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Title: Old Roads and New Roads
Author: Donne, William Bodham, 1807-1882
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Roads and New Roads" ***

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Transcribed from the 1852 Chapman and Hall edition by David Price,

                                OLD ROADS
                                NEW ROADS.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                    CHAPMAN AND HALL, 193, PICCADILLY.

                                * * * * *


                                PRINTED BY
                          LINCOLN’S INN FIELDS.



If you look to move through this little volume in a direct line, after
the present fashion of Railway Travelling, you will be signally
disappointed.  Nothing can well be more circuitous than the route
proposed to you, nor more eccentric than your present guide.  This book
aspires to the precision of neither Patterson nor Bradshaw.  Let men
“bloody with spurring, fiery hot with speed,” consult those oracles of
swiftness and rectitude of way: we do not belong to their manor.  We
desire to beguile, by a sort of serpentine irregularity, the occasional
tedium of rapid movement.  We move to our journey’s end by sundry
old-fashioned circuitous routes.  Grudge not, while you are whirled along
a New Road, to loiter mentally upon certain Old Roads, and to consider as
you linger along them the ways and means of transit which contented our
ancestors.  Although their coaches were slow, and their pack-saddles hard
as those of the Yanguesan carriers of La Mancha, yet they reached their
inns in time, and bequeathed to you and me—Gentle Reader—if we have the
grace to use them, many pithy and profitable records of their wayfaring.
The battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to the swift:
neither is the most rapid always the pleasantest journey.  Horace
accompanied Mæcenas on very urgent business, yet he loitered on the way,
and confesses his slackness without shame—

    “Hoc iter ignavi divisimus, altius ac nos
    Præcinctis unum: minus est gravis Appia tardis.”

It was, he says, more comfortable to take his time.  Is our business more
pressing than his was?  It can hardly be, seeing that he wended with a
company whose errand was to prevent the two masters of the world from
coming to blows.  In comparison with such a mission, who will put the
buying of a cargo of cotton, or arriving an hour before a public meeting
begins, or catching a pic-nic party just in the nick of time?  St.
Bernard rode from sunrise to sunset along the Lake Leman without once
putting his mule out of a walk; so much delectation the holy man felt in
beholding the beauty of the water and the mountains, and in “chewing the
cud of his own sweet or bitter fancies.”  And good Michel Seigneur de
Montaigne took a week for his journey from Nice to Pisa, although his
horse was one of the smartest trotters in Gascony, merely for the
pleasure he felt in following the by-lanes.  And did not Richard Hooker
receive from Bishop Jewell his blessing and his walking-staff, and yet
with such poor means of speed he thought not of the weary miles between
Exeter and Oxford, but trudged merrily with a thankful heart for the good
oak prop, and the better blessing?  Much less content with his journey
was Richard when he rode to London on a hard-paced nag, that he might be
in time to preach his first sermon at St. Paul’s.  And was not this, the
hastier of his journeys, the most unlucky in his life, seeing that it
brought him acquainted with that foul shrew, Joan, his wife, who made his
after-days as bitter to him, patient and godly though he were, as
wormwood and coloquintida?  Are not these goodly examples, Christian and
Heathen?  Let the Train rush along, you and I will travel at our own

Neither shall you, if you will be ruled by your present guide, saunter
along the roads of Britain alone, or on known and extant ways only.  Are
there not roads which never paid toll, roads in the waste, roads
travelled only in vision, roads once traversed by the feet of myriads,
yet now overgrown by the forest, or buried deeply in the marsh?  Shall we
not for awhile be surveyors of these forgotten highways, and pause beside
the tombs of the kings, or consuls, or Incas, who first levelled them?
The world has moved westward with the daily motion of the earth.  Yet, in
the far East lie the most ancient highways—whose pavements once echoed
with the hurrying feet of Nimrod’s outposts or the trampling of
Agamemnon’s rear-guard.  It were well to mark how that ancient chivalry
sped along their causeways.

Nor, on our devious route, shall baiting-places be wanting.  Drunken
Barnaby stayed not oftener to prove the ale than we will do:—

    “Ægre jam relicto rure
    _Securem Aldermanni_—_bury_
    Primo petii, qua exosa
    Sentina, HOLBURNI ROSA
    Me excepit, ordine tali
    Ubi experrectum lecto
    TRES CICONIAS indies specto,
    Quo victurus, donec æstas
    Rure curas tollet mæstas:
    Ego etiam et Sodales
    Nunc _Galerum Cardinalis_
    Visitantes, vi Minervæ
    Bibimus ad _Cornua Cervi_.”

Our inns may not always be found at the roadside; and we may possibly
ever and anon seem to have missed the track altogether.  Yet we will come
into the main line in the end, and, I trust, part with kindly feelings,
when the time has come for saying

                              SISTE VIATOR.


Introduction                                         1
The most Ancient Roads                               2
The Assyrian Roads                                   4
Caligula’s Whim                                      5
Carthaginian Roads                                   6
Grecian Roads                                        7
Roman Roads                                          8
Celtic and Germanic Roads                           13
Roads in the Dark Ages                              15
Insecurity of Travelling                            16
The Norman Barons                                   17
Speed in Travelling                                 22
Cæsar’s Journeys                                    23
Fast Bishops                                        24
Roman Senators                                      25
Wolsey’s Speed                                      26
Lord Peterborough                                   27
Travelling Charges                                  28
Petruchio’s Horse                                   29
Cotton’s Ride                                       32
Tour in Derbyshire                                  33
Speed in Travelling                                 37
Wakes and Fairs                                     39
Roman Compitalia                                    39
The Fairs of the East                               40
Obstructions to Trade                               41
Expenses and Retinues                               42
Ancient Travellers                                  43
The Family Coach                                    48
A Journey to London                                 50
Highwaymen                                          53
The Boston Mail                                     54
Arms and the Men                                    55
The Decay of Beggars                                56
The Mendicant Orders                                57
Highway Legislation                                 58
Roadside Inns                                       59
Roadside Meals                                      60
Stage Coaches                                       61
Dangers of the Road                                 62
Voltaire and his Companions                         63
Running Footmen                                     64
Out-runners                                         65
The Judge and the Bar                               66
Road-making                                         67
Tolls and Turnpikes                                 68
Miry Roads                                          69
Travelling in Search of a Sister                    70
Tardiness of News                                   72
Post Chaises                                        73
French Postilions                                   74
The Pedlar                                          75
The Son of Mercury                                  76
The Packman’s Ghost                                 77
Wordsworth’s Pedlar                                 78
A Coachman’s Dirge                                  79
Compensation for Speed                              80
Goodly Prospects                                    81
The Inns of England                                 82
English Innkeepers                                  83
English Horses                                      84
Old Roads of the Continent                          86
Ser Brunetto                                        87
Roads of Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France         88
Roads of Asia                                       90
The March up and down                               91
The Early Travellers                                92
The Wilderness of Lop                               94
Hebrew Travellers                                   94
A Jewish Road-book                                  96
Inns of Cathay                                      98
Tartar Post-houses                                  99
The Khan’s Foot-posts                              100
The Roads of the Incas                             101
New Roads                                          104
Work and Pain                                      106
Work and Wages                                     107
Reaction and its inconveniences                    108
Sydney Smith                                       110
Keeping Troth                                      111
Conclusion                                         112


We have histories of all kinds in abundance,—and yet no good History of
Roads.  “Wines ancient and modern,” “Porcelain,” “Crochet work,”
“Prisons,” “Dress,” “Drugs,” and “Canary birds,” have all and each found
a chronicler more or less able; and the most stately and imposing volume
we remember ever to have turned over was a history of “Button-making:”
you saw at once, by the measured complacency of the style, that the
author regarded his buttons as so many imperial medals.  But of roads,
except Bergier’s volumes on the Roman Ways, and a few learned yet rather
repulsive treatises in Latin and German, we have absolutely no readable
history.  How has it come to pass that in works upon civilization, so
many in number, so few in worth, there are no chapters devoted to the
great arteries of commerce and communication?  The subject of roads does
not appear even on that long list of books which the good Quintus Fixlein
_intended_ to write.  Of Railways indeed, both British and foreign, there
are a few interesting memorials; but Railways are one branch only of a
subject which dates at least from the building of Damascus, earliest of
recorded cities.

Perhaps the very antiquity of roads, and the wide arc of generations
comprised in the subject, have deterred competent persons from attempting
it; yet therefore is it only the more strange that incompetent persons
have not essayed “this great argument,” since they generally rush in,
where their betters fear to tread.  A history of roads is, in great
measure indeed, a history of civilization itself.  For highways and great
cities not merely presuppose the existence of each other, but are also
the issues and exponents of two leading impulses in the nature of man.
Actuated by the one—the centripetal instinct—the shepherd races of Asia
founded their great capitals on the banks of the Euphrates and the
Ganges: impelled by the other—the centrifugal instinct—they passed forth
from their cradle in the Armenian Highlands, westward as far as the
Atlantic, and eastward as far as the Pacific.  We have indeed indications
of roads earlier than we have accounts of cities.  For ages before
Arcadian Evander came as a “squatter” to Mount Palatine, was there not
the great road of the Hyperboreans from Ausonia to Delphi, by which, with
each revolving year, the most blameless of mankind conveyed to the Dorian
Sun-god their offerings?  And as soon as Theseus—the organizer of men, as
his name imports—had slain the wolves and bears and the biped ruffians of
the Corinthian Isthmus, did he not set up a direction-post, informing the
wayfarer that “this side was Peleponnesus, and that side was Ionia”?
Centuries of thought and toil indeed intervened between the path across
the plain or down the mountain-gorge and the Regina Viarum, the Appian
Road; and centuries between the rude stone-heap which marked out to the
thirsting wayfarer the well in the desert, and the stately column which
told the traveller, “This is the road to Byzantium.”

In the land of “Geryon’s sons,” the paths which scaled the sierras were
attributed to the toils of Hercules.  In Bœotia, at a most remote era,
there was a broad carriage-road from Thebes to Phocis, and at one of its
intersections by a second highway the homicide of Laius opened the “long
process” of woes, which for three generations enshrouded, as with “the
gloom of earthquake and eclipse,” the royal house of Labdacus.  We have
some doubts about the nature, or indeed the existence, of the road along
which the ass Borak conveyed Mahommed to the seventh heaven: but we have
no grounds for questioning the fact of the great causeway, which Milton
saw in his vision, leading from Pandemonium to this earth, for have not
Sin and Death been travelling upon it unceasingly for now six thousand

From that region beyond the moon, where, according to Ariosto—and Milton
also vouches for the fact,—all things lost on earth are to be found,
could we evoke a Carthaginian ledger, we would gladly purchase it at the
cost of one or two Fathers of the Church.  It would inform us of many
things very pleasant and profitable to be known.  Among others it would
probably give some inkling of the stages and inns upon the great road
which led from the eastern flank of Mount Atlas to Berenice, on the Red
Sea.  This road was in ill odour with the Egyptians, who, like all close
boroughs, dreaded the approach of strangers and innovations.  And the
Carthaginian caravans came much too near the gold-mines of the Pharaohs
to be at all pleasant to those potentates: it was

          —“much I wis
    To the annoyance of King Amasis.”

But it is bootless to pine after knowledge irretrievably buried in
oblivion.  Otherwise we might fairly have wished to have stood beside
King Nebuchadnezzar when he so unadvisedly uttered that proud vaunt which
ended in his being condemned to a long course of vegetable diet.  For
doubtless he gazed upon at least four main roads which entered the walls
of Babylon from four opposite quarters:—

    “From Arachosia, from Candaor east,
    And Margiana, to the Hyrcanian cliffs
    Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales:
    From Atropatia and the neighbouring plains
    Of Adiabene, Media, and the south
    Of Susiana, to Balsara’s havens.”

We pass over as a mad imperial whim Caligula’s road from Baiæ to Puteoli,
partly because it was a costly and useless waste of money and labour, and
partly because that emperor had an awkward trick of flinging to the
fishes all persons who did not admire his road.  It was a bad imitation
of a bad model—the road with which Xerxes bridled the “indignant
Hellespont.”  Both the Hellespontine and the Baian road perished in the
lifetime of their founders; while the Simplon still attests the more
sublime and practical genius of Napoleon.  We should have also greatly
liked to watch the Cimbri and Ambrones at their work of piling up those
gigantic earth-mounds in Britain and in Gaul, which, under the
appellation of Devil’s-dykes, are still visible and, as monuments of
patient labour and toil, second only to the construction of the Pyramids.

The physiognomy of races is reflected in their public works.  The warm
climate of Egypt was not the only cause for the long paven corridors
which ran underground from temple to temple, and conducted the Deputies
of the Nomes to their sacerdotal meeting in the great Labyrinth.  It was
some advantage, indeed, to travel in the shade in a land where the summer
heats were intense, and refreshing rains of rare occurrence; but it was a
still greater recommendation to these covered ways that they enabled the
priests to assemble without displaying upon the broad highway of the Nile
the times and numbers of their synods.  The pyramidal temples of Benares
communicated by vaulted paths with the Ganges, as the chamber of Cheops
communicated with the Nile.  The capital of Assyria was similarly
furnished with covered roads, which enabled the priests of Bel to
communicate with one another, and with the royal palace, in a city three
days’ journey in length and three in breadth.  Civilization and
barbarism, indeed, in this respect met each another, and the caves of the
Troglodyte Æthiopians on the western shore of the Red Sea were connected
by numerous vaulted passages cut in the solid limestone, along which the
droves of cattle passed securely in the rainy season to their winter
stalls from the meadows of the Nile and the Astaboras.

Of the civil history of Carthage we know unfortunately but little.  The
colonists of Tyre and Sidon are to the ages a dumb nation.  All we know
of them is through the accounts of their bitter foes, the Greeks of
Sicily and the Romans.  It is much the same as if the only records of
Manchester and Birmingham were to be transmitted to posterity by the
speeches of Mr. George Frederic Young.  Yet we know that the
Carthaginians alone, among the nations of antiquity, made long
voyages,—perchance even doubled the Cape three thousand years before
Vasco de Gama broke the silence of the southern seas; and we are certain
also that their caravan traffic with Central Africa and the coasts of the
Red Sea passed along defined and permeable roads, with abiding land-marks
of hostelry, well, and column.  And we know more than this.  The Romans,
who jealously denied to other nations all the praise for arts or arms
which they could withhold, yet accorded to the Carthaginians the
invention of that solid intessellation of granite-blocks which is beheld
still upon the fragments of the Appian Road.  The highways which conveyed
to the warehouses of Carthage the ivory, gold-dust, slaves, and aromatic
gums of Central Libya ran through miles of well-ordered gardens and by
hundreds of villas; and it was the ruthless destruction of these
country-seats of the merchant-princes of Byrsa, which forced upon them
the first and the second peace with Rome.

The Grecian roads, like the modern European highways, represented the
free genius of the people: they were often sinuous in their course, and,
respecting the boundaries of property, wound around the hills rather than
disturb the ancient landmarks.  Up to a certain point the character of
the Grecian Republics was marked rather by rapid progression than by
permanence.  Their roads were of a less massive construction than the
Roman, consisting for the most part of oblong blocks, and were not very
artificially constructed, except in the neighbourhood of the great
emporia of traffic, Corinth, and Athens, and Syracuse.  Sparta possessed
two principal military highways, one in the direction of Argolis, and
another in that of Mycene; but the roads in the interior of Laconia were
little better than drift-ways for the conveyance of agricultural produce
from the field to the garner, or from the farm-yard to the markets of the
capital and the sea-ports.

The Romans were emphatically the road-makers of the ancient world.  An
ingenious but somewhat fanciful writer of the present day has compared
the literature of Rome to its great Viæ.  One idea, he remarks, possessed
its poets, orators, and historians—the supremacy of the City on the Seven
Hills; and Lucan, Virgil, Livy, and Tacitus, various as were their
idiosyncrasies, still present a formal monotony, which is not found to
the same degree in any other literature.  This censure is, perhaps, as
regards the literature of the Roman people, rather overstated; but it
applies literally to their roads, aqueducts, and tunnels.  The State was
the be-all and the end-all of social life: the wishes, the prejudices,
the conveniences of private persons never entered into account with the
planners and finishers of the Appian Way, or the Aqueduct of Alcantara.
The vineyard of Naboth would have been taken from him by a single
_senatûs consultum_, without the scruples of Ahab and without the crime
of Jezebel.  The Roman roads were originally constructed, like our own,
of gravel and beaten stone; the surface was slightly arched, and the
Macadamite principle was well understood by the contractors for the
earliest of the Sabine highways, the Via Salaria {9}.  But after the
Romans had borrowed from Carthage the art of intessellation, their roads
were formed of polygonal blocks of immense thickness, having the
interstices at the angles well filled with flints, and in some instances,
as at Pompeii, with wedges of iron and granite; so that they resembled on
a plane the vertical face of a Cyclopean or polygonal wall.  Upon the
roads themselves were imposed the stately and sonorous epithets of
Consular and Prætorian; and had the records of the western Republic
perished as completely as those of its commercial rival, the Appian Road
would have handed down to the remotest ages one of the names of the
pertinacious censor of the Claudian house.  To the Commonwealth,
perpetually engaged in distant wars on its frontiers, it was of the
utmost importance to possess the most rapid means of communicating with
its provinces, and of conveying troops and ammunition.  To the Empire it
was no less essential to correspond easily with its vast circle of
dependencies.  The very life of the citizens, who, long before the age of
Augustus, had ceased to be a corn-producing people, was sometimes
dependent upon the facility of transit, and the rich plains of Lombardy
and Gaul poured in their stores of wheat and millet, and of salted pork
and beef, when the harvest of Egypt failed through an imperfect
inundation of the Nile.  But the convenience of travellers was as much
consulted as the necessity of the subjects of Rome.  A foot-pavement on
each side was secured by a low wall against the intrusion or collision of
wheel carriages.  Stones to mount horses (for stirrups were unknown) {10}
were placed at certain distances for the behoof of equestrians; and the
miles were marked upon blocks of granite or peperino, the useful
invention of the popular tribune Caius Gracchus.  Trees and fences by the
sides were cut to admit air, and ditches, like ours, carried off the rain
and residuary water from the surface.  The office of _Curator Viarum_, or
Road Surveyor, was bestowed upon the most illustrious members of the
Senate, and the Board of Health in our days may feel some satisfaction in
knowing that Pliny the Younger once held the office of Commissioner of
Sewers on the Æmilian Road.  Nay, the ancients deemed no office tending
to public health and utility beneath them; and after his victory at
Mantinea, Epaminondas was appointed Chairman of the Board of Scavengers
at Thebes.

We close this part of our subject, which must not expand into an
archæological dissertation, with the following extract from the most
eloquent and learned of the English historians who have treated of Rome.

    “All these cities were connected with one another and with the
    capital by the public highways, which, issuing from the Forum of
    Rome, traversed Italy, pervaded the provinces, and were terminated
    only by the frontiers of the empire.  If we carefully trace the
    distance from the wall of Antoninus to Rome, and from thence to
    Jerusalem, it will be found that the great chain of communication,
    from the north-west to the south-east point of the empire, was drawn
    out to the length of four thousand and eighty Roman miles.  The
    public roads were accurately divided by milestones, and ran in a
    direct line from one city to another, with very little respect for
    the obstacles either of nature or of private property.  Mountains
    were perforated, and bold arches thrown over the broadest and most
    rapid streams.  The middle part of the road was raised into a
    terrace, which commanded the adjacent country, consisted of several
    strata of sand, gravel, and cement, and was paved with large stones,
    or, in some places near the capital, with granite.  Such was the
    solid construction of the Roman highways, whose firmness has not
    entirely yielded to the effect of fifteen centuries.  They united the
    subjects of the most distant provinces by an easy and familiar
    intercourse; but their primary object had been to facilitate the
    marches of the legions; nor was any country considered as completely
    subdued till it had been rendered in all its parts pervious to the
    arms and authority of the conqueror.  The advantage of receiving the
    earliest intelligence, and of conveying their orders with celerity,
    induced the emperors to establish throughout their extensive
    dominions the regular institution of posts.  Houses were everywhere
    erected at the distance only of five or six miles; each of these was
    constantly provided with forty horses, and by the help of these
    relays it was easy to travel a hundred miles on a day along the Roman

Wherever the Romans conquered they inhabited, and introduced into all
their provinces, from Syene, “where the shadow both way falls,” to the
_ultima Thule_ of the Scottish border, the germs of Latin civilization.
To this imperial people England and France owe their first roads; for the
drift-ways along the dykes of the Celts scarcely deserve the name.  The
most careless observer must have remarked the strong resemblance between
the right lines and colossal structure of the Roman Viæ and the modern
Railroad.  We have indeed arrived at a very similar epoch of civilization
to that of the Cæsarian era, but with adjuncts derived from a purer
religion, and from more generous and expanded views of commerce and the
interdependence of nations, than were vouchsafed by Providence to the
ancient world.

                                * * * * *

Roads being so essential a feature of all political communities, it might
have been expected that if no other feature of Roman cultivation had
survived the wreck of the Empire, the great arteries of intercourse would
at least have been retained.  But the works of man’s hand are the
exponent of his ideas; and the ideas of the Teutonic and Celtic races who
divided among themselves the patrimony of the Cæsars were essentially
different from those entertained and embodied by Greece and Rome.  The
State ceased to be an organic and self-attracting body.  The individual
rather than the corporate existence of man became the prevalent
conception of the Church and of legislators; and nations sought rather to
isolate themselves from one another, than to coalesce and correspond.
Moreover, the life of antiquity was eminently municipal.  The city was
the germ of each body politic, and the connection of roads with cities is
obvious.  But our Teutonic ancestors abhorred civic life.  They generally
shunned the towns, even when accident had placed them in the very centre
of their shires or marks, and when the proximity of great rivers or the
convenience of walls and markets seemed to hold out every inducement to
take possession of the vacant enclosures.  The castle and the cathedral
became the nucleus of the Teutonic cities.  Hamlets crept around the
precincts of the sacred and the outworks of the secular building: but it
was long before the Lord Abbot or the Lord Chatelain regarded with any
feelings but disdain, the burgher who exercised his trade or exposed his
wares in the narrow lanes of the town which abutted on his domains, and
enriched his manorial exchequer.

In many cases indeed the Roman cities were allowed to decay: the forest
resumed its rights: the feudal castle was constructed from the ruins of
the Proconsul’s palace and the Basilica, or if these edifices were too
massive for demolition, they were left standing in the waste—the Mammoths
and Saurians of a bygone civilization.  The great Viæ were for leagues
overgrown with herbage, or concealed by wood and morass; and for the
direct arms of transit which bound Rome and York together as by the cord
of a bow, were substituted the devious and inconvenient highways, which
led the traveller by circuitous routes from one province to another.  The
contrast indeed between the ‘Old Road and the New’ is represented in
Schiller’s fine image—rendered even finer in Coleridge’s translation:—

       “Straight forward goes
    The lightning’s path, and straight the fearful path
    Of the cannon ball.  Direct it flies, and rapid,
    Shattering that it may reach, and shattering what it reaches.
    My son! the road the human being travels,
    That on which blessing comes and goes, doth follow
    The river’s course, the valley’s playful windings,
    Curves round the corn-field and the hill of vines,
    Honouring the holy bounds of property:
    And thus secure, though late, leads to its end.”

It was long however before much security was found on the new roads.  In
the dark ages the days described by Deborah the prophetess had returned.
“The highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through
bye-ways: the villages were deserted.  Then was war in the gates, and
noise of the archers in the places of drawing water.”  Danger and delay
were often the companions of the traveller.  Occasionally a vigorous
ruler, like Alfred, succeeded in restoring security to the wayfarer, and
proved his success (so said the legend) by hanging up, in defiance of the
plunderer, golden armlets on crosses by the roadside.  But these
intervals of safety were few and far between, and the traveller
journeyed, like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “in fear and dread,”

    “Because he knew a fearful fiend
    Did close behind him tread.”

The man-at-arms in the days of Border-war was a more formidable obstacle
to progress than a wilderness of spectres.  In the reign of Edward the
Confessor the great highway of Watling Street was beset by violent men.
If you travelled in the eastern counties, the chances were that you were
snapped up by a retainer of Earl Godwin, and if in the district now
traversed by the Great Northern Railway, Earl Morcar would in all
likelihood arrest your journey, and without so much as asking leave clap
a collar round your neck, with his initials and yours scratched rudely
upon it, signifying to all men, by those presents, that in future your
duty was to tend his swine or rive his blocks.  Outlaws, dwelling in the
forests or in the deep morass which girded the road, pounced upon the
traveller on the causeway, eased him of his luggage if he carried any,
and if there was no further occasion for his services, they either let
him down easily into the next quagmire, or if they were, for those days,
gentlemanly thieves, left him standing, as Justice Shallow has it, like a
“forked radish,” to enjoy the summer’s heat or the winter’s cold.  The
cross and escallop shell of the pilgrim were no protection: “Cucullus non
fecit monachum” in the eyes of these minions of the road; or rather,
perhaps, the hood gave a new zest to the wrongs done to its wearer by
these “uncircumcised Philistines.”  Convents, the abodes of men
professing at least to be peaceful, were obliged to keep in pay William
of Deloraine to mate with Jock of Thirlstane: and ancient citizens were
fain to put by their grave habiliments, and “wield old partisans in hands
as old.”  There is extant an agreement made between Leofstan, Abbot of
St. Albans, and certain barons, by which the Abbot agrees to hire, and
the barons to let, certain men-at-arms for the security of the Abbey, and
for scouring the forests.  Savage capital punishments—impalement,
mutilation, hanging alive in chains—were inflicted on the marauders, who
duly acknowledged these attentions by yet more atrocious severities upon
the wayfarers who had the ill luck to be caught by them.

The insecurity of the old roads necessarily affected the manners of the
time.  He should have been a hardy traveller who would venture himself
“single and sole,” when he might journey in company.  The same cause
which leads to the formation of the caravans of Africa and Asia, led to
the collection of such goodly companies of pilgrims as wended their way
from the Tabard in Southwark to the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury;
and the pursuit of travelling under difficulties produced for all
posterity the most delightful of the poems of the great father of English

Travelling in companies, in times when it was next to impossible to be on
“visiting terms with one’s neighbours,” tended greatly to the improvement
of social intercourse, and to the erection of roomy and comfortable inns
for the wayfarers.  It took Dan Chaucer only a few hours to be on the
best footing with the nine and twenty guests at the Tabard.

    “Befelle that, in that season {18} on a day,
    In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
    Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
    To Canterbury with devout corage,
    At night was come into that hostelrie
    Wel nine and twentie in a compagnie
    Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
    In felawship; and pilgrimes were they alle,
    That toward Canterbury wolden ride.
    The chambres and the stables weren wide,
    And wel we weren esed attè beste.
    And shortly, whan the sonne was gone to reste
    So hadde I spoken with hem everich on,
    That I was of hir felawship anon.”

But the tenants of the waste and the woodland were not the only lords of
the highway.  The Norman baron drew little profit from the natural
produce of his ample domains.  In his way he was a staunch protectionist;
but he left agriculture very much to take care of itself, and looked to
his tolls, his bridges, and above all to his highways, for a more rapid
return of the capital he had invested in accoutring men-at-arms, squires,
and archers.  We know, from ‘Ivanhoe,’ how it fared with Saxons,
Pilgrims, and Jews, whose business led them near the castles of Front de
Bœuf or Philip de Malvoisin: and we are certain that the Lady of
Branksome kept, an expensive establishment, who were expected to bring
grist to the mill of the lord or lady of the demesne, by turning out in
all weathers and at all hours, whenever a herd of beeves or a company of
pilgrims were descried by the watchers from Branksome Towers.  For it
must have taken no small quantity of beef and hides to furnish the
Branksome retainers in dinners and shoe- and saddle-leather; since—

    “Nine and twenty knights of fame
       Hung their shields in Branksome Hall:
    Nine and twenty squires of name
       Brought them their steeds to bower from stall:
          Nine and twenty yeomen tall
          Waited duteous on them all:
          They were all knights of mettle true,
          Kinsmen to the bold Buccleugh.”

When the traveller carried money in his purse, or the merchant had store
of Sheffield whittles or Woodstock gloves in his pack, the lowest dungeon
in the castle of the Bigods was his doom; and he was a lucky man who came
out again from those crypts which now so much delight our archæological
associations, with a tithe of his possessions, or with his proper
allowance of eyes, hands, and ears.

Even on the Roman roads, with their good accommodation of pavement,
milestones, and towns, journeys were for the most part performed on foot
or horseback.  For before steel springs were invented, it was by no means
pleasant to ride all day in a jolting cart—and the most gorgeous of the
Roman _carrucæ_, or coaches, was no better.  Pompous and splendid
indeed—to pass for a moment from Norman and Saxon barbarism—must have
been the aspect of the Queen of Roads within a few leagues of the capital
of the world; splendid and pompous as it was to the actual beholder, it
is perhaps seen to best advantage in the following description by Milton—

    “Thence to the gates cast round thine eye, and see
    What conflux issuing forth, or entering in;
    Prætors, proconsuls to their provinces
    Hasting or on return, in robes of state,
    Lictors and rods, the ensigns of their power,
    Legions and cohorts, turms of horse and wings;
    Or embassies from regions far remote,
    In various habits, on the Appian road,
    Or on the Æmilian.”

As a pendant to this breathing picture oftan Old Road at the gate of the
“vertex omnium civitatum,” we subjoin a note from Gibbon:—

    “The _carrucæ_ or coaches of the Romans were often of solid silver,
    curiously carved and engraved, and the trappings of the mules or
    horses were embossed with gold.  This magnificence continued from the
    reign of Nero to that of Honorius: and the Appian Road was covered
    with the splendid equipages of the nobles who came out to meet St.
    Melania, when she returned to Rome, six years before the Gothic
    siege.  Yet pomp is well exchanged for convenience; and a plain
    modern coach, that is hung upon springs, is much preferable to the
    silver and gold _carts_ of antiquity, which rolled on the axle-tree,
    and were exposed, for the most part, to the inclemency of the
    weather.” {21a}

The Anglo-Saxon generally travelled on horseback.  The Jews were
restricted to the ignobler mule.  The former indeed had a species of
carriage; and horse-litters, probably for the use of royal or noble
ladies and invalids, are mentioned by Matthew Paris and William of
Malmesbury.  Wheel-carriages appear to have multiplied after the return
of the Crusaders from Palestine—partly, it may be inferred, because
increased wealth had inspired a taste for novel luxuries, and partly
because the champions of the Cross had imbibed in the Holy War some of
the prejudices of the infidels, and had grown chary of exposing to vulgar
gaze their dames and daughters on horseback. {21b}

The speed of travelling depends upon the nature and facilities of the
means of transit.  Herodotus mentions a remarkable example of speed in a
Hemerodromus, or running-post, named Phidippides, who in two days ran
from Athens to Sparta, a distance of nearly 152 English miles, to hasten
the Laconian contingent, when the Persians were landing on the beach of
Marathon.  Couriers of this order, trained to speed and endurance from
their infancy, conveyed to Montezuma the tidings of the disembarkation of
Cortes; and so imperfect were the means of communication at that era in
Europe, that the Spaniards noted it as a proof of high refinement in the
Aztecs to employ relays of running postmen, from all quarters of their
empire to the city on the Great Lake.  The speed of a Roman traveller was
probably the greatest possible before the invention of carriage-springs
and railways.  We have some data on this head.  The mighty Julius was a
rapid traveller.  He continually mentions his _summa diligentia_ in his
journal of the Gaulish Wars.  The length of journeys which he
accomplished within a given time, appears even to us at this day, and
might well therefore appear to his contemporaries, truly astonishing.  A
distance of one hundred miles was no extraordinary day’s journey for him.
When he did not march with his army on foot,—as he often seems to have
done, in order to set his soldiers an example, and also to express that
sympathy with them which gained him their hearts so entirely—he mostly
travelled in a _rheda_.  This was a four-wheeled carriage, a sort of
curricle, and adapted to the carriage of about half a ton of luggage.
His personal baggage was probably considerable, for he was a man of most
elegant habits, and sedulously attentive to his personal appearance.  The
tessellated flooring of his tent formed part of his _impedimenta_, and,
like Napoleon, he expected to find amid the distractions of war many of
the comforts and conveniences of his palace at Rome.  He reached the
Sierra Morena in twenty-three days from the date of his leaving Rome; and
he went the whole way by land.  The distance round the head of the Gulf
of Genoa and through the passes of the Pyrenees is 850 leagues; and
although the Carthaginians had once been masters of Spanish Navarre, the
roads were far from regular or good.  The same distance would now be
accomplished in twelve days by a general and his mounted staff.  From the
usual rapidity with which the great Proconsul travelled, Cowley, in his
Essay on ‘Procrastination,’ extracts a moral, or, as his Puritan
contemporaries would have phrased it, a “pious use.”  “Cæsar,” he says,
“the man of expedition above all others, was so far from this folly
(procrastination), that whensoever in a journey he was to cross any
river, he never went out of his way for a bridge, or a ford, or a ferry,
but flung himself into it immediately, and swam over; and this is the
course we ought to imitate, if we meet with any stops in our way to
happiness.”  In the time of Theodosius, Cæsarius, a magistrate of high
rank, went post from Antioch to Constantinople.  He began his journey at
night, was in Cappadocia, 165 miles from Antioch, the ensuing evening,
and arrived at Constantinople the sixth day about noon.  The whole
distance was 725 Roman, or 665 English miles.

Gibbon describes bishops as among the most rapid of ancient travellers.
The decease of a patriarch of Alexandria or Antioch caused the death of
scores of post-horses, from the rate at which anxious divines hurried to
Constantinople to solicit from the Emperor the vacant see.  On the whole
however, in respect of speed in travelling, the Greeks and Romans were
but slow coaches; and these exceptional instances merely serve to prove
the general slackness of their pace.  A Roman nobleman indeed, with all
the means and appliances which his wealth could purchase, and with the
positive advantage of the best roads in the world, travelled generally
with such a ponderous train, that the heavy-armed legions with their
parks of artillery might well advance as rapidly as an Olybrius or
Anicius of the Empire.  “In their journeys into the country,” says
Ammianus, “the whole body of the household marches with their master.  In
the same manner as the cavalry and infantry, the heavy and the light
armed troops, the advanced guard and the rear, are marshalled by the
skill of their military leaders; so the domestic officers who bear the
rod, as an ensign of authority, distribute and arrange the numerous train
of slaves and attendants.  The baggage and wardrobe move in the front;
and are immediately followed by a multitude of cooks and inferior
ministers, employed in the service of the kitchen and of the table.  The
main body is composed of a promiscuous crowd of slaves, increased by the
accidental concourse of idle or dependent plebeians.”

At an even earlier period, in the age of Nero, before luxury had made the
gigantic strides which distinguished and disgraced the Byzantine Court,
Seneca records three circumstances relative to the journeys of the Roman
nobility.  They were preceded by a troop of Numidian light horse who
announced by a cloud of dust the approach of a great man.  Their
baggage-mules transported not only the precious vases, but even the
fragile vessels of crystal and _murra_, which last probably meant the
porcelain of China and Japan.  The delicate faces of the young slaves
were covered with a medicated crust or ointment, which secured them
against the effects of the sun and frost.  Rightly did the Romans name
their baggage _impedimenta_.  A funeral pace was the utmost that could be
expected from travellers so particular about their accommodations as
these luxurious senators.  Of a much humbler character was the state
observed by the monarchs who succeeded to portions of the empire of the
Cæsars.  The Merovingian kings, when they employed wheel carriages at
all, rode in wains drawn by bullocks; the Bretwaldas of the Saxon
kingdoms went to temple or church on high festivals in the same cumbrous
fashion; and “slow oxen” dragged the standard of the Italian Republics
into the battle-field.

With the disuse or breaking up of the great Roman Viæ in our island, the
difficulty and delay of travelling increased, and more than thirteen
centuries elapsed before it was again possible to journey with any
tolerable speed.  Wolsey indeed, it is well known, by the singular
rapidity with which he conveyed royal letters to and from Brussels,
galloped swiftly up the road of royal favour: and by his fast style of
living at home afterwards galloped even more swiftly down again.
Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough, was noted for his incessant restlessness,
and his rapid mode of passing from one land to another; but then he
dispensed with all state and attendance, and rode like a post-boy from
one end of Europe to another.  As the readers of Pope, Swift, and their
contemporaries are daily becoming fewer in number, we venture to extract
the Dean’s pleasant burlesque on this eccentric nobleman’s migratory

    “Mordanto fills the trump of fame,
    The Christian worlds his deeds proclaim,
    And prints are crowded with his name.

    In journeys he outrides the post,
    Sits up till midnight with his host,
    Talks politics and gives the toast;

    Knows every prince in Europe’s face,
    Flies like a squib from place to place,
    And travels not, but runs a race.

    From Paris gazette à-la-main,
    This day arrived, without his train,
    Mordanto in a week from Spain.

    A messenger comes all a-reek,
    Mordanto at Madrid to seek;
    He left the town above a week.

    Next day the post-boy winds his horn,
    And rides through Dover in the morn;
    Mordanto’s landed from Leghorn.

    Mordanto gallops on alone;
    The roads are with his followers strown;
    This breaks a girth and that a bone.

    His body active as his mind,
    Returning sound in limb and wind,
    Except some leather lost behind.

    A skeleton in outward figure,
    His meagre corpse, though full of vigour,
    Would halt behind him, were it bigger.

    So wonderful his expedition,
    When you have not the least suspicion
    He’s with you like an apparition.”

The badness of the roads and the rude forms of wheel-carriages added to
the expense of travelling.  A canon of Salisbury Cathedral may now travel
to London at a cost which is scarcely felt by his prebendal income: but
in the days of Peter of Blois the whole proceeds of a stall were
inadequate to the expenses of such a journey.  In the thirteenth century
a bishop of Hereford was detained at Wantling by lack of money for
post-horses, and but for the aid of some pious monastery or peccant baron
in the neighbourhood, who seized the opportunity of compounding for his
sins, the successor of the apostles must, like the apostles, have
completed his journey on foot.

In the fourteenth century roads were so far improved, that jobbing horses
became a regular business, and the licenses for hackneys and guides added
to the returns of the exchequer.  A fare of twelvepence was paid for
horse-hire from Southwark to Rochester; and sixpence was the charge of
conveyance from Canterbury to Dover.  We do not know the rate at which
the equestrians travelled.  Ancient Pistol informs us that “the
hollow-pampered jades of Asia could go but thirty miles a-day.”  But
these cattle seem to have been like Jeshurun, fat and perchance kicking,
and accustomed to the tardy pace of Asiatic pomp.

Shakspeare and Steele both expatiate on the casualties incident to riding
upon hired horses.  Petruchio and Catherine, like Dr. Samuel Johnson and
Hetty, made their wedding tour on horseback; and each trip ended with a
similar result—the temporary obedience of the fair brides to the marital
yokes.  After this fashion Grumio tells the story of the connubial
ride:—“We came down a foul hill, my master riding behind my mistress.”
“Both on one horse?” says Curtis, apparently unacquainted with the
fashion of pillions.  “What’s that to thee?” rejoins Grumio.  “Tell thou
the tale.  But hadst thou not crossed me, thou shouldst have heard how
her horse fell, and she under her horse; thou shouldst have heard in how
miry a place; how she was bemoiled; how he left her with the horse upon
her; how he beat me because her horse stumbled; how she waded through the
dirt to pluck him off me; how he swore; how she prayed; how I cried; how
the horses ran away; how her bridle was burst; how I lost my crupper.”

That Petruchio rode a hired horse is rendered probable by the wretched
character of his steed and its furniture.  Hudibras or Don Quixote were
not worse mounted than was the Shrew-tamer: seeing that his horse was
“hipped with an old mothy saddle, the stirrups of no kindred; besides,
possessed with the glanders, and like to mose in the chine; troubled with
the lampass, infected with the fashions, full of wind-galls, sped with
spavins, raied with the yellows, past cure of the fives, stark spoiled
with the staggers, begnawn with the bots; swayed in the back and
shoulder-shotten, near-legged before, and with a half-checked bit, and a
headstall of sheep’s leather; which, being restrained to keep him from
stumbling, hath been often burst, and now repaired with knots; one girt
six times pieced, and a woman’s crupper of velure, here and there pieced
with packthread.” {30}

Steele (Tatler, No. 231) has borrowed, without any acknowledgement, from
‘Taming the Shrew,’ most of the circumstances of his story; yet his
adoption of them shows that such a mode of travelling was still in common
use in the seventeenth century.  After the honey-moon was over, the
bridegroom made preparations for conveying his new spouse to her future
abode.  But “instead of a coach and six horses, together with the gay
equipage suitable to the occasion, he appeared without a servant, mounted
on a skeleton of a horse which his huntsman had, the day before, brought
in to feast his dogs on the arrival of their new mistress, with a pillion
fixed behind, and a case of pistols before him, attended only by a
favourite hound.  Thus equipped, he, in a very obliging, but somewhat
positive manner, desired his lady to seat herself on the cushion; which
done, away they crawled.  The road being obstructed by a gate, the dog
was commanded to open it; the poor cur looked up and wagged his tail: but
the master, to show the impatience of his temper, drew a pistol and shot
him dead.  He had no sooner done it, but he fell into a thousand
apologies for his unhappy rashness, and begged as many pardons for his
excesses before one for whom he had so profound a respect.  Soon after
their steed stumbled, but with some difficulty recovered; however, the
bridegroom took occasion to swear, if he frightened his wife so again, he
would run him through!  And, alas! the poor animal, being now almost
tired, made a second trip; immediately on which the careful husband
alights, and with great ceremony first takes off his lady, then the
accoutrements, draws his sword, and saves the huntsman the trouble of
killing him: then says he to his wife, ‘Child, prithee take up the
saddle;’ which she readily did, and tugged it home, where they found all
things in the greatest order, suitable to their fortune and the present
occasion.”  This veracious history proceeds to say that, after this
practical lesson, the lady was ever remarkable for a sweet and compliant

Cotton’s—“cheerful hearty Mr. Cotton”—description of a post-horse may be
less familiarly known to the reader than either of the preceding
descriptions of the inconveniences of riding post: it describes a journey
from the neighbourhood of Bakewell to Holyhead, about the year 1678.

    “A guide I had got, who demanded great vails,
    For conducting me over the mountains of Wales:
    Twenty good shillings, which sure very large is;
    Yet that would not serve, but I must bear his charges:
    And yet for all that, rode astride on a beast,
    The worst that e’er went on three legs, I protest.
    It certainly was the most ugly of jades:
    His hips and his rump made a right ace of spades;
    His sides were two ladders, well spur-galled withal;
    His neck was a helve, and his head was a mall;
    For his colour, my pains and your trouble I’ll spare,
    For the creature was wholly denuded of hair,
    And, except for two things, as bare as my nail,—
    A tuft of a mane and a sprig of a tail.
    Now such as the beast was, even such was the rider,
    With head like a nutmeg, and legs like a spider;
    A voice like a cricket, a look like a rat,
    The brains of a goose, and the heart of a cat:
    But now with our horses, what sound and what rotten,
    Down to the shore, you must know, we were gotten;
    And there we were told, it concerned us to ride,
    Unless we did mean to encounter the tide.
    And then my guide lab’ring with heels and with hands,
    With two up and one down, hopped over the sands;
    Till his horse, finding the labour for three legs too sore,
    Foled out a new leg, and then he had four.
    And now, by plain dint of hard spurring and whipping,
    Dry-shod we came where folks sometimes take shipping.
    And now hur in Wales is, Saint Taph be hur speed,
    Gott splutter hur taste, some Welsh ale hur had need:
    Yet surely the Welsh are not wise of their fuddle,
    For this had the taste and complexion of puddle.
    From thence then we marched, full as dry as we came,
    My guide before prancing, his steed no more lame,
    O’er hills and o’er valleys uncouth and uneven,
    Until, ’twixt the hours of twelve and eleven,
    More hungry and thirsty than tongue can well tell,
    We happily came to St. Winifred’s well.”

Cotton’s ride to Holyhead was not however nearly so diversified in its
adventures as a journey from Hardwick to Bakewell about the same period,
described by Edward, son of Sir Thomas Browne, the worthy knight and
physician of Norwich.

A tour in Derbyshire, in the year 1622, was indeed no light matter.  Our
ancestors were much in the right to make their wills before encountering
the perils of a ride across the moors.  We are constrained to abridge the
author’s narrative, but the main incidents of it are preserved in our

    “This day broke very rudely upon us.  I never travelled before in
    such a lamentable day both for weather and way, but we made shift to
    ride sixteen mile that morning, to Chesterfield in Derbyshire,
    passing by Bolsover Castle, belonging to the Earl of Newcastle, very
    finely seated upon a high hill; and missing our way once or twice, we
    rode up mountain, down dale, till we came to our inn, when we were
    glad to go to bed at noon.  It was impossible to ride above two mile
    an hour in this stormy weather: but coming to our inn, by the
    ostler’s help having lifted our crampt legs off our horses, we
    crawled upstairs to a fire, when in two hours’ time we had so well
    dried ourselves without and liquored ourselves within, that we began
    to be so valiant as to think upon a second march; but inquiring after
    the business, we received great discouragement, with some stories of
    a moor, which they told us we must go over.  We had by chance lighted
    on a house that was noted for good drink and a shovel-borde table,
    which had invited some Derbyshire blades that lived at Bakewell, but
    were then at Chesterfield about some business, to take a
    strengthening cup before they would encounter with their journey home
    that night.  We, hearing of them, were desirous to ride in company
    with them, so as we might be conducted in this strange, mountainous,
    misty, moorish, rocky, wild country; but they, having drank freely of
    their ale, which inclined them something to their countrie’s natural
    rudeness, and the distaste they took at our swords and pistols with
    which we rid, made them loth to be troubled with our companies, till
    I, being more loth to lose this opportunity than the other (one of
    which had voted to lie in bed the rest of the day), went into the
    room and persuaded them so well, as they were willing, not only to
    afford us their company, but stayed for us till we accoutred
    ourselves.  And so we most courageously set forward again, the
    weather being not one whit better, and the way far worse; for the
    great quantity of rain that fell, came down in floods from the tops
    of the hills, washing down mud, and so making a bog in every valley;
    the craggy ascents, the rocky unevenness of the roads, the high
    peaks, and the almost perpendicular descents, that we were to ride
    down: but what was worse than all this, the furious speed that our
    conductors, mounted upon such good horses, used to these hills, led
    us on with, put us into such an amazement, as we knew not what to do,
    for our pace we rode would neither give us opportunity to speak with
    them or to consult with one another, till at length a friendly bough
    that had sprouted out beyond his fellows over the road, gave our file
    leader such a brush of the jacket as it swept him off his horse, and
    the poor jade, not caring for its master’s company, ran away without
    him: by this means, while some went to get his courser for him,
    others had time to come up to a general _rendezvous_; and concluded
    to ride more soberly: but I think that was very hard for some of
    these to do.  Being all up again, our light-horsed companions
    thundered away, and our poor jades, I think, being afraid, as well as
    their masters, to be left alone in this desolate wide country, made
    so much haste as they could after them; and this pace we rid, till we
    lost sight of one another.  At last our leaders were so civil, when
    it was almost too late, to make another halt at the top of one of the
    highest hills thereabout, just before we were to go to the moor: and
    I was the last that got up to them, where, missing one of my
    companions who was not able to keep up with us, I was in the greatest
    perplexity imaginable, and desiring them to stay awhile, I rid back
    again, whooping and hallooing out to my lost friend; but no creature
    could I see or hear of, till at last, being afraid I had run myself
    into the same inconvenience, I turned back again towards the
    mountaineers, whom when I had recovered, they told me ’t was no
    staying there, and ’t were better to kill our horses than to be left
    in those thick mists, the day now drawing to an end: and so setting
    spurs to their horses, they ran down a precipice, and in a short time
    we had the favour to be rained on again, for at the top of this hill
    we were drencht in the clouds themselves, which came not upon us drop
    by drop, but cloud after cloud came puffing over the hill as if they
    themselves had been out of breath with climbing it.  Here all our
    tackling failed, and he that fared best was wet to the skin, these
    rains soaking through the thickest lined cloak: and now we were
    encountering with the wild moor, which, by the stories we had been
    told of it, we might have imagined a wild bore.  I am sure it made us
    all grunt before we could get over it, it was such an uneven rocky
    track of road, full of great holes, and at that time swells with such
    rapid currents, as we had made most pitiful shift, if we had not been
    accommodated with a most excellent conductor; who yet, for all his
    haste, fell over his horse’s head as he was plunging into some dirty
    hole, but by good luck smit his face into a soft place of mud, where
    I suppose he had a mouth full both of dirt and rotten stick, for he
    seemed to us to spit crow’s nest a good while after.  Now, being
    forced to abate something of their speed, I renewed my acquaintance
    with two of our new companions, and made them understand how we had
    left a third man behind us, not being able to ride so fast, and how
    our intentions were to stay at their own town with them this night,
    who now overjoyed to see an old acquaintance, were so kind and loving
    that what with shaking hands, riding abreast, in this bad way, and
    other expressions of their civilities, they put me in as much trouble
    with their favour as before they had put me to inconvenience by their
    rudeness: yet, by this means, I procured them to ride so easily as I
    led my horse down the next steep hill, on the side of which lay a
    vast number of huge stones, one intire stone of them being as big as
    an ordinary house: some of the smaller they cut into mill-stones.
    Passing the river—Derwent—which then ran with the strongest current
    that ever I beheld any, we climbed over another hill, a mile up and a
    mile down, and got to Bakewell a little after it was dark.”

We have a few data of the speed possible in travelling on extraordinary
occasions.  We select one of each kind—that of the mounted express and
that of the Great Lady who kept her carriage, as the extremes, so far as
regards the instruments of conveyance.  For a horseman can go where a
wheel-carriage cannot find a track: and on the other hand, the traveller
on foot can generally choose a more direct line of movement, than is
practicable for the four-footed servant of man, encumbered with his rider
and his furniture.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the herald of the king of
Scotland, who, it may be supposed, carried with him a royal mandate to be
first served by the livery stables, was allowed forty days to reach the
Border from London, although it appears that Robert Bruce took only seven
to put the Border between himself and Gloucester.  But neither Bruce nor
the mother of Richard II., who came in one day from Canterbury to London,
can be taken as precedents of ordinary speed.  For the one had received a
significant hint from some friendly courtier—a pair of spurs baked in a
pie—that King Edward was in high dudgeon with him, and could not dine
with either appetite or good digestion, until he had seen Bruce’s head:
and of the Queen dowager is it not written that “she never durst tarry on
the waye,” for Wat Tyler was behind her, vowing vengeance upon all
principalities and powers?  Howbeit her majesty was so thoroughly jolted
and unsettled by the “slapping pace” at which she travelled, that she had
a bilious attack forthwith, and was “sore syke, and like to die.”

To the difficulty of transit on roads was owing the establishment of
great annual fairs, still imperfectly represented by our Wakes,
Statute-fairs, and periodical assemblages of itinerant vendors of goods.
These commercial re-unions are still common in the East, and still
frequent in Central Europe; although in England, where every hamlet has
now happily its general shop, and where the towns rival the metropolis in
the splendour of gas-lamps and the glory of plate-glass windows, such
Fairs have degenerated into yearly displays of giants, dwarfs,
double-bodied calves, and gorgeous works in gingerbread.  To our
ancestors, with their simpler habits of living, supply and demand, these
annual meetings served as permanent divisions of the year.  The good
housewife who bought her woollens and her grocery, the yeoman who chose
his frieze-coat, his gay waistcoat, and the leathern integuments of his
sturdy props, once only in twelve months, would compute the events of his
life after the following fashion:—“It happened three months after last
Bury or Chester Fair;” or, “Please Heaven, the bullocks shall be
slaughtered the week before the next Statute.”  Nay, dates were often
extracted, in the courts of justice, by the help of such periodical
memoranda.  The Church of Rome, with its unerring skill in absorbing and
insinuating itself into all the business or pleasures of mankind, did not
overlook these popular gatherings.  And if the ascetic Anthony, the
sturdy Christopher, or that “painful martyr,” St. Bartholomew, minded
earthly matters in the regions of their several beatitudes, they must
have been often more scandalized than edified by the boisterous
amusements of those who celebrated their respective Feasts.  In these
particulars, however, Ecclesiastical Rome was merely a borrower from its
elder Pagan sister.  The Compitalia of ancient Rome were street-fairs
dedicated to the worship of local deities, and the Thirty cities of
Latium held annually, on the slope of the Alban Mount, a great fair as
well as a great council of Duumviri and Decuriones.  To the ancient fairs
of Southern Italy we are indebted for one of our oldest and most
agreeable acquaintances.  The swinging puppets of the Oscans were
gradually confined within a portable box, and danced or gesticulated upon
a miniature stage.  Their dumb-show was relieved by the extemporary jests
and songs of the showman, until at length, one propitious morning, some
Homer or Shakspeare of the streets conceived the sublime idea of
embodying these scattered rays of satire and jest in the portly person
of—Mr. Punch.

The original fair of the East and mediæval Europe was one of the most
instructive and picturesque spectacles among the many gatherings of the
human race.  The Great Fair of Novogorod assembled, and still continues
to assemble, myriads of nearly every colour and costume: and in the
market of “the Sledded Russ” the small-eyed Chinese stood side by side
with the ebony-complexioned native of Guinea.  Among the many pictures
which Sir Thomas Browne desired to see painted was “a delineation of the
Great Fair of Almachara in Arabia, which, to avoid the great heat of the
sun, is kept in the night, and by the light of the moon.”  The worthy and
learned knight does not mention the Great Fair of the _Hurdwar_, in the
northern part of Hindostan, where a confluence of many millions of human
beings is brought together under the mixed influences of devotion and
commercial business, and, dispersing as rapidly as it has been evoked,
the crowd “dislimns and leaves not a wrack behind.”  But fairs and
general enterprise and opulence are not coeval: neither do they flourish
in an age of iron roads and steam-carriages.  In fact, they were the
results of the inconvenience attendant upon travelling.  It was once
easier for goods to come to customers than for customers to leave their
homes in search of goods.  Inland trade was heavily crippled by the
badness and insecurity of the highways.  The carriages in which produce
was conveyed were necessarily massive and heavy in their structure, to
enable them to resist the roughness of the ways.  Sometimes they were
engulfed in bogs, sometimes upset in dykes, and generally they rolled
heavily along tracks little less uneven than the roofs of houses.

As a direct result of these obstacles to speedy locomotion, the fruits of
the earth, in the winter months, when the roads were broken up or
flooded, were consumed by damp and worms in one place, while a few miles
further on they might have been disposed of at high prices.  Turf was
burned in the stoves of London, long after coals were in daily use in the
northern counties; and petitions were presented to the Houses of
Parliament in the reign of Henry VIII., deprecating the destruction of
growing timber for the supply of hearth-fuel.  Nor were these miry and
uneven ways by any means exempt from toll; on the contrary, the chivalry
of the Cambrian Rebecca might have been laudably exercised in clearing
the thoroughfares of these unconscionable barriers.  It was a costly
day’s journey to ride through the domain of a lord abbot or an acred
baron.  The bridge, the ferry, the hostelry, the causeway across the
marshes, had each its several perquisite.  Exportation from abroad was
oftener cheaper than production at home.  It answered better to import
cloth from Flanders than to weave and bring it from York: and land
carriage from Norwich to London was nearly as burdensome as
water-carriage from Lisbon.  Coals, manure, grain, minerals, and leather
were transported on the backs of cattle.  An ambassador going or
returning from abroad was followed by as numerous a retinue as if he had
ridden forth conquering and to conquer.  Nor were his followers merely
for state or ceremony, but indispensable to his comfort, since the horses
and mules which bore his suite carried also the furniture of his bed-room
and kitchen, owing to the clumsiness of wheel-carriages.  If, as was
sometimes the case, a great lord carried half an estate on his back, he
often consumed the other half in equipping and feeding his train: and
among the pleasures utterly unknown to the world for more than five
thousand years is, that both peer and peasant may now travel from
Middlesex to any portion of the known world with only an umbrella and

We have alluded in our sketch of the earliest roads to the general
character of early travelling; but a few words in connection with roads
remain to be said on that subject.  Travelling for pleasure—taking what
our grandfathers were wont to call the _Grand Tour_—were recreations
almost unknown to the ancient world.  If Plato went into Egypt, it was
not to ascend the Nile, nor to study the monumental pictures of a land
whose history was graven on rocks, but to hold close colloquy on
metaphysics or divinity with the Dean and Chapter at Memphis.  The Greeks
indeed, fortunately for posterity, had an incredible itch for Egyptian
yarns, and no sooner had King Psammetichus given them a general
invitation to the Delta, than they flocked thither from Athens and
Smyrna, and Cos and Sparta, and the parts of Italy about Thurium, with
their heads full of very particular questions, and often, to judge by
their reports of what they heard, with ears particularly open to any
answers the Egyptian clergy might please to give.  Yet pleasure was not
the object of their journey.  Science, as themselves said, curiosity, as
their enemies alleged, was the motive for their encountering perils by
land and water.  Indeed we recollect only three travellers, either among
the Greeks or Romans, who can properly be considered as journeying for
pleasure.  These were Herodotus—the prince of tourists, past, present, or
to come,—Paullus Æmilius, and Cæsar Germanicus.

Herodotus, there is reason to suspect, did not himself penetrate far into
Asia, but gathered many of his stories from the merchants and mariners
who frequented the wine-shops of Ephesus and Smyrna.  Considering the
sources of his information, and the license of invention accorded to
travellers in all ages, the Halicarnassian was reasonably sceptical: and
generally warns his readers when he is going to tell them “a bouncer,” by
the words “so at least they told me,” or “so the story goes.”  Paullus
Æmilius travelled like a modern antiquary and connoisseur.  And for
beholding the master-pieces of Grecian art in their original splendour
and in their proper local habitations, never had tourist better
opportunities.  A negotiation was pending between the Achæan League and
the Roman Commonwealth; and since the preliminaries were rather dull, and
Flaminius felt himself bored by the doubts and ceremonies of the
delegates, he left them in the lurch to draw up their treaty, and took a
holiday tour himself in the Peloponnesus.  At that time not a single
painting, statue, or bas-relief had been carried off to Italy.  The Roman
villas were decorated with the designs of Etrurian artists alone, or, at
the most, had imported their sculpture and picture galleries from Thurii
and Tarentum.  Flaminius therefore gazed upon the entire mass of Hellenic
art; and the only thing he, unfortunately for us, neglected, was to keep
a journal, and provide for its being handed down to posterity.

Germanicus, who had beheld many of these marvels in the Forum and Palaces
of Rome—for the Roman generals resembled the late Marshal Soult in the
talent of appropriating what they admired—reserved his curiosity for
Egypt alone, and traversed from Alexandria to Syene the entire valley of
the Nile, listening complacently to all the legends which the priests
deemed fitting to rehearse to Roman ears.  He was of course treated with
marked attention.  Memnon’s statue sounded its loudest chord at the first
touch of the morning ray; the priests, in their ceremonial habiliments,
read to him the inscriptions on the walls of the great Temple at
Carnac—and proved to him that after all the Roman empire was no “great
shakes;” since a thousand years before, Rameses III. had led more nations
behind his chariot, and exacted heavier tributes of corn, wine, and oil
from all who dwelt between the White Nile and the Caspian Sea.  His
journey however was so unprecedented a step, that it brought him into
trouble with Tiberius.  The Emperor was half afraid that Germanicus had
some designs upon the kingdom of Egypt, and as that land happened to be
the granary of Rome, the jealous autocrat thought of the possibility of
short-commons and a bread-riot in the Forum.  But even if the tourist had
no ulterior views, the Emperor thought that it did not look like business
for a proconsul to be making holiday without leave,—and he accordingly
reprimanded his adopted son by letter, and scolded him in a speech to the
senate.  In our days the Emperor of Russia would look equally black on a
field-marshal who should come without license to London for the season;
and the Mandarin, who lately exhibited himself in the Chinese Junk, would
do well for the future to eschew the Celestial Empire and its ports and
harbours entirely,—at least if he have as much consideration for his
personal comfort, as his sleek appearance indicated.

The Emperor Hadrian might have been added to the list of ancient
travellers in search of the picturesque, both because he visited nearly
every province of his empire, and because he expended good round sums
wherever he went, in restoring, re-edifying, or beautifying the public
edifices which the provincials had suffered to fall into decay.  But
Hadrian’s journeys were primarily journeys of business; he wished, like
the Czar Nicholas, to see with his own eyes how matters went on, and at
times he had the felicity of catching a prefect in the very act of
filling his pockets and squeezing the provincials: we cannot therefore
put him to the account of those who journeyed for pleasure.  Every Roman
who took any part in public affairs was, in fact, a great traveller.  If
he served his sixteen or twenty years in the legions, and was not
enrolled in the household troops, he was singularly unlucky if his
company were not quartered in Asia, Africa, and the Danubian provinces.
If he became prætor or consul, a provincial government awaited him at the
close of his year of office; and it depended upon the billets drawn in
the Senate, whether he spent a year or two on the shores of the Atlantic,
or whether he kept staghounds on the frontiers of Dacia.  Nearly every
Roman indeed had qualified himself before he was fifty to be a candidate
for the Travellers’ Club; and sometimes the fine gentleman, who declined
taking an active part in public affairs, found himself unexpectedly a
thousand miles from home, with an imperial rescript in his portmanteau
enjoining him not to return to Rome without special leave.

To such a compulsory journey was the poet Ovid condemned, apparently for
his very particular attentions to the Princess Julia.  His exile was a
piece of ingenious cruelty.  He was sent to Tomi, which was far beyond
the range of all fashionable bathing-places.  The climate was atrocious;
the neighbourhood was worse; the wine was execrable and was often hard
frozen, and eaten like a lozenge, and his only society was that of the
barracks, or a few rich but unpolished corn-factors, who speculated in
grain and deals on the shores of the Euxine.  To write verses from morn
to dewy eve was the unfortunate poet’s only solace: and he sent so many
reams of elegies to Rome, that his friends came at last to vote him a
bore, and he was reduced, for want of fitting audience, to learn the
Getic language, and read his lacrymose couplets to circles of gaping

A few of our readers may remember the family coach in which county
magnates rode in procession to church, to Quarter sessions, and on all
occasions of ceremony and parade.  The Landau, so fast disappearing from
our streets and roads, was but a puny bantling of a vehicle in comparison
with the older and more august conveyance.  As the gentlemen rode on
horseback, and the ladies upon pillions, on all but the great epochs of
their lives, this wheeled mammoth was rarely drawn out of its cavern, the
coach-house.  For not even when in full dress, raised from the ground by
red-heeled shoes resembling a Greek _cothurnus_, and with a cubit added
to their stature by a mural battlement of hair, did the ladies of the
eighteenth century disdain to jog soberly behind a booted butler with
pistols in his holsters, and a Sir Cloudesley Shovel beaver on his head.
{48}  “We have heard an ancient matron tell of her riding nine miles to
dinner behind a portly farm bailiff, and with her hair dressed like that
of Madame de Maintenon, which, being interpreted, means that the locks
with which nature had supplied her were further aggravated by being drawn
tight over a leathern cushion—a fashion which Jonathan Oldbuck denounces
as “fit only for Mahound or Termagaunt.”  The production of the coach was
therefore the sign of a white or black day in the family
calendar—inasmuch as it indicated either marriage or funeral, the
approach of the Royal Judges or the execution of a state prisoner, the
drawing for the militia, or a county address to both Houses of Parliament
on the crying grievance of the Excise.  It doubtless took some days to
prepare the imperator’s chariot for a Roman triumph: it must have
employed nearly as many to clean and furbish the capacious body of the
modern vehicle.  There was moreover a whole armoury of harness to mend
and polish; and as the six long-tailed Flemish horses were not often in
the traces together, some time was required by them to unlearn the rustic
habits of the farm-yard, and to regain the stately trot at which, where
the roads would admit of it, they ordinarily proceeded.  The following
description of a journey to London by an M.P. of 1699 will convey to the
reader a lively yet tolerably exact conception both of the glory and
inconveniences of travelling in those days.  It is taken from Vanbrugh’s
comedy of the ‘Journey to London,’ better known in its modern form of
‘The Provoked Husband.’

    “_James_.  Sir, Sir, do you hear the news?  They are all a-coming.

    “_Uncle Richard_.  Ay, Sirrah, I hear it.

    “_James_.  Sir, here’s John Moody arrived already: he’s stumping
    about the streets in his dirty boots, and asking every man he meets,
    if they can tell him where he may have a good lodging for a
    parliament-man, till he can hire such a house as becomes him.  He
    tells them his lady and all the family are coming too; and that they
    are so nobly attended, they care not a fig for anybody.  Sir, they
    have added two cart-horses to the four old geldings, because my lady
    will have it said she came to town in a coach and six—heavy George
    the ploughman rides postilion.

    “_U. Richard_.  Very well, the journey begins as it should do.  Dost
    know whether they bring all the children with them?

    “_James_.  Only Squire Humphrey and Miss Betty, Sir; the other six
    are put to board at half-a-crown a week a head, with Joan Growse at

    “_U. Richard_.  The Lord have mercy upon all good folks!  What work
    will these people make!  Dost know when they’ll be here?

    “_James_.  John says, Sir, they’d have been here last night, but that
    the old wheezy-belly horse tired, and the two fore-wheels came crash
    down at once in Waggon-rut Lane.  Sir, they were cruelly loaden, as I
    understand: my lady herself, he says, laid on four mail trunks,
    besides the great deal-box, which fat Tom sat upon behind.

    “_U. Richard_.  So!

    “_James_.  Then, within the coach there was Sir Francis, my lady, the
    great fat lap-dog, Squire Humphrey, Miss Betty, my lady’s maid, Mrs.
    Handy, and Doll Tripe the cook; but she puked with sitting backwards,
    so they mounted her into the coach-box.

    “_U. Richard_.  Very well.

    “_James_.  Then, Sir, for fear of a famine before they should get to
    the baiting-place, there was such baskets of plum-cake, Dutch
    gingerbread, Cheshire cheese, Naples biscuits, maccaroons, neats’
    tongues and cold boiled beef; and in case of sickness, such bottles
    of usquebaugh, black-cherry brandy, cinnamon-water, sack, tent, and
    strong beer, as made the old coach crack again.

    “_U. Richard_.  Well said.

    “_James_.  And for defence of this good cheer and my lady’s little
    pearl necklace, there was the family basket-hilt sword, the great
    Turkish scimitar, the old blunderbuss, a good bag of bullets, and a
    great horn of gunpowder.

    “_U. Richard_.  Admirable!

    “_James_.  Then for bandboxes, they were so bepiled up—to Sir
    Francis’s nose, that he could only peep out at a chance hole with one
    eye, as if he were viewing the country through a perspective-glass.”

The “blunderbuss, Turkish scimitar, and basket-hilt sword,” in the
foregoing extract from Vanbrugh, point to one of the constant perils of
the road—the highwaymen.  Lady Wronghead was lucky in bringing her
“little pearl necklace” safe to London.  Turpin’s scouts, a few years
later, would have obtained more accurate information of the rich
moveables packed in the squire’s coach.  But as yet Turpin and Bradshaw
were not.  The great road from York to London however lay always under an
evil reputation.  It was by this line that Jeannie Deans walked to
London, and verified the remark of her sagacious host, the Boniface of
Beverley, that the road would be clear of thieves when Groby Pool was
thatched with pancakes—and not till then.  The example of Robin Hood was,
for centuries after his death, zealously followed by the more adventurous
spirits of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Yorkshire; and their
enterprising genius was well seconded by the fine breed of horses for
which those counties were famous.  For cross-country work the
Leicestershire blades had no fellows; and had the Darlington Hunt existed
in those days, they would doubtless have been first a-field in the
morning and last on the road at night.  Nor were there any reasons in
their dress, demeanour, or habits, why they should not consort with the
best of the shire either when riding to cover, or celebrating the
triumphs of the day afterward in the squire’s hall, or the ale-house.
Some of these redressers of the inequalities of fortune were of excellent
houses,—younger sons, who having no profession—trade would have been
disgraceful in their eyes—grew weary of an unvarying round of shooting,
fishing, otter-hunting, and badger-baiting, and aspired, like their
common ancestor Nimrod, to be hunters of men.  Others had found the
discipline of a regiment unpleasant, or had been unjust serving men.  In
short, the road, about a century and a half ago, was the general refuge
of all who, like the recruits that flocked to King David at Adullam, were
in distress or discontented.  Mail-coach drivers and guards travelled
armed to the teeth, booted to the hips, with bandeliers across their
capacious chests, and three-cornered hats which, in conjunction with
their flowing horse-hair wigs, were both sword- and bullet-proof.
Passengers who had any value for their lives and limbs, when they booked
themselves at London for Exeter or York, provided themselves with
cutlasses and blunderbusses, and kept as sharp look-out from the
coach-windows as travellers in our day are wont to do in the Mexican
diligences.  We remember to have seen a print of the year 1769 in which
the driver of the Boston mail is represented in the armed guise of Sir
Hudibras.  He carries a horse-pistol in his belt, and a _couteau de
chasse_ slung over his shoulder, while the guard is accoutred with no
less than three pistols and a basket-hilt sword, besides having a carbine
strapped to his seat behind the coach.  Between the coachman’s feet is a
small keg, which might indifferently contain “genuine Nantz” or
gunpowder.  One of the “insides,” an ancient gentleman in a Ramilies wig,
is seen through the capacious window of the coach affectionately hugging
a carbine, and a yeoman on the roof is at once caressing a bull-dog, and
supporting a bludgeon that might have served Dandie Dinmont himself.  Yet
all these precautions, offensive or defensive, were frequently of no
avail: the gentlemen of the road were still better armed, or more adroit
in handling their weapons.  Hounslow Heath on the great western road, and
Finchley Common on the great northern road, were to the wayfarers for
many generations nearly as terrible as the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
“The Cambridge scholars,” says Mr. Macaulay, “trembled when they
approached Epping Forest, even in broad daylight.  Seamen who had just
been paid off at Chatham were often compelled to deliver their purses at
Gadshill, celebrated near a hundred years earlier by the greatest of
poets as the scene of the depredations of Poins and Falstaff.”  The
terrors of one generation become the sources of romance and amusement to
later times.  Four hundred years ago we should have regarded William of
Deloraine as an extremely commonplace and inconvenient personage: he is
now much more interesting than the armour in the Tower, or than a captain
or colonel of the Guards.  A century back we should have slept the more
soundly for the knowledge that Jack Sheppard was securely swinging in
chains; but in these piping times of peace his biography has extracted
from the pockets of the public more shillings than the subject of it
himself ever ‘nabbed’ on the king’s highway.  It is both interesting and
instructive to observe how directly the material improvements of science
act upon the moral condition of the world.  As soon as amended roads
admitted of more rapid movement from place to place, the vocation of the
highway robber was at first rendered difficult, and in the end impossible
to exercise on the greater thoroughfares.  Fast horse-coaches were the
first obstacle.  Railways have became an insuperable impediment to “life
on the road.”

Charles Lamb indited one of his most pleasant essays upon the ‘Decay of
Beggars in the Metropolis.’  In the rural districts vagrancy and
mendicity still survive, in spite of constabulary forces and petty
sessions.  But the mendicity of the nineteenth century presents a very
different spectacle from the mendicity of the seventeenth.  The
well-remembered beggar is no longer the guest of the parish-parson; the
king’s bedesmen have totally vanished; no one now supplicates for alms
under a corporation-seal; nor is the mendicant regarded as second only to
the packman as the general newsmonger of a neighbourhood.  Who does not
remember the description of foreign beggars in the ‘Sentimental Journey’?
Many of us have witnessed the loathsome appearance and humorous
importunity of Irish mendicants.  A century ago England rivalled both
France and Ireland in the number of its professional beggars.  In the
days when travelling was mostly performed on horseback, the foot of the
hills—the point where the rider drew bridle—was the station of the
mendicant, and long practice enabled him to proportion his clamorous
petitions to the length of the ascent. {56}  The old soldier in ‘Gil
Blas’ stood by the wayside with a carbine laid across two sticks, and
solicited, or rather enforced, the alms of the passer-by, by an appeal to
his fears no less than to his pity.  The readers of the old drama will
recall to mind the shifts and devices of the ‘Jovial Beggars;’—how easily
a wooden leg was slipped off and turned into a bludgeon; how inscrutable
were the disguises, and how copious and expressive the slang, of the
mendicant crew.  Coleridge has justly described ‘The Beggar’s Bush’ as
one of the most pleasant of Fletcher’s comedies; and if the Spanish
novelists do not greatly belie the roads of their land, the mendicant
levied his tolls on the highways as punctually as the king himself.
Speed in travelling has been as prejudicial to these merry and
unscrupulous gentry as acts against vagrancy or the policeman’s staff.
He should be a sturdy professor of his art who would pour forth his
supplications on a railway platform; and Belisarius himself would hardly
venture to stop a modern carriage for the chance of an _obolus_, to be
flung from its window.  A few of the craft indeed linger in bye-roads and
infest our villages and streets; but _ichabod_!—its glory has departed;
and the most humane or romantic of travellers may without scruple consign
the modern collector of highway alms to the tender mercies of the next
policeman and the reversion of the treadmill.

The modern highway is seldom in a direct line.  A hill, a ford, or a wood
sufficed to render it circuitous.  All roads indeed through hilly
countries were originally struck out by drivers of pack-horses, who, to
avoid bogs, chose the upper ground.  Roads were first made the subject of
legislation in England in the sixteenth century: until then, they had
been made at will and repaired at pleasure.  A similar neglect of
uniformity may be seen in Hungary and in Eastern Europe generally, even
in the present day.  The roads are made by each county, and as it depends
in great measure upon the caprice or convenience of the particular
proprietors or townships whether there shall be a road at all, or whether
it shall be at all better than a drift-way or a bridle-track, it often
happens that after bowling along for a score of miles upon a highway
worthy of Macadam, the carriage of the traveller plunges into wet turf or
heavy sand, merely because it has entered upon the boundary of a new
county.  Nay, even where the roads have been hitherto good, it often
happens that the new Vicegespann, or Sheriff, a personage on whose
character a good deal depends in county business, allows them to go to
ruin for want of seasonable repairs.  A similar irregularity was, in our
own country, put a stop to in the reign of Mary, when it was enacted that
each parish should maintain its own roads.  A custom was borrowed from
the feudal system: the lord of the manor was empowered to demand from his
vassals certain portions of their labour, including the use of such rude
implements as were then in use.  The peasant was bound by the tenure of
his holding, to aid in cutting, carting, and housing his lord’s hay and
corn, to repair his bridges, and to mend his roads.  A portion of such
services was, in the sixteenth century, transferred from the lord to the
parish or the district; and the charges of repairing the highways and
bridges fell upon the copyholder.  He was compelled to give his labour
for six days in the year, and his work was apportioned and examined by a
surveyor.  If this compulsory labour did not suffice, hired labour was
defrayed by a parochial rate: and although the obligation is seldom
enforced, yet it survives in letter in the majority of the court-rolls of
our manors.

So entirely indeed was speed in travelling regarded by our ancestors as
of secondary importance to safety and convenience, that even in
journeying by a public coach the length of a day’s journey was often
determined by the vote of the passengers.  The better or worse
accommodation of the roadside inns was taken into account; and it was
“mine host’s” interest to furnish good ale and beef, since he was
tolerably certain that, with such attractions within-doors, the populous
and heavy-laden mail would not pass by the sign of the Angel or the
Griffin.  Long and ceremonious generally were the meals of our
forefathers; nor did they abate one jot from their courtesies when
travelling on “urgent business.”  On arriving at the morning or noontide
baiting-place, and after mustering in the common room of the inn, the
first thing to be done was to appoint a chairman, who mostly retained his
post of honour during the journey.  At the breakfast or dinner there was
none of that indecorous hurry in eating and drinking which marks our
degenerate days.  Had the travellers affected such thin potations as tea
and soup, there was ample time for them to cool.  But they preferred the
sirloin and the tankard; and that no feature of a generous reception
might be wanting, the landlord would not fail to recommend his crowning
cup of sack or claret.  The coachman, who might now and then feel some
anxiety to proceed, would yet merely admonish his fare that the day was
wearing on; but his scruples would vanish before a grace-cup, and he
would even connive at a proposal to take a pipe of tobacco, before the
horn was permitted to summon the passengers to resume their places.
Hence the great caution observable in the newspaper advertisements of
coach-travelling.  We have now before us an announcement of the kind,
dated in the year 1751.  It sets forth that, God willing, the new
Expedition coach! will leave the Maid’s Head, Norwich, on Wednesday or
Thursday morning, at seven o’clock, and arrive at the Boar in Aldgate on
the Friday or Saturday, “as shall seem good” to the majority of the
passengers.  It appears from the appellation of the vehicle, “the new
Expedition,” that such a rate of journeying was considered to be an
advance in speed, and an innovation worthy of general notice and
patronage.  Fifty years before the same journey had occupied a week; and
in 1664 Christopher Milton, the poet’s brother, and afterwards one of
King James II.’s justices, had taken eight-and-forty hours to go from the
_Belle Sauvage_ to Ipswich!  At the same period the stage-coach which ran
between London and Oxford required two days for a journey which is now
performed in about two hours on the Great Western line.  The stage to
Exeter occupied four days.  In 1703, when Prince George of Denmark
visited the stately mansion of Petworth, with the view of meeting Charles
III. of Spain, the last nine miles of the journey took six hours.
Several of the carriages employed to convey his retinue were upset or
otherwise injured; and an unlucky courier in attendance complains that
during fourteen hours he never once alighted, except when the coach
overturned or was stuck in the mud.

Direction-posts in the seventeenth century were almost unknown.  Thoresby
of Leeds, the well-known antiquary, relates in his Diary, that he had
well-nigh lost his way on the great north road, one of the best in the
kingdom, and that he actually lost himself between Doncaster and York.
Pepys, travelling with his wife in his own carriage, lost his way twice
in one short hour, and on the second occasion narrowly escaped passing a
comfortless night on Salisbury Plain.  So late indeed as the year 1770 no
material improvement had been effected in road-making.  The highways of
Lancashire, the county which gave to the world the earliest important
railroad, were peculiarly infamous.  Within the space of eighteen miles a
traveller passed three carts broken down by ruts four feet deep, that
even in summer floated with mud, and which were mended with large loose
stones shot down at random by the surveyors.  So dangerous were the
Lancashire thoroughfares that one writer of the time charges all
travellers to shun them as they would the devil, “for a thousand to one
they break their necks or their limbs by overthrows or breaking down.”
In the winter season stage-coaches were laid up like so many ships during
Arctic frosts, since it was impossible for any number of horses to drag
them through the intervening impediments, or for any strength of wheel or
perch to resist the rugged and precipitous inequalities of the roads.
“For all practical purposes,” as Mr. Macaulay remarks, “the inhabitants
of London were further from Reading than they are now from Edinburgh, and
further from Edinburgh than they are now from Vienna.”

France generally is still far behind Britain in all the appurtenances of
swift and easy travelling.  In the eighteenth century it was relatively
at par with this country.  The following misadventures of Voltaire and
two female companions, when on an excursion from Paris to the provinces,
are thus sketched by the pen of Thomas Carlyle:—

    “Figure a lean and vivid-tempered philosopher starting from Paris,
    under cloud of night, during hard frost, in a large lumbering coach,
    or rather waggon, compared with which indeed the generality of modern
    waggons were a luxurious conveyance.  With four starved and perhaps
    spavined hacks, he slowly sets forth under a mountain of bandboxes.
    At his side sits the wandering virago, Marquise du Châtelet, in front
    of him a serving maid, with additional bandboxes, _et divers effets
    de sa maîtresse_.  At the next stage the postilions have to be beat
    up: they came out swearing.  Cloaks and fur-pelisses avail little
    against the January cold; ‘time and hours’ are the only hope.  But
    lo! at the tenth mile, this Tyburn coach breaks down.  One
    many-voiced discordant wail shrieks through the solitude, making
    night hideous—but in vain: the axle-tree has given way; the vehicle
    has overset, and marchionesses, chamber-maids, bandboxes, and
    philosophers are weltering in inextricable chaos.  The carriage was
    in the stage next Nangis, about half-way to that town, when the hind
    axle-tree broke, and it tumbled on the road to M. de Voltaire’s side.
    Madame du Châtelet and her maid fell above him, with all their
    bundles and bandboxes, for these were not tied to the front but only
    piled up on both hands of the maid; and so, observing the law of
    gravitation and equilibrium of bodies, they rushed toward the corner
    where M. de Voltaire lay squeezed together.  Under so many burdens,
    which half-suffocated him, he kept shouting bitterly; but it was
    impossible to change place; all had to remain as it was till the two
    lackeys, one of whom was hurt by the fall, could come up, with the
    postilions, to disencumber the vehicle; they first drew out all the
    luggage, next the women, and then M. de Voltaire.  Nothing could be
    got out except by the top, that is, by the coach-door, which now
    opened upwards.  One of the lackeys and a postilion, clambering aloft
    and fixing themselves on the body of the vehicle, drew them up as
    from a well, seizing the first limb that came to hand, whether arm or
    leg, and then passed them down to the two stationed below, who set
    them firmly on the ground.”

It was not entirely for state or distinction of ranks that noblemen of
yore were attended on their journeys by running footmen.  A few
supernumerary hands were needed in case of accidents on the road.  A box
of carpenters’ tools formed an indispensable part of the baggage, and the
accompanying lackeys were skilful in handling them, as well as in
replacing the cast shoes of the horses, for many districts would not
afford a Wayland Smith.  The state of travelling was doubtless increased
by these ‘cursive appendages, bearing white wands, and decked in the gay
liveries of the house which they served.  In the ‘Bride of Lammermoor’ we
have a graphic picture of these pedestrian accompaniments of the coaches
of “Persons of Quality.”

“The privilege of nobility in those days,” says Sir Walter Scott, “had
something in it impressive on the imagination: the dresses and liveries,
and number of their attendants, their style of travelling, the imposing
and almost warlike air of the armed men who surrounded them, placed them
far above the laird who travelled with his brace of footmen; and as to
rivalry from the mercantile part of the community, these would as soon
have thought of imitating the state and equipage of the Sovereign. . . .
Two running footmen, dressed in white, with black jockey caps, and long
staves in their hands, headed the train; and such was their agility that
they found no difficulty in keeping the necessary advance which the
etiquette of their station required before the carriage and horsemen.
Onward they came at an easy swinging trot, arguing unwearied speed in
their long-breathed calling.  Behind these glowing meteors, who footed it
as if the avenger of blood had been behind them, came a cloud of dust,
raised by riders who preceded, attended, or followed, the

In times when persons of quality journeyed in this stately and sumptuous
fashion, it was often needful to mend the roads specially on their
account.  The approach of a Royal Progress, or the Lord Lieutenant of the
county, was a signal for a general ‘turn-out’ of labourers and masons to
lay gravel over the most suspicious places, and to render the bridges at
least temporarily secure.  Scarcely a Quarter sessions in the seventeenth
century passed over without presentments from the Grand Jury against
certain districts of the county; and few and favoured were the districts
which escaped a good round fine from the Judges, as a set-off against the
bruises and other damages which their Lordships sustained on their
circuit.  It was no unusual accident for the Court to be kept waiting
many hours for the arrival of the Judge.  Either his Lordship had been
dug out of a bog, or his official wardrobe had been carried away by a
bridgeless stream.  Often, too, the patience of jurors was severely tried
by the non-appearance of counsel.  These inconveniences became more
apparent after it had ceased to be the fashion for the Judges and the Bar
to travel on horseback from one assize-town to another.  Cowper, writing
to his pedestrian friend Rose, playfully imagines that when he should
attain to the dignity of the ermine, he would institute the practice of
‘walking’ the circuit.  But equestrian circuits were long in use, and the
Bar turned out as if their chase had been deer instead of John Doe and
Richard Roe.  When however it came to be thought indecorous for a Judge
to wear jack-boots, the danger of wheel-carriages was sensibly felt by
the luminaries of the law, and the periodical journeys of the votaries of
Themis tended directly to the correction of ways as well as to the
suppression of vice.  A zealous High Sheriff or a loyal Lord Lieutenant
would sometimes contribute out of his private purse to the security of
the Bench: and the more enterprising towns began to think it concerned
their honour that the delegates of Majesty should reach their gates
scatheless and unwearied by the toils of the road.

But road-making entrusted to the separate discretion of parochial
authorities was often performed in a slovenly, and always in an
unsystematic, manner.  In adopting a direct or a circuitous line of way
innumerable predilections interfered, and parishes not rarely indulged in
acrimonious controversies, especially when the time came for walking the
boundaries.  The dispute between broad and narrow gauges is indeed merely
a modern form of a long-standing quarrel.  A market-town and a seaport
would naturally desire to have ample verge and room enough on their
highways for the transport of grain, hides, and timber from the interior,
and for carriage of cloth and manufactured or imported goods to the
inland.  On the other hand isolated parishes would contend that driftways
were all-sufficient for their demands, and that they could house their
crops or bring their flour from the mill through the same ruts which had
served their forefathers.  But in Charles II.’s reign, after the civil
wars had given an impetus to the public mind, and while, although our
foreign policy was disgraceful, and each cabinet more indecorous than its
predecessor, the country at large was steadily advancing in prosperity,
this lack of uniformity was acknowledged to be no longer tolerable.
Compulsory labour and parochial rates, or hired labour and occasional
outlays, were found alike insufficient to ensure good roads.  An act was
accordingly passed authorizing a small toll to pay the needful expenses.
The turnpike-gate to which we are accustomed was originally a bar
supported on two posts on the opposite sides of the road, and the
collector sat, _sub dio_, at his seat of customs.  It was long however
before the advantages of this plan were acknowledged by the people.
Riots, resembling the Rebecca riots, were of frequent occurrence in the
less-frequented counties: the road-surveyor was as odious as the
collector of the chimney-tax; the toll-bar was seen blazing at night; its
guardian deemed himself fortunate to escape with a few kicks; and it was
not until a much later day that a public or private coach could trundle
along the roads without encountering deep and dislocating ruts, or
rocking over a surface of unbroken stones.  Frost and rain were more
effective than the duly appointed surveyor in breaking up these rude
materials, and reducing the surface to something resembling a level.

A few years since some of the most strenuous opponents of railways were
to be found among the squirearchy.  “Why,” argued these rural magnates,
“should our woods be levelled and our corn-lands bisected, our game
scared away and our parks disfigured by noise and smoke, to suit the
convenience of the dingy denizens of Manchester, or the purse-proud
merchants of Liverpool?”  Similar arguments were urged not more than a
century ago against the formation of new turnpike roads.  The bittern, it
was said, would be driven from his pool, the fox from his earth, the wild
fowl would be frightened away from the marshes, and many a fine haunch of
venison would be sent to London markets without the proper ceremonies of
turning off and running down the buck.  Merrie England could not exist
without miry roads.  In 1760 there was no turnpike road between the port
of Lynn and the great corn and cattle market at Norwich.  In 1762 an
opulent gentleman, who had resided for a generation of mortal life in
Lisbon, was desirous to revisit his paternal home among the meres of the
eastern counties.  His wish was further stimulated by the circumstance
that his sister and sole surviving relative dwelt beside one of the great
Broads, which, in these regions, penetrate far inland from the sea-coast.
From London to the capital town of his native county his way was
tolerably smooth and prosperous.  The distance was about a hundred and
ten miles, and by the aid of a mail coach he performed the journey in
three days.  But now commenced his real labours.  Between his sister’s
dwelling and the provincial capital lay some twenty miles of alternate
ridges of gravel and morass.  Had he been a young man he might have
walked safely and speedily under the guidance of some frugal swain or
tripping dairymaid returning from market.  Had he been a wise man he
would have hired a nag, and trotted soberly along such bridle-roads as he
found.  But he was neither a young nor a wise man.  His better years had
been passed in the counting-houses of Santarem, and his bodily activity
was impaired by long and copious infusions of generous old port.  So, as
he could neither walk nor ride, he deposited his portly and withal
somewhat gouty person in a coach-and-six, and set forth upon his
fraternal quest.  He had little reason to plume himself upon the pomp and
circumstance of his equipage.  The six hired coach-horses, albeit of the
strong Flanders breed, were in a few hours engulfed in a black pool; his
coach, or rather his travelling mansion, was inextricably sunk in the
same slimy hollow; and the merchant himself, whose journeys had hitherto
been made on the sober back of a Lusitanian mule, was ignominiously
dragged by two cowherds through his coach-windows,—and mounted on one of
the wheelers, he was brought back, drenched and weary, to the place
whence he set out.  In high dudgeon, the purveyor of Bacchus returned to
London, and could never be induced to resume the search of his “Anna

Such imperfect means of transit materially affected both the manners and
the intelligence of the age.  Postal arrangements indeed existed, but of
the rudest kind.  It was common for letters to be left at the principal
inns on the main road, to be delivered when called for.  They remained
often in the bar until the address was illegible, or smoke had dyed the
paper a saffron-yellow.  Special announcements of deaths and births or
urgent business were necessarily entrusted to special messengers; and the
title and superscription of these privately-sent letters generally
contain very minute and even peremptory injunctions of a certain and
swift delivery.  But for such cautions, a rich uncle might have been
quietly inurned without his expectant nephews hearing of his decease; and
a whole college kept waiting, till the year of grace had passed, for the
news of a fat rector’s much-desired apoplexy.  The death of good Queen
Bess was not known in some of the remoter parishes of Devonshire until
the courtiers of James had ceased to wear mourning for her.  The Hebrews
of York heard with quivering lips and ashen brows of the massacre of
their people in London at Richard I.’s coronation, six weeks after it was
perpetrated; and the churches of the Orkneys put up prayers for King
James three months after the abdicated monarch had fled to St. Germain’s.
There was in nearly all rural districts the king of London and the king
of the immediate neighbourhood.  The Walpoles and Townshends in their own
domains were far more formidable personages than George I.; and at a time
when the King of Prussia’s picture was commonly hung out at ale-house
doors as an incitement to try the ale, {72} an ancient dame near
Doncaster exclaimed, on being informed of his majesty’s decease, “Lord a’
mercy, is he! and, pray, who is to be the new Lord Mayor?”

A considerable improvement in the roads of Great Britain took place in
the latter half of the preceding century.  This change was partly owing
to the advancing civilization of the larger towns and cities, and partly
to the march of the Highlanders into England under Prince Charles Edward,
in 1745.  At that period communication was so imperfect that the
Pretender had advanced a hundred miles from Edinburgh without exciting
any peculiar alarm in the midland or southern counties, while in the
metropolis itself no certain information could be obtained of the
movements of the rebel army for some days after their departure
southward.  The Duke of Cumberland’s march northward was much impeded by
the difficulty of transporting his park of artillery.  But after the
decisive day of Culloden, the erection of Fort William, and the
establishment of military posts at the foot of the Grampians, the
expediency of readier communication between the capitals of South and
North Britain was universally felt.  Scotland could henceforward be held
in permanent subordination only by means of good military highways.
Accordingly in the year 1782 we find a German traveller (Moritz) speaking
of the roads in the neighbourhood of London as “incomparable.”  He is
astonished “how they got them so firm and solid;” and he thus describes
his stage of sixteen miles from Dartford, the place of his
disembarkation, to the metropolis:—

    “Our little party now separated and got into two post-chaises, each
    of which held three persons, though it must be owned that three
    cannot sit quite so commodiously in these chaises as two; the hire of
    a post-chaise is a shilling for every English mile.  They may be
    compared to our extra-posts, because they are to be had at all times.
    But these carriages are very neat and lightly built, so that you
    hardly perceive their motion, as they roll along these firm smooth
    roads; they have windows in front and on both sides; the horses are
    generally good, and the postilions particularly smart and active, and
    always ride at a full trot.  The one we had wore his hair cut short,
    a round hat, and a brown jacket, of tolerably fine cloth, with a
    nosegay in his bosom.  Now and then, when he drove very hard, he
    looked round, and with a smile seemed to solicit our approbation.  A
    thousand charming spots and beautiful landscapes, on which my eye
    would long have dwelt with rapture, were now rapidly passed with the
    speed of an arrow.”

It was one of Samuel Johnson’s wishes that he might be driven rapidly in
a post-chaise, with a pretty woman, capable of understanding his
conversation, for his travelling companion.  The smartness of the English
postboy was emulated in France,—not, as might have been expected, by his
professional brethren, who until very recently retained their ponderous
jackboots, three-cornered hats, and heavy knotted whips, but by the
younger members of _la haute noblesse_.  To look like an English jockey
or postilion, was long the object of fashionable ambition with Parisian
dandies.  “Vous me crottez, Monsieur,” said poor patient Louis XVI. to
one of these exquisite centaurs, as he rode beside the royal carriage
near Versailles.  “Oui, Sire, à l’Anglaise,” rejoined the self-satisfied
dandy, understanding his majesty to have complimented his _trotting_
(_trottez_), and taking it as a tribute to the skill of his imitation.

Pedlars and packhorses were a necessary accompaniment of bad and narrow
roads.  The latter have long disappeared from our highways; the former
linger in less-frequented districts of the country, but miserably shorn
of their former importance.  A licensed hawker is now a very unromantic
personage.  His comings and goings attract no more attention among the
rustics or at the squire’s hall than the passing by of a plough or a
sheep.  The fixed shop has deprived him of his utility, and daily
newspapers of his attractions.  He is content to sell his waistcoat or
handkerchief pieces; but he is no longer the oracle of the village inn or
the housekeeper’s room.  In the days however when neither draper’s nor
haberdasher’s wares could be purchased without taking a day’s journey at
the least through miry ways to some considerable market-town, the pedlar
was the merchant and newsman of the neighbourhood.  He was as loquacious
as a barber.  He was nearly as ubiquitous as the Wandering Jew.  He had
his winter circuit and his summer circuit.  He was as regular in the
delivery of news as the postman; nay, he often forestalled that
government official in bringing down the latest intelligence of a landing
on the French coast; of an execution at Tyburn; of a meteor in the sky;
of a strike at Spitalfields; and of prices in the London markets.  He was
a favourite with the village crones, for he brought down with him the
latest medicines for ague, rheumatism, and the evil.  He wrote
love-letters for village beauties.  He instructed alehouse politicians in
the last speech of Bolingbroke, Walpole, or Pitt.  His tea, which often
had paid no duty, emitted a savour and fragrance unknown to the dried
sloe-leaves vended by ordinary grocers.  He was the milliner of rural
belles.  He was the purveyor for village songsters, having ever in his
pack the most modern and captivating lace and ribbons, and the newest
song and madrigal.  He was competent by his experience to advise in the
adjustment of top-knots and farthingales, and to show rustic beaux the
last cock of the hat and the most approved method of wielding a cane.  He
was an oral ‘Belle Assemblée.’  He was full of “quips and cranks and
wreathed smiles.”  ‘Indifferent’ honest, he was not the less welcome for
being a bit of a picaroon.  Autolycus, the very type of his
profession,—and such as the pedlar was in the days of Queen Bess, such
also was he in the days of George II.,—was littered under Mercury, and a
snapper-up of unconsidered trifles.  His songs would draw three souls out
of one weaver.  His pack was furnished with

    “Lawn, as white as driven snow;
    Cyprus, black as e’er was crow;
    Gloves, as sweet as damask roses,
    Masks for faces and for noses;
    Bugle-bracelet, necklace amber,
    Perfume for a lady’s chamber;
    Golden quoifs and stomachers
    For my lads to give their dears;
    Pins and poking-sticks of steel,—
    What maids lack from head to heel.”

Then did he chant after the following fashion, at “holy-ales and

       “Will you buy any tape,
       Or lace for your cape,
    My dainty duck, my dear—a?
       Any silk, any thread,
       Any toys for your head,
    Of the new’st and fin’st, fin’st wear—a?
       Come to the pedlar,
       Money’s a meddler,
    That doth alter all men’s wear—a!”

One accident in pedlar life was some drawback to its general
pleasantness.  He often bore not only a great charge of goods, but of
gold also.  His steps were dogged by robbers, and many a skeleton, since
disinterred in solitary places, is the mortal framework of some wandering
merchant who had met with foul play on his circuit.  The packman’s ghost
too is no unusual spectre in many of our shires.

How important a personage among the _dramatis personæ_ of rural life the
pedlar was, at even a recent period, in the northern counties of England,
may be inferred from Wordsworth’s choice of him for the hero of his
‘Excursion.’  Much ridicule, and even obloquy, did the staunch poet of
Rydal incur for choosing such a character, when he might have taken Laras
and Conrads by the score, and been praised for his choice.  But “the
vagrant merchant under a heavy load,” being a portion of the mountain
life which surrounded the poet’s home, was better than any hero of
romance for his purpose; and a younger generation has confirmed the
poet’s choice of a hero, and few remain now to mock at the Pedlar.
Wordsworth’s pedlar indeed was no Bryce Snailsfoot, nor Donald Bean, nor
even such a one as was first cousin to Andrew Fairservice, but rather, by
virtue of a poetic diploma, a philosopher of the ancient stamp.  For

          “From his native hills
    He wandered far; much did he see of men,
    Their manners, their enjoyments and pursuits,
    Their passions and their feelings; chiefly those
    Essential and eternal in the heart,
    That, ’mid the simpler forms of rural life
    Exist more simple in their elements,
    And speak a plainer language.  In the woods,
    A lone enthusiast, and among the fields,
    Itinerant in this labour, he had passed
    The better portion of his time; and there
    Spontaneously had his affections thriven
    Amid the bounties of the year, the peace
    And liberty of nature; there he kept
    In solitude and solitary thought,
    His mind in a just equipoise of love.”

Lucian, in his vision of Hades, beheld the Shades of the Dead set by
pitiless Minos or Rhadamanthus to perform tasks most alien to their
occupations while they were yet denizens of earth.  Nero, according to
Rabelais, who improves on Lucian’s hint, was an angler in the Lake of
Darkness; Alexander the Great a cobbler of shoes; and “imperial Cæsar
dead and turned to clay” a hawker of petty wares.  It was easier to fit
the shadows of monarchs with employment than it would be to find business
for departed coachmen.  “A coachman, Sir,” said one of these worthies to
ourselves, who was sorrowfully contemplating the approaching day of his
extinction by a nearly completed railway,—“a coachman, if he really be
one, is fit for nothing else.  The hand which has from boyhood—or rather
horsekeeper-hood—grasped the reins, cannot close upon the chisel or the
shuttle.  He cannot sink into a book-keeper, for his fingers could as
soon handle a lancet as a pen.  His bread is gone when his stable-door is
shut.”  We attempted to console him by pointing out that it was a law of
nature for certain races of mankind to become extinct.  Were not the Red
Men fading away before the sons of the White Spirit?  Was not the Cornish
tongue, and were not the old Cornish manners, for ever lost to earth, on
the day when the old shrewish fishwife, Dolly Pentrath, departed this
life towards the middle of the reign of King George III.?  Seeing these
things are so, and that “all beneath the moon doth suffer change,” why
should coachmen endure for ever?  But our consolation was poured into
deaf ears, and some two years afterwards we recognized our desponding
Jehu under the mournful disfigurements of the driver of a hearse.  The
days of pedlars and stage-coachmen have reached their eve, and look not
for restoration.  They are waning into the Hades of extinct races, with
the sumpnours and the limitours of the Canterbury Pilgrims.

We have described some of the difficulties and dangers to which
travellers were subjected in the days of Old Roads.  Yet the ancient
Highways were not without their attending compensations.  Pleasant it was
to travel in company, as Chaucer voucheth: pleasant to linger by the way,
as Montaigne testifies.  To meditative and imaginative persons there was
delight in sauntering through a fair country, viewing leisurely its
rivers, meadows, hills, and towns.  Burton prescribes travelling among
his cures for melancholy, and he would not have recommended railway speed
or even a fast coach to sad and timid men.  His advice presupposed sober
progress, gliding down rivers, patient winding round lofty hills,
contemplation by woodsides and in green meadows, relaxation not tension
of nerve and brain.  “No better physick,” he says, “for a melancholy man
than change of aire and variety of places, to travel abroad and see
fashions.  Leo Afer speakes of many of his countrymen so cured without
all other physick.  No man, saith Lipsius, in an epistle to Phil.
Lanoius, a noble friend of his, now ready to make a voyage, can be such a
stock or stone, whom that pleasant speculation of countries, cities,
towns, rivers, will not affect.  For peregrination charms our senses with
such unspeakable and sweet variety, that some count him unhappy that
never travelled, a kinde of prisoner, and pity his case, that from his
cradle to old age beholds the same still; insomuch that Rhasis doth not
only commend but enjoyn travell, and such variety of objects to a
melancholy man, and to lye in diverse innes, to be drawn into severall
companies.  A good prospect alone will ease melancholy, as Gomesius
contends.  The citizens of Barcino, saith he, are much delighted with
that pleasant prospect their city hath into the sea, which, like that of
old Athens, besides Ægina, Salamina, and other pleasant islands, had all
the variety of delicious objects; so are those Neapolitanes and
inhabitants of Genua, to see the ships, boats, and passengers go by, out
of their windows, their whole cities being sited on the side of an hill
like Pera by Constantinople.  Yet these are too great a distance: some
are especially affected with such objects as be near, to see passengers
go by in some great road-way or boats in a river, _in subjectum forum
despicere_, to oversee a fair, a market-place, or out of a pleasant
window into some thoroughfare street to behold a continual concourse, a
promiscuous rout, coming and going.”

Indifferent roads and uneasy carriages, riding post, and dread of
highwaymen, darkness or the inclemency of the seasons, led, as by a
direct consequence, to the construction of excellent inns in our island.
The superiority of our English hotels in the seventeenth century is thus
described by the most picturesque of modern historians:—“From a very
early period,” says Mr. Macaulay, “the inns of England had been renowned.
Our first great poet had described the excellent accommodation which they
afforded to the pilgrims of the fourteenth century.  Nine and twenty
persons, with their horses, found room in the wide chambers and stables
of the Tabard, in Southwark.  The food was of the best, and the wines
such as drew the company to drink largely.  Two hundred years later,
under the reign of Elizabeth, William Harrison gave a lively description
of the plenty and comfort of the great hostelries.  The continent of
Europe, he said, could show nothing like them.  There were some in which
two or three hundred people, with their horses, could without difficulty
be lodged and fed.  The bedding, the tapestry, above all the abundance of
clean and fine linen was matter of wonder.  Valuable plate was often set
on the tables.  Nay, there were signs which had cost thirty or forty
pounds. {82}  In the seventeenth century, England abounded with excellent
inns of every rank.  The traveller sometimes in a small village lighted
on a public-house, such as Walton has described, where the brick floor
was swept clean, where the walls were stuck round with ballads, where the
sheets smelt of lavender, and where a blazing fire, a cup of good ale,
and a dish of trout fresh from the neighbouring brook, were to be
procured at small charge.  At the larger houses of entertainment were to
be found beds hung with silk, choice cookery, and claret equal to the
best which was drunk in London.  The innkeepers too, it was said, were
not like other innkeepers.  On the continent the landlord was the tyrant
of those who crossed his threshold.  In England he was a servant.  Never
was an Englishman more at home than when he took his ease in his inn.

    “Many conveniences which were unknown at Hampton Court and Whitehall
    in the seventeenth century, are to be found in our modern hotels.
    Yet on the whole it is certain that the improvement of our houses of
    public entertainment has by no means kept pace with the improvement
    of our roads and conveyances.  Nor is this strange; for it is evident
    that, all other circumstances being supposed equal, the inns will be
    best where the means of locomotion are worst.  The quicker the rate
    of travelling, the less important is it that there should be numerous
    agreeable resting-places for the travellers.  A hundred and sixty
    years ago a person who came up to the capital from a remote county
    generally required twelve or fifteen meals, and lodging for five or
    six nights by the way.  If he were a great man, he expected the meals
    and lodging to be comfortable and even luxurious.  At present we fly
    from York or Chester to London by the light of a single winter’s day.
    At present therefore a traveller seldom interrupts his journey merely
    for the sake of rest and refreshment.  The consequence is that
    hundreds of excellent inns have fallen into decay.  In a short time
    no good houses of that description will be found, except at places
    where strangers are likely to be detained by business or pleasure.”

Highwaymen, pedlars, inns, coachmen, and well-appointed coaches have now
nearly vanished from our roads.  Some of the more excellent breeds of
English horses have gone with them, or will soon follow them.  In another
generation no one will survive who has seen a Norfolk hackney.  This race
of sure-footed indefatigable trotters has already become so few in number
that “a child may count them.”  “The oldest inhabitant”—that universal
referee with some persons on all disputed points—never set eye on a
genuine Flemish coach-horse in England; and the gallant high-stepping
hybrid—half thoroughbred, half hackney—which whirled along the fast
coaches at the rate of twelve miles in the hour will in a few years be
nowhere found.  The art of ‘putting to’ four horses in a few seconds will
become one of the ‘artes deperditæ;’ and the science of driving so as to
divide equally the weight and the speed between the team, and to
apportion the strength of the cattle to the variations of the road, will
have become a tradition.  Perfect as mechanism was the discipline of a
well-trained leader.  He knew the road, and the duty expected of him.
Docile and towardly during his seven- or nine-mile stage, he refused to
perform more than his allotted task.  Attached to his yoke-fellow, he
resented the intrusion of a stranger into his harness: and a mere change
of hands on the box would often convert the willing steed into a recusant
against the collar, whom neither soothing nor severity would induce to
budge a step.  Some suffering indeed has been spared to the equine world
by the substitution of brass and iron for blood and sinews; but the
poetry of the road is gone with the _quadrigæ_ that a few years ago
tripped lightly and proudly over the level of the Macadamized road.  No
latter-day Homer will again indite such a verse as

    “Ιππων μ’ ὠκυνπόδων ὰμφὶ κτύπος οῠατα βάλλει.”

The Four-in-hand Club is extinct, or, with those ancient charioteers at
Troy, courses in Hades over meadows of asphodel.

Of the old roads of the Continent during the Dark and Middle Ages, we
have little to record.  The central energy of Rome had suffered collapse.
Europe was partitioned into feeble kingdoms and powerful fiefs.  War was
the normal condition of its provinces; the sports of the field were
unfavourable to agriculture, and directly opposed to the promotion of
commerce and the growth of towns.  So long as it was conducive to the
pleasures of the manorial lord to keep large tracts of land uncultivated,
it was contrary to his interests to form great thoroughfares.  We have in
the ‘Tesoretto’ of Brunetto a striking picture of the desolation of
northern Spain in the thirteenth century.  He thus describes his journey
over the plain of Roncesvalles.

    “There a scholar I espied,
    On a bay mule that did ride.
    Well away! what fearful ground
    In that savage part I found.
    If of art I aught could ken,
    Well behoved me use it then.
    More I look’d, the more I deem’d
    That it wild and desert seem’d:
    Not a road was there in sight;
    Not a house and not a wight;
    Not a bird and not a brute,
    Not a rill, and not a root;
    Not an emmet, not a fly,
    Not a thing I mote descry:
    Sore I doubted therewithal
    Whether death would me befall.
    Nor was wonder, for around
    Full three hundred miles of ground,
    Right across on every side
    Lay the desert bare and wide.” {87}

As Ser Brunetto was despatched on very urgent business, it may be
presumed that he was journeying by the most direct road which he could
find.  Until the reign of Charlemagne indeed there were but few towns,
and consequently few roads, in Germany.  The population generally was
widely spread over the surface of the land.  “A house, with its stables
and farm-buildings,” says Mr. Hallam, “surrounded by a hedge or
inclosure, was called a court, or as we find it in our law-books, a
curtilage: the toft or homestead of a more genuine English dialect.  One
of these, with the adjacent arable fields and woods, had the name of a
villa or manse.  Several manses composed a march; and several marches
formed a Pagus, or district.”  There was indeed little temptation or need
to move from place to place, when nearly every article of consumption was
produced or wrought at home.  For several centuries there is perhaps not
a vestige to be discovered of any considerable manufacture.  Each
district furnished for itself its own articles of common utility.  Rich
men kept domestic artizans among their servants; even kings, in the ninth
century, had their clothes made by the women upon their farms.  The
weaver, the smith, and the currier were often born and bred on the estate
where they pursued their several crafts.

The position of Rome as the ecclesiastical metropolis of the world caused
both a general and periodical recourse of embassies, deputations,
pilgrims, and travellers to the Italian peninsula, yet we cannot discover
that any especial conveniences were provided for the wayfarers.  Even in
the great and solemn years of the Jubilee the roads were merely patched
up, and the bridges temporarily repaired by the Roman government, and
only in such places as had become actually impassable.  The floating
capital of the more commercial of the Italian Republics was employed
rather upon their docks and arsenals than upon their roads and causeways.
Venice indeed, which for central vigour was the most genuine offspring of
Imperial Rome, paved its continental possessions with broad
thoroughfares.  But neither Padua, Ravenna, nor Florence followed the
example of the Adriatic Queen.  On the contrary, Dante, when in his
descent to Hell he meets with any peculiarly difficult or precipitous
track, frequently compares it to some road well known to his countrymen,
which fallen rocks had blocked up, or a wintry flood had rendered
impermeable.  Spain presented, as it presents at this day, to the
engineer, almost insurmountable difficulties.  The Moorish provinces of
the south alone possessed any tolerable roads; nor were the ways of
Arragon or Castile mended after the wealth of Mexico and Peru had been
poured into the Spanish exchequer.  Portugal owed its first good roads in
modern times to its good king Emmanuel; and the Dutch and Flemings, the
most commercial people of Europe from the thirteenth to the eighteenth
centuries, found in their rivers and canals an easier transit than roads
would have afforded them, for the wares which they brought from Archangel
on the one hand and from the Spice Islands on the other.  The military
restlessness of France indeed led to the earlier formation of great
roads.  Yet France was a land long divided in itself; and the Duchies of
Burgundy and Bretagne had little in common with the enterprising spirit
of Paris, Lyons, and Marseilles.  Upon the whole the roads of England,
bad as they were, were at least upon a par with those of the Continent.

In this retrospect, hasty and imperfect as it is, we must not pass over
the roads of Asia.  And here ancient history affords us at least glimpses
of definite knowledge.  In that portion of the Asiatic continent which is
seated between the Euxine Sea, the chain of Mount Taurus, and the Ægean,
the crowded population, the activity of the Greek colonies, and the
necessity for direct communication with the interior and seat of
government, led to the construction of good and uniform highways.  In the
Ionian Revolt large bodies of troops were readily brought to bear upon
the insurgents, and the preparations of Xerxes for his invasion of Greece
cannot have been made without a previous provision of military roads.  An
exact scale of taxation was drawn up by Darius Hystaspes for all the
provinces of his vast empire; and as the system survived the extinction
of the royal house of Persia, and was adopted by the Macedonian
conquerors in all its more important details, it may be inferred that
such system worked with tolerable regularity and success.  But as the
tithes and tolls of Persia were paid both in money and in kind, it is
obvious that the communication between the capital and satrapies of the
empire must have been well organized.  Such organization implies the
existence of main roads radiating from Sousa and Ecbatana.  Nor are we
left to conjecture only.  The establishment of running posts and couriers
was a distinguishing feature of the Persian empire; and the speed at
which they journeyed from the sea-coast or the banks of the Hyphasis to
the seat of government proves that the roads were in good order and the
stations and relays of runners well ascertained.  The Anabasis of
Cyrus—his “march up” the country—affords another proof.  The narrative of
Xenophon, in its earlier portions at least, and so long as the ten
thousand Greeks kept to the main roads, resembles in the precision with
which it marks distances and stations a Roman Itinerary or a Bradshaw’s
Guide.  On this day, says the historical captain of mercenaries, we
marched seven parasangs and bivouacked in an empty fort; on such a day we
marched five parasangs and encamped in a pleasant park or ‘paradise’ of
the great king.  It is only after the Greeks have been forced from the
‘Road-down’ by the clouds of Persian cavalry, that they enter upon more
rugged and devious mountain-paths.  The account of Xenophon is confirmed
by Arrian in his history of Alexander’s Anabasis; and so long as the
Macedonian conqueror was within the bounds of Persia proper, we rarely
meet with any impediments to his progress arising out of the badness of
the roads.

We have made some mention of the more conspicuous of ancient travellers.
But travelling, either for business or pleasure, among the moderns, dates
from the era of the Crusades.  The barriers of the East were once again
thrown open by that general ferment in the European world.  Piety, the
passion of enterprise, the dawning instincts of commerce, a new thirst
for exotic luxuries, all contributed to inspire a desire for exploring
the seats of the most ancient civilization.  To this desire and to its
effects we owe some of the most graphic and entertaining of modern
writings.  If we were, through any misadventure, sent to jail, we would
stipulate for permission to carry into our cell Hakluyt’s Voyages.  The
narratives of modern travellers are often learned, more often flimsy, and
from the universality of locomotion, much given, like the prayers of the
old Pharisees, to tedious repetitions.  A tour in Greece or Italy now
affects us with unutterable weariness.  A journey from London to York
affords more real novelty than many of these excursions.  Sir Charles
Fellows or Mr. Layard write in the spirit of the old travellers, and we
would willingly wander any-whither with George Borrow.  But, for the most
part, the art of writing travels is lost—its imaginativeness, its
credulity, its cherishing of mystery, and its proneness to awe.  The old
travellers are never sentimental—and sentiment is the very bane of
road-books,—and they never describe for description’s sake.  The world
was much too wonderful in their eyes for such unprofitable excursions of
fancy.  Beauty and danger, difficulty and strangeness, novel fashions and
unknown garbs, were to them earnest and absorbing realities.  The aspect
of cities and havens, and leagues of forest and solitary plains, were to
them “as a banner broad unfurled,” and inscribed with mystic signs and
legends.  They were not whirled about from place to place: they had
leisure to mark the forms and the colours of objects.  They were in
perils often: if they escaped shipwreck they were in danger of slavery;
they journeyed with their lives in their hands, and were often
yoke-fellows with hunger and nakedness, and the fury of the elements.
Luckily for us who read their narratives, they were most unscientific,
and ascribed the howling of the night-wind, the bursting of icebergs, the
noise of tempests, and the echoes that traverse boundless plains after
great heats, or are imprisoned in rock and fell, to the voice of demons
exulting or lamenting to each other.  We now cross the desert with nearly
as much ease as we hail an omnibus, or book ourselves for Paris.  But
such was not the spirit in which Marco Polo, in the thirteenth, century,
traversed the wilderness of Lop.

    “In the city of Lop,” says the hardy and veracious merchant of
    Venice, “they who desire to pass over the desert cause all
    necessaries to be provided for them; and when victuals begin to fail
    in the desert, they kill their camels and asses and eat them.  They
    mostly make it their choice to use camels, because they are sustained
    with little meat, and bear great burdens.  They must purvey victuals
    for a month to cross it only, for to go through it lengthways would
    require a year’s time.  They go through the sands and barren
    mountains, and daily find water; yet at times it is so little that it
    will hardly suffice fifty or a hundred men with their beasts; and in
    three or four places the water is salt and bitter.  The rest of the
    road, for eight-and-twenty days, is very good.  In it there are not
    either beasts or birds; they say that there dwell many spirits in
    this wilderness, which cause great and marvellous illusions to
    travellers, and make them perish; for if any stay behind, and cannot
    see his company, he shall be called by his name, and so going out of
    the way be lost. {94a}  In night they hear as it were the noise of a
    company, which, taking to be theirs, they perish likewise.  Concerts
    of musical instruments are sometimes heard in the air, like noise of
    drums and armies. {94b}  They go therefore close together, hang bells
    on their beasts’ neck, and set marks, if any stray.”

The Hebrews, dispersed over every region of the world, civilized or
uncivilized, were necessarily great travellers.  There was, in the first
place, their central connection with Palestine, which they generally
visited once in their lives, and whither thousands of them, as age
advanced, flocked to lay their bones.  There were the claims of kindred,
prompting them to seek out and visit the children of dispersion, whether
seated on the banks of the Vistula, the Euphrates, or the Nile; and there
were the incentives of commerce, which drew them through the perils of
land and sea.  From the instructions given to their travelling agents in
the medieval period, we derive much curious information respecting the
internal state of Europe.  It were indeed much to be wished that
competent Hebrew scholars, instead of devoting themselves to the inane
obscurity of the Rabbins, would employ their learning upon the history of
the Jews in the Middle Ages.  Much curious and interesting knowledge
might be disinterred from the piles of Hebrew manuscripts that now lie
amid the dust and spiders’ webs of the Escurial.  Above all things the
itineraries of the Jewish travellers should be explored, as containing
probably the most minute and accurate description of the social state of
Europe at that period.  Both for their personal security and for the
despatch of their affairs, it was essential for the Jews to obtain and
circulate the most exact information of the markets and population of the
cities on their route.  They required to know whom to shun and whom to
seek; the towns in which the Jews’ quarter was most commodious and
secure; and the intervening tracts, often many days’ journey in extent,
which were most free from robbers or feudal oppressors.  The following
draft of instructions for a Spanish Jew, whose occasions led him from
Spain to Greece, will afford the reader some conception of the historical
value of such itineraries.  Its date is apparently not later than the
sixteenth century:—

    “Whoever wants to go from Saragossa, Huesca, Teruel, or any other
    town in Arragon, to Constantinople, the great city where the Turk
    reigns, must follow the route herein contained, and beware of the
    dangers that we are going to specify.  The fugitive must first of all
    go to Jaca, where they will ask him the object of his voyage; he must
    say that he escapes to France, on account of his creditors, and he
    will not be disturbed.  Thence he will go to Canfranc, and thence to
    Oleron, the first town in France, where, if questioned respecting the
    object of his voyage, he must say that he is going on a pilgrimage to
    Our Lady of Loretto.  From Oleron to Pau, to Tarbes, to Toulouse, to
    Gaillac, to Villefranche, and to Lyons: in this latter place the
    traveller will be obliged to show whatever money he carries, and pay
    one out of every forty pieces, whether silver or gold.  At Lyons he
    will ask his way to Milan, and say that he is going to visit St. Mark
    of Venice; but when within five leagues of the former city, he must
    leave it on the right, and pass behind the mountain, so as not to
    enter the territory of the emperor.  From thence he must direct his
    course towards the State of Venice; and when he arrives at Verona,
    not go through the city, for they make every one pay one real at the
    gates.  In Verona he must ask his way to Padua, where he will embark
    on the river and go to Venice; the passage will cost him half a real.
    He will land on the Piazza di San Marco, and then he must look out
    for an inn to go to; he must be cautious in making his bargain with
    the innkeeper first; he must not pay more than half a real a day for
    his bed; and he is warned not to let the landlord provide him with
    anything, for he will charge him double for everything.  On the day
    after his arrival he must go to the Piazza di San Marco, and there he
    will see some men with white turbans, and others with yellow; the
    first are Turks, the latter Jews.  From these he will get every
    assistance and advice, whether he wants to go to Salonica or to any
    port of Greece.”

At the time when Marco Polo, Rubruquis, Benjamin of Tudela, etc.,
journeyed in Asia, the East was still unspoiled—it was still the
authentic Ophir of gold and barbaric pearl, and gorgeous armour, and
solemn processions.  At the same time Asia was but little behind Europe
in the general elements of civilization, so that the contrast which is so
glaring at the present day, between the state of a sultan and a pasha,
and the squalid poverty of his subjects and servants, was then less
startling.  The courts of Europe were comparatively poor and mean, while
the palaces of the oriental monarchs powerfully affected the imagination
of the traveller.  At a time too when the manners of the European
nobility exhibited little refinement, the dignified courtesy and
elaborate ceremonies of Bagdad and Ispahan were not less imposing than
the pomp and splendour of their garb and its decorations.  The Eastern
chivalry also was to the full as efficient as that of the West; for what
it lacked in weight of metal, it gained in superior adroitness in the use
of weapons, in the greater facility of its movements, and the better
temper and flexibility of its armour.  All these features of a
high—though, as it proved, a less enduring—civilization are noted with
wonder and applause by the early travellers, who cannot sufficiently
express their admiration of such opulence and such brilliant displays.

But for our immediate purpose, we can only speak of the great roads and
inns of “Cathaian Khan.”  Marco Polo thus describes the great roads and
excellent inns in the neighbourhood of Cambalu.

    “There are many public roads from the city of Cambalu, which conduct
    to the neighbouring provinces, and in every one of them, at the end
    of five-and-twenty or thirty miles, are lodgings or inns built,
    called _lambs_, that is, post-houses, with large and fair courts,
    chambers furnished with beds and other provisions, every way fit to
    entertain great men, nay, even to lodge a king.  The provisions are
    laid in from the country adjacent: there are about four hundred
    horses, which are in readiness for messengers and ambassadors, who
    there leave their tired horses, and take fresh; and in mountainous
    places, where are no villages, the Great Khan sends people to
    inhabit, about ten thousand at a place, where these lambs or
    post-houses are built, and the people cultivating the ground for
    their provisions.  These excellent regulations continue unto the
    utmost limits of the empire, so that, on the public ways throughout
    the whole of the Khan’s dominions, about ten thousand of the king’s
    inns are found; and the number of the horses appointed for the
    service of the messengers in those inns are more than two hundred
    thousand—a thing almost incredible: hence it is that in a little
    while, with change of men and horses, intelligence comes, without
    stop, to the court.  The horses are employed by turns, so that of the
    four hundred, two hundred are in the stables ready, the other two
    hundred at grass, each a month at a time.  Their cities also, that
    are adjoining to rivers and lakes, are appointed to have ferry-boats
    in readiness for the posts, and cities on the borders of deserts are
    directed to have horses and provisions for the use of such as pass
    through those deserts: and they have a reasonable allowance for this
    service from the Khan.  In cases of great moment the posts will ride
    two hundred miles a-day, or sometimes two hundred and fifty.  Also
    they ride all night, foot-posts running by them with lights, if the
    moon does not shine.

    “There are also between these inns other habitations, three or four
    miles distant from one another, in which there are a few houses,
    where foot-posts live, having each of them his girdle hung full of
    shrill-sounding bells.  These keep themselves always ready, and as
    often as the Khan’s letters are sent to them convey them speedily to
    the posts at the next village, who, hearing the sound of the
    foot-post coming when at a distance, expect him and receive his
    letters, and presently carry them to the next watch; and so, the
    letters passing through several hands, are conveyed, without delay,
    to the place whither they ought to come; and it often happens that by
    this the king learns news, or receives new fruits, from a place ten
    days’ journey distant, in two days.  As, for instance, fruits growing
    at Cambalu in the morning, by the next day at night are at Xanadu.”

Such were the general features of the old roads of Asia and Europe
centuries ago.  But it must be regarded as one of the caprices of
civilization that the only roads, in the fifteenth century, which
rivalled the Roman Viæ, were constructed in another hemisphere, and by a
people whom the Europeans were wont to regard with disdain, as barbarous.
The gold and silver furniture of the Peruvian palaces excited the
cupidity of the Spanish invaders; but even avarice, for a moment, yielded
to admiration, when the file-leaders of Pizarro’s columns beheld for the
first time the great Roads of the Incas.  The Peruvians have been
eloquently vindicated from the charge of barbarism by a modern historian,
native of the great continent which Columbus discovered.  From the moment
when Cortes had gained the crest of the sierra of Ahualco, his progress
was comparatively easy.  Broad and even roads or long and solid causeways
across the lakes and marshes conducted the Spaniards and their allies
through the valley of Mexico or Tenochtitlan; and as they descended from
the regions of sleet and snow, a gay and gorgeous panorama greeted them
on every side, “of water, woodland, and cultivated plains,” diversified
with bold and shadowy hills, and studded with the roofs and towers of
populous cities.  The running posts of the Aztecs rivalled in speed and
regularity their brethren in Cathay, and Montezuma could boast that his
dominions displayed at least one element of civilization—rapid
communication between the provinces and the capital—which in that age and
long afterwards was unknown to the empire of his rival and conqueror, the
‘white king beyond the seas.’  The roads of Peru were however more
wonderful than even those of Mexico.  We now borrow Mr. Prescott’s

    “Those,” he says, “who may distrust the accounts of Peruvian
    industry, will find their doubts removed on a visit to the country.
    The traveller still meets, especially in the regions of the
    tableland, with memorials of the past, remains of temples, palaces,
    fortresses, terraced mountains, great military roads, aqueducts, and
    other public works, which, whatever degree of science they may
    display in their execution, astonish him by their number, the massive
    character of the materials, and the grandeur of the design.  Among
    them, perhaps the most remarkable are the great roads, the broken
    remains of which are still in sufficient preservation to attest their
    former magnificence.  There were many of their roads traversing
    different parts of the kingdom; but the most considerable were the
    two which extended from Quito to Cuzco, and again diverging from the
    capital, continued in a southern direction towards Chili.

    “One of these roads passed over the grand plateau, and the other
    along the lowlands on the borders of the ocean.  The former was much
    the more difficult achievement, from the character of the country.
    It was conducted over pathless sierras buried in snow; galleries were
    cut for leagues through the living rock; rivers were crossed by means
    of bridges that swung suspended in the air; precipices were scaled by
    stair-ways hewn out of the native bed; ravines of hideous depth were
    filled up with solid masonry: in short, all the difficulties that
    beset a wild and mountainous region, and which might appal the most
    courageous engineer of modern times, were encountered and
    successfully overcome.  The length of the road, of which scattered
    fragments only remain, is variously estimated at from fifteen hundred
    to two thousand miles, and stone pillars, in the manner of European
    milestones, were erected at stated intervals of somewhat more than a
    league, all along the route.

    “The other great road of the Incas lay through the level country
    between the Andes and the ocean.  It was constructed in a different
    manner, as demanded by the nature of the ground, which was for the
    most part low, and much of it sandy.  The causeway was raised on a
    high embankment of earth, and defended on either side by a parapet or
    wall of clay; and trees and odoriferous shrubs were placed along the
    margin, regaling the sense of the traveller with their perfume, and
    refreshing him by their shade, so grateful under the burning sky of
    the tropics.  In the midst of sandy wastes, which occasionally
    intervened, where the light and volatile soil was incapable of
    sustaining a road, huge piles were driven into the ground to indicate
    the route of the traveller.”

Mr. Prescott might have added, that these magnificent works were
constructed by a people ignorant of the use of iron, and unsupplied with
wheel-carriages.  The only beast of burden was the llama; and the long
files of these patient and docile animals, winding along the broad
causeways of the Andes recalled to the invaders the long strings of mules
stepping in single file along the rocky paths cut out from the sides of
the Iberian sierras.  Iron and fire-arms alone were wanting to the
Peruvians to enable them to rival the most potent of the European
kingdoms both in the arts and arms which maintain empires.

Of New Roads we shall speak very briefly, and rather of their effects
than of their history.  It would indeed be idle, in a rapid sketch like
the present, to be diffuse upon a subject which those who travel may
study with their own eyes, and those who stay at home may learn from many
excellent recent books. {104}

The defiance of natural obstacles, the massive piles of masonry, the
filling up of valleys, the perforated hill, the arch bestriding the river
or the morass, the attraction of towns towards the line of transit, the
creation of new markets, the connection of inland cities with the coast,
the interweaving of populations hitherto isolated from one another, the
increase of land-carriage, the running to and fro of thousands whose
fathers were born and died in the same town or the same district,—all
these are features in common with the Flaminian and Æmilian ways, and
with the roads laid down by the genius and enterprise of Stephenson.  The
old and the new roads, both in their resemblance and in their difference,
suggest and express many of the organic distinctions and affinities of
the old and the new phases of civilization.

For, apart from a feature of distinction already noticed, that in the
ancient world all or nearly all public works were executed by and for the
State, we may here remark that in England especially, where
centralization is feeble, and local or personal interests are strong, the
construction and conduct—the _curatio_, as the Romans phrased it—of great
roads are entirely in the hands of voluntary associations, and the State
interferes so far only as to shield individual life and property from
wanton wrong and aggression.  Secondly, that the primary purpose of the
Roman Viæ was that of extending and securing conquest, while the primary
end of the railroad is to diffuse and facilitate commerce.  In the one
case, civilization was a fortunate accident.  Gaul imbibed the arts and
manners of Latium, because Gaul had been first subdued, and was
permanently held by the strong Roman arm.  But, in the other case,
traffic and communication are the direct objects, while war, if hereafter
wars should arise, will be the crime or the infelicity of those who
engage in it.  War indeed, as all ancient history shows, was the normal
condition of Heathendom; Peace, although so often in the past ages rudely
interrupted, is the normal state of Christendom.  Again, the Roman road
rendered invasion, encroachment, and the lust of conquest easy to
project, execute, and gratify; whereas the modern Viæ, by bringing
nations into speedy and immediate contact with one another, are
diminishing with each year the chances of hostile collision.  The Roman
roads, with all their magnificent apparatus of bridges, causeways, of
uplifted hollows and levelled heights, were constructed at an enormous
cost of manual labour and of personal oppression and suffering, and with
comparatively a trifling amount of science.  But the railroad is the idea
of the philosopher embodied by the free and cheerfully accorded toil of
the labourer and artizan.  When an Appius Claudius or a Marcus Flaminius
determined to mark the year of his consulship or censorship by some
colossal road-work, the husbandman was summoned from his field, the
herdsman was brought from his pasture-ground, a contingent was demanded
from the allies, a conscription was enforced upon the subjects of Rome,
harder task-work was imposed on the slave, and more irksome punishment
inflicted upon the prisoner. {107}  The great works of antiquity indeed,
from the pyramids downward to the mausoleum of Hadrian, are too often the
monuments of human toil, privation, and death.  But the roads of our more
fortunate times are not cemented with the tears of myriads, nor reared
upon piles of bleached bones.  On the contrary, the construction of them
has given employment to thousands who, but for them, would have crowded
to the parish for relief, or have wandered anxiously in search of work,
or sauntered listlessly at the alehouse door in despair of finding it.
The great radii of peaceful communication have been executed by willing
hands, and a fair day’s wages has been the recompense of a fair day’s
work.  We do not undervalue the skill and energy of the engineers of
antiquity.  Yet by their fruits we know and judge of the works of the
Curatores Viarum, and of our Brunels and Stephensons.  “Peace has its
victories no less than war.”  And the modern road does not more surpass
the ancient in the science of its constructors, than in the objects for
which it has been planned and executed.

But before these results were attained, the air was tried, and the water
was tried, as likely to afford a more rapid medium of transit and
communication than the solid earth.  Of balloons and canals however our
limits do not permit us to speak, although either of them might well
furnish a little volume like the one now presented to the reader.  We are
now concerned, however, with the social and civilizing effects of

“For a succession of ages,” says Dr. Lardner, “the little intercourse
that was maintained between the various parts of Great Britain was
effected almost exclusively by rude footpaths, traversed by pedestrians,
or at best by horses.  Hills were surmounted, valleys crossed, and rivers
forded by these rude agents of transport, in the same manner as the
savage and settler of the backwoods of America or the slopes of the Rocky
Mountains communicate with each other.”

The effects of high civilization may perhaps be best estimated by its
contrast—the rude and infant stages of society.  Let us imagine for a
moment the destruction of Railways, the neglect of Turnpike and Highway
Roads, and the consequent interruption of our present modes of rapid and
regular locomotion.

Gentle Reader, in the first place, your breakfast is rendered thoroughly
uncomfortable, or, like Viola’s history—a blank.  Your copy of the
‘Times’ or ‘Morning Chronicle’ has not arrived; your letters are lying
six miles off, and you have to send a special messenger—who may, and will
most probably, get drunk on his road—to fetch them.  If you should chance
to be in business, you will hear of a profitable investment for capital
just two hours after some one else has closed the bargain; if you are a
physician, you will most probably miss a lucrative patient; if a lawyer,
a most seductive fee.  All calculations will be disturbed.  Manchester
and Norwich will be more remote from each other than Paris and
Marseilles.  In place of a railway station there will be a swamp, and
instead of a turnpike gate, a wood.  Mighty towns and spacious cities
will shrink into obscure villages; smiling and fertile districts relapse
into original barrenness; kinsfolk and acquaintance be put nearly out of
sight.  There are no mails; there is no penny post; the last new novel
will not reach you.  The Bishop of Exeter may become a cardinal, or
Colonel Sibthorpe commander of the forces, six weeks before you hear of
their promotion.  The union between Scotland and England will be again as
good as divorced by distance and difficulty of transit.  Your fish from
Billingsgate will be ancient, and your tailor will be sure to disappoint
you of your mourning or your marriage suit.  Your commodious carpet-bag
must be exchanged for a trunk capacious enough to contain all your
“household stuff,” except the kitchen range; your utmost speed will
amount to difficult stages of six miles an hour; you will journey in
terror; and you will arrive at your inn with the fixed determination of
never again quitting your home.

We will conclude our rambles over the old roads of four continents with
the words of one whose wisdom was not surpassed by his wit, although his
wit surpassed most of the wisdom of his contemporaries.  “It is of some
importance,” says Sydney Smith, (it is wrong to add ‘the Reverend,’ for
no one says _Mr._ William Shakspeare or _Mr._ John Milton,) “at what
period a man is born.  A young man alive at this period hardly knows to
what improvement of human life he has been introduced; and I would bring
before his notice the changes which have taken place in England since I
began to breathe the breath of life—a period amounting to seventy years.
Gas was unknown.  I groped about the streets of London in all but utter
darkness of a twinkling oil lamp, under the protection of watchmen in
their grand climacteric, and exposed to every species of degradation and
insult.  I have been nine hours in sailing from Dover to Calais, before
the invention of steam.  It took me nine hours to go from Taunton to Bath
before the invention of railroads, and I now go in six hours from Taunton
to London!  In going from Taunton to Bath I suffered between ten thousand
and twelve thousand severe contusions, before stone-breaking Macadam was
born.  I paid fifteen pounds in a single year for repairs of
carriage-springs on the pavement of London, and I now glide without noise
or fracture on wooden pavement.  I can walk, by the assistance of the
police, from one end of London to the other without molestation; or, if
tired, get into a cheap and active cab, instead of those cottages on
wheels which the hackney coaches were at the beginning of my life.
Whatever miseries I suffered, there was no post to whisk my complaints
for a single penny to the remotest corners of the empire; and yet, in
spite of all these privations, I lived on quietly, and am now ashamed
that I was not more discontented, and utterly surprised that all these
changes and inventions did not occur two centuries ago.  I forgot to add
that, as the basket of stagecoaches in which the luggage was then carried
had no springs, your clothes were rubbed all to pieces; and that, even in
the best society, one-third of the gentlemen at least were always drunk.”

And now, Gentle Reader, have we not kept both troth and tryste with you?
We put it to you seriously, did you ever chance to read a more rambling
volume than the one now presented to you?  You may talk to a pleasant
companion in your first or second class carriage without losing the
thread of our argument; you may indulge in a comfortable nap without its
being necessary for you to mark the page where you dropped off.  It may
be better to begin at the beginning, and read in ordinary fashion to the
close.  But it will not be much worse if you have a fancy for commencing
with the end.  In short, you cannot go wrong, so you do but read in a
charitable spirit—not being extreme to mark the much which is amiss.

Finally, we entreat of you to read this book in the temper which a
certain English worthy recommends for his own.

    “One or two things yet I was desirous to have amended, if I could,
    concerning the manner of handling this my subject, for which I must
    apologize, _deprecari_, and upon better advice give the friendly
    reader notice.  I neglect phrases, and labour wholly to inform my
    reader’s understanding, not to please his ear.  ’Tis my study to
    express myself readily and plainly as it happens: so that, as a river
    runs, sometimes precipitate and swift, then dull and slow: now
    direct, then _per ambages_: now deep, then shallow: now muddy, then
    clear: now broad, then narrow; doth my style flow now serious, then
    light, as the present subject required, or as at the time I was
    affected.  And if thou vouchsafe to read this Treatise, it shall seem
    to thee no otherwise than the way to an ordinary traveller, sometimes
    fair, sometimes foul; here champion, there enclosed; barren in one
    place, better soil in another.  By woods, groves, hills, dales,
    plains, and lead thee _per ardua montium et lubrica vallium et
    roscida cespitum et glebosa camporum_, through variety of objects, to
    that which thou shalt like or haply dislike.”

If thou art scholarly, Gentle Reader, running to and fro on Old or New
Roads may do thee good.  It will afford thee time to rest eye and hand,
and furnish thee with more glimpses of this working world than are to be
seen from a library-window.  But if it chance that thou be not clerkly,
then mayest thou both ‘run to and fro’ and ‘increase thy knowledge’ even
with the aid of so poor a guide as he who now bids thee “Heartily


{9}  The appellation of this, the earliest Roman road, affords another
instructive example of the connection between the necessary wants of man
and civilization.  Salt, among the first needs of the city of Romulus,
produced the path from the Salt-works; and the convenience of the
Salt-work Road led ultimately to the construction of the Appian,
Flaminian, and Æmilian.

{10}  The first introduction of stirrups was probably not earlier than
the end of the sixth century, A.D.  See Beckmann’s ‘History of Inventions
and Discoveries,’ Eng. Trans., 1817, vol. ii. pp. 255–270.

{18}  It is acknowledged on all hands that no people talk so much about
weather as the English.  It is also true that no literature contains so
many descriptions of the sensations dependent on the seasons.  A French
or Italian poet generally goes to Arcadia to fetch images proper for “a
fine day.”  We, on the contrary, paint from the life.  Chaucer
luxuriates, in his opening lines of the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ on the
blessings and virtues of “April shoures.”  Our modern novelists are
always very diffuse meteorologists.  In lands where the seasons are
unhappily uniform, the natives are debarred from this unfailing topic of
conversation.  Hajji Baba, in Mr. Morier’s pleasant tale, is amazed at
being told at Ispahan, by the surgeon of the English Embassy, that “it
was a fine day.”  On the banks of the South American rivers, mosquitoes
afford a useful substitute for meteorological remarks.—“How did you sleep
last night?”  “Sleep! not a wink.  I was hitting at the mosquitoes all
night, and am, you see, bitten like a roach notwithstanding.”

{21a}  The historian might have added to this description of Roman
carriages an allusion to the sumptuousness of Roman harness.  Apuleius
informs us that “necklaces of gold and silver thread embroidered with
pearls encircled the necks of the horses; that the head-bands glittered
with gems; and the saddles, traces, and reins were cased in bright

{21b}  Not always, on horseback: for while the knight, as his Latin
designation _eques_ implied, was always mounted on a charger, his lady
sometimes rode beside him on an ass:—

    “A loyely ladie rode him faire beside,
       Upon a lowly asse, more white than snow;
    Yet she much whiter; but the same did hide
       Under a vele, that wimpled was full low;
       And over all a black stole did she throw:
    As one that inly mourned so was she sad,
       And heavie sate upon her palfrey slow.”

{30}  We do not remember to have seen it remarked that Shakspeare has
described all the good points of a horse, as well as (in the passage in
the text) every imaginable bad one.  The horse of Adonis was

    “Round-hoofed, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
       Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril wide,
    High crest, short ears, straight legs, and passing strong,
       Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide.”

{48}  Riding as a Squire of Dames was occasionally a service of some
danger.  The long hair-pins which the ladies wore in their capillary
towers were, as it appears from the following story, “as sharp as any
swords.”  “Pardon me, good signor Don Quixote,” says the duenna Donna
Rodriguez to that unrivalled knight, “but as often as I call to mind my
unhappy spouse, my eyes are brim-full.  With what stateliness did he use
to carry my lady behind him on a puissant mule, for in those days coaches
and side-saddles were not in fashion, and the ladies rode behind their
squires.  On a certain day, at the entrance into St. James’s Street in
Madrid, which is very narrow, a judge of one of the courts happened to be
coming out with two of his officers, and as soon as my good squire saw
him—so well-bred and punctilious was my husband—he turned his mule about,
as if he designed to wait upon him home.  My lady, who was behind him,
said to him in a low voice, ‘What are you doing, blockhead? am I not
here?’  The Judge civilly stopped his horse and said, ‘Keep on your way,
Sir, for it is my business rather to wait on my lady Donna Casilda.’  My
husband persisted, cap in hand, in his intention to wait upon the Judge,
which my lady perceiving, full of choler and indignation, she pulled out
a great pin and stuck it into his back; whereupon my husband bawled out,
and, writhing his body, down he came with his lady to the ground.  My
mistress was forced to walk home on foot, and my husband went to a
barber-surgeon’s, telling him he was run quite through and through the
bowels.  But because of this, and also because he was a little
short-sighted, my lady turned him away; the grief whereof, I believe,
verily was the death of him.”

{56}  One of the most affecting of Wordsworth’s pictures of rural manners
is his sketch of the Old Cumberland Beggar.  The opening lines of this
excellent poem mark the usual station of the mendicant:—

    “I saw an aged Beggar in my walk;
    And he was seated by the highway side,
    On a low structure of rude masonry
    Built at the foot of a huge hill, that they
    Who lead their horses down the steep rough road
    May thence remount at ease.”

{72}  The practice of complimenting distinguished personages by
suspending their portraits over ale-house doors sometimes indeed led to
ludicrous consequences.  We all remember the conversion of Sir Roger de
Coverley’s good-humoured visage into a frowning Saracen’s Head.  Soon
after Dr. Watson had been installed at Llandaff, a rural Boniface
exchanged for his original sign of the Cock an effigy of his new
Diocesan.  But somehow the ale was not so well relished by his customers
as formerly.  The head of the Bishop proved less inviting to the thirsty
than the comb and spurs of the original Chanticleer.  So to win back
again the golden opinions of the public, mine host adopted an ingenious
device.  From reverence to the Church he retained the portrait of Dr.
Watson, but as a concession to popular preferences he caused to be
written under it the following inscription:—

    “This is the old Cock.”

{82}  The splendour and costliness of English signboards seem to have
struck foreigners very forcibly.  Moritz, from whom we have already
quoted, says that “the amazing large signs which, at the entrance of
villages, hang in the middle of the street, being fastened to large
beams, which are extended across the street from one house to another
opposite to it, particularly struck me.  These sign-posts have the
appearance of gates, or gateways, for which I at first took them, but the
whole apparatus, unnecessarily large as it seems to be, is intended for
nothing more than to tell the inquisitive traveller that there is an
inn.”  It marks in some degree the territorial prejudices of the English
people that the principal inn of a hamlet usually “hangs out” the crest
of the family, if it be indeed an ancient house, at the neighbouring hall
or great house, whether it be a Swan, a Griffin, a St. George, or other
heraldic or historic emblem or hero.

{87}  We have availed ourselves of Mr. Cary’s skilful translation of
Brunetto’s description of his journey from Florence to Valladolid,
whither he had been sent on an embassy by the Guelph party:—“Un
scolaio—Sur un muletto baio,” etc.

{94a}  It is perhaps scarcely necessary to observe how much indebted our
great poets have been to the early travellers.  Milton had perhaps this
passage in his memory when he wrote the speech of the Lady in ‘Comus’:—

          “A thousand fantasies
    Begin to throng into my memory,
    Of calling shapes, and beck’ning shadows dire,
    And aery tongues, that syllable men’s names
    On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.”

{94b}  “The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That, if I then had wak’d after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again.”—_Tempest_, act iii. sc. 2.

{104}  Among the most satisfactory of such works, we would especially
mention ‘A History of the English Railway,’ by John Francis, in two
volumes, 8vo, to which our own sketch is under great obligations.

{107}  The staff of an ancient _Curator Viarum_ resembled very nearly the
accompaniments of a modern Railway contractor.  “Caius Gracchus,” says
Plutarch, “was appointed supreme director for making roads, etc.  The
people were charmed to see him followed by such numbers of architects,
artificers, ambassadors, and magistrates: and he applied to the whole
with as much activity, and despatched it with as much ease, as if there
had been only one thing for him to attend to: insomuch that they who both
hated and feared the man were struck with his amazing industry, and the
celerity of his operations.”

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