioni. He amused himself and us with calculating how many Paradise Losts she might pay for with a single night's earnings; and,after laughing at this picturesque juxtaposition of Milton and Taglioni, he added seriously, "But there have been better things on earth than Paradise Lost that have received worse payment; that have been paid with the scaffold and the cross!"
- In the United States Mrs. Barbauld would perhaps divide the suffrages with Miss Baillie; but in England, as far as my limited observation extended, she is not rated so high or so generally read as here.She has experienced the great disadvantage of being considered the organ of a sect. Does not the "Address to the Deity" and the "Evening's Meditation" rank with the best English poetry? and are not her essays, that on "Prejudice" and that on the "Inconsistency of Human Expectations." unsurpassed?
- I should not have presumed, by a public mention of Lady Byron,to have penetrated the intrenchments of feminine delicacy and reserve which she has with such dignity maintained, but for the desire, as far as in my humble sphere I might do it, to correct the impression so prevailing among the readers of Moore's biography in this country, that Lady B. is one of those most unlovely of women who, finding it very easy to preserve a perpendicular line, have nosufferance for the deviations of others, no aptitude, no flexibility.How different this image from the tender, compassionate, lovable reality! the devoted mother, the trusted friend, the benefactress of poor children.
- I have heard that an Englishman, on being asked what struck him most in Americans, replied, "their d—d free and easy manners." There was some truth with much coarseness in this. An American, bred in the best society in his own land, does not feel any more than he acknowledges superiority of rank in another. The distinctions of rank are as vague and imperceptible to him as the imaginary lines are to the puzzled child in his first studies on the globe.
- I have hesitated whether to transcribe the above passage from my private journal. Its transcription is a slight infringement of the rule I have prescribed to myself. The gentleman in question was our companion and friend on the Continent, and besides that leaving him out would be leaving out of our travelling web the golden thread, it pleased—my vanity, it may be—to prove how, on the very threshold of his acquaintance, we discerned the treasures within.
- I have had the grace here, after transcribing and retranscribing them, to suppress some fresh bon mots of Sidney Smith's on recent works of popular authors being spoken of. Grace it is, knowing how much more acceptable to readers are bon mots than descriptions.
- I think one of our parties must strike an Englishman like a nursery-ball. Even in this immense assembly at L. house I saw few young people, none extremely young; but I must confess the struck me as very superior in physical condition and beauty to a similar assembly with us. Our girl, with her delicate features and nymph-like figure, is far more lovely in her first freshness than the English; but the English woman, in her ripeness and full development, far surpasses ours. She is superb from twenty to forty-five.
- Some of my readers may be surprised to miss from the list ofthese eminent persons the names of the two female writers mostread in the United States, Miss Martineau and Mrs. Jameson. MissMartineau was on the Continent when I was in London, and in speaking of Mrs. Jameson in this public way would seem to me much like putting the picture of an intimate and dear friend into an exhibition-room. Besides, her rare gifts, attainments, and the almost unequalled richness and charm of her conversation are well known in this country. But with all these a woman may be, after all, but a kind of monster; how far they are transcended by the virtues and attractions of her domestic life, it was our happiness to know from seeing her daily in her English home.
- I was struck with the different views that are taken of the same subject in different positions, when afterward, in a conversation with the celebrated Manzoni, he asked me if America, in emancipating herself from political dependance, had also obtained intellectualfreedom; if, unenslaved by the classic models of England, we venture to modify the language, and to use such new phrases and words as naturally sprung from new circumstances.
- "Every man likes to put in his word."
- It is to be hoped that Mrs. ——, in her promised essay on thephilosophy of dress, will give some hints to our old ladies not to violate the harmonies by wearing auburn hair over wrinkled brows, and some to our young women on the bad taste of uniformity of costume without reference to individual circumstances or appearance. Her own countrywomen do not need these suggestions.
- Would it not be better if our rich employers would persuadetheir women-servants to wear caps, and leave liveries to countries whose institutions they suit?
- When we had been in London some weeks, one of my party asked me if I had not missed the New-York stacks of bricks and mortar, and if I had observed that we had not once heard a cry of "fire!" In these respects the contrast to our building and burning city is striking. In fifteen months' absence I never heard the cry of fire.
- It is difficult for an American to appreciate the complete change that takes place in a European's position and relations on coming to this country; if he did, he would forgive the disgusts and uneasiness betrayed even by those who have the most philanthropic theories. He who was born in an atmosphere of elegance and refinement, far above the masses of his fellow-beings; who has seen them eager to obey his slightest signal, to minister to his artificial wants, ready to sit at his feet, to open a way for him, or to sustain him on their shoulders; who is always so far above them as to be in danger of entirely overlooking them, finds suddenly that all artificial props are knocked from under him, and he is brought down to a level with these masses, each individual elbowing his own way, and he obliged to depend on his own merit for all the eminence he attains. M. de Tocqueville is a striking illustration of the conflict between a democratic faith and the habits and tastes engendered by a European education. Perhaps some observation and reflection on this subject would convince parents of the injudiciousness of rearing children in Europe who are to live in America.