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Title: Our Old Home, Vol. 2 - Annotated with Passages from the Author's Notebook
Author: Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
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.

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[Illustration: _Lord Nelson._]



    OUR OLD HOME

    BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE


    ANNOTATED WITH PASSAGES
    FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK,
    AND ILLUSTRATED
    WITH PHOTOGRAVURES


    VOLUME II

    BOSTON AND NEW YORK
    HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
    The Riverside Press, Cambridge

    MDCCCXCI


    Copyright, 1863.
    BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

    Copyright, 1870.
    BY SOPHIA HAWTHORNE.

    Copyright, 1883, 1890,
    BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.

    _All rights reserved._

    _The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._

    Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company.



    CONTENTS
      AND LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

    [_Photogravures executed by A. W. Elson & Co., Boston._]


    LORD NELSON

    NEAR OXFORD
      BLENHEIM
      THE THAMES AT OXFORD FROM FOLLY BRIDGE
      MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXFORD, FROM THE CHERWELL

    SOME OF THE HAUNTS OF BURNS
      ROBERT BURNS
      BURNS'S BIRTHPLACE, ALLOWAY PARISH, NEAR AYR
      THE AULD BRIG O' DOON, AYR
      ALLOWAY KIRK

    A LONDON SUBURB
      A COUNTRY HOUSE
      THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

    UP THE THAMES
      LONDON BRIDGE
      TOWER OF LONDON, SHOWING TRAITORS' GATE
      ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL
      POETS' CORNER, WESTMINSTER ABBEY

    OUTSIDE GLIMPSES OF ENGLISH POVERTY
      AN ENGLISH ALMSHOUSE

    CIVIC BANQUETS



OUR OLD HOME



VII.

NEAR OXFORD


On a fine morning in September we set out on an excursion to
Blenheim,--the sculptor and myself being seated on the box of our
four-horse carriage, two more of the party in the dicky, and the others
less agreeably accommodated inside. We had no coachman, but two
postilions in short scarlet jackets and leather breeches with top-boots,
each astride of a horse; so that, all the way along, when not otherwise
attracted, we had the interesting spectacle of their up-and-down bobbing
in the saddle. It was a sunny and beautiful day, a specimen of the
perfect English weather, just warm enough for comfort,--indeed, a little
too warm, perhaps, in the noontide sun,--yet retaining a mere spice or
suspicion of austerity, which made it all the more enjoyable.

The country between Oxford and Blenheim is not particularly interesting,
being almost level, or undulating very slightly; nor is Oxfordshire,
agriculturally, a rich part of England. We saw one or two hamlets, and I
especially remember a picturesque old gabled house at a turnpike gate,
and, altogether, the wayside scenery had an aspect of old-fashioned
English life; but there was nothing very memorable till we reached
Woodstock, and stopped to water our horses at the Black Bear. This
neighborhood is called New Woodstock, but has by no means the brand-new
appearance of an American town, being a large village of stone houses,
most of them pretty well time-worn and weather-stained. The Black Bear
is an ancient inn, large and respectable, with balustraded staircases,
and intricate passages and corridors, and queer old pictures and
engravings hanging in the entries and apartments. We ordered a lunch
(the most delightful of English institutions, next to dinner) to be
ready against our return, and then resumed our drive to Blenheim.

The park gate of Blenheim stands close to the end of the village street
of Woodstock. Immediately on passing through its portals we saw the
stately palace in the distance, but made a wide circuit of the park
before approaching it. This noble park contains three thousand acres of
land, and is fourteen miles in circumference. Having been, in part, a
royal domain before it was granted to the Marlborough family, it
contains many trees of unsurpassed antiquity, and has doubtless been the
haunt of game and deer for centuries. We saw pheasants in abundance,
feeding in the open lawns and glades; and the stags tossed their antlers
and bounded away, not affrighted, but only shy and gamesome, as we drove
by. It is a magnificent pleasure-ground, not too tamely kept, nor
rigidly subjected within rule, but vast enough to have lapsed back into
nature again, after all the pains that the landscape-gardeners of Queen
Anne's time bestowed on it, when the domain of Blenheim was
scientifically laid out. The great, knotted, slanting trunks of the old
oaks do not now look as if man had much intermeddled with their growth
and postures. The trees of later date, that were set out in the Great
Duke's time, are arranged on the plan of the order of battle in which
the illustrious commander ranked his troops at Blenheim; but the ground
covered is so extensive, and the trees now so luxuriant, that the
spectator is not disagreeably conscious of their standing in military
array, as if Orpheus had summoned them together by beat of drum. The
effect must have been very formal a hundred and fifty years ago, but has
ceased to be so,--although the trees, I presume, have kept their ranks
with even more fidelity than Marlborough's veterans did.

One of the park-keepers, on horseback, rode beside our carriage,
pointing out the choice views, and glimpses at the palace, as we drove
through the domain. There is a very large artificial lake (to say the
truth, it seemed to me fully worthy of being compared with the Welsh
lakes, at least, if not with those of Westmoreland), which was created
by Capability Brown, and fills the basin that he scooped for it, just as
if Nature had poured these broad waters into one of her own valleys. It
is a most beautiful object at a distance, and not less so on its
immediate banks; for the water is very pure, being supplied by a small
river, of the choicest transparency, which was turned thitherward for
the purpose. And Blenheim owes not merely this water scenery, but almost
all its other beauties, to the contrivance of man. Its natural features
are not striking; but Art has effected such wonderful things that the
uninstructed visitor would never guess that nearly the whole scene was
but the embodied thought of a human mind. A skillful painter hardly does
more for his blank sheet of canvas than the landscape-gardener, the
planter, the arranger of trees, has done for the monotonous surface of
Blenheim,--making the most of every undulation,--flinging down a
hillock, a big lump of earth out of a giant's hand, wherever it was
needed,--putting in beauty as often as there was a niche for
it,--opening vistas to every point that deserved to be seen, and
throwing a veil of impenetrable foliage around what ought to be
hidden;--and then, to be sure, the lapse of a century has softened the
harsh outline of man's labors, and has given the place back to Nature
again with the addition of what consummate science could achieve.

After driving a good way, we came to a battlemented tower and adjoining
house, which used to be the residence of the Ranger of Woodstock Park,
who held charge of the property for the King before the Duke of
Marlborough possessed it. The keeper opened the door for us, and in the
entrance-hall we found various things that had to do with the chase and
woodland sports. We mounted the staircase, through several stories, up
to the top of the tower, whence there was a view of the spires of
Oxford, and of points much farther off,--very indistinctly seen,
however, as is usually the case with the misty distances of England.
Returning to the ground-floor, we were ushered into the room in which
died Wilmot, the wicked Earl of Rochester, who was Ranger of the Park in
Charles II.'s time. It is a low and bare little room, with a window in
front, and a smaller one behind; and in the contiguous entrance-room
there are the remains of an old bedstead, beneath the canopy of which,
perhaps, Rochester may have made the penitent end that Bishop Burnet
attributes to him. I hardly know what it is, in this poor fellow's
character, which affects us with greater tenderness on his behalf than
for all the other profligates of his day, who seem to have been neither
better nor worse than himself. I rather suspect that he had a human
heart which never quite died out of him, and the warmth of which is
still faintly perceptible amid the dissolute trash which he left
behind.

Methinks, if such good fortune ever befell a bookish man, I should
choose this lodge for my own residence, with the top-most room of the
tower for a study, and all the seclusion of cultivated wildness beneath
to ramble in. There being no such possibility, we drove on, catching
glimpses of the palace in new points of view, and by and by came to
Rosamond's Well. The particular tradition that connects Fair Rosamond
with it is not now in my memory; but if Rosamond ever lived and loved,
and ever had her abode in the maze of Woodstock, it may well be believed
that she and Henry sometimes sat beside this spring. It gushes out from
a bank, through some old stone-work, and dashes its little cascade
(about as abundant as one might turn out of a large pitcher) into a
pool, whence it steals away towards the lake, which is not far removed.
The water is exceedingly cold, and as pure as the legendary Rosamond was
not, and is fancied to possess medicinal virtues, like springs at which
saints have quenched their thirst. There were two or three old women and
some children in attendance with tumblers, which they present to
visitors, full of the consecrated water; but most of us filled the
tumblers for ourselves, and drank.

Thence we drove to the Triumphal Pillar which was erected in honor of
the Great Duke, and on the summit of which he stands, in a Roman garb,
holding a winged figure of Victory in his hand, as an ordinary man might
hold a bird. The column is I know not how many feet high, but lofty
enough, at any rate, to elevate Marlborough far above the rest of the
world, and to be visible a long way off; and it is so placed in
reference to other objects, that, wherever the hero wandered about his
grounds, and especially as he issued from his mansion, he must
inevitably have been reminded of his glory. In truth, until I came to
Blenheim, I never had so positive and material an idea of what Fame
really is--of what the admiration of his country can do for a successful
warrior--as I carry away with me and shall always retain. Unless he had
the moral force of a thousand men together, his egotism (beholding
himself everywhere, imbuing the entire soil, growing in the woods,
rippling and gleaming in the water, and pervading the very air with his
greatness) must have been swollen within him like the liver of a
Strasburg goose. On the huge tablets inlaid into the pedestal of the
column, the entire Act of Parliament, bestowing Blenheim on the Duke of
Marlborough and his posterity, is engraved in deep letters, painted
black on the marble ground. The pillar stands exactly a mile from the
principal front of the palace, in a straight line with the precise
centre of its entrance-hall; so that, as already said, it was the Duke's
principal object of contemplation.

We now proceeded to the palace-gate, which is a great pillared archway,
of wonderful loftiness and state, giving admittance into a spacious
quadrangle. A stout, elderly, and rather surly footman in livery
appeared at the entrance, and took possession of whatever canes,
umbrellas, and parasols he could get hold of, in order to claim sixpence
on our departure. This had a somewhat ludicrous effect. There is much
public outcry against the meanness of the present Duke in his
arrangements for the admission of visitors (chiefly, of course, his
native countrymen) to view the magnificent palace which their
forefathers bestowed upon his own. In many cases, it seems hard that a
private abode should be exposed to the intrusion of the public merely
because the proprietor has inherited or created a splendor which
attracts general curiosity; insomuch that his home loses its sanctity
and seclusion for the very reason that it is better than other men's
houses. But in the case of Blenheim, the public have certainly an
equitable claim to admission, both because the fame of its first
inhabitant is a national possession, and because the mansion was a
national gift, one of the purposes of which was to be a token of
gratitude and glory to the English people themselves. If a man chooses
to be illustrious, he is very likely to incur some little inconveniences
himself, and entail them on his posterity. Nevertheless, his present
Grace of Marlborough absolutely ignores the public claim above
suggested, and (with a thrift of which even the hero of Blenheim himself
did not set the example) sells tickets admitting six persons at ten
shillings; if only one person enters the gate, he must pay for six; and
if there are seven in company, two tickets are required to admit them.
The attendants, who meet you everywhere in the park and palace, expect
fees on their own private account,--their noble master pocketing
the ten shillings. But, to be sure, the visitor gets his money's worth,
since it buys him the right to speak just as freely of the Duke of
Marlborough as if he were the keeper of the Cremorne Gardens.[1]

[1] The above was written two or three years ago, or more; and the Duke
of that day has since transmitted his coronet to his successor, who, we
understand, has adopted much more liberal arrangements. There is seldom
anything to criticise or complain of, as regards the facility of
obtaining admission to interesting private houses in England.

Passing through a gateway on the opposite side of the quadrangle, we had
before us the noble classic front of the palace, with its two projecting
wings. We ascended the lofty steps of the portal, and were admitted into
the entrance-hall, the height of which, from floor to ceiling, is not
much less than seventy feet, being the entire elevation of the edifice.
The hall is lighted by windows in the upper story, and, it being a
clear, bright day, was very radiant with lofty sunshine, amid which a
swallow was flitting to and fro. The ceiling was painted by Sir James
Thornhill in some allegorical design (doubtless commemorative of
Marlborough's victories), the purport of which I did not take the
trouble to make out,--contenting myself with the general effect, which
was most splendidly and effectively ornamental.

We were guided through the show-rooms by a very civil person, who
allowed us to take pretty much our own time in looking at the pictures.
The collection is exceedingly valuable,--many of these works of Art
having been presented to the Great Duke by the crowned heads of England
or the Continent. One room was all aglow with pictures by Rubens; and
there were works of Raphael, and many other famous painters, any one of
which would be sufficient to illustrate the meanest house that might
contain it. I remember none of them, however (not being in a
picture-seeing mood), so well as Vandyck's large and familiar picture of
Charles I. on horseback, with a figure and face of melancholy dignity
such as never by any other hand was put on canvas. Yet, on considering
this face of Charles (which I find often repeated in half-lengths) and
translating it from the ideal into literalism, I doubt whether the
unfortunate king was really a handsome or impressive-looking man: a
high, thin-ridged nose, a meagre, hatchet face, and reddish hair and
beard,--these are the literal facts. It is the painter's art that has
thrown such pensive and shadowy grace around him.

[Illustration: _Blenheim._]

On our passage through this beautiful suite of apartments, we saw,
through the vista of open doorways, a boy of ten or twelve years old
coming towards us from the farther rooms. He had on a straw hat, a linen
sack that had certainly been washed and rewashed for a summer or two,
and gray trousers a good deal worn,--a dress, in short, which an
American mother in middle station would have thought too shabby for her
darling schoolboy's ordinary wear. This urchin's face was rather pale
(as those of English children are apt to be, quite as often as our own),
but he had pleasant eyes, an intelligent look, and an agreeable boyish
manner. It was Lord Sunderland, grandson of the present Duke, and
heir--though not, I think, in the direct line--of the blood of the great
Marlborough, and of the title and estate.

After passing through the first suite of rooms, we were conducted
through a corresponding suite on the opposite side of the entrance-hall.
These latter apartments are most richly adorned with tapestries, wrought
and presented to the first Duke by a sisterhood of Flemish nuns; they
look like great, glowing pictures, and completely cover the walls of
the rooms. The designs purport to represent the Duke's battles and
sieges; and everywhere we see the hero himself, as large as life, and as
gorgeous in scarlet and gold as the holy sisters could make him, with a
three-cornered hat and flowing wig, reining in his horse, and extending
his leading-staff in the attitude of command. Next to Marlborough,
Prince Eugene is the most prominent figure. In the way of upholstery,
there can never have been anything more magnificent than these
tapestries; and, considered as works of Art, they have quite as much
merit as nine pictures out of ten.

One whole wing of the palace is occupied by the library, a most noble
room, with a vast perspective length from end to end. Its atmosphere is
brighter and more cheerful than that of most libraries: a wonderful
contrast to the old college libraries of Oxford, and perhaps less sombre
and suggestive of thoughtfulness than any large library ought to be;
inasmuch as so many studious brains as have left their deposit on the
shelves cannot have conspired without producing a very serious and
ponderous result. Both walls and ceiling are white, and there are
elaborate doorways and fireplaces of white marble. The floor is of oak,
so highly polished that our feet slipped upon it as if it had been New
England ice. At one end of the room stands a statue of Queen Anne in her
royal robes, which are so admirably designed and exquisitely wrought
that the spectator certainly gets a strong conception of her royal
dignity; while the face of the statue, fleshy and feeble, doubtless
conveys a suitable idea of her personal character.[2] The marble of this
work, long as it has stood there, is as white as snow just fallen, and
must have required most faithful and religious care to keep it so. As
for the volumes of the library, they are wired within the cases, and
turn their gilded backs upon the visitor, keeping their treasures of wit
and wisdom just as intangible as if still in the unwrought mines of
human thought.

[2] In front of St. Paul's there is a statue of Queen Anne, which looks
rather more majestic, I doubt not, than that fat old dame ever did.--II.
97.

I remember nothing else in the palace, except the chapel, to which we
were conducted last, and where we saw a splendid monument to the first
Duke and Duchess, sculptured by Rysbrach, at the cost, it is said, of
forty thousand pounds. The design includes the statues of the deceased
dignitaries, and various allegorical flourishes, fantasies, and
confusions; and beneath sleep the great Duke and his proud wife, their
veritable bones and dust, and probably all the Marlboroughs that have
since died. It is not quite a comfortable idea that these mouldy
ancestors still inhabit, after their fashion, the house where their
successors spend the passing day; but the adulation lavished upon the
hero of Blenheim could not have been consummated, unless the palace of
his lifetime had become likewise a stately mausoleum over his
remains,--and such we felt it all to be, after gazing at his tomb.

The next business was to see the private gardens. An old Scotch
under-gardener admitted us and led the way, and seemed to have a fair
prospect of earning the fee all by himself; but by and by another
respectable Scotchman made his appearance and took us in charge, proving
to be the head-gardener in person. He was extremely intelligent and
agreeable, talking both scientifically and lovingly about trees and
plants, of which there is every variety capable of English cultivation.
Positively, the Garden of Eden cannot have been more beautiful than
this private garden of Blenheim. It contains three hundred acres, and by
the artful circumlocution of the paths, and the undulations, and the
skillfully interposed clumps of trees, is made to appear limitless. The
sylvan delights of a whole country are compressed into this space, as
whole fields of Persian roses go to the concoction of an ounce of
precious attar. The world within that garden-fence is not the same weary
and dusty world with which we outside mortals are conversant; it is a
finer, lovelier, more harmonious Nature; and the Great Mother lends
herself kindly to the gardener's will, knowing that he will make evident
the half-obliterated traits of her pristine and ideal beauty, and allow
her to take all the credit and praise to herself. I doubt whether there
is ever any winter within that precinct,--any clouds, except the fleecy
ones of summer. The sunshine that I saw there rests upon my recollection
of it as if it were eternal. The lawns and glades are like the memory of
places where one has wandered when first in love.

What a good and happy life might be spent in a paradise like this! And
yet, at that very moment, the besotted Duke (ah! I have let out a
secret which I meant to keep to myself; but the ten shillings must pay
for all) was in that very garden (for the guide told us so, and
cautioned our young people not to be too uproarious), and, if in a
condition for arithmetic, was thinking of nothing nobler than how many
ten-shilling tickets had that day been sold. Republican as I am, I
should still love to think that noblemen lead noble lives, and that all
this stately and beautiful environment may serve to elevate them a
little way above the rest of us. If it fail to do so, the disgrace falls
equally upon the whole race of mortals as on themselves; because it
proves that no more favorable conditions of existence would eradicate
our vices and weaknesses. How sad, if this be so! Even a herd of swine,
eating the acorns under those magnificent oaks of Blenheim, would be
cleanlier and of better habits than ordinary swine.

Well, all that I have written is pitifully meagre, as a description of
Blenheim; and I hate to leave it without some more adequate expression
of the noble edifice, with its rich domain, all as I saw them in that
beautiful sunshine; for, if a day had been chosen out of a hundred
years, it could not have been a finer one. But I must give up the
attempt; only further remarking that the finest trees here were cedars,
of which I saw one--and there may have been many such--immense in girth,
and not less than three centuries old. I likewise saw a vast heap of
laurel, two hundred feet in circumference, all growing from one root;
and the gardener offered to show us another growth of twice that
stupendous size. If the Great Duke himself had been buried in that spot,
his heroic heart could not have been the seed of a more plentiful crop
of laurels.

We now went back to the Black Bear, and sat down to a cold collation, of
which we ate abundantly, and drank (in the good old English fashion) a
due proportion of various delightful liquors. A stranger in England, in
his rambles to various quarters of the country, may learn little in
regard to wines (for the ordinary English taste is simple, though sound,
in that particular), but he makes acquaintance with more varieties of
hop and malt liquor than he previously supposed to exist. I remember a
sort of foaming stuff, called hop-champagne, which is very vivacious,
and appears to be a hybrid between ale and bottled cider. Another
excellent tipple for warm weather is concocted by mixing brown-stout or
bitter ale with ginger-beer, the foam of which stirs up the heavier
liquor from its depths, forming a compound of singular vivacity and
sufficient body. But of all things ever brewed from malt (unless it be
the Trinity Ale of Cambridge, which I drank long afterwards, and which
Barry Cornwall has celebrated in immortal verse), commend me to the
Archdeacon, as the Oxford scholars call it, in honor of the jovial
dignitary who first taught these erudite worthies how to brew their
favorite nectar. John Barleycorn has given his very heart to this
admirable liquor; it is a superior kind of ale, the Prince of Ales, with
a richer flavor and a mightier spirit than you can find elsewhere in
this weary world. Much have we been strengthened and encouraged by the
potent blood of the Archdeacon!

A few days after our excursion to Blenheim, the same party set forth, in
two flies, on a tour to some other places of interest in the
neighborhood of Oxford. It was again a delightful day; and, in truth,
every day, of late, had been so pleasant that it seemed as if each must
be the very last of such perfect weather; and yet the long succession
had given us confidence in as many more to come. The climate of England
has been shamefully maligned, its sulkiness and asperities are not
nearly so offensive as Englishmen tell us (their climate being the only
attribute of their country which they never overvalue); and the really
good summer-weather is the very kindest and sweetest that the world
knows.

We first drove to the village of Cumnor, about six miles from Oxford,
and alighted at the entrance of the church. Here, while waiting for the
keys, we looked at an old wall of the churchyard, piled up of loose gray
stones, which are said to have once formed a portion of Cumnor Hall,
celebrated in Mickle's ballad and Scott's romance. The hall must have
been in very close vicinity to the church,--not more than twenty yards
off; and I waded through the long, dewy grass of the churchyard, and
tried to peep over the wall, in hopes to discover some tangible and
traceable remains of the edifice. But the wall was just too high to be
overlooked, and difficult to clamber over without tumbling down some of
the stones; so I took the word of one of our party, who had been here
before, that there is nothing interesting on the other side. The
churchyard is in rather a neglected state, and seems not to have been
mown for the benefit of the parson's cow; it contains a good many
gravestones, of which I remember only some upright memorials of slate to
individuals of the name of Tabbs.

Soon a woman arrived with the key of the church-door, and we entered the
simple old edifice, which has the pavement of lettered tombstones, the
sturdy pillars and low arches, and other ordinary characteristics of an
English country church. One or two pews, probably those of the gentle
folk of the neighborhood, were better furnished than the rest, but all
in a modest style. Near the high altar, in the holiest place, there is
an oblong, angular, ponderous tomb of blue marble, built against the
wall, and surmounted by a carved canopy of the same material; and over
the tomb, and beneath the canopy, are two monumental brasses, such as we
oftener see inlaid into a church pavement. On these brasses are engraved
the figures of a gentleman in armor, and a lady in an antique garb, each
about a foot high, devoutly kneeling in prayer; and there is a long
Latin inscription likewise cut into the enduring brass, bestowing the
highest eulogies on the character of Anthony Forster, who, with his
virtuous dame, lies buried beneath this tombstone. His is the knightly
figure that kneels above; and if Sir Walter Scott ever saw this tomb, he
must have had an even greater than common disbelief in laudatory
epitaphs, to venture on depicting Anthony Forster in such hues as
blacken him in the romance. For my part, I read the inscription in full
faith, and believe the poor deceased gentleman to be a much-wronged
individual, with good grounds for bringing an action of slander in the
courts above.

But the circumstance, lightly as we treat it, has its serious moral.
What nonsense it is, this anxiety, which so worries us about our good
fame, or our bad fame, after death! If it were of the slightest real
moment, our reputations would have been placed by Providence more in our
own power, and less in other people's, than we now find them to be. If
poor Anthony Forster happens to have met Sir Walter in the other world,
I doubt whether he has ever thought it worth while to complain of the
latter's misrepresentations.

We did not remain long in the church, as it contains nothing else of
interest; and, driving through the village, we passed a pretty large and
rather antique-looking inn, bearing the sign of the Bear and Ragged
Staff. It could not be so old, however, by at least a hundred years, as
Giles Gosling's time; nor is there any other object to remind the
visitor of the Elizabethan age, unless it be a few ancient cottages,
that are perhaps of still earlier date. Cumnor is not nearly so large a
village, nor a place of such mark, as one anticipates from its romantic
and legendary fame; but, being still inaccessible by railway, it has
retained more of a sylvan character than we often find in English
country towns. In this retired neighborhood the road is narrow and
bordered with grass, and sometimes interrupted by gates; the hedges grow
in unpruned luxuriance; there is not that close-shaven neatness and
trimness that characterize the ordinary English landscape. The whole
scene conveys the idea of seclusion and remoteness. We met no travelers,
whether on foot or otherwise.

I cannot very distinctly trace out this day's peregrinations; but, after
leaving Cumnor a few miles behind us, I think we came to a ferry over
the Thames, where an old woman served as ferryman, and pulled a boat
across by means of a rope stretching from shore to shore. Our two
vehicles being thus placed on the other side, we resumed our
drive,--first glancing, however, at the old woman's antique cottage,
with its stone floor, and the circular settle round the kitchen
fireplace, which was quite in the mediæval English style.

We next stopped at Stanton Harcourt, where we were received at the
parsonage with a hospitality which we should take delight in describing,
if it were allowable to make public acknowledgment of the private and
personal kindnesses which we never failed to find ready for our needs.
An American in an English house will soon adopt the opinion that the
English are the very kindest people on earth, and will retain that idea
as long, at least, as he remains on the inner side of the threshold.
Their magnetism is of a kind that repels strongly while you keep beyond
a certain limit, but attracts as forcibly if you get within the magic
line.

It was at this place, if I remember right, that I heard a gentleman ask
a friend of mine whether he was the author of "The Red Letter A;" and,
after some consideration (for he did not seem to recognize his own book,
at first, under this improved title), our countryman responded
doubtfully, that he believed so. The gentleman proceeded to inquire
whether our friend had spent much time in America,--evidently thinking
that he must have been caught young, and have had a tincture of English
breeding, at least, if not birth, to speak the language so tolerably,
and appear so much like other people. This insular narrowness is
exceedingly queer, and of very frequent occurrence, and is quite as much
a characteristic of men of education and culture as of clowns.

Stanton Harcourt is a very curious old place. It was formerly the seat
of the ancient family of Harcourt, which now has its principal abode at
Nuneham Courtney, a few miles off. The parsonage is a relic of the
family mansion, or castle, other portions of which are close at hand;
for, across the garden, rise two gray towers, both of them picturesquely
venerable, and interesting for more than their antiquity. One of these
towers, in its entire capacity, from height to depth, constituted the
kitchen of the ancient castle, and is still used for domestic purposes,
although it has not, nor ever had, a chimney; or, we might rather say,
it is itself one vast chimney, with a hearth of thirty feet square, and
a flue and aperture of the same size. There are two huge fireplaces
within, and the interior walls of the tower are blackened with the smoke
that for centuries used to gush forth from them, and climb upward,
seeking an exit through some wide air-holes in the conical roof, full
seventy feet above. These lofty openings were capable of being so
arranged, with reference to the wind, that the cooks are said to have
been seldom troubled by the smoke; and here, no doubt, they were
accustomed to roast oxen whole, with as little fuss and ado as a modern
cook would roast a fowl. The inside of the tower is very dim and sombre
(being nothing but rough stone walls, lighted only from the apertures
above mentioned), and has still a pungent odor of smoke and soot, the
reminiscence of the fires and feasts of generations that have passed
away. Methinks the extremest range of domestic economy lies between an
American cooking-stove and the ancient kitchen, seventy dizzy feet in
height and all one fireplace, of Stanton Harcourt.

Now--the place being without a parallel in England, and therefore
necessarily beyond the experience of an American--it is somewhat
remarkable that, while we stood gazing at this kitchen, I was haunted
and perplexed by an idea that somewhere or other I had seen just this
strange spectacle before. The height, the blackness, the dismal void,
before my eyes, seemed as familiar as the decorous neatness of my
grandmother's kitchen; only my unaccountable memory of the scene was
lighted up with an image of lurid fires blazing all round the dim
interior circuit of the tower. I had never before had so pertinacious an
attack, as I could not but suppose it, of that odd state of mind wherein
we fitfully and teasingly remember some previous scene or incident, of
which the one now passing appears to be but the echo and reduplication.
Though the explanation of the mystery did not for some time occur to me,
I may as well conclude the matter here. In a letter of Pope's, addressed
to the Duke of Buckingham, there is an account of Stanton Harcourt (as I
now find, although the name is not mentioned), where he resided while
translating a part of the "Iliad." It is one of the most admirable
pieces of description in the language,--playful and picturesque, with
fine touches of humorous pathos,--and conveys as perfect a picture as
ever was drawn of a decayed English country-house; and among other
rooms, most of which have since crumbled down and disappeared, he dashes
off the grim aspect of this kitchen,--which, moreover, he peoples with
witches, engaging Satan himself as head cook, who stirs the infernal
caldrons that seethe and bubble over the fires. This letter, and others
relative to his abode here, were very familiar to my earlier reading,
and, remaining still fresh at the bottom of my memory, caused the weird
and ghostly sensation that came over me on beholding the real spectacle
that had formerly been made so vivid to my imagination.

Our next visit was to the church, which stands close by, and is quite as
ancient as the remnants of the castle. In a chapel or side aisle,
dedicated to the Harcourts, are found some very interesting family
monuments,--and among them, recumbent on a tombstone, the figure of an
armed knight of the Lancastrian party, who was slain in the Wars of the
Roses. His features, dress, and armor are painted in colors, still
wonderfully fresh, and there still blushes the symbol of the Red Rose,
denoting the faction for which he fought and died. His head rests on a
marble or alabaster helmet; and on the tomb lies the veritable helmet,
it is to be presumed, which he wore in battle,--a ponderous iron case,
with the visor complete, and remnants of the gilding that once covered
it. The crest is a large peacock, not of metal, but of wood. Very
possibly, this helmet was but an heraldic adornment of his tomb; and,
indeed, it seems strange that it has not been stolen before now,
especially in Cromwell's time, when knightly tombs were little
respected, and when armor was in request. However, it is needless to
dispute with the dead knight about the identity of his iron pot, and we
may as well allow it to be the very same that so often gave him the
headache in his lifetime. Leaning against the wall, at the foot of the
tomb, is the shaft of a spear, with a wofully tattered and utterly faded
banner appended to it,--the knightly banner beneath which he marshaled
his followers in the field. As it was absolutely falling to pieces, I
tore off one little bit, no bigger than a finger-nail, and put it into
my waistcoat pocket; but seeking it subsequently, it was not to be
found.

On the opposite side of the little chapel, two or three yards from this
tomb, is another monument, on which lie, side by side, one of the same
knightly race of Harcourts and his lady. The tradition of the family is,
that this knight was the standard-bearer of Henry of Richmond in the
Battle of Bosworth Field; and a banner, supposed to be the same that he
carried, now droops over his effigy. It is just such a colorless silk
rag as the one already described. The knight has the order of the Garter
on his knee, and the lady wears it on her left arm,--an odd place enough
for a garter; but, if worn in its proper locality, it could not be
decorously visible. The complete preservation and good condition of
these statues, even to the minutest adornment of the sculpture, and
their very noses,--the most vulnerable part of a marble man, as of a
living one,--are miraculous. Except in Westminster Abbey, among the
chapels of the kings, I have seen none so well preserved. Perhaps they
owe it to the loyalty of Oxfordshire, diffused throughout its
neighborhood by the influence of the University, during the great Civil
War and the rule of the Parliament. It speaks well, too, for the upright
and kindly character of this old family, that the peasantry, among whom
they had lived for ages, did not desecrate their tombs, when it might
have been done with impunity.

There are other and more recent memorials of the Harcourts, one of which
is the tomb of the last lord, who died about a hundred years ago. His
figure, like those of his ancestors, lies on the top of his tomb, clad,
not in armor, but in his robes as a peer. The title is now extinct, but
the family survives in a younger branch, and still holds this
patrimonial estate, though they have long since quitted it as a
residence.

We next went to see the ancient fishponds appertaining to the mansion,
and which used to be of vast dietary importance to the family in
Catholic times, and when fish was not otherwise attainable. There are
two or three, or more, of these reservoirs, one of which is of very
respectable size,--large enough, indeed, to be really a picturesque
object, with its grass-green borders, and the trees drooping over it,
and the towers of the castle and the church reflected within the
weed-grown depths of its smooth mirror. A sweet fragrance, as it were,
of ancient time and present quiet and seclusion was breathing all
around; the sunshine of to-day had a mellow charm of antiquity in its
brightness. These ponds are said still to breed abundance of such fish
as love deep and quiet waters; but I saw only some minnows, and one or
two snakes, which were lying among the weeds on the top of the water,
sunning and bathing themselves at once.

I mentioned that there were two towers remaining of the old castle: the
one containing the kitchen we have already visited; the other, still
more interesting, is next to be described. It is some seventy feet high,
gray and reverend, but in excellent repair, though I could not perceive
that anything had been done to renovate it. The basement story was once
the family chapel, and is, of course, still a consecrated spot. At one
corner of the tower is a circular turret, within which a narrow
staircase, with worn steps of stone, winds round and round as it climbs
upward, giving access to a chamber on each floor, and finally emerging
on the battlemented roof. Ascending this turret stair, and arriving at
the third story, we entered a chamber, not large, though occupying the
whole area of the tower, and lighted by a window on each side. It was
wainscoted from floor to ceiling with dark oak, and had a little
fireplace in one of the corners. The window-panes were small and set in
lead. The curiosity of this room is, that it was once the residence of
Pope, and that he here wrote a considerable part of the translation of
Homer, and likewise, no doubt, the admirable letters to which I have
referred above. The room once contained a record by himself, scratched
with a diamond on one of the window-panes (since removed for safekeeping
to Nuneham Courtney, where it was shown me), purporting that he had here
finished the fifth book of the "Iliad" on such a day.

A poet has a fragrance about him, such as no other human being is gifted
withal; it is indestructible, and clings forevermore to everything that
he has touched. I was not impressed, at Blenheim, with any sense that
the mighty Duke still haunted the palace that was created for him; but
here, after a century and a half, we are still conscious of the presence
of that decrepit little figure of Queen Anne's time, although he was
merely a casual guest in the old tower, during one or two summer months.
However brief the time and slight the connection, his spirit cannot be
exorcised so long as the tower stands. In my mind, moreover, Pope, or
any other person with an available claim, is right in adhering to the
spot, dead or alive; for I never saw a chamber that I should like better
to inhabit,--so comfortably small, in such a safe and inaccessible
seclusion, and with a varied landscape from each window. One of them
looks upon the church, close at hand, and down into the green
churchyard, extending almost to the foot of the tower; the others have
views wide and far, over a gently undulating tract of country. If
desirous of a loftier elevation, about a dozen more steps of the turret
stair will bring the occupant to the summit of the tower,--where Pope
used to come, no doubt, in the summer evenings, and peep--poor little
shrimp that he was!--through the embrasures of the battlement.

From Stanton Harcourt we drove--I forget how far--to a point where a
boat was waiting for us upon the Thames, or some other stream; for I am
ashamed to confess my ignorance of the precise geographical whereabout.
We were, at any rate, some miles above Oxford, and, I should imagine,
pretty near one of the sources of England's mighty river. It was little
more than wide enough for the boat, with extended oars, to
pass,--shallow, too, and bordered with bulrushes and water-weeds, which,
in some places, quite overgrew the surface of the river from bank to
bank. The shores were flat and meadow-like, and sometimes, the boatman
told us, are overflowed by the rise of the stream. The water looked
clean and pure, but not particularly transparent, though enough so to
show us that the bottom is very much weed-grown; and I was told that the
weed is an American production, brought to England with importations of
timber, and now threatening to choke up the Thames and other English
rivers. I wonder it does not try its obstructive powers upon the
Merrimack, the Connecticut, or the Hudson,--not to speak of the St.
Lawrence or the Mississippi!

It was an open boat, with cushioned seats astern, comfortably
accommodating our party; the day continued sunny and warm, and perfectly
still; the boatman, well trained to his business, managed the oars
skillfully and vigorously: and we went down the stream quite as swiftly
as it was desirable to go, the scene being so pleasant, and the passing
hours so thoroughly agreeable. The river grew a little wider and deeper,
perhaps, as we glided on, but was still an inconsiderable stream: for it
had a good deal more than a hundred miles to meander through before it
should bear fleets on its bosom, and reflect palaces and towers and
Parliament houses and dingy and sordid piles of various structure, as it
rolled to and fro with the tide, dividing London asunder. Not, in truth,
that I ever saw any edifice whatever reflected in its turbid breast,
when the sylvan stream, as we beheld it now, is swollen into the Thames
at London.

Once, on our voyage, we had to land, while the boatman and some other
persons drew our skiff round some rapids, which we could not otherwise
have passed; another time, the boat went through a lock. We, meanwhile,
stepped ashore to examine the ruins of the old nunnery of Godstowe,
where Fair Rosamond secluded herself, after being separated from her
royal lover. There is a long line of ruinous wall, and a shattered
tower at one of the angles; the whole much ivy-grown,--brimming over,
indeed, with clustering ivy, which is rooted inside of the walls. The
nunnery is now, I believe, held in lease by the city of Oxford, which
has converted its precincts into a barnyard. The gate was under lock and
key, so that we could merely look at the outside, and soon resumed our
places in the boat.

At three o'clock or thereabouts (or sooner or later,--for I took little
heed of time, and only wished that these delightful wanderings might
last forever) we reached Folly Bridge, at Oxford. Here we took
possession of a spacious barge, with a house in it, and a comfortable
dining-room or drawing-room within the house, and a level roof, on which
we could sit at ease, or dance if so inclined. These barges are common
at Oxford,--some very splendid ones being owned by the students of the
different colleges, or by clubs. They are drawn by horses, like
canal-boats; and a horse being attached to our own barge, he trotted off
at a reasonable pace, and we slipped through the water behind him, with
a gentle and pleasant motion, which, save for the constant vicissitude
of cultivated scenery, was like no motion at all. It was life without
the trouble of living; nothing was ever more quietly agreeable. In this
happy state of mind and body we gazed at Christ Church meadows, as we
passed, and at the receding spires and towers of Oxford, and on a good
deal of pleasant variety along the banks: young men rowing or fishing;
troops of naked boys bathing, as if this were Arcadia, in the simplicity
of the Golden Age; country-houses, cottages, water-side inns, all with
something fresh about them, as not being sprinkled with the dust of the
highway. We were a large party now; for a number of additional guests
had joined us at Folly Bridge, and we comprised poets, novelists,
scholars, sculptors, painters, architects, men and women of renown, dear
friends, genial, outspoken, open-hearted Englishmen,--all voyaging
onward together, like the wise ones of Gotham in a bowl. I remember not
a single annoyance, except, indeed, that a swarm of wasps came aboard of
us and alighted on the head of one of our young gentlemen, attracted by
the scent of the pomatum which he had been rubbing into his hair. He was
the only victim, and his small trouble the one little flaw in our day's
felicity, to put us in mind that we were mortal.

[Illustration: _The Thames, from Folly Bridge._]

Meanwhile, a table had been laid in the interior of our barge, and
spread with cold ham, cold fowl, cold pigeon-pie, cold beef, and other
substantial cheer, such as the English love, and Yankees too,--besides
tarts, and cakes, and pears, and plums,--not forgetting, of course, a
goodly provision of port, sherry, and champagne, and bitter ale, which
is like mother's milk to an Englishman, and soon grows equally
acceptable to his American cousin. By the time these matters had been
properly attended to, we had arrived at that part of the Thames which
passes by Nuneham Courtney, a fine estate belonging to the Harcourts,
and the present residence of the family. Here we landed, and, climbing a
steep slope from the river-side, paused a moment or two to look at an
architectural object, called the Carfax, the purport of which I do not
well understand. Thence we proceeded onward, through the loveliest park
and woodland scenery I ever saw, and under as beautiful a declining
sunshine as heaven ever shed over earth, to the stately mansion-house.

As we here cross a private threshold, it is not allowable to pursue my
feeble narrative of this delightful day with the same freedom as
heretofore; so, perhaps, I may as well bring it to a close. I may
mention, however, that I saw the library, a fine, large apartment, hung
round with portraits of eminent literary men, principally of the last
century, most of whom were familiar guests of the Harcourts. The house
itself is about eighty years old, and is built in the classic style, as
if the family had been anxious to diverge as far as possible from the
Gothic picturesqueness of their old abode at Stanton Harcourt. The
grounds were laid out in part by Capability Brown, and seemed to me even
more beautiful than those of Blenheim. Mason the poet, a friend of the
house, gave the design of a portion of the garden. Of the whole place I
will not be niggardly of my rude Transatlantic praise, but be bold to
say that it appeared to me as perfect as anything earthly can
be,--utterly and entirely finished, as if the years and generations had
done all that the hearts and minds of the successive owners could
contrive for a spot they dearly loved. Such homes as Nuneham Courtney
are among the splendid results of long hereditary possession; and we
Republicans, whose households melt away like new-fallen snow in a spring
morning, must content ourselves with our many counterbalancing
advantages,--for this one, so apparently desirable to the far-projecting
selfishness of our nature, we are certain never to attain.

It must not be supposed, nevertheless, that Nuneham Courtney is one of
the great show-places of England. It is merely a fair specimen of the
better class of country-seats, and has a hundred rivals, and many
superiors, in the features of beauty, and expansive, manifold, redundant
comfort, which most impressed me. A moderate man might be content with
such a home,--that is all.

And now I take leave of Oxford without even an attempt to describe
it,--there being no literary faculty, attainable or conceivable by me,
which can avail to put it adequately, or even tolerably, upon paper. It
must remain its own sole expression; and those whose sad fortune it may
be never to behold it have no better resource than to dream about gray,
weather-stained, ivy-grown edifices, wrought with quaint Gothic
ornament, and standing around grassy quadrangles, where
cloistered walks have echoed to the quiet footsteps of twenty
generations,--lawns and gardens of luxurious repose, shadowed with
canopies of foliage, and lit up with sunny glimpses through archways of
great boughs,--spires, towers, and turrets, each with its history and
legend,--dimly magnificent chapels, with painted windows of rare beauty
and brilliantly diversified hues, creating an atmosphere of richest
gloom,--vast college halls, high-windowed, oaken-paneled, and hung round
with portraits of the men, in every age, whom the university has
nurtured to be illustrious,--long vistas of alcoved libraries, where the
wisdom and learned folly of all time is shelved,--kitchens (we throw in
this feature by way of ballast, and because it would not be English
Oxford without its beef and beer), with huge fireplaces, capable of
roasting a hundred joints at once,--and cavernous cellars, where rows of
piled-up hogsheads seethe and fume with that mighty malt-liquor which is
the true milk of Alma Mater: make all these things vivid in your dream,
and you will never know nor believe how inadequate is the result to
represent even the merest outside of Oxford.

[Illustration: _Magdalen College, Oxford._]

We feel a genuine reluctance to conclude this article without making
our grateful acknowledgments, by name, to a gentleman whose overflowing
kindness was the main condition of all our sight-seeings and enjoyments.
Delightful as will always be our recollection of Oxford and its
neighborhood, we partly suspect that it owes much of its happy coloring
to the genial medium through which the objects were presented to us,--to
the kindly magic of a hospitality unsurpassed, within our experience, in
the quality of making the guest contented with his host, with himself,
and everything about him. He has inseparably mingled his image with our
remembrance of the Spires of Oxford.



VIII.

SOME OF THE HAUNTS OF BURNS


We left Carlisle at a little past eleven, and within the half hour were
at Gretna Green. Thence we rushed onward into Scotland through a flat
and dreary tract of country, consisting mainly of desert and bog, where
probably the moss-troopers were accustomed to take refuge after their
raids into England. Anon, however, the hills hove themselves up to view,
occasionally attaining a height which might almost be called
mountainous. In about two hours we reached Dumfries, and alighted at the
station there.

Chill as the Scottish summer is reputed to be, we found it an awfully
hot day, not a whit less so than the day before; but we sturdily
adventured through the burning sunshine up into the town, inquiring our
way to the residence of Burns. The street leading from the station is
called Shakespeare Street; and at its farther extremity we read "Burns
Street" on a corner-house,--the avenue thus designated having been
formerly known as "Mill-Hole Brae." It is a vile lane, paved with small,
hard stones from side to side, and bordered by cottages or mean houses
of whitewashed stone, joining one to another along the whole length of
the street. With not a tree, of course, or a blade of grass between the
paving-stones, the narrow lane was as hot as Tophet, and reeked with a
genuine Scotch odor, being infested with unwashed children, and
altogether in a state of chronic filth; although some women seemed to be
hopelessly scrubbing the thresholds of their wretched dwellings. I never
saw an outskirt of a town less fit for a poet's residence, or in which
it would be more miserable for any man of cleanly predilections to spend
his days.

We asked for Burns's dwelling; and a woman pointed across the street to
a two-story house, built of stone, and whitewashed, like its neighbors,
but perhaps of a little more respectable aspect than most of them,
though I hesitate in saying so. It was not a separate structure, but
under the same continuous roof with the next. There was an inscription
on the door, bearing no reference to Burns, but indicating that the
house was now occupied by a ragged or industrial school. On knocking, we
were instantly admitted by a servant-girl, who smiled intelligently when
we told our errand, and showed us into a low and very plain parlor, not
more than twelve or fifteen feet square. A young woman, who seemed to be
a teacher in the school, soon appeared, and told us that this had been
Burns's usual sitting-room, and that he had written many of his songs
here.

She then led us up a narrow staircase into a little bedchamber over the
parlor. Connecting with it, there is a very small room, or windowed
closet, which Burns used as a study; and the bedchamber itself was the
one where he slept in his later lifetime, and in which he died at last.
Altogether, it is an exceedingly unsuitable place for a pastoral and
rural poet to live or die in,--even more unsatisfactory than
Shakespeare's house, which has a certain homely picturesqueness that
contrasts favorably with the suburban sordidness of the abode before us.
The narrow lane, the paving-stones, and the contiguity of wretched
hovels are depressing to remember; and the steam of them (such is our
human weakness) might almost make the poet's memory less fragrant.

As already observed, it was an intolerably hot day. After leaving the
house, we found our way into the principal street of the town, which, it
may be fair to say, is of very different aspect from the wretched
outskirt above described. Entering a hotel (in which, as a Dumfries
guide-book assured us, Prince Charles Edward had once spent a night), we
rested and refreshed ourselves, and then set forth in quest of the
mausoleum of Burns.

Coming to St. Michael's Church, we saw a man digging a grave, and,
scrambling out of the hole, he let us into the churchyard, which was
crowded full of monuments. Their general shape and construction are
peculiar to Scotland, being a perpendicular tablet of marble or other
stone, within a framework of the same material, somewhat resembling the
frame of a looking-glass; and, all over the churchyard, these sepulchral
memorials rise to the height of ten, fifteen, or twenty feet, forming
quite an imposing collection of monuments, but inscribed with names of
small general significance. It was easy, indeed, to ascertain the rank
of those who slept below; for in Scotland it is the custom to put the
occupation of the buried personage (as "Skinner," "Shoemaker,"
"Flesher") on his tombstone. As another peculiarity, wives are buried
under their maiden names, instead of those of their husbands, thus
giving a disagreeable impression that the married pair have bidden each
other an eternal farewell on the edge of the grave.

There was a foot-path through this crowded churchyard, sufficiently well
worn to guide us to the grave of Burns; but a woman followed behind us,
who, it appeared kept the key of the mausoleum, and was privileged to
show it to strangers. The monument is a sort of Grecian temple, with
pilasters and a dome, covering a space of about twenty feet square. It
was formerly open to all the inclemencies of the Scotch atmosphere, but
is now protected and shut in by large squares of rough glass, each pane
being of the size of one whole side of the structure. The woman unlocked
the door, and admitted us into the interior. Inlaid into the floor of
the mausoleum is the gravestone of Burns,--the very same that was laid
over his grave by Jean Armour, before this monument was built. Displayed
against the surrounding wall is a marble statue of Burns at the plough,
with the Genius of Caledonia summoning the ploughman to turn poet.
Methought it was not a very successful piece of work; for the plough was
better sculptured than the man, and the man, though heavy and cloddish,
was more effective than the goddess. Our guide informed us that an old
man of ninety, who knew Burns, certifies this statue to be very like the
original.

The bones of the poet, and of Jean Armour, and of some of their
children, lie in the vault over which we stood. Our guide (who was
intelligent, in her own plain way, and very agreeable to talk withal)
said that the vault was opened about three weeks ago, on occasion of the
burial of the eldest son of Burns. The poet's bones were disturbed, and
the dry skull, once so brimming over with powerful thought and bright
and tender fantasies, was taken away, and kept for several days by a
Dumfries doctor. It has since been deposited in a new leaden coffin, and
restored to the vault. We learned that there is a surviving daughter of
Burns's eldest son, and daughters likewise of the two younger
sons,--and, besides these, an illegitimate posterity by the eldest son,
who appears to have been of disreputable life in his younger days. He
inherited his father's failings, with some faint shadow, I have also
understood, of the great qualities which have made the world tender of
his father's vices and weaknesses.

We listened readily enough to this paltry gossip, but found that it
robbed the poet's memory of some of the reverence that was its due.
Indeed, this talk over his grave had very much the same tendency and
effect as the home-scene of his life, which we had been visiting just
previously. Beholding his poor, mean dwelling and its surroundings, and
picturing his outward life and earthly manifestations from these, one
does not so much wonder that the people of that day should have failed
to recognize all that was admirable and immortal in a disreputable,
drunken, shabbily clothed, and shabbily housed man, consorting with
associates of damaged character, and, as his only ostensible occupation,
gauging the whiskey, which he too often tasted. Siding with Burns, as we
needs must, in his plea against the world, let us try to do the world a
little justice too. It is far easier to know and honor a poet when his
fame has taken shape in the spotlessness of marble than when the actual
man comes staggering before you, besmeared with the sordid stains of his
daily life. For my part, I chiefly wonder that his recognition dawned so
brightly while he was still living. There must have been something very
grand in his immediate presence, some strangely impressive
characteristic in his natural behavior, to have caused him to seem like
a demigod so soon.

As we went back through the churchyard, we saw a spot where nearly four
hundred inhabitants of Dumfries were buried during the cholera year; and
also some curious old monuments, with raised letters, the inscriptions
on which were not sufficiently legible to induce us to puzzle them out;
but, I believe, they mark the resting-places of old Covenanters, some of
whom were killed by Claverhouse and his fellow-ruffians.

St. Michael's Church is of red freestone, and was built about a hundred
years ago, on an old Catholic foundation. Our guide admitted us into it,
and showed us, in the porch, a very pretty little marble figure of a
child asleep, with a drapery over the lower part, from beneath which
appeared its two baby feet. It was truly a sweet little statue; and the
woman told us that it represented a child of the sculptor, and that the
baby (here still in its marble infancy) had died more than twenty-six
years ago. "Many ladies," she said, "especially such as had ever lost a
child, had shed tears over it." It was very pleasant to think of the
sculptor bestowing the best of his genius and art to re-create his
tender child in stone, and to make the representation as soft and sweet
as the original; but the conclusion of the story has something that jars
with our awakened sensibilities. A gentleman from London had seen the
statue, and was so much delighted with it that he bought it of the
father-artist, after it had lain above a quarter of a century in the
church-porch. So this was not the real, tender image that came out of
the father's heart; he had sold that truest one for a hundred guineas,
and sculptured this mere copy to replace it. The first figure was
entirely naked in its earthly and spiritual innocence. The copy, as I
have said above, has a drapery over the lower limbs. But, after all, if
we come to the truth of the matter, the sleeping baby may be as fitly
reposited in the drawing-room of a connoisseur as in a cold and dreary
church-porch.

We went into the church, and found it very plain and naked, without
altar decorations, and having its floor quite covered with unsightly
wooden pews. The woman led us to a pew, cornering on one of the side
aisles, and, telling us that it used to be Burns's family pew, showed us
his seat, which is in the corner by the aisle. It is so situated, that a
sturdy pillar hid him from the pulpit, and from the minister's eye; "for
Robin was no great friends with the ministers," said she. This
touch--his seat behind the pillar, and Burns himself nodding in
sermon-time, or keenly observant of profane things--brought him before
us to the life. In the corner-seat of the next pew, right before Burns,
and not more than two feet off, sat the young lady on whom the poet saw
that unmentionable parasite, which he has immortalized in song. We were
ungenerous enough to ask the lady's name, but the good woman could not
tell it. This was the last thing which we saw in Dumfries worthy of
record; and it ought to be noted that our guide refused some money which
my companion offered her, because I had already paid her what she deemed
sufficient.

At the railway-station we spent more than a weary hour, waiting for
the train, which at last came up, and took us to Mauchline. We got into
an omnibus, the only conveyance to be had, and drove about a mile to the
village, where we established ourselves at the Loudoun Hotel, one of the
veriest country inns which we have found in Great Britain. The town of
Mauchline, a place more redolent of Burns than almost any other,
consists of a street or two of contiguous cottages, mostly whitewashed,
and with thatched roofs. It has nothing sylvan or rural in the immediate
village, and is as ugly a place as mortal man could contrive to make, or
to render uglier through a succession of untidy generations. The fashion
of paving the village street, and patching one shabby house on the
gable-end of another, quite shuts out all verdure and pleasantness; but,
I presume, we are not likely to see a more genuine old Scotch village,
such as they used to be in Burns's time, and long before, than this of
Mauchline. The church stands about midway up the street, and is built of
red freestone, very simple in its architecture, with a square tower and
pinnacles. In this sacred edifice, and its churchyard, was the scene of
one of Burns's most characteristic productions, "The Holy Fair."

[Illustration: _Robert Burns._]

Almost directly opposite its gate, across the village street, stands
Posie Nansie's inn, where the "Jolly Beggars" congregated. The latter is
a two-story, red-stone, thatched house, looking old, but by no means
venerable, like a drunken patriarch. It has small, old-fashioned
windows, and may well have stood for centuries,--though, seventy or
eighty years ago, when Burns was conversant with it, I should fancy it
might have been something better than a beggars' alehouse. The whole
town of Mauchline looks rusty and time-worn,--even the newer houses, of
which there are several, being shadowed and darkened by the general
aspect of the place. When we arrived, all the wretched little dwellings
seemed to have belched forth their inhabitants into the warm summer
evening: everybody was chatting with everybody, on the most familiar
terms; the bare-legged children gamboled or quarreled uproariously, and
came freely, moreover, and looked into the window of our parlor. When we
ventured out, we were followed by the gaze of the old town: people
standing in their doorways, old women popping their heads from the
chamber-windows, and stalwart men--idle on Saturday at e'en, after their
week's hard labor--clustering at the street-corners, merely to stare at
our unpretending selves. Except in some remote little town of Italy
(where, besides, the inhabitants had the intelligible stimulus of
beggary), I have never been honored with nearly such an amount of public
notice.

The next forenoon my companion put me to shame by attending church,
after vainly exhorting me to do the like; and it being Sacrament Sunday,
and my poor friend being wedged into the farther end of a closely filled
pew, he was forced to stay through the preaching of four several
sermons, and came back perfectly exhausted and desperate. He was
somewhat consoled, however, on finding that he had witnessed a spectacle
of Scotch manners identical with that of Burns's "Holy Fair" on the very
spot where the poet located that immortal description. By way of further
conformance to the customs of the country, we ordered a sheep's head and
the broth, and did penance accordingly; and at five o'clock we took a
fly, and set out for Burns's farm of Moss Giel.

Moss Giel is not more than a mile from Mauchline, and the road extends
over a high ridge of land, with a view of far hills and green slopes on
either side. Just before we reached the farm, the driver stopped to
point out a hawthorn, growing by the wayside, which he said was Burns's
"Lousie Thorn;" and I devoutly plucked a branch, although I have really
forgotten where or how this illustrious shrub has been celebrated. We
then turned into a rude gateway, and almost immediately came to the
farm-house of Moss Giel, standing some fifty yards removed from the
high-road, behind a tall hedge of hawthorn, and considerably
overshadowed by trees. The house is a whitewashed stone cottage, like
thousands of others in England and Scotland, with a thatched roof, on
which grass and weeds have intruded a picturesque, though alien, growth.
There is a door and one window in front, besides another little window
that peeps out among the thatch. Close by the cottage, and extending
back at right angles from it, so as to inclose the farm-yard, are two
other buildings of the same size, shape, and general appearance as the
house: any one of the three looks just as fit for a human habitation as
the two others, and all three look still more suitable for
donkey-stables and pigsties. As we drove into the farm-yard, bounded on
three sides by these three hovels, a large dog began to bark at us; and
some women and children made their appearance, but seemed to demur about
admitting us, because the master and mistress were very religious
people, and had not yet come back from the Sacrament at Mauchline.

However, it would not do to be turned back from the very threshold of
Robert Burns; and as the women seemed to be merely straggling visitors,
and nobody, at all events, had a right to send us away, we went into the
back door, and, turning to the right, entered a kitchen. It showed a
deplorable lack of housewifely neatness, and in it there were three or
four children, one of whom, a girl eight or nine years old, held a baby
in her arms. She proved to be the daughter of the people of the house,
and gave us what leave she could to look about us. Thence we stepped
across the narrow mid-passage of the cottage into the only other
apartment below stairs, a sitting-room, where we found a young man
eating bread and cheese. He informed us that he did not live there, and
had only called in to refresh himself on his way home from church. This
room, like the kitchen, was a noticeably poor one, and, besides being
all that the cottage had to show for a parlor, it was a
sleeping-apartment, having two beds, which might be curtained off, on
occasion. The young man allowed us liberty (so far as in him lay) to go
up stairs. Up we crept, accordingly; and a few steps brought us to the
top of the staircase, over the kitchen, where we found the wretchedest
little sleeping-chamber in the world, with a sloping roof under the
thatch, and two beds spread upon the bare floor. This, most probably,
was Burns's chamber; or, perhaps, it may have been that of his mother's
servant-maid; and, in either case, this rude floor, at one time or
another, must have creaked beneath the poet's midnight tread. On the
opposite side of the passage was the door of another attic-chamber,
opening which, I saw a considerable number of cheeses on the floor.

The whole house was pervaded with a frowzy smell, and also a dunghill
odor; and it is not easy to understand how the atmosphere of such a
dwelling can be any more agreeable or salubrious morally than it
appeared to be physically. No virgin, surely, could keep a holy awe
about her while stowed higgledy-piggledy with coarse-natured rustics
into this narrowness and filth. Such a habitation is calculated to make
beasts of men and women; and it indicates a degree of barbarism which I
did not imagine to exist in Scotland, that a tiller of broad fields,
like the farmer of Mauchline, should have his abode in a pigsty. It is
sad to think of anybody--not to say a poet, but any human
being--sleeping, eating, thinking, praying, and spending all his
home-life in this miserable hovel; but, methinks, I never in the least
knew how to estimate the miracle of Burns's genius, nor his heroic merit
for being no worse man, until I thus learned the squalid hindrances amid
which he developed himself. Space, a free atmosphere, and cleanliness
have a vast deal to do with the possibilities of human virtue.

The biographers talk of the farm of Moss Giel as being damp and
unwholesome; but I do not see why, outside of the cottage-walls, it
should possess so evil a reputation. It occupies a high, broad ridge,
enjoying, surely, whatever benefit can come of a breezy site, and
sloping far downward before any marshy soil is reached. The high hedge,
and the trees that stand beside the cottage, give it a pleasant aspect
enough to one who does not know the grimy secrets of the interior; and
the summer afternoon was now so bright that I shall remember the scene
with a great deal of sunshine over it.

Leaving the cottage, we drove through a field, which the driver told us
was that in which Burns turned up the mouse's nest. It is the inclosure
nearest to the cottage, and seems now to be a pasture, and a rather
remarkably unfertile one. A little farther on, the ground was whitened
with an immense number of daisies,--daisies, daisies everywhere; and in
answer to my inquiry, the driver said that this was the field where
Burns ran his ploughshare over the daisy. If so, the soil seems to have
been consecrated to daisies by the song which he bestowed on that first
immortal one. I alighted, and plucked a whole handful of these "wee,
modest, crimson-tipped flowers," which will be precious to many friends
in our own country as coming from Burns's farm, and being of the same
race and lineage as that daisy which he turned into an amaranthine
flower while seeming to destroy it.[3]

[3] SOUTHPORT, _May 10th_. The grass has been green for a
month,--indeed, it has never been entirely brown, and now the trees and
hedges are beginning to be in foliage. Weeks ago the daisies bloomed,
even in the sandy grass-plot bordering on the promenade beneath our
front windows; and in the progress of the daisy, and towards its
consummation, I saw the propriety of Burns's epithet, "wee, modest,
_crimson-tipped_ flower,"--its little white petals in the bud being
fringed all round with crimson, which fades into pure white when the
flower blooms.--II. 419.

From Moss Giel we drove through a variety of pleasant scenes, some of
which were familiar to us by their connection with Burns. We skirted,
too, along a portion of the estate of Auchinleck, which still belongs to
the Boswell family,--the present possessor being Sir James Boswell,[4] a
grandson of Johnson's friend, and son of the Sir Alexander who was
killed in a duel. Our driver spoke of Sir James as a kind, free-hearted
man, but addicted to horse-races and similar pastimes, and a little too
familiar with the wine-cup; so that poor Bozzy's booziness would appear
to have become hereditary in his ancient line. There is no male heir to
the estate of Auchinleck. The portion of the lands which we saw is
covered with wood and much undermined with rabbit-warrens; nor, though
the territory extends over a large number of acres, is the income very
considerable.

[4] Sir James Boswell is now dead.

By and by we came to the spot where Burns saw Miss Alexander, the Lass
of Ballochmyle. It was on a bridge, which (or, more probably, a bridge
that has succeeded to the old one, and is made of iron) crosses from
bank to bank, high in air over a deep gorge of the road; so that the
young lady may have appeared to Burns like a creature between earth and
sky, and compounded chiefly of celestial elements. But, in honest truth,
the great charm of a woman, in Burns's eyes, was always her womanhood,
and not the angelic mixture which other poets find in her.

Our driver pointed out the course taken by the Lass of Ballochmyle,
through the shrubbery, to a rock on the banks of the Lugar, where it
seems to be the tradition that Burns accosted her. The song implies no
such interview. Lovers, of whatever condition, high or low, could desire
no lovelier scene in which to breathe their vows: the river flowing over
its pebbly bed, sometimes gleaming into the sunshine, sometimes hidden
deep in verdure, and here and there eddying at the foot of high and
precipitous cliffs. This beautiful estate of Ballochmyle is still held
by the family of Alexanders, to whom Burns's song has given renown on
cheaper terms than any other set of people ever attained it. How slight
the tenure seems! A young lady happened to walk out, one summer
afternoon, and crossed the path of a neighboring farmer, who celebrated
the little incident in four or five warm, rude,--at least, not refined,
though rather ambitious,--and somewhat ploughman-like verses. Burns has
written hundreds of better things; but henceforth, for centuries, that
maiden has free admittance into the dream-land of Beautiful Women, and
she and all her race are famous. I should like to know the present head
of the family, and ascertain what value, if any, the members of it put
upon the celebrity thus won.

We passed through Catrine, known hereabouts as "the clean village of
Scotland." Certainly, as regards the point indicated, it has greatly the
advantage of Mauchline, whither we now returned without seeing anything
else worth writing about.

There was a rain-storm during the night, and, in the morning, the rusty,
old, sloping street of Mauchline was glistening with wet, while
frequent showers came spattering down. The intense heat of many days
past was exchanged for a chilly atmosphere, much more suitable to a
stranger's idea of what Scotch temperature ought to be. We found, after
breakfast, that the first train northward had already gone by, and that
we must wait till nearly two o'clock for the next. I merely ventured out
once, during the forenoon, and took a brief walk through the village, in
which I have left little to describe. Its chief business appears to be
the manufacture of snuff-boxes. There are perhaps five or six shops, or
more, including those licensed to sell only tea and tobacco; the best of
them have the characteristics of village stores in the United States,
dealing in a small way with an extensive variety of articles. I peeped
into the open gateway of the churchyard, and saw that the ground was
absolutely stuffed with dead people, and the surface crowded with
gravestones, both perpendicular and horizontal. All Burns's old
Mauchline acquaintance are doubtless there, and the Armours among them,
except Bonny Jean, who sleeps by her poet's side. The family of Armour
is now extinct in Mauchline.

Arriving at the railway-station, we found a tall, elderly, comely
gentleman walking to and fro and waiting for the train. He proved to be
a Mr. Alexander,--it may fairly be presumed the Alexander of
Ballochmyle, a blood relation of the lovely lass. Wonderful efficacy of
a poet's verse, that could shed a glory from Long Ago on this old
gentleman's white hair! These Alexanders, by the by, are not an old
family on the Ballochmyle estate; the father of the lass having made a
fortune in trade, and established himself as the first landed proprietor
of his name in these parts. The original family was named Whitefoord.

Our ride to Ayr presented nothing very remarkable; and, indeed, a cloudy
and rainy day takes the varnish off the scenery, and causes a woful
diminution in the beauty and impressiveness of everything we see. Much
of our way lay along a flat, sandy level, in a southerly direction. We
reached Ayr in the midst of hopeless rain, and drove to the King's Arms
Hotel. In the intervals of showers I took peeps at the town, which
appeared to have many modern or modern-fronted edifices; although there
are likewise tall, gray, gabled, and quaint-looking houses in the
by-streets, here and there, betokening an ancient place. The town lies
on both sides of the Ayr, which is here broad and stately, and bordered
with dwellings that look from their windows directly down into the
passing tide.

I crossed the river by a modern and handsome stone bridge, and recrossed
it, at no great distance, by a venerable structure of four gray arches,
which must have bestridden the stream ever since the early days of
Scottish history. These are the "Two Briggs of Ayr," whose midnight
conversation was overheard by Burns, while other auditors were aware
only of the rush and rumble of the wintry stream among the arches. The
ancient bridge is steep and narrow, and paved like a street, and
defended by a parapet of red freestone, except at the two ends, where
some mean old shops allow scanty room for the pathway to creep between.
Nothing else impressed me hereabouts, unless I mention that, during the
rain, the women and girls went about the streets of Ayr barefooted to
save their shoes.

The next morning wore a lowering aspect as if it felt itself destined to
be one of many consecutive days of storm. After a good Scotch breakfast,
however, of fresh herrings and eggs, we took a fly, and started at a
little past ten for the banks of the Doon. On our way, at about two
miles from Ayr, we drew up at a roadside cottage, on which was an
inscription to the effect that Robert Burns was born within its walls.
It is now a public house; and, of course, we alighted and entered its
little sitting-room, which, as we at present see it, is a neat apartment
with the modern improvement of a ceiling. The walls are much
overscribbled with names of visitors, and the wooden door of a cupboard
in the wainscot, as well as all the other wood-work of the room, is cut
and carved with initial letters. So, likewise, are two tables, which,
having received a coat of varnish over the inscriptions, form really
curious and interesting articles of furniture. I have seldom (though I
do not personally adopt this mode of illustrating my humble name) felt
inclined to ridicule the natural impulse of most people thus to record
themselves at the shrines of poets and heroes.

On a panel, let into the wall in a corner of the room, is a portrait of
Burns, copied from the original picture by Nasmyth. The floor of this
apartment is of boards, which are probably a recent substitute for the
ordinary flag-stones of a peasant's cottage. There is but one other room
pertaining to the genuine birthplace of Robert Burns: it is the kitchen,
into which we now went. It has a floor of flag-stones, even ruder than
those of Shakespeare's house,--though, perhaps, not so strangely cracked
and broken as the latter, over which the hoof of Satan himself might
seem to have been trampling. A new window has been opened through the
wall, towards the road; but on the opposite side is the little original
window, of only four small panes, through which came the first daylight
that shone upon the Scottish poet. At the side of the room, opposite the
fireplace, is a recess, containing a bed, which can be hidden by
curtains. In that humble nook, of all places in the world, Providence
was pleased to deposit the germ of richest human life which mankind then
had within its circumference.

These two rooms, as I have said, make up the whole sum and substance of
Burns's birthplace: for there were no chambers, nor even attics; and the
thatched roof formed the only ceiling of kitchen and sitting-room, the
height of which was that of the whole house. The cottage, however, is
attached to another edifice of the same size and description, as
these little habitations often are; and, moreover, a splendid addition
has been made to it, since the poet's renown began to draw visitors to
the wayside alehouse. The old woman of the house led us through an
entry, and showed a vaulted hall, of no vast dimensions, to be sure, but
marvelously large and splendid as compared with what might be
anticipated from the outward aspect of the cottage. It contained a bust
of Burns, and was hung round with pictures and engravings, principally
illustrative of his life and poems. In this part of the house, too,
there is a parlor, fragrant with tobacco-smoke; and, no doubt, many a
noggin of whiskey is here quaffed to the memory of the bard, who
professed to draw so much inspiration from that potent liquor.

[Illustration: _Burns's Birthplace._]

We bought some engravings of Kirk Alloway, the Bridge of Doon, and the
monument, and gave the old woman a fee besides, and took our leave. A
very short drive farther brought us within sight of the monument, and to
the hotel, situated close by the entrance of the ornamental grounds
within which the former is inclosed. We rang the bell at the gate of the
inclosure, but were forced to wait a considerable time; because the old
man, the regular superintendent of the spot, had gone to assist at the
laying of the corner-stone of a new kirk. He appeared anon, and admitted
us, but immediately hurried away to be present at the concluding
ceremonies, leaving us locked up with Burns.

The inclosure around the monument is beautifully laid out as an
ornamental garden, and abundantly provided with rare flowers and
shrubbery, all tended with loving care. The monument stands on an
elevated site, and consists of a massive basement story, three-sided,
above which rises a light and elegant Grecian temple,--a mere dome,
supported on Corinthian pillars, and open to all the winds. The edifice
is beautiful in itself; though I know not what peculiar appropriateness
it may have, as the memorial of a Scottish rural poet.

The door of the basement story stood open; and, entering, we saw a bust
of Burns in a niche, looking keener, more refined, but not so warm and
whole-souled as his pictures usually do. I think the likeness cannot be
good. In the centre of the room stood a glass case, in which were
reposited the two volumes of the little Pocket Bible that Burns gave to
Highland Mary, when they pledged their troth to one another. It is
poorly printed on coarse paper. A verse of Scripture referring to the
solemnity and awfulness of vows is written within the cover of each
volume, in the poet's own hand; and fastened to one of the covers is a
lock of Highland Mary's golden hair. This Bible had been carried to
America by one of her relatives, but was sent back to be fitly treasured
here.

There is a staircase within the monument, by which we ascended to the
top, and had a view of both Briggs of Doon: the scene of Tam O'Shanter's
misadventure being close at hand. Descending, we wandered through the
inclosed garden, and came to a little building in a corner, on entering
which, we found the two statues of Tam and Sutor Wat,--ponderous
stone-work enough, yet permeated in a remarkable degree with living
warmth and jovial hilarity. From this part of the garden, too, we again
beheld the old Brigg of Doon, over which Tam galloped in such imminent
and awful peril. It is a beautiful object in the landscape, with one
high, graceful arch, ivy-grown, and shadowed all over and around with
foliage.

When we had waited a good while, the old gardener came, telling us that
he had heard an excellent prayer at laying the corner-stone of the new
kirk. He now gave us some roses and sweetbrier, and let us out from his
pleasant garden. We immediately hastened to Kirk Alloway, which is
within two or three minutes' walk of the monument. A few steps ascend
from the roadside, through a gate, into the old graveyard, in the midst
of which stands the kirk. The edifice is wholly roofless, but the
side-walls and gable-ends are quite entire, though portions of them are
evidently modern restorations. Never was there a plainer little church,
or one with smaller architectural pretensions; no New England
meeting-house has more simplicity in its very self, though poetry and
fun have clambered and clustered so wildly over Kirk Alloway that it is
difficult to see it as it actually exists. By the by, I do not
understand why Satan and an assembly of witches should hold their revels
within a consecrated precinct; but the weird scene has so established
itself in the world's imaginative faith that it must be accepted as an
authentic incident, in spite of rule and reason to the contrary.
Possibly, some carnal minister, some priest of pious aspect and
hidden infidelity, had dispelled the consecration of the holy edifice by
his pretense of prayer, and thus made it the resort of unhappy ghosts
and sorcerers and devils.

[Illustration: _The Auld Brig o' Doon._]

The interior of the kirk, even now, is applied to quite as impertinent a
purpose as when Satan and the witches used it as a dancing-hall; for it
is divided in the midst by a wall of stone-masonry, and each compartment
has been converted into a family burial-place. The name on one of the
monuments is Crawfurd; the other bore no inscription. It is impossible
not to feel that these good people, whoever they may be, had no business
to thrust their prosaic bones into a spot that belongs to the world, and
where their presence jars with the emotions, be they sad or gay, which
the pilgrim brings thither. They shut us out from our own precincts,
too,--from that inalienable possession which Burns bestowed in free gift
upon mankind, by taking it from the actual earth and annexing it to the
domain of imagination. And here these wretched squatters have lain down
to their long sleep, after barring each of the two doorways of the kirk
with an iron grate! May their rest be troubled, till they rise and let
us in!

Kirk Alloway is inconceivably small, considering how large a space it
fills in our imagination before we see it. I paced its length, outside
of the wall, and found it only seventeen of my paces, and not more than
ten of them in breadth. There seem to have been but very few windows,
all of which, if I rightly remember, are now blocked up with mason-work
of stone. One mullioned window, tall and narrow, in the eastern gable,
might have been seen by Tam O'Shanter, blazing with devilish light, as
he approached along the road from Ayr; and there is a small and square
one, on the side nearest the road, into which he might have peered, as
he sat on horseback. Indeed, I could easily have looked through it,
standing on the ground, had not the opening been walled up. There is an
odd kind of belfry at the peak of one of the gables, with the small bell
still hanging in it. And this is all that I remember of Kirk Alloway,
except that the stones of its material are gray and irregular.

The road from Ayr passes Alloway Kirk, and crosses the Doon by a modern
bridge, without swerving much from a straight line. To reach the old
bridge, it appears to have made a bend, shortly after passing the kirk,
and then to have turned sharply towards the river. The new bridge is
within a minute's walk of the monument; and we went thither, and leaned
over its parapet to admire the beautiful Doon, flowing wildly and
sweetly between its deep and wooded banks. I never saw a lovelier scene;
although this might have been even lovelier if a kindly sun had shone
upon it. The ivy-grown, ancient bridge, with its high arch, through
which we had a picture of the river and the green banks beyond, was
absolutely the most picturesque object, in a quiet and gentle way, that
ever blessed my eyes. Bonny Doon, with its wooded banks, and the boughs
dipping into the water! The memory of them, at this moment, affects me
like the song of birds, and Burns crooning some verses, simple and wild,
in accordance with their native melody.

[Illustration: _Alloway Kirk._]

It was impossible to depart without crossing the very bridge of Tam's
adventure; so we went thither, over a now disused portion of the road,
and, standing on the centre of the arch, gathered some ivy-leaves from
that sacred spot. This done, we returned as speedily as might be to Ayr,
whence, taking the rail, we soon beheld Ailsa Craig rising like a
pyramid out of the sea. Drawing nearer to Glasgow, Ben Lomond hove in
sight, with a dome-like summit, supported by a shoulder on each side.
But a man is better than a mountain; and we had been holding
intercourse, if not with the reality, at least with the stalwart ghost
of one of Earth's memorable sons, amid the scenes where he lived and
sung. We shall appreciate him better as a poet, hereafter; for there is
no writer whose life, as a man, has so much to do with his fame, and
throws such a necessary light upon whatever he has produced. Henceforth,
there will be a personal warmth for us in everything that he wrote; and,
like his countrymen, we shall know him in a kind of personal way, as if
we had shaken hands with him, and felt the thrill of his actual voice.



IX.

A LONDON SUBURB


One of our English summers looks, in the retrospect, as if it had been
patched with more frequent sunshine than the sky of England ordinarily
affords; but I believe that it may be only a moral effect,--a "light
that never was on sea or land,"--caused by our having found a
particularly delightful abode in the neighborhood of London. In order to
enjoy it, however, I was compelled to solve the problem of living in two
places at once,--an impossibility which I so far accomplished as to
vanish, at frequent intervals, out of men's sight and knowledge on one
side of England, and take my place in a circle of familiar faces on the
other, so quietly that I seemed to have been there all along. It was the
easier to get accustomed to our new residence, because it was not only
rich in all the material properties of a home, but had also the
home-like atmosphere, the household element, which is of too intangible
a character to be let even with the most thoroughly furnished
lodging-house. A friend had given us his suburban residence, with all
its conveniences, elegances, and snuggeries,--its drawing-rooms and
library, still warm and bright with the recollection of the genial
presences that we had known there,--its closets, chambers, kitchen, and
even its wine-cellar, if we could have availed ourselves of so dear and
delicate a trust,--its lawn and cosey garden-nooks, and whatever else
makes up the multitudinous idea of an English home,--he had transferred
it all to us, pilgrims and dusty wayfarers, that we might rest and take
our ease during his summer's absence on the Continent. We had long been
dwelling in tents, as it were, and morally shivering by hearths which,
heap the bituminous coal upon them as we might, no blaze could render
cheerful. I remember, to this day, the dreary feeling with which I sat
by our first English fireside, and watched the chill and rainy twilight
of an autumn day darkening down upon the garden; while the portrait of
the preceding occupant of the house (evidently a most unamiable
personage in his lifetime) scowled inhospitably from above the
mantelpiece, as if indignant that an American should try to make
himself at home there. Possibly it may appease his sulky shade to know
that I quitted his abode as much a stranger as I entered it. But now, at
last, we were in a genuine British home, where refined and warm-hearted
people had just been living their daily life, and had left us a summer's
inheritance of slowly ripened days, such as a stranger's hasty
opportunities so seldom permit him to enjoy.

Within so trifling a distance of the central spot of all the world
(which, as Americans have at present no centre of their own, we may
allow to be somewhere in the vicinity, we will say, of St. Paul's
Cathedral), it might have seemed natural that I should be tossed about
by the turbulence of the vast London whirlpool. But I had drifted into a
still eddy, where conflicting movements made a repose, and, wearied with
a good deal of uncongenial activity, I found the quiet of my temporary
haven more attractive than anything that the great town could offer. I
already knew London well; that is to say, I had long ago satisfied (so
far as it was capable of satisfaction) that mysterious yearning--the
magnetism of millions of hearts operating upon one--which impels every
man's individuality to mingle itself with the immensest mass of human
life within his scope. Day after day, at an earlier period, I had
trodden the thronged thoroughfares, the broad, lonely squares, the
lanes, alleys, and strange labyrinthine courts, the parks, the gardens
and inclosures of ancient studious societies, so retired and silent amid
the city uproar, the markets, the foggy streets along the riverside, the
bridges,--I had sought all parts of the metropolis, in short, with an
unweariable and indiscriminating curiosity; until few of the native
inhabitants, I fancy, had turned so many of its corners as myself. These
aimless wanderings (in which my prime purpose and achievement were to
lose my way, and so to find it the more surely) had brought me, at one
time or another, to the sight and actual presence of almost all the
objects and renowned localities that I had read about, and which had
made London the dream-city of my youth. I had found it better than my
dream; for there is nothing else in life comparable (in that species of
enjoyment, I mean) to the thick, heavy, oppressive, sombre delight which
an American is sensible of, hardly knowing whether to call it a
pleasure or a pain, in the atmosphere of London. The result was, that I
acquired a home-feeling there, as nowhere else in the world,--though
afterwards I came to have a somewhat similar sentiment in regard to
Rome; and as long as either of those two great cities shall exist, the
cities of the Past and of the Present, a man's native soil may crumble
beneath his feet without leaving him altogether homeless upon earth.

Thus, having once fully yielded to its influence, I was in a manner free
of the city, and could approach or keep away from it as I pleased. Hence
it happened that, living within a quarter of an hour's rush of the
London Bridge Terminus, I was oftener tempted to spend a whole summer
day in our garden than to seek anything new or old, wonderful or
commonplace, beyond its precincts. It was a delightful garden, of no
great extent, but comprising a good many facilities for repose and
enjoyment, such as arbors and garden-seats, shrubbery, flower-beds,
rose-bushes in a profusion of bloom, pinks, poppies, geraniums,
sweetpeas, and a variety of other scarlet, yellow, blue, and purple
blossoms, which I did not trouble myself to recognize individually, yet
had always a vague sense of their beauty about me. The dim sky of
England has a most happy effect on the coloring of flowers, blending
richness with delicacy in the same texture; but in this garden, as
everywhere else, the exuberance of English verdure had a greater charm
than any tropical splendor or diversity of hue. The hunger for natural
beauty might be satisfied with grass and green leaves forever. Conscious
of the triumph of England in this respect, and loyally anxious for the
credit of my own country, it gratified me to observe what trouble and
pains the English gardeners are fain to throw away in producing a few
sour plums and abortive pears and apples,--as, for example, in this very
garden, where a row of unhappy trees were spread out perfectly flat
against a brick wall, looking as if impaled alive, or crucified, with a
cruel and unattainable purpose of compelling them to produce rich fruit
by torture. For my part, I never ate an English fruit, raised in the
open air, that could compare in flavor with a Yankee turnip.

The garden included that prime feature of English domestic scenery, a
lawn. It had been leveled, carefully shorn, and converted into a
bowling-green, on which we sometimes essayed to practice the
time-honored game of bowls, most unskillfully, yet not without a
perception that it involves a very pleasant mixture of exercise and
ease, as is the case with most of the old English pastimes. Our little
domain was shut in by the house on one side, and in other directions by
a hedge-fence and a brick wall, which last was concealed or softened by
shrubbery and the impaled fruit-trees already mentioned. Over all the
outer region, beyond our immediate precincts, there was an abundance of
foliage, tossed aloft from the near or distant trees with which that
agreeable suburb is adorned. The effect was wonderfully sylvan and
rural, insomuch that we might have fancied ourselves in the depths of a
wooded seclusion; only that, at brief intervals, we could hear the
galloping sweep of a railway-train passing within a quarter of a mile,
and its discordant screech, moderated by a little farther distance, as
it reached the Blackheath Station. That harsh, rough sound, seeking me
out so inevitably, was the voice of the great world summoning me forth.
I know not whether I was the more pained or pleased to be thus
constantly put in mind of the neighborhood of London; for, on the one
hand, my conscience stung me a little for reading a book, or playing
with children in the grass, when there were so many better things for an
enlightened traveler to do,--while, at the same time, it gave a deeper
delight to my luxurious idleness to contrast it with the turmoil which I
escaped. On the whole, however, I do not repent of a single wasted hour,
and only wish that I could have spent twice as many in the same way; for
the impression on my memory is, that I was as happy in that hospitable
garden as the English summer day was long.

[Illustration: _A Country House._]

One chief condition of my enjoyment was the weather. Italy has nothing
like it, nor America. There never was such weather except in England,
where, in requital of a vast amount of horrible east wind between
February and June, and a brown October and black November, and a wet,
chill, sunless winter, there are a few weeks of incomparable summer,
scattered through July and August, and the earlier portion of September,
small in quantity, but exquisite enough to atone for the whole year's
atmospherical delinquencies. After all, the prevalent sombreness may
have brought out those sunny intervals in such high relief that I see
them, in my recollection, brighter than they really were: a little light
makes a glory for people who live habitually in a gray gloom. The
English, however, do not seem to know how enjoyable the momentary gleams
of their summer are; they call it broiling weather, and hurry to the
seaside with red, perspiring faces, in a state of combustion and
deliquescence; and I have observed that even their cattle have similar
susceptibilities, seeking the deepest shade, or standing midleg deep in
pools and streams to cool themselves, at temperatures which our own cows
would deem little more than barely comfortable. To myself, after the
summer heats of my native land had somewhat effervesced out of my blood
and memory, it was the weather of Paradise itself. It might be a little
too warm; but it was that modest and inestimable superabundance which
constitutes a bounty of Providence, instead of just a niggardly enough.
During my first year in England, residing in perhaps the most ungenial
part of the kingdom, I could never be quite comfortable without a fire
on the hearth; in the second twelvemonth, beginning to get
acclimatized, I became sensible of an austere friendliness, shy, but
sometimes almost tender, in the veiled, shadowy, seldom smiling summer;
and in the succeeding years,--whether that I had renewed my fibre with
English beef and replenished my blood with English ale, or whatever were
the cause,--I grew content with winter and especially in love with
summer, desiring little more for happiness than merely to breathe and
bask. At the midsummer which we are now speaking of, I must needs
confess that the noontide sun came down more fervently than I found
altogether tolerable; so that I was fain to shift my position with the
shadow of the shrubbery, making myself the movable index of a sundial
that reckoned up the hours of an almost interminable day.

For each day seemed endless, though never wearisome. As far as your
actual experience is concerned, the English summer day has positively no
beginning and no end. When you awake, at any reasonable hour, the sun is
already shining through the curtains; you live through unnumbered hours
of Sabbath quietude, with a calm variety of incident softly etched upon
their tranquil lapse; and at length you become conscious that it is
bedtime again, while there is still enough daylight in the sky to make
the pages of your book distinctly legible. Night, if there be any such
season, hangs down a transparent veil through which the bygone day
beholds its successor; or, if not quite true of the latitude of London,
it may be soberly affirmed of the more northern parts of the island,
that To-morrow is born before its Yesterday is dead. They exist together
in the golden twilight, where the decrepit old day dimly discerns the
face of the ominous infant; and you, though a mere mortal, may
simultaneously touch them both with one finger of recollection and
another of prophecy. I cared not how long the day might be, nor how many
of them. I had earned this repose by a long course of irksome toil and
perturbation, and could have been content never to stray out of the
limits of that suburban villa and its garden. If I lacked anything
beyond, it would have satisfied me well enough to dream about it,
instead of struggling for its actual possession. At least, this was the
feeling of the moment; although the transitory, flitting, and
irresponsible character of my life there, was perhaps the most
enjoyable element of all, as allowing me much of the comfort of house
and home, without any sense of their weight upon my back. The nomadic
life has great advantages, if we can find tents ready pitched for us at
every stage.

So much for the interior of our abode,--a spot of deepest quiet, within
reach of the intensest activity. But, even when we stepped beyond our
own gate, we were not shocked with any immediate presence of the great
world. We were dwelling in one of those oases that have grown up (in
comparatively recent years, I believe) on the wide waste of Blackheath,
which otherwise offers a vast extent of unoccupied ground in singular
proximity to the metropolis. As a general thing, the proprietorship of
the soil seems to exist in everybody and nobody; but exclusive rights
have been obtained, here and there, chiefly by men whose daily concerns
link them with London, so that you find their villas or boxes standing
along village streets which have often more of an American aspect than
the elder English settlements. The scene is semi-rural. Ornamental trees
overshadow the sidewalks, and grassy margins border the wheel-tracks.
The houses, to be sure, have certain points of difference from those of
an American village, bearing tokens of architectural design, though
seldom of individual taste; and, as far as possible, they stand aloof
from the street, and separated each from its neighbor by hedge or fence,
in accordance with the careful exclusiveness of the English character,
which impels the occupant, moreover, to cover the front of his dwelling
with as much concealment of shrubbery as his limits will allow. Through
the interstices, you catch glimpses of well-kept lawns, generally
ornamented with flowers, and with what the English call rock-work, being
heaps of ivy-grown stones and fossils, designed for romantic effect in a
small way. Two or three of such village streets as are here described
take a collective name,--as, for instance, Blackheath Park,--and
constitute a kind of community of residents, with gateways, kept by a
policeman, and a semi-privacy, stepping beyond which, you find yourself
on the breezy heath.

On this great, bare, dreary common I often went astray, as I afterwards
did on the Campagna of Rome, and drew the air (tainted with London smoke
though it might be) into my lungs by deep inspirations, with a strange
and unexpected sense of desert freedom. The misty atmosphere helps you
to fancy a remoteness that perhaps does not quite exist. During the
little time that it lasts, the solitude is as impressive as that of a
Western prairie or forest; but soon the railway shriek, a mile or two
away, insists upon informing you of your whereabout; or you recognize in
the distance some landmark that you may have known,--an insulated villa,
perhaps, with its garden-wall around it, or the rudimental street of a
new settlement which is sprouting on this otherwise barren soil. Half a
century ago, the most frequent token of man's beneficent contiguity
might have been a gibbet, and the creak, like a tavern sign, of a
murderer swinging to and fro in irons. Blackheath, with its highwaymen
and footpads, was dangerous in those days; and even now, for aught I
know, the Western prairie may still compare favorably with it as a safe
region to go astray in. When I was acquainted with Blackheath, the
ingenious device of garroting had recently come into fashion; and I can
remember, while crossing those waste places at midnight, and hearing
footsteps behind me, to have been sensibly encouraged by also hearing,
not far off, the clinking hoof-tramp of one of the horse-patrols who do
regular duty there. About sunset, or a little later, was the time when
the broad and somewhat desolate peculiarity of the heath seemed to me to
put on its utmost impressiveness. At that hour, finding myself on
elevated ground, I once had a view of immense London, four or five miles
off, with the vast Dome in the midst, and the towers of the two Houses
of Parliament rising up into the smoky canopy, the thinner substance of
which obscured a mass of things, and hovered about the objects that were
most distinctly visible,--a glorious and sombre picture, dusky, awful,
but irresistibly attractive, like a young man's dream of the great
world, foretelling at that distance a grandeur never to be fully
realized.

While I lived in that neighborhood, the tents of two or three sets of
cricket-players were constantly pitched on Blackheath, and matches were
going forward that seemed to involve the honor and credit of communities
or counties, exciting an interest in everybody but myself, who cared not
what part of England might glorify itself at the expense of another. It
is necessary to be born an Englishman, I believe, in order to enjoy
this great national game; at any rate, as a spectacle for an outside
observer, I found it lazy, lingering, tedious, and utterly devoid of
pictorial effects. Choice of other amusements was at hand. Butts for
archery were established, and bows and arrows were to be let, at so many
shots for a penny,--there being abundance of space for a farther
flight-shot than any modern archer can lend to his shaft. Then there was
an absurd game of throwing a stick at crockery-ware, which I have
witnessed a hundred times, and personally engaged in once or twice,
without ever having the satisfaction to see a bit of broken crockery. In
other spots you found donkeys for children to ride, and ponies of a very
meek and patient spirit, on which the Cockney pleasure-seekers of both
sexes rode races and made wonderful displays of horsemanship. By way of
refreshment there was gingerbread (but, as a true patriot, I must
pronounce it greatly inferior to our native dainty), and ginger-beer,
and probably stancher liquor among the booth-keeper's hidden stores. The
frequent railway-trains, as well as the numerous steamers to Greenwich,
have made the vacant portions of Blackheath a play-ground and
breathing-place for the Londoners, readily and very cheaply accessible;
so that, in view of this broader use and enjoyment, I a little grudged
the tracts that have been filched away, so to speak, and individualized
by thriving citizens. One sort of visitors especially interested me:
they were schools of little boys or girls, under the guardianship of
their instructors,--charity schools, as I often surmised from their
aspect, collected among dark alleys and squalid courts; and hither they
were brought to spend a summer afternoon, these pale little progeny of
the sunless nooks of London, who had never known that the sky was any
broader than that narrow and vapory strip above their native lane. I
fancied that they took but a doubtful pleasure, being half affrighted at
the wide, empty space overhead and round about them, finding the air too
little medicated with smoke, soot, and graveyard exhalations, to be
breathed with comfort, and feeling shelterless and lost because grimy
London, their slatternly and disreputable mother, had suffered them to
stray out of her arms.

[Illustration _The Houses of Parliament._]

Passing among these holiday people, we come to one of the gateways of
Greenwich Park, opening through an old brick wall. It admits us from
the bare heath into a scene of antique cultivation and woodland
ornament, traversed in all directions by avenues of trees, many of which
bear tokens of a venerable age. These broad and well-kept pathways rise
and decline over the elevations, and along the bases of gentle hills,
which diversify the whole surface of the park. The loftiest and most
abrupt of them (though but of very moderate height) is one of the
earth's noted summits, and may hold up its head with Mont Blanc and
Chimborazo, as being the site of Greenwich Observatory, where, if all
nations will consent to say so, the longitude of our great globe begins.
I used to regulate my watch by the broad dial-plate against the
observatory wall, and felt it pleasant to be standing at the very centre
of Time and Space.

There are lovelier parks than this in the neighborhood of London, richer
scenes of greensward and cultivated trees; and Kensington, especially,
in a summer afternoon, has seemed to me as delightful as any place can
or ought to be, in a world which, some time or other, we must quit. But
Greenwich, too, is beautiful,--a spot where the art of man has
conspired with Nature, as if he and the great mother had taken counsel
together how to make a pleasant scene, and the longest liver of the two
had faithfully carried out their mutual design. It has, likewise, an
additional charm of its own, because, to all appearance, it is the
people's property and play-ground in a much more genuine way than the
aristocratic resorts in closer vicinity to the metropolis. It affords
one of the instances in which the monarch's property is actually the
people's, and shows how much more natural is their relation to the
sovereign than to the nobility, which pretends to hold the intervening
space between the two: for a nobleman makes a paradise only for himself,
and fills it with his own pomp and pride; whereas the people are sooner
or later the legitimate inheritors of whatever beauty kings and queens
create, as now of Greenwich Park. On Sundays, when the sun shone, and
even on those grim and sombre days when, if it does not actually rain, the
English persist in calling it fine weather, it was too good to see how
sturdily the plebeians trod under their own oaks, and what fullness of
simple enjoyment they evidently found there. They were the people,--not
the populace,--specimens of a class whose Sunday clothes are a distinct
kind of garb from their week-day ones: and this, in England, implies
wholesome habits of life, daily thrift, and a rank above the lowest. I
longed to be acquainted with them, in order to investigate what manner
of folks they were, what sort of households they kept, their politics,
their religion, their tastes, and whether they were as narrow-minded as
their betters. There can be very little doubt of it; an Englishman is
English, in whatever rank of life, though no more intensely so, I should
imagine, as an artisan or petty shopkeeper, than as a member of
Parliament.

The English character, as I conceive it, is by no means a very lofty
one; they seem to have a great deal of earth and grimy dust clinging
about them, as was probably the case with the stalwart and quarrelsome
people who sprouted up out of the soil, after Cadmus had sown the
dragon's teeth. And yet, though the individual Englishman is sometimes
preternaturally disagreeable, an observer standing aloof has a sense of
natural kindness towards them in the lump. They adhere closer to the
original simplicity in which mankind was created than we ourselves do;
they love, quarrel, laugh, cry, and turn their actual selves inside out
with greater freedom than any class of Americans would consider
decorous. It was often so with these holiday folks in Greenwich Park;
and, ridiculous as it may sound, I fancy myself to have caught very
satisfactory glimpses of Arcadian life among the Cockneys there, hardly
beyond the scope of Bow-Bells, picnicking in the grass, uncouthly
gamboling on the broad slopes, or straying in motley groups or by single
pairs of love-making youths and maidens, along the sun-streaked avenues.
Even the omnipresent policemen or park-keepers could not disturb the
beatific impression on my mind. One feature, at all events, of the
Golden Age was to be seen in the herds of deer that encountered you in
the somewhat remoter recesses of the park, and were readily prevailed
upon to nibble a bit of bread out of your hand. But, though no wrong had
ever been done them, and no horn had sounded nor hound bayed at the
heels of themselves or their antlered progenitors for centuries past,
there was still an apprehensiveness lingering in their hearts; so that
a slight movement of the hand or a step too near would send a whole
squadron of them scampering away, just as a breath scatters the winged
seeds of a dandelion.

The aspect of Greenwich Park, with all those festal people wandering
through it, resembled that of the Borghese Gardens under the walls of
Rome, on a Sunday or Saint's day; but, I am not ashamed to say, it a
little disturbed whatever grimly ghost of Puritanic strictness might be
lingering in the sombre depths of a New England heart, among severe and
sunless remembrances of the Sabbaths of childhood, and pangs of remorse
for ill-gotten lessons in the catechism, and for erratic fantasies or
hardly suppressed laughter in the middle of long sermons. Occasionally,
I tried to take the long-hoarded sting out of these compunctious smarts
by attending divine service in the open air. On a cart outside of the
park-wall (and, if I mistake not, at two or three corners and secluded
spots within the park itself) a Methodist preacher uplifts his voice and
speedily gathers a congregation, his zeal for whose religious welfare
impels the good man to such earnest vociferation and toilsome gesture
that his perspiring face is quickly in a stew. His inward flame
conspires with the too fervid sun, and makes a positive martyr of him,
even in the very exercise of his pious labor; insomuch that he purchases
every atom of spiritual increment to his hearers by loss of his own
corporeal solidity, and, should his discourse last long enough, must
finally exhale before their eyes. If I smile at him, be it understood,
it is not in scorn; he performs his sacred office more acceptably than
many a prelate. These wayside services attract numbers who would not
otherwise listen to prayer, sermon, or hymn, from one year's end to
another, and who, for that very reason, are the auditors most likely to
be moved by the preacher's eloquence. Yonder Greenwich pensioner,
too,--in his costume of three-cornered hat, and old-fashioned,
brass-buttoned blue coat with ample skirts, which makes him look like a
contemporary of Admiral Benbow,--that tough old mariner may hear a word
or two which will go nearer his heart than anything that the chaplain of
the Hospital can be expected to deliver. I always noticed, moreover,
that a considerable proportion of the audience were soldiers, who came
hither with a day's leave from Woolwich,--hardy veterans in aspect,
some of whom wore as many as four or five medals, Crimean or East
Indian, on the breasts of their scarlet coats. The miscellaneous
congregation listen with every appearance of heartfelt interest; and,
for my own part, I must frankly acknowledge that I never found it
possible to give five minutes' attention to any other English preaching:
so cold and commonplace are the homilies that pass for such, under the
aged roofs of churches. And as for cathedrals, the sermon is an
exceedingly diminutive and unimportant part of the religious
services,--if, indeed, it be considered a part,--among the pompous
ceremonies, the intonations, and the resounding and lofty-voiced strains
of the choristers. The magnificence of the setting quite dazzles out
what we Puritans look upon as the jewel of the whole affair; for I
presume that it was our forefathers, the Dissenters in England and
America, who gave the sermon its present prominence in the Sabbath
exercises.[5]

[5] We all, together with Mr. Squarey, went to Chester last Sunday, and
attended the cathedral service.... In America the sermon is the
principal thing; but here all this magnificent ceremonial of prayer and
chanted responses and psalms and anthems was the setting to a short,
meagre discourse, which would not have been considered of any account
among the elaborate intellectual efforts of New England ministers.--I.
466.

The Methodists are probably the first and only Englishmen who have
worshiped in the open air since the ancient Britons listened to the
preaching of the Druids; and it reminded me of that old priesthood, to
see certain memorials of their dusky epoch--not religious, however, but
warlike--in the neighborhood of the spot where the Methodist was holding
forth. These were some ancient barrows, beneath or within which are
supposed to lie buried the slain of a forgotten or doubtfully remembered
battle, fought on the site of Greenwich Park as long ago as two or three
centuries after the birth of Christ. Whatever may once have been their
height and magnitude, they have now scarcely more prominence in the
actual scene than the battle of which they are the sole monuments
retains in history,--being only a few mounds side by side, elevated a
little above the surface of the ground, ten or twelve feet in diameter,
with a shallow depression in their summits. When one of them was opened,
not long since, no bones, nor armor, nor weapons were discovered,
nothing but some small jewels, and a tuft of hair,--perhaps from the
head of a valiant general, who, dying on the field of his victory,
bequeathed this lock, together with his indestructible fame, to after
ages. The hair and jewels are probably in the British Museum, where the
potsherds and rubbish of innumerable generations make the visitor wish
that each passing century could carry off all its fragments and relics
along with it, instead of adding them to the continually accumulating
burden which human knowledge is compelled to lug upon its back.[6] As
for the fame, I know not what has become of it.

[6] The fact is, the world is accumulating too many materials for
knowledge. We do not recognize for rubbish what is really rubbish; and
under this head might be reckoned very many things one sees in the
British Museum: and, as each generation leaves its fragments and
potsherds behind it, such will finally be the desperate conclusion of
the learned.--II. 143.

Yesterday I went out at about twelve, and visited the British Museum; an
exceedingly tiresome affair. It quite crushes a person to see so much at
once, and I wandered from hall to hall with a weary and heavy heart,
wishing (Heaven forgive me!) that the Elgin Marbles and the frieze of
the Parthenon were all burnt into lime, and that the granite Egyptian
statues were hewn and squared into building-stones, and that the mummies
had all turned to dust two thousand years ago; and, in fine, that all
the material relics of so many successive ages had disappeared with the
generations that produced them. The present is burdened too much with
the past. We have not time, in our earthly existence, to appreciate what
is warm with life, and immediately around us; yet we heap up these old
shells, out of which human life has long emerged, casting them off
forever. I do not see how future ages are to stagger onward under all
this dead weight, with the additions that will be continually made to
it.--II. 207.

After traversing the park, we come into the neighborhood of Greenwich
Hospital, and will pass through one of its spacious gateways for the
sake of glancing at an establishment which does more honor to the heart
of England than anything else that I am acquainted with, of a public
nature. It is very seldom that we can be sensible of anything like
kindliness in the acts or relations of such an artificial thing as a
National Government. Our own government, I should conceive, is too much
an abstraction ever to feel any sympathy for its maimed sailors and
soldiers, though it will doubtless do them a severe kind of justice, as
chilling as the touch of steel. But it seemed to me that the Greenwich
pensioners are the petted children of the nation, and that the
government is their dry-nurse, and that the old men themselves have a
child-like consciousness of their position. Very likely, a better sort
of life might have been arranged, and a wiser care bestowed on them;
but, such as it is, it enables them to spend a sluggish, careless,
comfortable old age, grumbling, growling, gruff, as if all the foul
weather of their past years were pent up within them, yet not much more
discontented than such weather-beaten and battle-battered fragments of
human kind must inevitably be. Their home, in its outward form, is on a
very magnificent plan. Its germ was a royal palace, the full expansion
of which has resulted in a series of edifices externally more beautiful
than any English palace that I have seen, consisting of several
quadrangles of stately architecture, united by colonnades and
gravel-walks, and inclosing grassy squares, with statues in the centre,
the whole extending along the Thames. It is built of marble, or very
light-colored stone, in the classic style, with pillars and porticos,
which (to my own taste, and, I fancy, to that of the old sailors)
produce but a cold and shivery effect in the English climate. Had I been
the architect, I would have studied the characters, habits, and
predilections of nautical people in Wapping, Rotherhithe, and the
neighborhood of the Tower (places which I visited in affectionate
remembrance of Captain Lemuel Gulliver, and other actual or mythological
navigators), and would have built the hospital in a kind of ethereal
similitude to the narrow, dark, ugly, and inconvenient, but snug and
cosey homeliness of the sailor boarding-houses there. There can be no
question that all the above attributes, or enough of them to satisfy an
old sailor's heart, might be reconciled with architectural beauty and
the wholesome contrivances of modern dwellings, and thus a novel and
genuine style of building be given to the world.

But their countrymen meant kindly by the old fellows in assigning them
the ancient royal site where Elizabeth held her court and Charles II.
began to build his palace. So far as the locality went, it was treating
them like so many kings; and, with a discreet abundance of grog, beer,
and tobacco, there was perhaps little more to be accomplished in behalf
of men whose whole previous lives have tended to unfit them for old age.
Their chief discomfort is probably for lack of something to do or think
about. But, judging by the few whom I saw, a listless habit seems to
have crept over them, a dim dreaminess of mood, in which they sit
between asleep and awake, and find the long day wearing towards bedtime
without its having made any distinct record of itself upon their
consciousness. Sitting on stone benches in the sunshine, they subside
into slumber, or nearly so, and start at the approach of footsteps
echoing under the colonnades, ashamed to be caught napping, and rousing
themselves in a hurry, as formerly on the midnight watch at sea. In
their brightest moments, they gather in groups and bore one another with
endless sea-yarns about their voyages under famous admirals, and about
gale and calm, battle and chase, and all that class of incident that has
its sphere on the deck and in the hollow interior of a ship, where their
world has exclusively been. For other pastime, they quarrel among
themselves, comrade with comrade, and perhaps shake paralytic fists in
furrowed faces. If inclined for a little exercise, they can bestir their
wooden legs on the long esplanade that borders by the Thames,
criticising the rig of passing ships, and firing off volleys of
malediction at the steamers, which have made the sea another element
than that they used to be acquainted with. All this is but cold comfort
for the evening of life, yet may compare rather favorably with the
preceding portions of it, comprising little save imprisonment on
shipboard, in the course of which they have been tossed all about the
world and caught hardly a glimpse of it, forgetting what grass and trees
are, and never finding out what woman is, though they may have
encountered a painted spectre which they took for her. A country owes
much to human beings whose bodies she has worn out and whose immortal
part she has left undeveloped or debased, as we find them here; and
having wasted an idle paragraph upon them, let me now suggest that old
men have a kind of susceptibility to moral impressions, and even (up to
an advanced period) a receptivity of truth, which often appears to come
to them after the active time of life is past. The Greenwich pensioners
might prove better subjects for true education now than in their
schoolboy days; but then where is the Normal School that could educate
instructors for such a class?

There is a beautiful chapel for the pensioners, in the classic style,
over the altar of which hangs a picture by West. I never could look at
it long enough to make out its design; for this artist (though it pains
me to say it of so respectable a countryman) had a gift of frigidity, a
knack of grinding ice into his paint, a power of stupefying the
spectator's perceptions and quelling his sympathy, beyond any other
limner that ever handled a brush. In spite of many pangs of conscience,
I seize this opportunity to wreak a lifelong abhorrence upon the poor,
blameless man, for the sake of that dreary picture of Lear, an explosion
of frosty fury, that used to be a bugbear to me in the Athenæum
Exhibition. Would fire burn it, I wonder?

The principal thing that they have to show you, at Greenwich Hospital,
is the Painted Hall. It is a splendid and spacious room, at least a
hundred feet long and half as high, with a ceiling painted in fresco by
Sir James Thornhill. As a work of art, I presume, this frescoed canopy
has little merit, though it produces an exceedingly rich effect by its
brilliant coloring and as a specimen of magnificent upholstery. The
walls of the grand apartment are entirely covered with pictures, many of
them representing battles and other naval incidents that were once
fresher in the world's memory than now, but chiefly portraits of old
admirals, comprising the whole line of heroes who have trod the
quarter-decks of British ships for more than two hundred years back.
Next to a tomb in Westminster Abbey, which was Nelson's most elevated
object of ambition, it would seem to be the highest meed of a naval
warrior to have his portrait hung up in the Painted Hall; but, by dint
of victory upon victory, these illustrious personages have grown to be a
mob, and by no means a very interesting one, so far as regards the
character of the faces here depicted. They are generally commonplace,
and often singularly stolid; and I have observed (both in the Painted
Hall and elsewhere, and not only in portraits, but in the actual
presence of such renowned people as I have caught glimpses of) that the
countenances of heroes are not nearly so impressive as those of
statesmen,--except, of course, in the rare instances where warlike
ability has been but the one-sided manifestation of a profound genius
for managing the world's affairs.

Nine tenths of these distinguished admirals, for instance, if their
faces tell truth, must needs have been blockheads, and might have
served better, one would imagine, as wooden figure-heads for their own
ships than to direct any difficult and intricate scheme of action from
the quarter-deck. It is doubtful whether the same kind of men will
hereafter meet with a similar degree of success; for they were
victorious chiefly through the old English hardihood, exercised in a
field of which modern science had not yet got possession. Rough valor
has lost something of its value since their days, and must continue to
sink lower and lower in the comparative estimate of warlike qualities.
In the next naval war, as between England and France, I would bet,
methinks, upon the Frenchman's head.

It is remarkable, however, that the great naval hero of England--the
greatest, therefore, in the world, and of all time--had none of the
stolid characteristics that belong to his class, and cannot fairly be
accepted as their representative man. Foremost in the roughest of
professions, he was as delicately organized as a woman, and as painfully
sensitive as a poet. More than any other Englishman he won the love and
admiration of his country, but won them through the efficacy of
qualities that are not English, or, at all events, were intensified in
his case and made poignant and powerful by something morbid in the man,
which put him otherwise at cross-purposes with life. He was a man of
genius; and genius in an Englishman (not to cite the good old simile of
a pearl in the oyster) is usually a symptom of a lack of balance in the
general making-up of the character; as we may satisfy ourselves by
running over the list of their poets, for example, and observing how
many of them have been sickly or deformed, and how often their lives
have been darkened by insanity. An ordinary Englishman is the healthiest
and wholesomest of human beings; an extraordinary one is almost always,
in one way or another, a sick man. It was so with Lord Nelson. The
wonderful contrast or relation between his personal qualities, the
position which he held, and the life that he lived, makes him as
interesting a personage as all history has to show; and it is a pity
that Southey's biography--so good in its superficial way, and yet so
inadequate as regards any real delineation of the man--should have taken
the subject out of the hands of some writer endowed with more delicate
appreciation and deeper insight than that genuine Englishman possessed.
But Southey accomplished his own purpose, which, apparently, was to
present his hero as a pattern for England's young midshipmen.

But the English capacity for hero-worship is full to the brim with what
they are able to comprehend of Lord Nelson's character. Adjoining the
Painted Hall is a smaller room, the walls of which are completely and
exclusively adorned with pictures of the great Admiral's exploits. We
see the frail, ardent man in all the most noted events of his career,
from his encounter with a Polar Bear to his death at Trafalgar,
quivering here and there about the room like a blue, lambent flame. No
Briton ever enters that apartment without feeling the beef and ale of
his composition stirred to its depths, and finding himself changed into
a hero for the nonce, however stolid his brain, however tough his heart,
however unexcitable his ordinary mood. To confess the truth, I myself,
though belonging to another parish, have been deeply sensible to the
sublime recollections there aroused, acknowledging that Nelson expressed
his life in a kind of symbolic poetry which I had as much right to
understand as these burly islanders.[7] Cool and critical observer as I
sought to be, I enjoyed their burst of honest indignation when a visitor
(not an American, I am glad to say) thrust his walking-stick almost into
Nelson's face, in one of the pictures, by way of pointing a remark; and
the by-standers immediately glowed like so many hot coals, and would
probably have consumed the offender in their wrath, had he not effected
his retreat. But the most sacred objects of all are two of Nelson's
coats, under separate glass cases. One is that which he wore at the
Battle of the Nile, and it is now sadly injured by moths, which will
quite destroy it in a few years, unless its guardians preserve it as we
do Washington's military suit by occasionally baking it in an oven. The
other is the coat in which he received his death-wound at Trafalgar. On
its breast are sewed three or four stars and orders of knighthood, now
much dimmed by time and damp, but which glittered brightly enough on the
battle-day to draw the fatal aim of a French marksman. The bullet-hole
is visible on the shoulder, as well as a part of the golden tassels of
an epaulet, the rest of which was shot away. Over the coat is laid a
white waistcoat, with a great blood-stain on it, out of which all the
redness has utterly faded, leaving it of a dingy yellow hue, in the
threescore years since that blood gushed out. Yet it was once the
reddest blood in England,--Nelson's blood!

[7] Even the great sailor, Nelson, was unlike his countrymen in the
qualities that constituted him a hero; he was not the perfection of an
Englishman, but a creature of another kind,--sensitive, nervous,
excitable, and really more like a Frenchman.--II. 531.

The hospital stands close adjacent to the town of Greenwich, which will
always retain a kind of festal aspect in my memory, in consequence of my
having first become acquainted with it on Easter Monday. Till a few
years ago, the first three days of Easter were a carnival season in this
old town, during which the idle and disreputable part of London poured
itself into the streets like an inundation of the Thames,--as unclean as
that turbid mixture of the offscourings of the vast city, and
overflowing with its grimy pollution whatever rural innocence, if any,
might be found in the suburban neighborhood. This festivity was called
Greenwich Fair, the final one of which, in an immemorial succession, it
was my fortune to behold.

If I had bethought myself of going through the fair with a note-book and
pencil, jotting down all the prominent objects, I doubt not that the
result might have been a sketch of English life quite as characteristic
and worthy of historical preservation as an account of the Roman
Carnival. Having neglected to do so, I remember little more than a
confusion of unwashed and shabbily dressed people, intermixed with some
smarter figures, but, on the whole, presenting a mobbish appearance such
as we never see in our own country. It taught me to understand why
Shakespeare, in speaking of a crowd, so often alludes to its attribute
of evil odor. The common people of England, I am afraid, have no daily
familiarity with even so necessary a thing as a wash-bowl, not to
mention a bathing-tub. And, furthermore, it is one mighty difference
between them and us, that every man and woman on our side of the water
has a working-day suit and a holiday suit, and is occasionally as fresh
as a rose, whereas, in the good old country, the griminess of his labor
or squalid habits clings forever to the individual, and gets to be a
part of his personal substance. These are broad facts, involving great
corollaries and dependencies. There are really, if you stop to think
about it, few sadder spectacles in the world than a ragged coat, or a
soiled and shabby gown, at a festival.

This unfragrant crowd was exceedingly dense, being welded together, as
it were, in the street through which we strove to make our way. On
either side were oyster-stands, stalls of oranges (a very prevalent
fruit in England, where they give the withered ones a guise of freshness
by boiling them), and booths covered with old sail-cloth, in which the
commodity that most attracted the eye was gilt gingerbread. It was so
completely enveloped in Dutch gilding that I did not at first recognize
an old acquaintance, but wondered what those golden crowns and images
could be. There were likewise drums and other toys for small children,
and a variety of showy and worthless articles for children of a larger
growth; though it perplexed me to imagine who, in such a mob, could have
the innocent taste to desire playthings, or the money to pay for them.
Not that I have a right to accuse the mob, on my own knowledge, of being
any less innocent than a set of cleaner and better dressed people might
have been; for, though one of them stole my pocket-handkerchief, I could
not but consider it fair game, under the circumstances, and was grateful
to the thief for sparing me my purse. They were quiet, civil, and
remarkably good-humored, making due allowance for the national
gruffness; there was no riot, no tumultuous swaying to and fro of the
mass, such as I have often noted in an American crowd; no noise of
voices, except frequent bursts of laughter, hoarse or shrill, and a
widely diffused, inarticulate murmur, resembling nothing so much as the
rumbling of the tide among the arches of London Bridge. What immensely
perplexed me was a sharp, angry sort of rattle, in all quarters, far off
and close at hand, and sometimes right at my own back, where it sounded
as if the stout fabric of my English surtout had been ruthlessly rent in
twain; and everybody's clothes, all over the fair, were evidently being
torn asunder in the same way. By and by, I discovered that this strange
noise was produced by a little instrument called "The Fun of the
Fair,"--a sort of rattle, consisting of a wooden wheel, the cogs of
which turn against a thin slip of wood, and so produce a rasping sound
when drawn smartly against a person's back. The ladies draw their
rattles against the backs of their male friends (and everybody passes
for a friend at Greenwich Fair), and the young men return the compliment
on the broad British backs of the ladies; and all are bound by
immemorial custom to take it in good part and be merry at the joke. As
it was one of my prescribed official duties to give an account of such
mechanical contrivances as might be unknown in my own country, I have
thought it right to be thus particular in describing the Fun of the
Fair.

But this was far from being the sole amusement. There were theatrical
booths, in front of which were pictorial representations of the scenes
to be enacted within; and anon a drummer emerged from one of them,
thumping on a terribly lax drum, and followed by the entire _dramatis
personae_, who ranged themselves on a wooden platform in front of the
theatre. They were dressed in character, but wofully shabby, with very
dingy and wrinkled white tights, threadbare cotton-velvets, crumpled
silks, and crushed muslin, and all the gloss and glory gone out of their
aspect and attire, seen thus in the broad daylight and after a long
series of performances. They sang a song together, and withdrew into the
theatre, whither the public were invited to follow them at the
inconsiderable cost of a penny a ticket. Before another booth stood a
pair of brawny fighting-men, displaying their muscle, and soliciting
patronage for an exhibition of the noble British art of pugilism. There
were pictures of giants, monsters, and outlandish beasts, most
prodigious, to be sure, and worthy of all admiration, unless the artist
had gone incomparably beyond his subject. Jugglers proclaimed aloud the
miracles which they were prepared to work; and posture-makers dislocated
every joint of their bodies and tied their limbs into inextricable
knots, wherever they could find space to spread a little square of
carpet on the ground. In the midst of the confusion, while everybody was
treading on his neighbor's toes, some little boys were very solicitous
to brush your boots. These lads, I believe, are a product of modern
society,--at least, no older than the time of Gay, who celebrates their
origin in his "Trivia;" but in most other respects the scene reminded me
of Bunyan's description of Vanity Fair,--nor is it at all improbable
that the Pilgrim may have been a merry-maker here in his wild youth.

It seemed very singular--though, of course, I immediately classified it
as an English characteristic--to see a great many portable
weighing-machines, the owners of which cried out continually and amain,
"Come, know your weight! Come, come, know your weight to-day! Come, know
your weight!" and a multitude of people, mostly large in the girth, were
moved by this vociferation to sit down in the machines. I know not
whether they valued themselves on their beef, and estimated their
standing as members of society at so much a pound; but I shall set it
down as a national peculiarity, and a symbol of the prevalence of the
earthly over the spiritual element, that Englishmen are wonderfully bent
on knowing how solid and physically ponderous they are.

On the whole, having an appetite for the brown bread and the tripe and
sausages of life, as well as for its nicer cates and dainties, I enjoyed
the scene, and was amused at the sight of a gruff old Greenwich
pensioner, who, forgetful of the sailor-frolics of his young days, stood
looking with grim disapproval at all these vanities. Thus we squeezed
our way through the mob-jammed town, and emerged into the Park, where,
likewise, we met a great many merry-makers, but with freer space for
their gambols than in the streets. We soon found ourselves the targets
for a cannonade with oranges (most of them in a decayed condition),
which went humming past our ears from the vantage-ground of neighboring
hillocks, sometimes hitting our sacred persons with an inelastic thump.
This was one of the privileged freedoms of the time, and was nowise to
be resented, except by returning the salute. Many persons were running
races, hand in hand, down the declivities, especially that steepest one
on the summit of which stands the world-central Observatory, and (as in
the race of life) the partners were usually male and female, and often
caught a tumble together before reaching the bottom of the hill.
Hereabouts we were pestered and haunted by two young girls, the elder
not more than thirteen, teasing us to buy matches; and finding no market
for their commodity, the taller one suddenly turned a somerset before
our faces, and rolled heels over head from top to bottom of the hill on
which we stood. Then, scrambling up the acclivity, the topsy-turvy
trollop offered us her matches again, as demurely as if she had never
flung aside her equilibrium; so that, dreading a repetition of the feat,
we gave her sixpence and an admonition, and enjoined her never to do so
any more.

The most curious amusement that we witnessed here--or anywhere else,
indeed--was an ancient and hereditary pastime called "Kissing in the
Ring." I shall describe the sport exactly as I saw it, although an
English friend assures me that there are certain ceremonies with a
handkerchief, which make it much more decorous and graceful. A
handkerchief, indeed! There was no such thing in the crowd, except it
were the one which they had just filched out of my pocket. It is one of
the simplest kinds of games, needing little or no practice to make the
player altogether perfect; and the manner of it is this: A ring is
formed (in the present case, it was of large circumference and thickly
gemmed around with faces, mostly on the broad grin), into the centre of
which steps an adventurous youth, and, looking round the circle, selects
whatever maiden may most delight his eye. He presents his hand (which
she is bound to accept), leads her into the centre, salutes her on the
lips, and retires, taking his stand in the expectant circle. The girl,
in her turn, throws a favorable regard on some fortunate young man,
offers her hand to lead him forth, makes him happy with a maidenly kiss,
and withdraws to hide her blushes, if any there be, among the simpering
faces in the ring; while the favored swain loses no time in transferring
her salute to the prettiest and plumpest among the many mouths that are
primming themselves in anticipation. And thus the thing goes on, till
all the festive throng are inwreathed and intertwined into an endless
and inextricable chain of kisses; though, indeed, it smote me with
compassion to reflect that some forlorn pair of lips might be left out,
and never know the triumph of a salute, after throwing aside so many
delicate reserves for the sake of winning it. If the young men had any
chivalry, there was a fair chance to display it by kissing the homeliest
damsel in the circle.

To be frank, however, at the first glance, and to my American eye, they
looked all homely alike, and the chivalry that I suggest is more than I
could have been capable of, at any period of my life. They seemed to be
country-lasses, of sturdy and wholesome aspect, with coarse-grained,
cabbage-rosy cheeks, and, I am willing to suppose, a stout texture of
moral principle, such as would bear a good deal of rough usage without
suffering much detriment. But how unlike the trim little damsels of my
native land! I desire above all things to be courteous; but, since the
plain truth must be told, the soil and climate of England produce
feminine beauty as rarely as they do delicate fruit; and though
admirable specimens of both are to be met with, they are the hot-house
ameliorations of refined society, and apt, moreover, to relapse into the
coarseness of the original stock. The men are manlike, but the women are
not beautiful, though the female Bull be well enough adapted to the
male. To return to the lasses of Greenwich Fair, their charms were few,
and their behavior, perhaps, not altogether commendable; and yet it was
impossible not to feel a degree of faith in their innocent intentions,
with such a half-bashful zest and entire simplicity did they keep up
their part of the game. It put the spectator in good-humor to look at
them, because there was still something of the old Arcadian life, the
secure freedom of the antique age, in their way of surrendering their
lips to strangers, as if there were no evil or impurity in the world. As
for the young men, they were chiefly specimens of the vulgar sediment of
London life, often shabbily genteel, rowdyish, pale, wearing the
unbrushed coat, unshifted linen, and unwashed faces of yesterday, as
well as the haggardness of last night's jollity in a gin-shop. Gathering
their character from these tokens, I wondered whether there were any
reasonable prospect of their fair partners returning to their rustic
homes with as much innocence (whatever were its amount or quality) as
they brought to Greenwich Fair, in spite of the perilous familiarity
established by Kissing in the Ring.

The manifold disorders resulting from the fair, at which a vast city was
brought into intimate relations with a comparatively rural district,
have at length led to its suppression; this was the very last
celebration of it, and brought to a close the broad-mouthed merriment of
many hundred years. Thus my poor sketch, faint as its colors are, may
acquire some little value in the reader's eyes from the consideration
that no observer of the coming time will ever have an opportunity to
give a better. I should find it difficult to believe, however, that the
queer pastime just described, or any moral mischief to which that and
other customs might pave the way, can have led to the overthrow of
Greenwich Fair; for it has often seemed to me that Englishmen of station
and respectability, unless of a peculiarly philanthropic turn, have
neither any faith in the feminine purity of the lower orders of their
countrywomen, nor the slightest value for it, allowing its possible
existence. The distinction of ranks is so marked, that the English
cottage damsel holds a position somewhat analogous to that of the negro
girl in our Southern States. Hence comes inevitable detriment to the
moral condition of those men themselves, who forget that the humblest
woman has a right and a duty to hold herself in the same sanctity as the
highest. The subject cannot well be discussed in these pages; but I
offer it as a serious conviction, from what I have been able to observe,
that the England of to-day is the unscrupulous old England of Tom Jones
and Joseph Andrews, Humphrey Clinker and Roderick Random; and in our
refined era, just the same as at that more free-spoken epoch, this
singular people has a certain contempt for any fine-strained purity, any
special squeamishness, as they consider it, on the part of an ingenuous
youth. They appear to look upon it as a suspicious phenomenon in the
masculine character.

Nevertheless, I by no means take upon me to affirm that English
morality, as regards the phase here alluded to, is really at a lower
point than our own. Assuredly, I hope so, because, making a higher
pretension, or, at all events, more carefully hiding whatever may be
amiss, we are either better than they, or necessarily a great deal
worse. It impressed me that their open avowal and recognition of
immoralities served to throw the disease to the surface, where it might
be more effectually dealt with, and leave a sacred interior not utterly
profaned, instead of turning its poison back among the inner vitalities
of the character, at the imminent risk of corrupting them all. Be that
as it may, these Englishmen are certainly a franker and simpler people
than ourselves, from peer to peasant; but if we can take it as
compensatory on our part (which I leave to be considered) that they owe
those noble and manly qualities to a coarser grain in their nature, and
that, with a finer one in ours, we shall ultimately acquire a marble
polish of which they are unsusceptible, I believe that this may be the
truth.



X.

UP THE THAMES


The upper portion of Greenwich (where my last article left me loitering)
is a cheerful, comely, old-fashioned town, the peculiarities of which,
if there be any, have passed out of my remembrance. As you descend
towards the Thames the streets get meaner, and the shabby and sunken
houses, elbowing one another for frontage, bear the signboards of
beer-shops and eating-rooms, with especial promises of white-bait and
other delicacies in the fishing line. You observe, also, a frequent
announcement of "Tea Gardens" in the rear; although, estimating the
capacity of the premises by their external compass, the entire sylvan
charm and shadowy seclusion of such blissful resorts must be limited
within a small back-yard. These places of cheap sustenance and
recreation depend for support upon the innumerable pleasure-parties who
come from London Bridge by steamer, at a fare of a few pence, and who
get as enjoyable a meal for a shilling a head as the Ship Hotel would
afford a gentleman for a guinea.

The steamers, which are constantly smoking their pipes up and down the
Thames, offer much the most agreeable mode of getting to London. At
least, it might be exceedingly agreeable, except for the myriad floating
particles of soot from the stove-pipe, and the heavy heat of midsummer
sunshine on the unsheltered deck, or the chill, misty air-draught of a
cloudy day, and the spiteful little showers of rain that may spatter
down upon you at any moment, whatever the promise of the sky; besides
which there is some slight inconvenience from the inexhaustible throng
of passengers, who scarcely allow you standing-room, nor so much as a
breath of unappropriated air, and never a chance to sit down. If these
difficulties, added to the possibility of getting your pocket picked,
weigh little with you, the panorama along the shores of the memorable
river, and the incidents and shows of passing life upon its bosom,
render the trip far preferable to the brief yet tiresome shoot along the
railway track. On one such voyage, a regatta of wherries raced past us,
and at once involved every soul on board our steamer in the
tremendous excitement of the struggle. The spectacle was but a moment
within our view, and presented nothing more than a few light skiffs, in
each of which sat a single rower, bare-armed, and with little apparel,
save a shirt and drawers, pale, anxious, with every muscle on the
stretch, and plying his oars in such fashion that the boat skimmed along
with the aerial celerity of a swallow. I wondered at myself for so
immediately catching an interest in the affair, which seemed to contain
no very exalted rivalship of manhood; but, whatever the kind of battle
or the prize of victory, it stirs one's sympathy immensely, and is even
awful, to behold the rare sight of a man thoroughly in earnest, doing
his best, putting forth all there is in him, and staking his very soul
(as these rowers appeared willing to do) on the issue of the contest. It
was the seventy-fourth annual regatta of the Free Watermen of Greenwich,
and announced itself as under the patronage of the Lord Mayor and other
distinguished individuals, at whose expense, I suppose, a prize-boat was
offered to the conqueror, and some small amounts of money to the
inferior competitors.

[Illustration: _London Bridge._]

The aspect of London along the Thames, below Bridge, as it is called, is
by no means so impressive as it ought to be, considering what peculiar
advantages are offered for the display of grand and stately architecture
by the passage of a river through the midst of a great city. It seems,
indeed, as if the heart of London had been cleft open for the mere
purpose of showing how rotten and drearily mean it had become. The shore
is lined with the shabbiest, blackest, and ugliest buildings that can be
imagined, decayed warehouses with blind windows, and wharves that look
ruinous; insomuch that, had I known nothing more of the world's
metropolis, I might have fancied that it had already experienced the
downfall which I have heard commercial and financial prophets predict
for it, within the century. And the muddy tide of the Thames, reflecting
nothing, and hiding a million of unclean secrets within its breast,--a
sort of guilty conscience, as it were, unwholesome with the rivulets of
sin that constantly flow into it,--is just the dismal stream to glide by
such a city. The surface, to be sure, displays no lack of activity,
being fretted by the passage of a hundred steamers and covered with a
good deal of shipping, but mostly of a clumsier build than I had been
accustomed to see in the Mersey: a fact which I complacently attributed
to the smaller number of American clippers in the Thames, and the less
prevalent influence of American example in refining away the
broad-bottomed capacity of the old Dutch or English models.

About midway between Greenwich and London Bridge, at a rude
landing-place on the left bank of the river, the steamer rings its bell
and makes a momentary pause in front of a large circular structure,
where it may be worth our while to scramble ashore. It indicates the
locality of one of those prodigious practical blunders that would supply
John Bull with a topic of inexhaustible ridicule if his cousin Jonathan
had committed them, but of which he himself perpetrates ten to our one
in the mere wantonness of wealth that lacks better employment. The
circular building covers the entrance to the Thames Tunnel, and is
surmounted by a dome of glass, so as to throw daylight down into the
great depth at which the passage of the river commences. Descending a
wearisome succession of staircases, we at last find ourselves, still in
the broad noon, standing before a closed door, on opening which we
behold the vista of an arched corridor that extends into everlasting
midnight. In these days, when glass has been applied to so many new
purposes, it is a pity that the architect had not thought of arching
portions of his abortive tunnel with immense blocks of the lucid
substance, over which the dusky Thames would have flowed like a cloud,
making the sub-fluvial avenue only a little gloomier than a street of
upper London. At present, it is illuminated at regular intervals by jets
of gas, not very brilliantly, yet with lustre enough to show the damp
plaster of the ceiling and walls, and the massive stone pavement, the
crevices of which are oozy with moisture, not from the incumbent river,
but from hidden springs in the earth's deeper heart. There are two
parallel corridors, with a wall between, for the separate accommodation
of the double throng of foot-passengers, equestrians, and vehicles of
all kinds, which was expected to roll and reverberate continually
through the tunnel. Only one of them has ever been opened, and its
echoes are but feebly awakened by infrequent footfalls.

Yet there seem to be people who spend their lives here, and who
probably blink like owls, when, once or twice a year, perhaps, they
happen to climb into the sunshine. All along the corridor, which I
believe to be a mile in extent, we see stalls or shops in little
alcoves, kept principally by women; they were of a ripe age, I was glad
to observe, and certainly robbed England of none of its very moderate
supply of feminine loveliness by their deeper than tomb-like interment.
As you approach (and they are so accustomed to the dusky gaslight that
they read all your characteristics afar off), they assail you with
hungry entreaties to buy some of their merchandise, holding forth views
of the tunnel put up in cases of Derbyshire spar, with a magnifying
glass at one end to make the vista more effective. They offer you,
besides, cheap jewelry, sunny topazes, and resplendent emeralds for
sixpence, and diamonds as big as the Kohinoor at a not much heavier
cost, together with a multifarious trumpery which has died out of the
upper world to reappear in this Tartarean bazaar. That you may fancy
yourself still in the realms of the living, they urge you to partake of
cakes, candy, ginger-beer, and such small refreshment, more suitable,
however, for the shadowy appetite of ghosts than for the sturdy
stomachs of Englishmen. The most capacious of the shops contains a
dioramic exhibition of cities and scenes in the daylight world, with a
dreary glimmer of gas among them all; so that they serve well enough to
represent the dim, unsatisfactory remembrances that dead people might be
supposed to retain from their past lives, mixing them up with the
ghastliness of their unsubstantial state. I dwell the more upon these
trifles, and do my best to give them a mockery of importance, because,
if these are nothing, then all this elaborate contrivance and mighty
piece of work has been wrought in vain. The Englishman has burrowed
under the bed of his great river, and set ships of two or three thousand
tons a-rolling over his head, only to provide new sites for a few old
women to sell cakes and ginger-beer!

Yet the conception was a grand one; and though it has proved an absolute
failure, swallowing an immensity of toil and money, with annual returns
hardly sufficient to keep the pavement free from the ooze of
subterranean springs, yet it needs, I presume, only an expenditure three
or four (or, for aught I know, twenty) times as large, to make the
enterprise brilliantly successful. The descent is so great from the bank
of the river to its surface, and the tunnel dips so profoundly under the
river's bed, that the approaches on either side must commence a long way
off, in order to render the entrance accessible to horsemen or vehicles;
so that the larger part of the cost of the whole affair should have been
expended on its margins. It has turned out a sublime piece of folly; and
when the New-Zealander of distant ages shall have moralized sufficiently
among the ruins of London Bridge, he will bethink himself that somewhere
thereabout was the marvelous Tunnel, the very existence of which will
seem to him as incredible as that of the hanging gardens of Babylon. But
the Thames will long ago have broken through the massive arch, and
choked up the corridors with mud and sand and with the large stones of
the structure itself, intermixed with skeletons of drowned people, the
rusty ironwork of sunken vessels, and the great many such precious and
curious things as a river always contrives to hide in its bosom; the
entrance will have been obliterated, and its very site forgotten beyond
the memory of twenty generations of men, and the whole neighborhood be
held a dangerous spot on account of the malaria; insomuch that the
traveler will make but a brief and careless inquisition for the traces
of the old wonder, and will stake his credit before the public, in some
Pacific Monthly of that day, that the story of it is but a myth, though
enriched with a spiritual profundity which he will proceed to unfold.

Yet it is impossible (for a Yankee, at least) to see so much magnificent
ingenuity thrown away, without trying to endow the unfortunate result
with some kind of usefulness, though perhaps widely different from the
purpose of its original conception. In former ages, the mile-long
corridors, with their numerous alcoves, might have been utilized as a
series of dungeons, the fittest of all possible receptacles for
prisoners of state. Dethroned monarchs and fallen statesmen would not
have needed to remonstrate against a domicile so spacious, so deeply
secluded from the world's scorn, and so admirably in accordance with
their thenceforward sunless fortunes. An alcove here might have suited
Sir Walter Raleigh better than that darksome hiding-place communicating
with the great chamber in the Tower, pacing from end to end of which he
meditated upon his "History of the World." His track would here have
been straight and narrow, indeed, and would therefore have lacked
somewhat of the freedom that his intellect demanded; and yet the length
to which his footsteps might have traveled forth and retraced themselves
would partly have harmonized his physical movement with the grand curves
and planetary returns of his thought, through cycles of majestic
periods. Having it in his mind to compose the world's history, methinks
he could have asked no better retirement than such a cloister as this,
insulated from all the seductions of mankind and womankind, deep beneath
their mysteries and motives, down into the heart of things, full of
personal reminiscences in order to the comprehensive measurement and
verification of historic records, seeing into the secrets of human
nature,--secrets that daylight never yet revealed to mortal,--but
detecting their whole scope and purport with the infallible eyes of
unbroken solitude and night. And then the shades of the old mighty men
might have risen from their still profounder abodes and joined him in
the dim corridor, treading beside him with an antique stateliness of
mien, telling him in melancholy tones, grand, but always melancholy, of
the greater ideas and purposes which their most renowned performances so
imperfectly carried out; that, magnificent successes in the view of all
posterity, they were but failures to those who planned them. As Raleigh
was a navigator, Noah would have explained to him the peculiarities of
construction that made the ark so seaworthy; as Raleigh was a statesman,
Moses would have discussed with him the principles of laws and
government; as Raleigh was a soldier, Cæsar and Hannibal would have held
debate in his presence, with this martial student for their umpire; as
Raleigh was a poet, David, or whatever most illustrious bard he might
call up, would have touched his harp, and made manifest all the true
significance of the past by means of song and the subtle intelligences
of music.

Meanwhile, I had forgotten that Sir Walter Raleigh's century knew
nothing of gaslight, and that it would require a prodigious and wasteful
expenditure of tallow-candles to illuminate the tunnel sufficiently to
discern even a ghost. On this account, however, it would be all the
more suitable place of confinement for a metaphysician, to keep him from
bewildering mankind with his shadowy speculations; and, being shut off
from external converse, the dark corridor would help him to make rich
discoveries in those cavernous regions and mysterious by-paths of the
intellect, which he had so long accustomed himself to explore. But how
would every successive age rejoice in so secure a habitation for its
reformers, and especially for each best and wisest man that happened to
be then alive! He seeks to burn up our whole system of society, under
pretense of purifying it from its abuses! Away with him into the tunnel,
and let him begin by setting the Thames on fire, if he is able!

If not precisely these, yet akin to these were some of the fantasies
that haunted me as I passed under the river: for the place is suggestive
of such idle and irresponsible stuff by its own abortive character, its
lack of whereabout on upper earth, or any solid foundation of realities.
Could I have looked forward a few years, I might have regretted that
American enterprise had not provided a similar tunnel, under the Hudson
or the Potomac, for the convenience of our National Government in times
hardly yet gone by. It would be delightful to clap up all the enemies of
our peace and Union in the dark together, and there let them abide,
listening to the monotonous roll of the river above their heads, or
perhaps in a state of miraculously suspended animation, until,--be it
after months, years, or centuries,--when the turmoil shall be all over,
the Wrong washed away in blood (since that must needs be the cleansing
fluid), and the Right firmly rooted in the soil which that blood will
have enriched, they might crawl forth again and catch a single glimpse
at their redeemed country, and feel it to be a better land than they
deserve, and die!

I was not sorry when the daylight reached me after a much briefer abode
in the nether regions than, I fear, would await the troublesome
personages just hinted at. Emerging on the Surrey side of the Thames, I
found myself in Rotherhithe, a neighborhood not unfamiliar to the
readers of old books of maritime adventure. There being a ferry hard by
the mouth of the tunnel, I recrossed the river in the primitive fashion
of an open boat, which the conflict of wind and tide, together with the
swash and swell of the passing steamers, tossed high and low rather
tumultuously. This inquietude of our frail skiff (which, indeed, bobbed
up and down like a cork) so much alarmed an old lady, the only other
passenger, that the boatmen essayed to comfort her. "Never fear,
mother!" grumbled one of them; "we'll make the river as smooth as we can
for you. We'll get a plane, and plane down the waves!" The joke may not
read very brilliantly; but I make bold to record it as the only specimen
that reached my ears of the old, rough water-wit for which the Thames
used to be so celebrated. Passing directly along the line of the sunken
tunnel, we landed in Wapping, which I should have presupposed to be the
most tarry and pitchy spot on earth, swarming with old salts, and full
of warm, bustling, coarse, homely, and cheerful life. Nevertheless, it
turned out to be a cold and torpid neighborhood, mean, shabby, and
unpicturesque, both as to its buildings and inhabitants: the latter
comprising (so far as was visible to me) not a single unmistakable
sailor, though plenty of land-sharks, who get a half-dishonest
livelihood by business connected with the sea. Ale and spirit vaults
(as petty drinking-establishments are styled in England, pretending to
contain vast cellars full of liquor within the compass of ten feet
square above ground) were particularly abundant, together with apples,
oranges, and oysters, the stalls of fishmongers and butchers, and
slop-shops, where blue jackets and duck trousers swung and capered
before the doors. Everything was on the poorest scale, and the place
bore an aspect of unredeemable decay. From this remote point of London I
strolled leisurely towards the heart of the city; while the streets, at
first but thinly occupied by man or vehicle, got more and more thronged
with foot-passengers, carts, drays, cabs, and the all-pervading and
all-accommodating omnibus. But I lack courage, and feel that I should
lack perseverance, as the gentlest reader would lack patience, to
undertake a descriptive stroll through London streets; more especially
as there would be a volume ready for the printer before we could reach a
midway resting-place at Charing Cross. It will be the easier course to
step aboard another passing steamer, and continue our trip up the
Thames.

The next notable group of objects is an assemblage of ancient walls,
battlements, and turrets, out of the midst of which rises prominently
one great square tower, of a grayish hue, bordered with white stone, and
having a small turret at each corner of the roof. This central structure
is the White Tower, and the whole circuit of ramparts and inclosed
edifices constitutes what is known in English history, and still more
widely and impressively in English poetry, as the Tower. A crowd of
river-craft are generally moored in front of it; but if we look sharply
at the right moment under the base of the rampart, we may catch a
glimpse of an arched water-entrance, half submerged, past which the
Thames glides as indifferently as if it were the mouth of a city-kennel.
Nevertheless, it is the Traitor's Gate, a dreary kind of triumphal
passage-way (now supposed to be shut up and barred forever), through
which a multitude of noble and illustrious personages have entered the
Tower and found it a brief resting-place on their way to heaven. Passing
it many times, I never observed that anybody glanced at this shadowy and
ominous trap-door, save myself. It is well that America exists, if it
were only that her vagrant children may be impressed and affected by
the historical monuments of England in a degree of which the native
inhabitants are evidently incapable. These matters are too familiar, too
real, and too hopelessly built in amongst and mixed up with the common
objects and affairs of life, to be easily susceptible of imaginative
coloring in their minds; and even their poets and romancers feel it a
toil, and almost a delusion, to extract poetic material out of what
seems embodied poetry itself to an American. An Englishman cares nothing
about the Tower, which to us is a haunted castle in dream-land. That
honest and excellent gentleman, the late Mr. G. P. R. James (whose
mechanical ability, one might have supposed, would nourish itself by
devouring every old stone of such a structure), once assured me that he
had never in his life set eyes upon the Tower, though for years an
historic novelist in London.

Not to spend a whole summer's day upon the voyage, we will suppose
ourselves to have reached London Bridge, and thence to have taken
another steamer for a farther passage up the river. But here the
memorable objects succeed each other so rapidly that I can spare but a
single sentence even for the great Dome, though I deem it more
picturesque, in that dusky atmosphere, than St. Peter's in its clear
blue sky.[8] I must mention, however (since everything connected with
royalty is especially interesting to my dear countrymen), that I once
saw a large and beautiful barge, splendidly gilded and ornamented, and
overspread with a rich covering, lying at the pier nearest to St. Paul's
Cathedral; it had the royal banner of Great Britain displayed, besides
being decorated with a number of other flags; and many footmen (who are
universally the grandest and gaudiest objects to be seen in England at
this day, and these were regal ones, in a bright scarlet livery
bedizened with gold-lace, and white silk stockings) were in attendance.
I know not what festive or ceremonial occasion may have drawn out this
pageant; after all, it might have been merely a city-spectacle,
appertaining to the Lord Mayor; but the sight had its value in bringing
vividly before me the grand old times when the sovereign and nobles were
accustomed to use the Thames as the high street of the metropolis, and
join in pompous processions upon it; whereas, the desuetude of such
customs nowadays has caused the whole show of river-life to consist in a
multitude of smoke-begrimed steamers. An analogous change has taken
place in the streets, where cabs and the omnibus have crowded out a rich
variety of vehicles; and thus life gets more monotonous in hue from age
to age, and appears to seize every opportunity to strip off a bit of its
gold-lace among the wealthier classes, and to make itself decent in the
lower ones.

[8] St. Paul's appeared to me unspeakably grand and noble, and the more
so from the throng and bustle continually going on around its base,
without in the least disturbing the sublime repose of its great dome,
and, indeed, of all its massive height and breadth. Other edifices may
crowd close to its foundation, and people may tramp as they like about
it; but still the great cathedral is as quiet and serene as if it stood
in the middle of Salisbury Plain. There cannot be anything else in its
way so good in the world as just this effect of St. Paul's in the very
heart and densest tumult of London. I do not know whether the church is
built of marble, or of whatever other white or nearly white material;
but in the time that it has been standing there, it has grown black with
the smoke of ages, through which there are, nevertheless, gleams of
white, that make a most picturesque impression on the whole. It is much
better than staring white; the edifice would not be nearly so grand
without this drapery of black.--II. 91.

[Illustration: _Tower of London._]

Yonder is Whitefriars, the old rowdy Alsatia, now wearing as decorous a
face as any other portion of London; and, adjoining it, the avenues and
brick squares of the Temple, with that historic garden, close upon
the river-side, and still rich in shrubbery and flowers, where the
partisans of York and Lancaster plucked the fatal roses, and scattered
their pale and bloody petals over so many English battle-fields. Hard
by, we see the long white front or rear of Somerset House, and, farther
on, rise the two new Houses of Parliament, with a huge unfinished tower
already hiding its imperfect summit in the smoky canopy,--the whole vast
and cumbrous edifice a specimen of the best that modern architecture can
effect, elaborately imitating the masterpieces of those simple ages when
men "builded better than they knew."[9] Close by it, we have a glimpse
of the roof and upper towers of the holy Abbey; while that gray,
ancestral pile on the opposite side of the river is Lambeth Palace, a
venerable group of halls and turrets, chiefly built of brick, but with
at least one large tower of stone.[10] In our course, we have passed
beneath half a dozen bridges, and, emerging out of the black heart of
London, shall soon reach a cleanly suburb, where old Father Thames, if I
remember, begins to put on an aspect of unpolluted innocence. And now we
look back upon the mass of innumerable roofs, out of which rise
steeples, towers, columns, and the great crowning Dome,--look back, in
short, upon that mystery of the world's proudest city, amid which a man
so longs and loves to be; not, perhaps, because it contains much that is
positively admirable and enjoyable, but because, at all events, the
world has nothing better. The cream of external life is there; and
whatever merely intellectual or material good we fail to find perfect in
London, we may as well content ourselves to seek that unattainable thing
no farther on this earth.

[9] After coming out of the Abbey, we looked at the two Houses of
Parliament, directly across the way,--an immense structure, and
certainly most splendid, built of a beautiful warm-colored stone. The
building has a very elaborate finish, and delighted me at first; but by
and by I began to be sensible of a weariness in the effect, a lack of
variety in the plan and ornament, a deficiency of invention; so that
instead of being more and more interested the longer one looks, as is
the case with an old Gothic edifice, and continually reading deeper into
it, one finds that one has seen all in seeing a little piece, and that
the magnificent palace has nothing better to show one or to do for one.
It is wonderful how the old weather-stained and smoke-blackened Abbey
shames down this brand-newness; not that the Parliament Houses are not
fine objects to look at, too.--II. 105.

[10] It stands immediately on the bank of the river, not far above the
bridge. We merely walked round it, and saw only an old stone tower or
two, partially renewed with brick, and a high connecting wall, within
which appeared gables and other portions of the palace, all of an
ancient plan and venerable aspect, though evidently much patched up and
restored in the course of the many ages since its foundation.--II. 193.

[Illustration: _St. Paul's Cathedral._]

The steamer terminates its trip at Chelsea, an old town endowed with a
prodigious number of pothouses, and some famous gardens, called the
Cremorne, for public amusement. The most noticeable thing, however, is
Chelsea Hospital, which, like that of Greenwich, was founded, I believe,
by Charles II. (whose bronze statue, in the guise of an old Roman,
stands in the centre of the quadrangle), and appropriated as a home for
aged and infirm soldiers of the British army. The edifices are of three
stories, with windows in the high roofs, and are built of dark, sombre
brick, with stone edgings and facings. The effect is by no means that of
grandeur (which is somewhat disagreeably an attribute of Greenwich
Hospital), but a quiet and venerable neatness. At each extremity of the
street-front there is a spacious and hospitably open gateway, lounging
about which I saw some gray veterans in long scarlet coats of an antique
fashion, and the cocked hats of a century ago, or occasionally a modern
foraging-cap. Almost all of them moved with a rheumatic gait, two or
three stumped on wooden legs, and here and there an arm was missing.
Inquiring of one of these fragmentary heroes whether a stranger could be
admitted to see the establishment, he replied most cordially, "Oh yes,
sir,--anywhere! Walk in and go where you please,--upstairs, or
anywhere!" So I entered, and, passing along the inner side of the
quadrangle, came to the door of the chapel, which forms a part of the
contiguity of edifices next the street. Here another pensioner, an old
warrior of exceedingly peaceable and Christian demeanor, touched his
three-cornered hat and asked if I wished to see the interior; to which I
assenting, he unlocked the door, and we went in.

The chapel consists of a great hall with a vaulted roof, and over the
altar is a large painting in fresco, the subject of which I did not
trouble myself to make out. More appropriate adornments of the place,
dedicated as well to martial reminiscences as religious worship, are the
long ranges of dusty and tattered banners, that hang from their staves
all round the ceiling of the chapel. They are trophies of battles
fought and won in every quarter of the world, comprising the captured
flags of all the nations with whom the British lion has waged war since
James II.'s time,--French, Dutch, East Indian, Prussian, Russian,
Chinese, and American,--collected together in this consecrated spot, not
to symbolize that there shall be no more discord upon earth, but
drooping over the aisle in sullen, though peaceable, humiliation. Yes, I
said "American" among the rest; for the good old pensioner mistook me
for an Englishman, and failed not to point out (and, methought, with an
especial emphasis of triumph) some flags that had been taken at
Bladensburg and Washington. I fancied, indeed, that they hung a little
higher and drooped a little lower than any of their companions in
disgrace. It is a comfort, however, that their proud devices are already
indistinguishable, or nearly so, owing to dust and tatters and the kind
offices of the moths, and that they will soon rot from the banner-staves
and be swept out in unrecognized fragments from the chapel-door.

It is a good method of teaching a man how imperfectly cosmopolitan he
is, to show him his country's flag occupying a position of dishonor in
a foreign land. But, in truth, the whole system of a people crowing over
its military triumphs had far better be dispensed with, both on account
of the ill-blood that it helps to keep fermenting among the nations, and
because it operates as an accumulative inducement to future generations
to aim at a kind of glory, the gain of which has generally proved more
ruinous than its loss. I heartily wish that every trophy of victory
might crumble away, and that every reminiscence or tradition of a hero,
from the beginning of the world to this day, could pass out of all men's
memories at once and forever. I might feel very differently, to be sure,
if we Northerners had anything especially valuable to lose by the fading
of those illuminated names.

I gave the pensioner (but I am afraid there may have been a little
affectation in it) a magnificent guerdon of all the silver I had in my
pocket, to requite him for having unintentionally stirred up my
patriotic susceptibilities. He was a meek-looking, kindly old man, with
a humble freedom and affability of manner that made it pleasant to
converse with him. Old soldiers, I know not why, seem to be more
accostable than old sailors. One is apt to hear a growl beneath the
smoothest courtesy of the latter. The mild veteran, with his peaceful
voice, and gentle reverend aspect, told me that he had fought at a
cannon all through the Battle of Waterloo, and escaped unhurt; he had
now been in the hospital four or five years, and was married, but
necessarily underwent a separation from his wife, who lived outside of
the gates. To my inquiry whether his fellow-pensioners were comfortable
and happy, he answered, with great alacrity, "Oh yes, sir!" qualifying
his evidence, after a moment's consideration, by saying in an undertone,
"There are some people, your Honor knows, who could not be comfortable
anywhere." I did know it, and fear that the system of Chelsea Hospital
allows too little of that wholesome care and regulation of their own
occupations and interests which might assuage the sting of life to those
naturally uncomfortable individuals by giving them something external to
think about. But my old friend here was happy in the hospital, and by
this time, very likely, is happy in heaven, in spite of the bloodshed
that he may have caused by touching off a cannon at Waterloo.

Crossing Battersea Bridge, in the neighborhood of Chelsea, I remember
seeing a distant gleam of the Crystal Palace, glimmering afar in the
afternoon sunshine like an imaginary structure,--an air-castle by chance
descended upon earth, and resting there one instant before it vanished,
as we sometimes see a soap-bubble touch unharmed on the carpet,--a thing
of only momentary visibility and no substance, destined to be
overburdened and crushed down by the first cloud-shadow that might fall
upon that spot. Even as I looked, it disappeared.[11] Shall I attempt a
picture of this exhalation of modern ingenuity, or what else shall I try
to paint? Everything in London and its vicinity has been depicted
innumerable times, but never once translated into intelligible images;
it is an "old, old story," never yet told, nor to be told. While writing
these reminiscences, I am continually impressed with the futility of
the effort to give any creative truth to my sketch, so that it might
produce such pictures in the reader's mind as would cause the original
scenes to appear familiar when afterwards beheld. Nor have other writers
often been more successful in representing definite objects
prophetically to my own mind. In truth, I believe that the chief delight
and advantage of this kind of literature is not for any real information
that it supplies to untraveled people, but for reviving the
recollections and reawakening the emotions of persons already acquainted
with the scenes described. Thus I found an exquisite pleasure, the other
day, in reading Mr. Tuckerman's "Month in England,"--a fine example of
the way in which a refined and cultivated American looks at the Old
Country, the things that he naturally seeks there, and the modes of
feeling and reflection which they excite. Correct outlines avail little
or nothing, though truth of coloring may be somewhat more efficacious.
Impressions, however, states of mind produced by interesting and
remarkable objects, these, if truthfully and vividly recorded, may work
a genuine effect, and, though but the result of what we see, go further
towards representing the actual scene than any direct effort to paint
it. Give the emotions that cluster about it, and, without being able to
analyze the spell by which it is summoned up, you get something like a
simulachre of the object in the midst of them. From some of the above
reflections I draw the comfortable inference, that, the longer and
better known a thing may be, so much the more eligible is it as the
subject of a descriptive sketch.

[11] The Crystal Palace gleamed in the sunshine; but I do not think a
very impressive edifice can be built of glass,--light and airy, to be
sure, but still it will be no other than an overgrown conservatory. It
is unlike anything else in England; uncongenial with the English
character, without privacy, destitute of mass, weight, and shadow,
unsusceptible of ivy, lichens, or any mellowness from age.--II. 135.

On a Sunday afternoon, I passed through a side-entrance in the
time-blackened wall of a place of worship, and found myself among a
congregation assembled in one of the transepts and the immediately
contiguous portion of the nave. It was a vast old edifice, spacious
enough, within the extent covered by its pillared roof and overspread by
its stone pavement, to accommodate the whole of church-going London, and
with a far wider and loftier concave than any human power of lungs could
fill with audible prayer. Oaken benches were arranged in the transept,
on one of which I seated myself, and joined, as well as I knew how, in
the sacred business that was going forward. But when it came to the
sermon, the voice of the preacher was puny, and so were his thoughts,
and both seemed impertinent at such a time and place, where he and all
of us were bodily included within a sublime act of religion, which could
be seen above and around us and felt beneath our feet. The structure
itself was the worship of the devout men of long ago, miraculously
preserved in stone without losing an atom of its fragrance and fervor;
it was a kind of anthem-strain that they had sung and poured out of the
organ in centuries gone by; and being so grand and sweet, the Divine
benevolence had willed it to be prolonged for the behoof of auditors
unborn. I therefore came to the conclusion, that, in my individual case,
it would be better and more reverent to let my eyes wander about the
edifice than to fasten them and my thoughts on the evidently uninspired
mortal who was venturing--and felt it no venture at all--to speak here
above his breath.

The interior of Westminster Abbey (for the reader recognized it, no
doubt, the moment we entered) is built of rich brown stone; and the
whole of it--the lofty roof, the tall, clustered pillars, and the
pointed arches--appears to be in consummate repair. At all points where
decay has laid its finger, the structure is clamped with iron or
otherwise carefully protected; and being thus watched over,--whether as
a place of ancient sanctity, a noble specimen of Gothic art, or an
object of national interest and pride,--it may reasonably be expected to
survive for as many ages as have passed over it already. It was sweet to
feel its venerable quietude, its long-enduring peace, and yet to observe
how kindly and even cheerfully it received the sunshine of to-day, which
fell from the great windows into the fretted aisles and arches that laid
aside somewhat of their aged gloom to welcome it. Sunshine always seems
friendly to old abbeys, churches, and castles, kissing them, as it were,
with a more affectionate, though still reverential familiarity, than it
accords to edifices of later date. A square of golden light lay on the
sombre pavement of the nave, afar off, falling through the grand western
entrance, the folding leaves of which were wide open, and afforded
glimpses of people passing to and fro in the outer world, while we sat
dimly enveloped in the solemnity of antique devotion. In the south
transept, separated from us by the full breadth of the minster, there
were painted glass windows, of which the uppermost appeared to be a
great orb of many-colored radiance, being, indeed, a cluster of saints
and angels whose glorified bodies formed the rays of an aureole
emanating from a cross in the midst. These windows are modern, but
combine softness with wonderful brilliancy of effect. Through the
pillars and arches, I saw that the walls in that distant region of the
edifice were almost wholly incrusted with marble, now grown yellow with
time, no blank, unlettered slabs, but memorials of such men as their
respective generations deemed wisest and bravest. Some of them were
commemorated merely by inscriptions on mural tablets, others by
sculptured bas-reliefs, others (once famous, but now forgotten, generals
or admirals, these) by ponderous tombs that aspired towards the roof of
the aisle, or partly curtained the immense arch of a window. These
mountains of marble were peopled with the sisterhood of Allegory, winged
trumpeters, and classic figures in full-bottomed wigs; but it was
strange to observe how the old Abbey melted all such absurdities into
the breadth of its own grandeur, even magnifying itself by what would
elsewhere have been ridiculous. Methinks it is the test of Gothic
sublimity to overpower the ridiculous without deigning to hide it; and
these grotesque monuments of the last century answer a similar purpose
with the grinning faces which the old architects scattered among their
most solemn conceptions.

From these distant wanderings (it was my first visit to Westminster
Abbey, and I would gladly have taken it all in at a glance) my eyes came
back and began to investigate what was immediately about me in the
transept. Close at my elbow was the pedestal of Canning's statue. Next
beyond it was a massive tomb, on the spacious tablet of which reposed
the full-length figures of a marble lord and lady, whom an inscription
announced to be the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle,--the historic Duke of
Charles I.'s time, and the fantastic Duchess, traditionally remembered
by her poems and plays. She was of a family, as the record on her tomb
proudly informed us, of which all the brothers had been valiant and all
the sisters virtuous. A recent statue of Sir John Malcolm, the new
marble as white as snow, held the next place; and near by was a mural
monument and bust of Sir Peter Warren. The round visage of this old
British admiral has a certain interest for a New-Englander, because it
was by no merit of his own (though he took care to assume it as such),
but by the valor and warlike enterprise of our colonial forefathers,
especially the stout men of Massachusetts, that he won rank and renown,
and a tomb in Westminster Abbey. Lord Mansfield, a huge mass of marble
done into the guise of a judicial gown and wig, with a stern face in the
midst of the latter, sat on the other side of the transept; and on the
pedestal beside him was a figure of Justice, holding forth, instead of
the customary grocer's scales, an actual pair of brass steelyards. It is
an ancient and classic instrument, undoubtedly; but I had supposed that
Portia (when Shylock's pound of flesh was to be weighed) was the only
judge that ever really called for it in a court of justice. Pitt and Fox
were in the same distinguished company; and John Kemble, in Roman
costume, stood not far off, but strangely shorn of the dignity that is
said to have enveloped him like a mantle in his lifetime. Perhaps the
evanescent majesty of the stage is incompatible with the long endurance
of marble and the solemn reality of the tomb; though, on the other
hand, almost every illustrious personage here represented has been
invested with more or less of stage-trickery by his sculptor. In truth,
the artist (unless there be a divine efficacy in his touch, making
evident a heretofore hidden dignity in the actual form) feels it an
imperious law to remove his subject as far from the aspect of ordinary
life as may be possible without sacrificing every trace of resemblance.
The absurd effect of the contrary course is very remarkable in the
statue of Mr. Wilberforce, whose actual self, save for the lack of
color, I seemed to behold, seated just across the aisle.

This excellent man appears to have sunk into himself in a sitting
posture, with a thin leg crossed over his knee, a book in one hand, and
a finger of the other under his chin, I believe, or applied to the side
of his nose, or to some equally familiar purpose; while his exceedingly
homely and wrinkled face, held a little on one side, twinkles at you
with the shrewdest complacency, as if he were looking right into your
eyes, and twigged something there which you had half a mind to conceal
from him. He keeps this look so pertinaciously that you feel it to be
insufferably impertinent, and bethink yourself what common ground there
may be between yourself and a stone image, enabling you to resent it. I
have no doubt that the statue is as like Mr. Wilberforce as one pea to
another, and you might fancy, that, at some ordinary moment, when he
least expected it, and before he had time to smooth away his knowing
complication of wrinkles, he had seen the Gorgon's head, and whitened
into marble,--not only his personal self, but his coat and
small-clothes, down to a button and the minutest crease of the cloth.
The ludicrous result marks the impropriety of bestowing the age-long
duration of marble upon small, characteristic individualities, such as
might come within the province of waxen imagery. The sculptor should
give permanence to the figure of a great man in his mood of broad and
grand composure, which would obliterate all mean peculiarities; for, if
the original were unaccustomed to such a mood, or if his features were
incapable of assuming the guise, it seems questionable whether he could
really have been entitled to a marble immortality. In point of fact,
however, the English face and form are seldom statuesque, however
illustrious the individual.

It ill becomes me, perhaps, to have lapsed into this mood of half-jocose
criticism in describing my first visit to Westminster Abbey, a spot
which I had dreamed about more reverentially, from my childhood upward,
than any other in the world, and which I then beheld, and now look back
upon, with profound gratitude to the men who built it, and a kindly
interest, I may add, in the humblest personage that has contributed his
little all to its impressiveness, by depositing his dust or his memory
there. But it is a characteristic of this grand edifice that it permits
you to smile as freely under the roof of its central nave as if you
stood beneath the yet grander canopy of heaven. Break into laughter, if
you feel inclined, provided the vergers do not hear it echoing among the
arches. In an ordinary church you would keep your countenance for fear
of disturbing the sanctities or proprieties of the place; but you need
leave no honest and decorous portion of your human nature outside of
these benign and truly hospitable walls. Their mild awfulness will take
care of itself. Thus it does no harm to the general impression, when you
come to be sensible that many of the monuments are ridiculous, and
commemorate a mob of people who are mostly forgotten in their graves,
and few of whom ever deserved any better boon from posterity. You
acknowledge the force of Sir Godfrey Kneller's objection to being buried
in Westminster Abbey, because "they do bury fools there!" Nevertheless,
these grotesque carvings of marble, that break out in dingy-white
blotches on the old freestone of the interior walls, have come there by
as natural a process as might cause mosses and ivy to cluster about the
external edifice; for they are the historical and biographical record of
each successive age, written with its own hand, and all the truer for
the inevitable mistakes, and none the less solemn for the occasional
absurdity. Though you entered the Abbey expecting to see the tombs only
of the illustrious, you are content at last to read many names, both in
literature and history, that have now lost the reverence of mankind, if
indeed they ever really possessed it. Let these men rest in peace. Even
if you miss a name or two that you hoped to find there, they may well be
spared. It matters little a few more or less, or whether Westminster
Abbey contains or lacks any one man's grave, so long as the Centuries,
each with the crowd of personages that it deemed memorable, have chosen
it as their place of honored sepulture, and laid themselves down under
its pavement. The inscriptions and devices on the walls are rich with
evidences of the fluctuating tastes, fashions, manners, opinions,
prejudices, follies, wisdoms, of the past, and thus they combine into a
more truthful memorial of their dead times than any individual
epitaph-maker ever meant to write.

When the services were over, many of the audience seemed inclined to
linger in the nave or wander away among the mysterious aisles; for there
is nothing in this world so fascinating as a Gothic minster, which
always invites you deeper and deeper into its heart both by vast
revelations and shadowy concealments. Through the open-work screen that
divides the nave from the chancel and choir, we could discern the gleam
of a marvelous window, but were debarred from entrance into that more
sacred precinct of the Abbey by the vergers. These vigilant officials
(doing their duty all the more strenuously because no fees could be
exacted from Sunday visitors) flourished their staves, and drove us
towards the grand entrance like a flock of sheep. Lingering through one
of the aisles, I happened to look down, and found my foot upon a stone
inscribed with this familiar exclamation, "_O rare Ben Jonson!_" and
remembered the story of stout old Ben's burial in that spot, standing
upright,--not, I presume, on account of any unseemly reluctance on his
part to lie down in the dust, like other men, but because standing-room
was all that could reasonably be demanded for a poet among the
slumberous notabilities of his age. It made me weary to think of
it!--such a prodigious length of time to keep one's feet!--apart from
the honor of the thing, it would certainly have been better for Ben to
stretch himself at ease in some country churchyard. To this day,
however, I fancy that there is a contemptuous alloy mixed up with the
admiration which the higher classes of English society profess for their
literary men.

Another day--in truth, many other days--I sought out Poets' Corner, and
found a sign-board and pointed finger directing the visitor to it, on
the corner house of a little lane leading towards the rear of the Abbey.
The entrance is at the southeastern end of the south transept, and it
is used, on ordinary occasions, as the only free mode of access to the
building. It is no spacious arch, but a small, lowly door, passing
through which, and pushing aside an inner screen that partly keeps out
an exceedingly chill wind, you find yourself in a dim nook of the Abbey,
with the busts of poets gazing at you from the otherwise bare stone-work
of the walls. Great poets, too; for Ben Jonson is right behind the door,
and Spenser's tablet is next, and Butler's on the same side of the
transept, and Milton's (whose bust you know at once by its resemblance
to one of his portraits, though older, more wrinkled, and sadder than
that) is close by, and a profile-medallion of Gray beneath it. A window
high aloft sheds down a dusky daylight on these and many other
sculptured marbles, now as yellow as old parchment, that cover the three
walls of the nook up to an elevation of about twenty feet above the
pavement. It seemed to me that I had always been familiar with the spot.
Enjoying a humble intimacy--and how much of my life had else been a
dreary solitude!--with many of its inhabitants, I could not feel myself
a stranger there. It was delightful to be among them. There was a
genial awe, mingled with a sense of kind and friendly presences about
me; and I was glad, moreover, at finding so many of them there together,
in fit companionship, mutually recognized and duly honored, all
reconciled now, whatever distant generations, whatever personal
hostility or other miserable impediment, had divided them far asunder
while they lived. I have never felt a similar interest in any other
tombstones, nor have I ever been deeply moved by the imaginary presence
of other famous dead people. A poet's ghost is the only one that
survives for his fellow-mortals, after his bones are in the dust,--and
he not ghostly, but cherishing many hearts with his own warmth in the
chillest atmosphere of life. What other fame is worth aspiring for? Or,
let me speak it more boldly, what other long-enduring fame can exist? We
neither remember nor care anything for the past, except as the poet has
made it intelligibly noble and sublime to our comprehension. The shades
of the mighty have no substance; they flit ineffectually about the
darkened stage where they performed their momentary parts, save when the
poet has thrown his own creative soul into them, and imparted a more
vivid life than ever they were able to manifest to mankind while they
dwelt in the body. And therefore--though he cunningly disguises himself
in their armor, their robes of state, or kingly purple--it is not the
statesman, the warrior, or the monarch that survives, but the despised
poet, whom they may have fed with their crumbs, and to whom they owe all
that they now are or have,--a name![12]

[12] _September 30, 1855._ Poets' Corner has never seemed like a strange
place to me; it has been familiar from the very first; at all events, I
cannot now recollect the previous conception, of which the reality has
taken the place. I seem always to have known that somewhat dim corner,
with the bare brown stone-work of the old edifice aloft, and a window
shedding down its light on the marble busts and tablets, yellow with
time, that cover the three walls of the nook up to a height of about
twenty feet. Prior's is the largest and richest monument. It is
observable that the bust and monument of Congreve are in a distant part
of the Abbey. His duchess probably thought it a degradation to bring a
gentleman among the beggarly poets.--II. 153.

_November 12, 1857._ We found our way to Poets' Corner, however, and
entered those holy precincts, which looked very dusky and grim in the
smoky light.... I was strongly impressed with the perception that very
commonplace people compose the great bulk of society in the home of the
illustrious dead. It is wonderful how few names there are that one cares
anything about a hundred years after their departure; but perhaps each
generation acts in good faith in canonizing its own men.... But the
fame of the buried person does not make the marble live,--the marble
keeps merely a cold and sad memory of a man who would else be forgotten.
No man who needs a monument ever ought to have one.--II. 565.

[Illustration: _Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey._]

In the foregoing paragraph I seem to have been betrayed into a flight
above or beyond the customary level that best agrees with me; but it
represents fairly enough the emotions with which I passed from Poets'
Corner into the chapels, which contain the sepulchres of kings and great
people. They are magnificent even now, and must have been inconceivably
so when the marble slabs and pillars wore their new polish, and the
statues retained the brilliant colors with which they were originally
painted, and the shrines their rich gilding, of which the sunlight still
shows a glimmer or a streak, though the sunbeam itself looks tarnished
with antique dust. Yet this recondite portion of the Abbey presents few
memorials of personages whom we care to remember. The shrine of Edward
the Confessor has a certain interest, because it was so long held in
religious reverence, and because the very dust that settled upon it was
formerly worth gold. The helmet and war-saddle of Henry V., worn at
Agincourt, and now suspended above his tomb, are memorable objects, but
more for Shakespeare's sake than the victor's own. Rank has been the
general passport to admission here. Noble and regal dust is as cheap as
dirt under the pavement. I am glad to recollect, indeed (and it is too
characteristic of the right English spirit not to be mentioned), one or
two gigantic statues of great mechanicians, who contributed largely to
the material welfare of England, sitting familiarly in their marble
chairs among forgotten kings and queens. Otherwise, the quaintness of
the earlier monuments, and the antique beauty of some of them, are what
chiefly gives them value. Nevertheless, Addison is buried among the men
of rank; not on the plea of his literary fame, however, but because he
was connected with nobility by marriage, and had been a Secretary of
State. His gravestone is inscribed with a resounding verse from
Tickell's lines to his memory, the only lines by which Tickell himself
is now remembered, and which (as I discovered a little while ago) he
mainly filched from an obscure versifier of somewhat earlier date.

Returning to Poets' Corner, I looked again at the walls, and wondered
how the requisite hospitality can be shown to poets of our own and the
succeeding ages. There is hardly a foot of space left, although room has
lately been found for a bust of Southey and a full-length statue of
Campbell. At best, only a little portion of the Abbey is dedicated to
poets, literary men, musical composers, and others of the gentle artist
breed, and even into that small nook of sanctity men of other pursuits
have thought it decent to intrude themselves. Methinks the tuneful
throng, being at home here, should recollect how they were treated in
their lifetime, and turn the cold shoulder, looking askance at nobles
and official personages, however worthy of honorable interment
elsewhere. Yet it shows aptly and truly enough what portion of the
world's regard and honor has heretofore been awarded to literary
eminence in comparison with other modes of greatness,--this dimly
lighted corner (nor even that quietly to themselves) in the vast minster
the walls of which are sheathed and hidden under marble that has been
wasted upon the illustrious obscure. Nevertheless, it may not be worth
while to quarrel with the world on this account; for, to confess the
very truth, their own little nook contains more than one poet whose
memory is kept alive by his monument, instead of imbuing the senseless
stone with a spiritual immortality,--men of whom you do not ask, "Where
is he?" but, "Why is he here?" I estimate that all the literary people
who really make an essential part of one's inner life, including the
period since English literature first existed, might have ample
elbow-room to sit down and quaff their draughts of Castaly round
Chaucer's broad, horizontal tombstone. These divinest poets consecrate
the spot, and throw a reflected glory over the humblest of their
companions. And as for the latter, it is to be hoped that they may have
long outgrown the characteristic jealousies and morbid sensibilities of
their craft, and have found out the little value (probably not amounting
to sixpence in immortal currency) of the posthumous renown which they
once aspired to win. It would be a poor compliment to a dead poet to
fancy him leaning out of the sky and snuffing up the impure breath of
earthly praise.

Yet we cannot easily rid ourselves of the notion that those who have
bequeathed us the inheritance of an undying song would fain be
conscious of its endless reverberations in the hearts of mankind, and
would delight, among sublimer enjoyments, to see their names emblazoned
in such a treasure-place of great memories as Westminster Abbey. There
are some men, at all events,--true and tender poets, moreover, and fully
deserving of the honor,--whose spirits, I feel certain, would linger a
little while about Poets' Corner, for the sake of witnessing their own
apotheosis among their kindred. They have had a strong natural yearning,
not so much for applause as sympathy, which the cold fortune of their
lifetime did but scantily supply; so that this unsatisfied appetite may
make itself felt upon sensibilities at once so delicate and retentive,
even a step or two beyond the grave. Leigh Hunt, for example, would be
pleased, even now, if he could learn that his bust had been reposited in
the midst of the old poets whom he admired and loved; though there is
hardly a man among the authors of to-day and yesterday whom the judgment
of Englishmen would be less likely to place there. He deserves it,
however, if not for his verse (the value of which I do not estimate,
never having been able to read it), yet for his delightful prose, his
unmeasured poetry, the inscrutable happiness of his touch, working soft
miracles by a life-process like the growth of grass and flowers. As with
all such gentle writers, his page sometimes betrayed a vestige of
affectation, but, the next moment, a rich, natural luxuriance overgrew
and buried it out of sight. I knew him a little, and (since, Heaven be
praised, few English celebrities whom I chanced to meet have
enfranchised my pen by their decease, and as I assume no liberties with
living men) I will conclude this rambling article by sketching my first
interview with Leigh Hunt.

He was then at Hammersmith, occupying a very plain and shabby little
house, in a contiguous range of others like it, with no prospect but
that of an ugly village street, and certainly nothing to gratify his
craving for a tasteful environment, inside or out. A slatternly
maid-servant opened the door for us, and he himself stood in the entry,
a beautiful and venerable old man, buttoned to the chin in a black
dress-coat, tall and slender, with a countenance quietly alive all over,
and the gentlest and most naturally courteous manner. He ushered us into
his little study, or parlor, or both,--a very forlorn room, with poor
paper-hangings and carpet, few books, no pictures that I remember, and
an awful lack of upholstery. I touch distinctly upon these external
blemishes and this nudity of adornment, not that they would be worth
mentioning in a sketch of other remarkable persons, but because Leigh
Hunt was born with such a faculty of enjoying all beautiful things that
it seemed as if Fortune did him as much wrong in not supplying them as
in withholding a sufficiency of vital breath from ordinary men. All
kinds of mild magnificence, tempered by his taste, would have become him
well; but he had not the grim dignity that assumes nakedness as the
better robe.

I have said that he was a beautiful old man. In truth, I never saw a
finer countenance, either as to the mould of features or the expression,
nor any that showed the play of feeling so perfectly without the
slightest theatrical emphasis. It was like a child's face in this
respect. At my first glimpse of him, when he met us in the entry, I
discerned that he was old, his long hair being white and his wrinkles
many; it was an aged visage, in short, such as I had not at all expected
to see, in spite of dates, because his books talk to the reader with
the tender vivacity of youth. But when he began to speak, and as he grew
more earnest in conversation, I ceased to be sensible of his age;
sometimes, indeed, its dusky shadow darkened through the gleam which his
sprightly thoughts diffused about his face, but then another flash of
youth came out of his eyes and made an illumination again. I never
witnessed such a wonderfully illusive transformation, before or since;
and, to this day, trusting only to my recollection, I should find it
difficult to decide which was his genuine and stable predicament,--youth
or age. I have met no Englishman whose manners seemed to me so
agreeable, soft, rather than polished, wholly unconventional, the
natural growth of a kindly and sensitive disposition without any
reference to rule, or else obedient to some rule so subtile that the
nicest observer could not detect the application of it.

His eyes were dark and very fine, and his delightful voice accompanied
their visible language like music. He appeared to be exceedingly
appreciative of whatever was passing among those who surrounded him, and
especially of the vicissitudes in the consciousness of the person to
whom he happened to be addressing himself at the moment. I felt that no
effect upon my mind of what he uttered, no emotion, however transitory,
in myself, escaped his notice, though not from any positive vigilance on
his part, but because his faculty of observation was so penetrative and
delicate; and to say the truth, it a little confused me to discern
always a ripple on his mobile face, responsive to any slightest breeze
that passed over the inner reservoir of my sentiments, and seemed thence
to extend to a similar reservoir within himself. On matters of feeling,
and within a certain depth, you might spare yourself the trouble of
utterance, because he already knew what you wanted to say, and perhaps a
little more than you would have spoken. His figure was full of gentle
movement, though, somehow, without disturbing its quietude; and as he
talked, he kept folding his hands nervously, and betokened in many ways
a fine and immediate sensibility, quick to feel pleasure or pain, though
scarcely capable, I should imagine, of a passionate experience in either
direction. There was not an English trait in him from head to foot,
morally, intellectually, or physically. Beef, ale, or stout, brandy or
port-wine, entered not at all into his composition. In his earlier life,
he appears to have given evidences of courage and sturdy principle, and
of a tendency to fling himself into the rough struggle of humanity on
the liberal side. It would be taking too much upon myself to affirm that
this was merely a projection of his fancy world into the actual, and
that he never could have hit a downright blow, and was altogether an
unsuitable person to receive one. I beheld him not in his armor, but in
his peacefulest robes. Nevertheless, drawing my conclusion merely from
what I saw, it would have occurred to me that his main deficiency was a
lack of grit. Though anything but a timid man, the combative and
defensive elements were not prominently developed in his character, and
could have been made available only when he put an unnatural force upon
his instincts. It was on this account, and also because of the fineness
of his nature generally, that the English appreciated him no better, and
left this sweet and delicate poet poor, and with scanty laurels, in his
declining age.

It was not, I think, from his American blood that Leigh Hunt derived
either his amiability or his peaceful inclinations; at least, I do not
see how we can reasonably claim the former quality as a national
characteristic, though the latter might have been fairly inherited from
his ancestors on the mother's side, who were Pennsylvania Quakers. But
the kind of excellence that distinguished him--his fineness, subtilty,
and grace--was that which the richest cultivation has heretofore tended
to develop in the happier examples of American genius, and which (though
I say it a little reluctantly) is perhaps what our future intellectual
advancement may make general among us. His person, at all events, was
thoroughly American, and of the best type, as were likewise his manners;
for we are the best as well as the worst mannered people in the world.

Leigh Hunt loved dearly to be praised. That is to say, he desired
sympathy as a flower seeks sunshine, and perhaps profited by it as much
in the richer depth of coloring that it imparted to his ideas. In
response to all that we ventured to express about his writings (and, for
my part, I went quite to the extent of my conscience, which was a long
way, and there left the matter to a lady and a young girl, who happily
were with me), his face shone, and he manifested great delight, with a
perfect, and yet delicate, frankness, for which I loved him. He could
not tell us, he said, the happiness that such appreciation gave him; it
always took him by surprise, he remarked, for--perhaps because he
cleaned his own boots, and performed other little ordinary offices for
himself--he never had been conscious of anything wonderful in his own
person. And then he smiled, making himself and all the poor little
parlor about him beautiful thereby. It is usually the hardest thing in
the world to praise a man to his face; but Leigh Hunt received the
incense with such gracious satisfaction (feeling it to be sympathy, not
vulgar praise), that the only difficulty was to keep the enthusiasm of
the moment within the limit of permanent opinion. A storm had suddenly
come up while we were talking; the rain poured, the lightning flashed,
and the thunder broke; but I hope, and have great pleasure in believing,
that it was a sunny hour for Leigh Hunt. Nevertheless, it was not to my
voice that he most favorably inclined his ear, but to those of my
companions. Women are the fit ministers at such a shrine.

He must have suffered keenly in his lifetime, and enjoyed keenly,
keeping his emotions so much upon the surface as he seemed to do, and
convenient for everybody to play upon. Being of a cheerful temperament,
happiness had probably the upper-hand. His was a light, mildly joyous
nature, gentle, graceful, yet seldom attaining to that deepest grace
which results from power; for beauty, like woman, its human
representative, dallies with the gentle, but yields its consummate favor
only to the strong. I imagine that Leigh Hunt may have been more
beautiful when I met him, both in person and character, than in his
earlier days. As a young man, I could conceive of his being finical in
certain moods, but not now, when the gravity of age shed a venerable
grace about him. I rejoiced to hear him say that he was favored with
most confident and cheering anticipations in respect to a future life;
and there were abundant proofs, throughout our interview, of an
unrepining spirit, resignation, quiet relinquishment of the worldly
benefits that were denied him, thankful enjoyment of whatever he had to
enjoy, and piety, and hope shining onward into the dusk,--all of which
gave a reverential cast to the feeling with which we parted from him. I
wish that he could have had one full draught of prosperity before he
died. As a matter of artistic propriety, it would have been delightful
to see him inhabiting a beautiful house of his own, in an Italian
climate, with all sorts of elaborate upholstery and minute elegances
about him, and a succession of tender and lovely women to praise his
sweet poetry from morning to night. I hardly know whether it is my
fault, or the effect of a weakness in Leigh Hunt's character, that I
should be sensible of a regret of this nature, when, at the same time, I
sincerely believe that he has found an infinity of better things in the
world whither he has gone.

At our leave-taking he grasped me warmly by both hands, and seemed as
much interested in our whole party as if he had known us for years. All
this was genuine feeling, a quick, luxuriant growth out of his heart,
which was a soil for flower-seeds of rich and rare varieties, not
acorns, but a true heart, nevertheless. Several years afterwards I met
him for the last time at a London dinner-party, looking sadly broken
down by infirmities; and my final recollection of the beautiful old man
presents him arm in arm with, nay, if I mistake not, partly embraced and
supported by, another beloved and honored poet, whose minstrel-name,
since he has a week-day one for his personal occasions, I will venture
to speak. It was Barry Cornwall, whose kind introduction had first made
me known to Leigh Hunt.[13]

[13] Barry Cornwall, Mr. Procter, called on me a week or more ago, but I
happened not to be in the office. Saturday last he called again, and as
I had crossed to Rock Park he followed me thither. A plain,
middle-sized, English-looking gentleman, elderly, with short white hair,
and particularly quiet in his manners. He talks in a somewhat low tone
without emphasis, scarcely distinct.... His head has a good outline, and
would look well in marble. I liked him very well. He talked
unaffectedly, showing an author's regard to his reputation, and was
evidently pleased to hear of his American celebrity. He said that in his
younger days he was a scientific pugilist, and once took a journey to
have a sparring encounter with the Game-Chicken. Certainly no one would
have looked for a pugilist in this subdued old gentleman. He is now
Commissioner of Lunacy, and makes periodical circuits through the
country, attending to the business of his office. He is slightly deaf,
and this may be the cause of his unaccented utterance,--owing to his not
being able to regulate his voice exactly by his own ear.... He is a good
man, and much better expressed by his real name, Procter, than by his
poetical one, Barry Cornwall.... He took my hand in both of his at
parting....--I. 498.



XI.

OUTSIDE GLIMPSES OF ENGLISH POVERTY


Becoming an inhabitant of a great English town, I often turned aside
from the prosperous thoroughfares (where the edifices, the shops, and
the bustling crowd differed not so much from scenes with which I was
familiar in my own country), and went designedly astray among precincts
that reminded me of some of Dickens's grimiest pages. There I caught
glimpses of a people and a mode of life that were comparatively new to
my observation, a sort of sombre phantasmagoric spectacle, exceedingly
undelightful to behold, yet involving a singular interest and even
fascination in its ugliness.

Dirt, one would fancy, is plenty enough all over the world, being the
symbolic accompaniment of the foul incrustation which began to settle
over and bedim all earthly things as soon as Eve had bitten the apple;
ever since which hapless epoch, her daughters have chiefly been engaged
in a desperate and unavailing struggle to get rid of it. But the dirt of
a poverty-stricken English street is a monstrosity unknown on our side
of the Atlantic. It reigns supreme within its own limits, and is
inconceivable everywhere beyond them. We enjoy the great advantage, that
the brightness and dryness of our atmosphere keep everything clean that
the sun shines upon, converting the larger portion of our impurities
into transitory dust which the next wind can sweep away, in contrast
with the damp, adhesive grime that incorporates itself with all surfaces
(unless continually and painfully cleansed) in the chill moisture of the
English air. Then the all-pervading smoke of the city, abundantly
intermingled with the sable snow-flakes of bituminous coal, hovering
overhead, descending, and alighting on pavements and rich architectural
fronts, on the snowy muslin of the ladies, and the gentlemen's starched
collars and shirt-bosoms, invests even the better streets in a
half-mourning garb. It is beyond the resources of Wealth to keep the
smut away from its premises or its own fingers' ends; and as for
Poverty, it surrenders itself to the dark influence without a struggle.
Along with disastrous circumstances, pinching need, adversity so
lengthened out as to constitute the rule of life, there comes a certain
chill depression of the spirits which seems especially to shudder at
cold water. In view of so wretched a state of things, we accept the
ancient Deluge not merely as an insulated phenomenon, but as a
periodical necessity, and acknowledge that nothing less than such a
general washing-day could suffice to cleanse the slovenly old world of
its moral and material dirt.

Gin-shops, or what the English call spirit-vaults, are numerous in the
vicinity of these poor streets, and are set off with the magnificence of
gilded door-posts, tarnished by contact with the unclean customers who
haunt there. Ragged children come thither with old shaving-mugs, or
broken-nosed teapots, or any such make-shift receptacle, to get a little
poison or madness for their parents, who deserve no better requital at
their hands for having engendered them. Inconceivably sluttish women
enter at noonday and stand at the counter among boon-companions of both
sexes, stirring up misery and jollity in a bumper together, and quaffing
off the mixture with a relish. As for the men, they lounge there
continually, drinking till they are drunken,--drinking as long as they
have a halfpenny left,--and then, as it seemed to me, waiting for a
sixpenny miracle to be wrought in their pockets so as to enable them to
be drunken again. Most of these establishments have a significant
advertisement of "Beds," doubtless for the accommodation of their
customers in the interval between one intoxication and the next. I never
could find it in my heart, however, utterly to condemn these sad
revelers, and should certainly wait till I had some better consolation
to offer before depriving them of their dram of gin, though death itself
were in the glass; for methought their poor souls needed such fiery
stimulant to lift them a little way out of the smothering squalor of
both their outward and interior life, giving them glimpses and
suggestions, even if bewildering ones, of a spiritual existence that
limited their present misery. The temperance-reformers unquestionably
derive their commission from the Divine Beneficence, but have never been
taken fully into its counsels. All may not be lost, though those good
men fail.

Pawnbrokers' establishments--distinguished by the mystic symbol of the
three golden balls,--were conveniently accessible; though what personal
property these wretched people could possess, capable of being estimated
in silver or copper, so as to afford a basis for a loan, was a problem
that still perplexes me. Old clothesmen, likewise, dwelt hard by, and
hung out ancient garments to dangle in the wind. There were butchers'
shops, too, of a class adapted to the neighborhood, presenting no such
generously fattened carcasses as Englishmen love to gaze at in the
market, no stupendous halves of mighty beeves, no dead hogs, or muttons
ornamented with carved bas-reliefs of fat on their ribs and shoulders,
in a peculiarly British style of art,--not these, but bits and gobbets
of lean meat, selvages snipt off from steaks, tough and stringy morsels,
bare bones smitten away from joints by the cleaver; tripe, liver,
bullocks' feet, or whatever else was cheapest and divisible into the
smallest lots. I am afraid that even such delicacies came to many of
their tables hardly oftener than Christmas. In the windows of other
little shops you saw half a dozen wizened herrings; some eggs in a
basket, looking so dingily antique that your imagination smelt them;
fly-speckled biscuits, segments of a hungry cheese, pipes and papers of
tobacco. Now and then a sturdy milk-woman passed by with a wooden yoke
over her shoulders, supporting a pail on either side, filled with a
whitish fluid, the composition of which was water and chalk and the milk
of a sickly cow, who gave the best she had, poor thing! but could
scarcely make it rich or wholesome, spending her life in some close
city-nook and pasturing on strange food. I have seen, once or twice, a
donkey coming into one of these streets with panniers full of
vegetables, and departing with a return cargo of what looked like
rubbish and street-sweepings. No other commerce seemed to exist, except,
possibly, a girl might offer you a pair of stockings or a worked collar,
or a man whisper something mysterious about wonderfully cheap cigars.
And yet I remember seeing female hucksters in those regions, with their
wares on the edge of the sidewalk and their own seats right in the
carriage-way, pretending to sell half-decayed oranges and apples, toffy,
Ormskirk cakes, combs, and cheap jewelry, the coarsest kind of crockery,
and little plates of oysters,--knitting patiently all day long, and
removing their undiminished stock in trade at nightfall. All
indispensable importations from other quarters of the town were on a
remarkably diminutive scale: for example, the wealthier inhabitants
purchased their coal by the wheelbarrow-load, and the poorer ones by the
peck-measure. It was a curious and melancholy spectacle, when an
overladen coal-cart happened to pass through the street and drop a
handful or two of its burden in the mud, to see half a dozen women and
children scrambling for the treasure-trove, like a flock of hens and
chickens gobbling up some spilt corn. In this connection I may as well
mention a commodity of boiled snails (for such they appeared to me,
though probably a marine production) which used to be peddled from door
to door, piping hot, as an article of cheap nutriment.

The population of these dismal abodes appeared to consider the sidewalks
and middle of the street as their common hall. In a drama of low life,
the unity of place might be arranged rigidly according to the classic
rule, and the street be the one locality in which every scene and
incident should occur. Courtship, quarrels, plot and counterplot,
conspiracies for robbery and murder, family difficulties or
agreements,--all such matters, I doubt not, are constantly discussed or
transacted in this sky-roofed saloon, so regally hung with its sombre
canopy of coal-smoke. Whatever the disadvantages of the English climate,
the only comfortable or wholesome part of life, for the city poor, must
be spent in the open air. The stifled and squalid rooms where they lie
down at night, whole families and neighborhoods together, or sulkily
elbow one another in the daytime, when a settled rain drives them within
doors, are worse horrors than it is worth while (without a practical
object in view) to admit into one's imagination. No wonder that they
creep forth from the foul mystery of their interiors, stumble down from
their garrets, or scramble up out of their cellars, on the upper step of
which you may see the grimy housewife, before the shower is ended,
letting the raindrops gutter down her visage; while her children (an
impish progeny of cavernous recesses below the common sphere of
humanity) swarm into the daylight and attain all that they know of
personal purification in the nearest mud-puddle. It might almost make a
man doubt the existence of his own soul, to observe how Nature has
flung these little wretches into the street and left them there, so
evidently regarding them as nothing worth, and how all mankind acquiesce
in the great mother's estimate of her offspring. For, if they are to
have no immortality, what superior claim can I assert for mine? And how
difficult to believe that anything so precious as a germ of immortal
growth can have been buried under this dirt-heap, plunged into this
cesspool of misery and vice! As often as I beheld the scene, it affected
me with surprise and loathsome interest, much resembling, though in a
far intenser degree, the feeling with which, when a boy, I used to turn
over a plank or an old log that had long lain on the damp ground, and
found a vivacious multitude of unclean and devilish-looking insects
scampering to and fro beneath it. Without an infinite faith, there
seemed as much prospect of a blessed futurity for those hideous bugs and
many-footed worms as for these brethren of our humanity and co-heirs of
all our heavenly inheritance. Ah, what a mystery! Slowly, slowly, as
after groping at the bottom of a deep, noisome, stagnant pool, my hope
struggles upward to the surface, bearing the half-drowned body of a
child along with it, and heaving it aloft for its life, and my own life,
and all our lives. Unless these slime-clogged nostrils can be made
capable of inhaling celestial air, I know not how the purest and most
intellectual of us can reasonably expect ever to taste a breath of it.
The whole question of eternity is staked there. If a single one of those
helpless little ones be lost, the world is lost!

The women and children greatly preponderate in such places; the men
probably wandering abroad in quest of that daily miracle, a dinner and a
drink, or perhaps slumbering in the daylight that they may the better
follow out their cat-like rambles through the dark. Here are women with
young figures, but old, wrinkled, yellow faces, tanned and blear-eyed
with the smoke which they cannot spare from their scanty fires,--it
being too precious for its warmth to be swallowed by the chimney. Some
of them sit on the doorsteps, nursing their unwashed babies at bosoms
which we will glance aside from, for the sake of our mothers and all
womanhood, because the fairest spectacle is here the foulest. Yet
motherhood, in these dark abodes, is strangely identical with what we
have all known it to be in the happiest homes. Nothing, as I remember,
smote me with more grief and pity (all the more poignant because
perplexingly entangled with an inclination to smile) than to hear a
gaunt and ragged mother priding herself on the pretty ways of her ragged
and skinny infant, just as a young matron might, when she invites her
lady friends to admire her plump, white-robed darling in the nursery.
Indeed, no womanly characteristic seemed to have altogether perished out
of these poor souls. It was the very same creature whose tender torments
make the rapture of our young days, whom we love, cherish, and protect,
and rely upon in life and death, and whom we delight to see beautify her
beauty with rich robes and set it off with jewels, though now
fantastically masquerading in a garb of tatters, wholly unfit for her to
handle. I recognized her, over and over again, in the groups round a
doorstep or in the descent of a cellar, chatting with prodigious
earnestness about intangible trifles, laughing for a little jest,
sympathizing at almost the same instant with one neighbor's sunshine and
another's shadow; wise, simple, sly, and patient, yet easily perturbed,
and breaking into small feminine ebullitions of spite, wrath, and
jealousy, tornadoes of a moment, such as vary the social atmosphere of
her silken-skirted sisters, though smothered into propriety by dint of a
well-bred habit. Not that there was an absolute deficiency of
good-breeding, even here. It often surprised me to witness a courtesy
and deference among these ragged folks, which, having seen it, I did not
thoroughly believe in, wondering whence it should have come. I am
persuaded, however, that there were laws of intercourse which they never
violated,--a code of the cellar, the garret, the common staircase, the
doorstep, and the pavement, which, perhaps, had as deep a foundation in
natural fitness as the code of the drawing-room.

Yet again I doubt whether I may not have been uttering folly in the last
two sentences, when I reflect how rude and rough these specimens of
feminine character generally were. They had a readiness with their hands
that reminded me of Molly Seagrim and other heroines in Fielding's
novels. For example, I have seen a woman meet a man in the street, and,
for no reason perceptible to me, suddenly clutch him by the hair and
cuff his ears,--an infliction which he bore with exemplary patience,
only snatching the very earliest opportunity to take to his heels. Where
a sharp tongue will not serve the purpose, they trust to the sharpness
of their finger-nails, or incarnate a whole vocabulary of vituperative
words in a resounding slap, or the downright blow of a doubled fist. All
English people, I imagine, are influenced in a far greater degree than
ourselves by this simple and honest tendency, in cases of disagreement,
to batter one another's persons; and whoever has seen a crowd of English
ladies (for instance, at the door of the Sistine Chapel, in Holy Week)
will be satisfied that their belligerent propensities are kept in
abeyance only by a merciless rigor on the part of society. It requires a
vast deal of refinement to spiritualize their large physical endowments.
Such being the case with the delicate ornaments of the drawing-room, it
is less to be wondered at that women who live mostly in the open air,
amid the coarsest kind of companionship and occupation, should carry on
the intercourse of life with a freedom unknown to any class of American
females, though still, I am resolved to think, compatible with a
generous breadth of natural propriety. It shocked me, at first, to see
them (of all ages, even elderly, as well as infants that could just
toddle across the street alone) going about in the mud and mire, or
through the dusky snow and slosh of a severe week in winter, with
petticoats high uplifted above bare, red feet and legs; but I was
comforted by observing that both shoes and stockings generally
reappeared with better weather, having been thriftily kept out of the
damp for the convenience of dry feet within doors. Their hardihood was
wonderful, and their strength greater than could have been expected from
such spare diet as they probably lived upon. I have seen them carrying
on their heads great burdens under which they walked as freely as if
they were fashionable bonnets; or sometimes the burden was huge enough
almost to cover the whole person, looked at from behind,--as in Tuscan
villages you may see the girls coming in from the country with great
bundles of green twigs upon their backs, so that they resemble
locomotive masses of verdure and fragrance. But these poor English women
seemed to be laden with rubbish, incongruous and indescribable, such as
bones and rags, the sweepings of the house and of the street, a
merchandise gathered up from what poverty itself had thrown away, a heap
of filthy stuff analogous to Christian's bundle of sin.

Sometimes, though very seldom, I detected a certain gracefulness among
the younger women that was altogether new to my observation. It was a
charm proper to the lowest class. One girl I particularly remember, in a
garb none of the cleanest and nowise smart, and herself exceedingly
coarse in all respects, but yet endowed with a sort of witchery, a
native charm, a robe of simple beauty and suitable behavior that she was
born in and had never been tempted to throw off, because she had really
nothing else to put on. Eve herself could not have been more natural.
Nothing was affected, nothing imitated; no proper grace was vulgarized
by an effort to assume the manners or adornments of another sphere. This
kind of beauty, arrayed in a fitness of its own, is probably vanishing
out of the world, and will certainly never be found in America, where
all the girls, whether daughters of the upper-tendom, the mediocrity,
the cottage, or the kennel, aim at one standard of dress and
deportment, seldom accomplishing a perfectly triumphant hit or an
utterly absurd failure. Those words, "genteel" and "ladylike," are
terrible ones, and do us infinite mischief, but it is because (at least,
I hope so) we are in a transition state, and shall emerge into a higher
mode of simplicity than has ever been known to past ages.

In such disastrous circumstances as I have been attempting to describe,
it was beautiful to observe what a mysterious efficacy still asserted
itself in character. A woman, evidently poor as the poorest of her
neighbors, would be knitting or sewing on the doorstep, just as fifty
other women were; but round about her skirts (though wofully patched)
you would be sensible of a certain sphere of decency, which, it seemed
to me, could not have been kept more impregnable in the cosiest little
sitting-room, where the teakettle on the hob was humming its good old
song of domestic peace. Maidenhood had a similar power. The evil habit
that grows upon us in this harsh world makes me faithless to my own
better perceptions; and yet I have seen girls in these wretched streets,
on whose virgin purity, judging merely from their impression on my
instincts as they passed by, I should have deemed it safe, at the
moment, to stake my life. The next moment, however, as the surrounding
flood of moral uncleanness surged over their footsteps, I would not have
staked a spike of thistle-down on the same wager. Yet the miracle was
within the scope of Providence, which is equally wise and equally
beneficent (even to those poor girls, though I acknowledge the fact
without the remotest comprehension of the mode of it), whether they were
pure or what we fellow-sinners call vile. Unless your faith be
deep-rooted and of most vigorous growth, it is the safer way not to turn
aside into this region so suggestive of miserable doubt. It was a place
"with dreadful faces thronged," wrinkled and grim with vice and
wretchedness; and, thinking over the line of Milton here quoted, I come
to the conclusion that those ugly lineaments which startled Adam and
Eve, as they looked backward to the closed gate of Paradise, were no
fiends from the pit, but the more terrible fore-shadowings of what so
many of their descendants were to be. God help them, and us likewise,
their brethren and sisters! Let me add, that, forlorn, ragged, careworn,
hopeless, dirty, haggard, hungry, as they were, the most pitiful thing
of all was to see the sort of patience with which they accepted their
lot, as if they had been born into the world for that and nothing else.
Even the little children had this characteristic in as perfect
development as their grandmothers.

The children, in truth, were the ill-omened blossoms from which another
harvest of precisely such dark fruitage as I saw ripened around me was
to be produced. Of course you would imagine these to be lumps of crude
iniquity, tiny vessels as full as they could hold of naughtiness; nor
can I say a great deal to the contrary. Small proof of parental
discipline could I discern, save when a mother (drunken, I sincerely
hope) snatched her own imp out of a group of pale, half-naked,
humor-eaten abortions that were playing and squabbling together in the
mud, turned up its tatters, brought down her heavy hand on its poor
little tenderest part, and let it go again with a shake. If the child
knew what the punishment was for, it was wiser than I pretend to be. It
yelled and went back to its playmates in the mud. Yet let me bear
testimony to what was beautiful, and more touching than anything that I
ever witnessed before in the intercourse of happier children. I allude
to the superintendence which some of these small people (too small, one
would think, to be sent into the street alone, had there been any other
nursery for them) exercised over still smaller ones. Whence they derived
such a sense of duty, unless immediately from God, I cannot tell; but it
was wonderful to observe the expression of responsibility in their
deportment, the anxious fidelity with which they discharged their unfit
office, the tender patience with which they linked their less pliable
impulses to the wayward footsteps of an infant, and let it guide them
whithersoever it liked. In the hollow-cheeked, large-eyed girl of ten,
whom I saw giving a cheerless oversight to her baby-brother, I did not
so much marvel at it. She had merely come a little earlier than usual to
the perception of what was to be her business in life. But I admired the
sickly-looking little boy, who did violence to his boyish nature by
making himself the servant of his little sister,--she too small to walk,
and he too small to take her in his arms,--and therefore working a kind
of miracle to transport her from one dirt-heap to another. Beholding
such works of love and duty, I took heart again, and deemed it not so
impossible, after all, for these neglected children to find a path
through the squalor and evil of their circumstances up to the gate of
heaven. Perhaps there was this latent good in all of them, though
generally they looked brutish, and dull even in their sports; there was
little mirth among them, nor even a fully awakened spirit of
blackguardism. Yet sometimes, again, I saw, with surprise and a sense as
if I had been asleep and dreaming, the bright, intelligent, merry face
of a child whose dark eyes gleamed with vivacious expression through the
dirt that incrusted its skin, like sunshine struggling through a very
dusty window-pane.

In these streets the belted and blue-coated policeman appears seldom in
comparison with the frequency of his occurrence in more reputable
thoroughfares. I used to think that the inhabitants would have ample
time to murder one another, or any stranger, like myself, who might
violate the filthy sanctities of the place, before the law could bring
up its lumbering assistance. Nevertheless, there is a supervision; nor
does the watchfulness of authority permit the populace to be tempted to
any outbreak. Once, in a time of dearth, I noticed a ballad-singer going
through the street hoarsely chanting some discordant strain in a
provincial dialect, of which I could only make out that it addressed the
sensibilities of the auditors on the score of starvation; but by his
side stalked the policeman, offering no interference, but watchful to
hear what this rough minstrel said or sang, and silence him, if his
effusion threatened to prove too soul-stirring. In my judgment, however,
there is little or no danger of that kind: they starve patiently, sicken
patiently, die patiently, not through resignation, but a diseased
flaccidity of hope. If ever they should do mischief to those above them,
it will probably be by the communication of some destructive pestilence;
for, so the medical men affirm, they suffer all the ordinary diseases
with a degree of virulence elsewhere unknown, and keep among themselves
traditionary plagues that have long ceased to afflict more fortunate
societies. Charity herself gathers her robe about her to avoid their
contact. It would be a dire revenge, indeed, if they were to prove their
claims to be reckoned of one blood and nature with the noblest and
wealthiest, by compelling them to inhale death through the diffusion of
their own poverty-poisoned atmosphere.

A true Englishman is a kind man at heart, but has an unconquerable
dislike to poverty and beggary. Beggars have heretofore been so strange
to an American that he is apt to become their prey, being recognized
through his national peculiarities, and beset by them in the streets.
The English smile at him, and say that there are ample public
arrangements for every pauper's possible need, that street charity
promotes idleness and vice, and that yonder personification of misery on
the pavement will lay up a good day's profit, besides supping more
luxuriously than the dupe who gives him a shilling. By and by the
stranger adopts their theory and begins to practice upon it, much to his
own temporary freedom from annoyance, but not entirely without moral
detriment or sometimes a too late contrition. Years afterwards, it may
be, his memory is still haunted by some vindictive wretch whose cheeks
were pale and hunger-pinched, whose rags fluttered in the east-wind,
whose right arm was paralyzed and his left leg shriveled into a mere
nerveless stick, but whom he passed by remorselessly because an
Englishman chose to say that the fellow's misery looked too perfect, was
too artistically got up, to be genuine. Even allowing this to be true
(as, a hundred chances to one, it was), it would still have been a clear
case of economy to buy him off with a little loose silver, so that his
lamentable figure should not limp at the heels of your conscience all
over the world.[14] To own the truth, I provided myself with several
such imaginary persecutors in England, and recruited their number with
at least one sickly-looking wretch whose acquaintance I first made at
Assisi, in Italy, and, taking a dislike to something sinister in his
aspect, permitted him to beg early and late, and all day long, without
getting a single baiocco. At my latest glimpse of him, the villain
avenged himself, not by a volley of horrible curses as any other Italian
beggar would, but by taking an expression so grief-stricken, want-wrung,
hopeless, and withal resigned, that I could paint his lifelike portrait
at this moment. Were I to go over the same ground again, I would listen
to no man's theories, but buy the little luxury of beneficence at a
cheap rate, instead of doing myself a moral mischief by exuding a stony
incrustation over whatever natural sensibility I might possess.

[14] The natural man cries out against the philosophy that rejects
beggars. It is a thousand to one that they are impostors, but yet we do
ourselves a wrong by hardening our hearts against them.--II. 152.

On the other hand, there were some mendicants whose utmost efforts I
even now felicitate myself on having withstood. Such was a phenomenon
abridged of his lower half, who beset me for two or three years
together, and, in spite of his deficiency of locomotive members, had
some supernatural method of transporting himself (simultaneously, I
believe) to all quarters of the city. He wore a sailor's jacket
(possibly, because skirts would have been a superfluity to his figure),
and had a remarkably broad-shouldered and muscular frame, surmounted by
a large, fresh-colored face, which was full of power and intelligence.
His dress and linen were the perfection of neatness. Once a day, at
least, wherever I went, I suddenly became aware of this trunk of a man
on the path before me, resting on his base, and looking as if he had
just sprouted out of the pavement, and would sink into it again and
reappear at some other spot the instant you left him behind. The
expression of his eye was perfectly respectful, but terribly fixed,
holding your own as by fascination, never once winking, never wavering
from its point-blank gaze right into your face, till you were completely
beyond the range of his battery of one immense rifled cannon. This was
his mode of soliciting alms; and he reminded me of the old beggar who
appealed so touchingly to the charitable sympathies of Gil Blas, taking
aim at him from the roadside with a long-barreled musket. The intentness
and directness of his silent appeal, his close and unrelenting attack
upon your individuality, respectful as it seemed, was the very flower of
insolence; or, if you give it a possibly truer interpretation, it was
the tyrannical effort of a man endowed with great natural force of
character to constrain your reluctant will to his purpose. Apparently,
he had staked his salvation upon the ultimate success of a daily
struggle between himself and me, the triumph of which would compel me to
become a tributary to the hat that lay on the pavement beside him. Man
or fiend, however, there was a stubbornness in his intended victim which
this massive fragment of a mighty personality had not altogether
reckoned upon, and by its aid I was enabled to pass him at my customary
pace hundreds of times over, quietly meeting his terribly respectful
eye, and allowing him the fair chance which I felt to be his due, to
subjugate me, if he really had the strength for it. He never succeeded,
but, on the other hand, never gave up the contest; and should I ever
walk those streets again, I am certain that the truncated tyrant will
sprout up through the pavement and look me fixedly in the eye, and
perhaps get the victory.[15]

[15] Among the beggars of Liverpool, the hardest to encounter is a man
without any legs, and if I mistake not, likewise deficient in arms. You
see him before you all at once, as if he had sprouted half-way out of
the earth, and would sink down and reappear in some other place the
moment he has done with you. His countenance is large, fresh, and very
intelligent; but his great power lies in his fixed gaze, which is
inconceivably difficult to bear. He never once removes his eye from you
till you are quite past his range; and you feel it all the same,
although you do not meet his glance. He is perfectly respectful; but the
intentness and directness of his silent appeal is far worse than any
impudence. In fact, it is the very flower of impudence. I would rather
go a mile about than pass before his battery. I feel wronged by him, and
yet unutterably ashamed. There must be great force in the man to produce
such an effect. There is nothing of the customary squalidness of beggary
about him, but remarkable trimness and cleanliness.--I. 475.

I should think all the more highly of myself, if I had shown equal
heroism in resisting another class of beggarly depredators, who
assailed me on my weaker side and won an easy spoil. Such was the
sanctimonious clergyman, with his white cravat, who visited me with a
subscription-paper, which he himself had drawn up, in a case of
heart-rending distress;--the respectable and ruined tradesman, going
from door to door, shy and silent in his own person, but accompanied by
a sympathizing friend, who bore testimony to his integrity, and stated
the unavoidable misfortunes that had crushed him down;[16]--or the
delicate and prettily dressed lady, who had been bred in affluence, but
was suddenly thrown upon the perilous charities of the world by the
death of an indulgent, but secretly insolvent father, or the commercial
catastrophe and simultaneous suicide of the best of husbands;--or the
gifted, but unsuccessful author, appealing to my fraternal sympathies,
generously rejoicing in some small prosperities which he was kind enough
to term my own triumphs in the field of letters, and claiming to have
largely contributed to them by his unbought notices in the public
journals. England is full of such people, and a hundred other varieties
of peripatetic tricksters, higher than these, and lower, who act their
parts tolerably well, but seldom with an absolutely illusive effect. I
knew at once, raw Yankee as I was, that they were humbugs, almost
without an exception,--rats that nibble at the honest bread and cheese
of the community, and grow fat by their petty pilferings,--yet often
gave them what they asked, and privately owned myself a simpleton. There
is a decorum which restrains you (unless you happen to be a
police-constable) from breaking through a crust of plausible
respectability, even when you are certain that there is a knave beneath
it.

[16] It appears to be customary for people of decent station, but in
distressed circumstances, to go round among their neighbors and the
public, accompanied by a friend, who explains the case. I have been
accosted in the street in regard to one of these matters; and to-day
there came to my office a grocer, who had become security for a friend,
and who was threatened with an execution,--with another grocer for
supporter and advocate. The beneficiary takes very little active part in
the affair, merely looking careworn, distressed, and pitiable, and
throwing in a word of corroboration, or a sigh, or an acknowledgment, as
the case may demand.... The whole matter is very foreign to American
habits. No respectable American would think of retrieving his affairs by
such means, but would prefer ruin ten times over; no friend would take
up his cause; no public would think it worth while to prevent the small
catastrophe. And yet the custom is not without its good side, as
indicating a closer feeling of brotherhood, a more efficient sense of
neighborhood, than exists among ourselves, although, perhaps, we are
more careless of a fellow-creature's ruin, because ruin with us is by no
means the fatal and irretrievable event that it is in England.--I. 543.

After making myself as familiar as I decently could with the poor
streets, I became curious to see what kind of a home was provided for
the inhabitants at the public expense, fearing that it must needs be a
most comfortless one, or else their choice (if choice it were) of so
miserable a life outside was truly difficult to account for.
Accordingly, I visited a great almshouse, and was glad to observe how
unexceptionably all the parts of the establishment were carried on, and
what an orderly life, full-fed, sufficiently reposeful, and undisturbed
by the arbitrary exercise of authority, seemed to be led there.
Possibly, indeed, it was that very orderliness, and the cruel necessity
of being neat and clean, and even the comfort resulting from these and
other Christian-like restraints and regulations, that constituted the
principal grievance on the part of the poor, shiftless inmates,
accustomed to a lifelong luxury of dirt and harum-scarumness. The wild
life of the streets has perhaps as unforgetable a charm, to those who
have once thoroughly imbibed it, as the life of the forest or the
prairie. But I conceive rather that there must be insuperable
difficulties, for the majority of the poor, in the way of getting
admittance to the almshouse, than that a merely æsthetic preference for
the street would incline the pauper class to fare scantily and
precariously, and expose their raggedness to the rain and snow, when
such a hospitable door stood wide open for their entrance. It might be
that the roughest and darkest side of the matter was not shown me, there
being persons of eminent station and of both sexes in the party which I
accompanied; and, of course, a properly trained public functionary would
have deemed it a monstrous rudeness, as well as a great shame, to
exhibit anything to people of rank that might too painfully shock their
sensibilities.

The women's ward was the portion of the establishment which we
especially examined. It could not be questioned that they were treated
with kindness as well as care. No doubt, as has been already suggested,
some of them felt the irksomeness of submission to general rules of
orderly behavior, after being accustomed to that perfect freedom from
the minor proprieties, at least, which is one of the compensations of
absolutely hopeless poverty, or of any circumstances that set us fairly
below the decencies of life. I asked the governor of the house whether
he met with any difficulty in keeping peace and order among his inmates;
and he informed me that his troubles among the women were incomparably
greater than with the men. They were freakish, and apt to be
quarrelsome, inclined to plague and pester one another in ways that it
was impossible to lay hold of, and to thwart his own authority by the
like intangible methods. He said this with the utmost good-nature, and
quite won my regard by so placidly resigning himself to the inevitable
necessity of letting the women throw dust into his eyes. They certainly
looked peaceable and sisterly enough as I saw them, though still it
might be faintly perceptible that some of them were consciously playing
their parts before the governor and his distinguished visitors.

This governor seemed to me a man thoroughly fit for his position. An
American, in an office of similar responsibility, would doubtless be a
much superior person, better educated, possessing a far wider range of
thought, more naturally acute, with a quicker tact of external
observation and a readier faculty of dealing with difficult cases. The
women would not succeed in throwing half so much dust into his eyes.
Moreover, his black coat, and thin, sallow visage, would make him look
like a scholar, and his manners would indefinitely approximate to those
of a gentleman. But I cannot help questioning whether, on the whole,
these higher endowments would produce decidedly better results. The
Englishman was thoroughly plebeian both in aspect and behavior, a bluff,
ruddy-faced, hearty, kindly, yeoman-like personage, with no refinement
whatever, nor any superfluous sensibility, but gifted with a native
wholesomeness of character which must have been a very beneficial
element in the atmosphere of the almshouse. He spoke to his pauper
family in loud, good-humored, cheerful tones, and treated them with a
healthy freedom that probably caused the forlorn wretches to feel as if
they were free and healthy likewise. If he had understood them a little
better, he would not have treated them half so wisely. We are apt to
make sickly people more morbid, and unfortunate people more miserable,
by endeavoring to adapt our deportment to their especial and individual
needs. They eagerly accept our well-meant efforts; but it is like
returning their own sick breath back upon themselves, to be breathed
over and over again, intensifying the inward mischief at every
reception. The sympathy that would really do them good is of a kind that
recognizes their sound and healthy parts, and ignores the part affected
by disease, which will thrive under the eye of a too close observer like
a poisonous weed in the sunshine. My good friend the governor had no
tendencies in the latter direction, and abundance of them in the former,
and was consequently as wholesome and invigorating as the west-wind with
a little spice of the north in it, brightening the dreary visages that
encountered us as if he had carried a sunbeam in his hand. He expressed
himself by his whole being and personality, and by works more than
words, and had the not unusual English merit of knowing what to do much
better than how to talk about it.

[Illustration: _An English Almshouse._]

The women, I imagine, must have felt one imperfection in their state,
however comfortable otherwise. They were forbidden, or at all events
lacked the means, to follow out their natural instinct of adorning
themselves; all were well dressed in one homely uniform of blue-checked
gowns, with such caps upon their heads as English servants wear.
Generally, too, they had one dowdy English aspect, and a vulgar type of
features so nearly alike that they seemed literally to constitute a
sisterhood. We have few of these absolutely unilluminated faces among
our native American population, individuals of whom must be singularly
unfortunate, if, mixing as we do, no drop of gentle blood has
contributed to refine the turbid element, no gleam of hereditary
intelligence has lighted up the stolid eyes, which their forefathers
brought from the Old Country. Even in this English almshouse, however,
there was at least one person who claimed to be intimately connected
with rank and wealth. The governor, after suggesting that this person
would probably be gratified by our visit, ushered us into a small
parlor, which was furnished a little more like a room in a private
dwelling than others that we entered, and had a row of religious books
and fashionable novels on the mantelpiece. An old lady sat at a bright
coal-fire, reading a romance, and rose to receive us with a certain
pomp of manner and elaborate display of ceremonious courtesy, which, in
spite of myself, made me inwardly question the genuineness of her
aristocratic pretensions. But, at any rate, she looked like a
respectable old soul, and was evidently gladdened to the very core of
her frost-bitten heart by the awful punctiliousness with which we
responded to her gracious and hospitable, though unfamiliar welcome.
After a little polite conversation, we retired; and the governor, with a
lowered voice and an air of deference, told us that she had been a lady
of quality, and had ridden in her own equipage, not many years before,
and now lived in continual expectation that some of her rich relatives
would drive up in their carriages to take her away. Meanwhile, he added,
she was treated with great respect by her fellow-paupers. I could not
help thinking, from a few criticisable peculiarities in her talk and
manner, that there might have been a mistake on the governor's part, and
perhaps a venial exaggeration on the old lady's, concerning her former
position in society; but what struck me was the forcible instance of
that most prevalent of English vanities, the pretension to aristocratic
connection, on one side, and the submission and reverence with which it
was accepted by the governor and his household, on the other. Among
ourselves, I think, when wealth and eminent position have taken their
departure, they seldom leave a pallid ghost behind them,--or, if it
sometimes stalks abroad, few recognize it.

We went into several other rooms, at the doors of which, pausing on the
outside, we could hear the volubility, and sometimes the wrangling, of
the female inhabitants within, but invariably found silence and peace
when we stepped over the threshold. The women were grouped together in
their sitting-rooms, sometimes three or four, sometimes a larger number,
classified by their spontaneous affinities, I suppose, and all busied,
so far as I can remember, with the one occupation of knitting coarse
yarn stockings. Hardly any of them, I am sorry to say, had a brisk or
cheerful air, though it often stirred them up to a momentary vivacity to
be accosted by the governor, and they seemed to like being noticed,
however slightly, by the visitors. The happiest person whom I saw there
(and running hastily through my experiences, I hardly recollect to have
seen a happier one in my life, if you take a careless flow of spirits
as happiness) was an old woman that lay in bed among ten or twelve
heavy-looking females, who plied their knitting-work round about her.
She laughed, when we entered, and immediately began to talk to us, in a
thin, little, spirited quaver, claiming to be more than a century old;
and the governor (in whatever way he happened to be cognizant of the
fact) confirmed her age to be a hundred and four. Her jauntiness and
cackling merriment were really wonderful. It was as if she had got
through with all her actual business in life two or three generations
ago, and now, freed from every responsibility for herself or others, had
only to keep up a mirthful state of mind till the short time, or long
time (and, happy as she was, she appeared not to care whether it were
long or short), before Death, who had misplaced her name in his list,
might remember to take her away. She had gone quite round the circle of
human existence, and come back to the play-ground again. And so she had
grown to be a kind of miraculous old pet, the plaything of people
seventy or eighty years younger than herself, who talked and laughed
with her as if she were a child, finding great delight in her wayward
and strangely playful responses, into some of which she cunningly
conveyed a gibe that caused their ears to tingle a little. She had done
getting out of bed in this world, and lay there to be waited upon like a
queen or a baby.

In the same room sat a pauper who had once been an actress of
considerable repute, but was compelled to give up her profession by a
softening of the brain. The disease seemed to have stolen the continuity
out of her life, and disturbed all healthy relationship between the
thoughts within her and the world without. On our first entrance, she
looked cheerfully at us, and showed herself ready to engage in
conversation; but suddenly, while we were talking with the century-old
crone, the poor actress began to weep, contorting her face with
extravagant stage-grimaces, and wringing her hands for some inscrutable
sorrow. It might have been a reminiscence of actual calamity in her past
life, or, quite as probably, it was but a dramatic woe, beneath which
she had staggered and shrieked and wrung her hands with hundreds of
repetitions in the sight of crowded theatres, and been as often
comforted by thunders of applause. But my idea of the mystery was, that
she had a sense of wrong in seeing the aged woman (whose empty vivacity
was like the rattling of dry peas in a bladder) chosen as the central
object of interest to the visitors, while she herself, who had agitated
thousands of hearts with a breath, sat starving for the admiration that
was her natural food. I appeal to the whole society of artists of the
Beautiful and the Imaginative,--poets, romancers, painters, sculptors,
actors,--whether or no this is a grief that may be felt even amid the
torpor of a dissolving brain!

We looked into a good many sleeping-chambers, where were rows of beds,
mostly calculated for two occupants, and provided with sheets and
pillow-cases that resembled sackcloth. It appeared to me that the sense
of beauty was insufficiently regarded in all the arrangements of the
almshouse; a little cheap luxury for the eye, at least, might do the
poor folks a substantial good. But, at all events, there was the beauty
of perfect neatness and orderliness, which, being heretofore known to
few of them, was perhaps as much as they could well digest in the
remnant of their lives. We were invited into the laundry, where a great
washing and drying were in process, the whole atmosphere being hot and
vaporous with the steam of wet garments and bedclothes. This atmosphere
was the pauper-life of the past week or fortnight resolved into a
gaseous state, and breathing it, however fastidiously, we were forced to
inhale the strange element into our inmost being. Had the Queen been
there, I know not how she could have escaped the necessity. What an
intimate brotherhood is this in which we dwell, do what we may to put an
artificial remoteness between the high creature and the low one! A poor
man's breath, borne on the vehicle of tobacco-smoke, floats into a
palace-window and reaches the nostrils of a monarch. It is but an
example, obvious to the sense, of the innumerable and secret channels by
which, at every moment of our lives, the flow and reflux of a common
humanity pervade us all. How superficial are the niceties of such as
pretend to keep aloof! Let the whole world be cleansed, or not a man or
woman of us all can be clean.

By and by we came to the ward where the children were kept, on entering
which, we saw, in the first place, several unlovely and unwholesome
little people lazily playing together in a court-yard. And here a
singular incommodity befell one member of our party. Among the children
was a wretched, pale, half-torpid little thing (about six years old,
perhaps, but I know not whether a girl or a boy), with a humor in its
eyes and face, which the governor said was the scurvy, and which
appeared to bedim its powers of vision, so that it toddled about
gropingly, as if in quest of it did not precisely know what. This
child--this sickly, wretched, humor-eaten infant, the offspring of
unspeakable sin and sorrow, whom it must have required several
generations of guilty progenitors to render so pitiable an object as we
beheld it--immediately took an unaccountable fancy to the gentleman just
hinted at. It prowled about him like a pet kitten, rubbing against his
legs, following everywhere at his heels, pulling at his coat-tails, and,
at last, exerting all the speed that its poor limbs were capable of, got
directly before him and held forth its arms, mutely insisting on being
taken up. It said not a word, being perhaps underwitted and incapable of
prattle. But it smiled up in his face,--a sort of woful gleam was that
smile, through the sickly blotches that covered its features,--and
found means to express such a perfect confidence that it was going to be
fondled and made much of, that there was no possibility in a human heart
of balking its expectation. It was as if God had promised the poor child
this favor on behalf of that individual, and he was bound to fulfill the
contract, or else no longer call himself a man among men. Nevertheless,
it could be no easy thing for him to do, he being a person burdened with
more than an Englishman's customary reserve, shy of actual contact with
human beings, afflicted with a peculiar distaste for whatever was ugly,
and, furthermore, accustomed to that habit of observation from an
insulated standpoint which is said (but, I hope, erroneously) to have
the tendency of putting ice into the blood.

So I watched the struggle in his mind with a good deal of interest, and
am seriously of opinion that he did an heroic act, and effected more
than he dreamed of towards his final salvation, when he took up the
loathsome child and caressed it as tenderly as if he had been its
father. To be sure, we all smiled at him, at the time, but doubtless
would have acted pretty much the same in a similar stress of
circumstances. The child, at any rate, appeared to be satisfied with
his behavior; for when he had held it a considerable time, and set it
down, it still favored him with its company, keeping fast hold of his
forefinger till we reached the confines of the place. And on our return
through the court-yard, after visiting another part of the
establishment, here again was this same little Wretchedness waiting for
its victim, with a smile of joyful, and yet dull recognition about its
scabby mouth and in its rheumy eyes. No doubt, the child's mission in
reference to our friend was to remind him that he was responsible, in
his degree, for all the sufferings and misdemeanors of the world in
which he lived, and was not entitled to look upon a particle of its dark
calamity as if it were none of his concern: the offspring of a brother's
iniquity being his own blood-relation, and the guilt, likewise, a burden
on him, unless he expiated it by better deeds.[17]

[17] _February 28, 1856._ "After this, we went to the ward [West Derby
Workhouse] where the children were kept, and, on entering this, we saw,
in the first place, two or three unlovely and unwholesome little imps,
who were lazily playing together. One of them (a child about six years
old, but I know not whether girl or boy) immediately took the strangest
fancy for me. It was a wretched, pale, half-torpid little thing, with a
humor in its eyes which the governor said was the scurvy. I never saw,
till a few moments afterwards, a child that I should feel less inclined
to fondle. But this little, sickly, humor-eaten fright prowled around
me, taking hold of my skirts, following at my heels, and at last held up
its hands, smiled in my face, and, standing directly before me, insisted
on my taking it up! Not that it said a word, for I rather think it was
underwitted, and could not talk; but its face expressed such perfect
confidence that it was going to be taken up and made much of, that it
was impossible not to do it. It was as if God had promised the child
this favor on my behalf, and that I must needs fulfill the contract. I
held my undesirable burden a little while; and, after setting the child
down, it still followed me, holding two of my fingers and playing with
them, just as if it were a child of my own. It was a foundling, and out
of all human kind it chose me to be its father! We went up stairs into
another ward; and, on coming down again, there was this same child
waiting for me, with a sickly smile round its defaced mouth, and in its
dim red eyes.... I never should have forgiven myself if I had repelled
its advances."--II. 184.

All the children in this ward seemed to be invalids, and, going
upstairs, we found more of them in the same or a worse condition than
the little creature just described, with their mothers (or more probably
other women, for the infants were mostly foundlings) in attendance as
nurses. The matron of the ward, a middle-aged woman, remarkably kind and
motherly in aspect, was walking to and fro across the chamber--on that
weary journey in which careful mothers and nurses travel so continually
and so far, and gain never a step of progress--with an unquiet baby in
her arms. She assured us that she enjoyed her occupation, being
exceedingly fond of children; and, in fact, the absence of timidity in
all the little people was a sufficient proof that they could have had no
experience of harsh treatment, though, on the other hand, none of them
appeared to be attracted to one individual more than another. In this
point they differed widely from the poor child below stairs. They seemed
to recognize a universal motherhood in womankind, and cared not which
individual might be the mother of the moment. I found their tameness as
shocking as did Alexander Selkirk that of the brute subjects of his else
solitary kingdom. It was a sort of tame familiarity, a perfect
indifference to the approach of strangers, such as I never noticed in
other children. I accounted for it partly by their nerveless, unstrung
state of body, incapable of the quick thrills of delight and fear which
play upon the lively harp-strings of a healthy child's nature, and
partly by their woful lack of acquaintance with a private home, and
their being therefore destitute of the sweet home-bred shyness, which is
like the sanctity of heaven about a mother-petted child. Their condition
was like that of chickens hatched in an oven, and growing up without the
especial guardianship of a matron hen: both the chicken and the child,
methinks, must needs want something that is essential to their
respective characters.

In this chamber (which was spacious, containing a large number of beds)
there was a clear fire burning on the hearth, as in all the other
occupied rooms; and directly in front of the blaze sat a woman holding a
baby, which, beyond all reach of comparison, was the most horrible
object that ever afflicted my sight. Days afterwards--nay, even now,
when I bring it up vividly before my mind's eye--it seemed to lie upon
the floor of my heart, polluting my moral being with the sense of
something grievously amiss in the entire conditions of humanity. The
holiest man could not be otherwise than full of wickedness, the chastest
virgin seemed impure, in a world where such a babe was possible. The
governor whispered me, apart, that, like nearly all the rest of them, it
was the child of unhealthy parents. Ah, yes! There was the mischief.
This spectral infant, a hideous mockery of the visible link which Love
creates between man and woman, was born of disease and sin. Diseased Sin
was its father, and Sinful Disease its mother, and their offspring lay
in the woman's arms like a nursing Pestilence, which, could it live and
grow up, would make the world a more accursed abode than ever
heretofore. Thank Heaven, it could not live! This baby, if we must give
it that sweet name, seemed to be three or four months old, but, being
such an unthrifty changeling, might have been considerably older. It was
all covered with blotches, and preternaturally dark and discolored; it
was withered away, quite shrunken and fleshless; it breathed only amid
pantings and gaspings, and moaned painfully at every gasp. The only
comfort in reference to it was the evident impossibility of its
surviving to draw many more of those miserable, moaning breaths; and it
would have been infinitely less heart-depressing to see it die, right
before my eyes, than to depart and carry it alive in my remembrance,
still suffering the incalculable torture of its little life. I can by
no means express how horrible this infant was, neither ought I to
attempt it. And yet I must add one final touch. Young as the poor little
creature was, its pain and misery had endowed it with a premature
intelligence, insomuch that its eyes seemed to stare at the by-standers
out of their sunken sockets knowingly and appealingly, as if summoning
us one and all to witness the deadly wrong of its existence. At least, I
so interpreted its look, when it positively met and responded to my own
awe-stricken gaze, and therefore I lay the case, as far as I am able,
before mankind, on whom God has imposed the necessity to suffer in soul
and body till this dark and dreadful wrong be righted.

Thence we went to the school-rooms, which were underneath the chapel.
The pupils, like the children whom we had just seen, were, in large
proportion, foundlings. Almost without exception, they looked sickly,
with marks of eruptive trouble in their doltish faces, and a general
tendency to diseases of the eye. Moreover, the poor little wretches
appeared to be uneasy within their skins, and screwed themselves about
on the benches in a disagreeably suggestive way, as if they had
inherited the evil habits of their parents as an innermost garment of
the same texture and material as the shirt of Nessus, and must wear it
with unspeakable discomfort as long as they lived. I saw only a single
child that looked healthy; and on my pointing him out, the governor
informed me that this little boy, the sole exception to the miserable
aspect of his school-fellows, was not a foundling, nor properly a
workhouse child, being born of respectable parentage, and his father one
of the officers of the institution. As for the remainder,--the hundred
pale abortions to be counted against one rosy-cheeked boy,--what shall
we say or do? Depressed by the sight of so much misery, and uninventive
of remedies for the evils that force themselves on my perception, I can
do little more than recur to the idea already hinted at in the early
part of this article, regarding the speedy necessity of a new deluge. So
far as these children are concerned, at any rate, it would be a blessing
to the human race, which they will contribute to enervate and
corrupt,--a greater blessing to themselves, who inherit no patrimony but
disease and vice, and in whose souls, if there be a spark of God's life,
this seems the only possible mode of keeping it aglow,--if every one of
them could be drowned to-night, by their best friends, instead of being
put tenderly to bed. This heroic method of treating human maladies,
moral and material, is certainly beyond the scope of man's discretionary
rights, and probably will not be adopted by Divine Providence until the
opportunity of milder reformation shall have been offered us again and
again, through a series of future ages.

It may be fair to acknowledge that the humane and excellent governor, as
well as other persons better acquainted with the subject than myself,
took a less gloomy view of it, though still so dark a one as to involve
scanty consolation. They remarked that individuals of the male sex,
picked up in the streets and nurtured in the workhouse, sometimes
succeed tolerably well in life, because they are taught trades before
being turned into the world, and, by dint of immaculate behavior and
good luck, are not unlikely to get employment and earn a livelihood. The
case is different with the girls. They can only go to service, and are
invariably rejected by families of respectability on account of their
origin, and for the better reason of their unfitness to fill
satisfactorily even the meanest situations in a well-ordered English
household. Their resource is to take service with people only a step or
two above the poorest class, with whom they fare scantily, endure harsh
treatment, lead shifting and precarious lives, and finally drop into the
slough of evil, through which, in their best estate, they do but pick
their slimy way on stepping-stones.

From the schools we went to the bake-house, and the brew-house (for such
cruelty is not harbored in the heart of a true Englishman as to deny a
pauper his daily allowance of beer), and through the kitchens, where we
beheld an immense pot over the fire, surging and walloping with some
kind of a savory stew that filled it up to its brim. We also visited a
tailor's shop, and a shoemaker's shop, in both of which a number of men,
and pale, diminutive apprentices, were at work, diligently enough,
though seemingly with small heart in the business. Finally, the governor
ushered us into a shed, inside of which was piled up an immense quantity
of new coffins. They were of the plainest description, made of pine
boards, probably of American growth, not very nicely smoothed by the
plane, neither painted nor stained with black, but provided with a loop
of rope at either end for the convenience of lifting the rude box and
its inmate into the cart that shall carry them to the burial-ground.
There, in holes ten feet deep, the paupers are buried one above another,
mingling their relics indistinguishably. In another world may they
resume their individuality, and find it a happier one than here!

As we departed, a character came under our notice which I have met with
in all almshouses, whether of the city or village, or in England or
America. It was the familiar simpleton, who shuffled across the
court-yard, clattering his wooden-soled shoes, to greet us with a howl
or a laugh, I hardly know which, holding out his hand for a penny, and
chuckling grossly when it was given him. All underwitted persons, so far
as my experience goes, have this craving for copper coin, and appear to
estimate its value by a miraculous instinct, which is one of the
earliest gleams of human intelligence while the nobler faculties are yet
in abeyance. There may come a time, even in this world, when we shall
all understand that our tendency to the individual appropriation of gold
and broad acres, fine houses, and such good and beautiful things as are
equally enjoyable by a multitude, is but a trait of imperfectly
developed intelligence, like the simpleton's cupidity of a penny. When
that day dawns,--and probably not till then,--I imagine that there will
be no more poor streets nor need of almshouses.

I was once present at the wedding of some poor English people, and was
deeply impressed by the spectacle, though by no means with such proud
and delightful emotions as seem to have affected all England on the
recent occasion of the marriage of its Prince. It was in the Cathedral
at Manchester, a particularly black and grim old structure, into which I
had stepped to examine some ancient and curious wood-carvings within the
choir. The woman in attendance greeted me with a smile (which always
glimmers forth on the feminine visage, I know not why, when a wedding is
in question), and asked me to take a seat in the nave till some poor
parties were married, it being the Easter holidays, and a good time for
them to marry, because no fees would be demanded by the clergyman. I sat
down accordingly, and soon the parson and his clerk appeared at the
altar, and a considerable crowd of people made their entrance at a
side-door, and ranged themselves in a long, huddled line across the
chancel. They were my acquaintances of the poor streets, or persons in a
precisely similar condition of life, and were now come to their
marriage-ceremony in just such garbs as I had always seen them wear: the
men in their loafers' coats, out at elbows, or their laborers' jackets,
defaced with grimy toil; the women drawing their shabby shawls tighter
about their shoulders, to hide the raggedness beneath; all of them
unbrushed, unshaven, unwashed, uncombed, and wrinkled with penury and
care; nothing virgin-like in the brides, nor hopeful or energetic in the
bridegrooms;--they were, in short, the mere rags and tatters of the
human race, whom some east-wind of evil omen, howling along the streets,
had chanced to sweep together into an unfragrant heap. Each and all of
them, conscious of his or her individual misery, had blundered into the
strange miscalculation of supposing that they could lessen the sum of it
by multiplying it into the misery of another person. All the couples
(and it was difficult, in such a confused crowd, to compute exactly
their number) stood up at once, and had execution done upon them in the
lump, the clergyman addressing only small parts of the service to each
individual pair, but so managing the larger portion as to include the
whole company without the trouble of repetition. By this compendious
contrivance, one would apprehend, he came dangerously near making every
man and woman the husband or wife of every other; nor, perhaps, would he
have perpetrated much additional mischief by the mistake; but, after
receiving a benediction in common, they assorted themselves in their own
fashion, as they only knew how, and departed to the garrets, or the
cellars, or the unsheltered street-corners, where their honeymoon and
subsequent lives were to be spent. The parson smiled decorously, the
clerk and the sexton grinned broadly, the female attendant tittered
almost aloud, and even the married parties seemed to see something
exceedingly funny in the affair; but for my part, though generally apt
enough to be tickled by a joke, I laid it away in my memory as one of
the saddest sights I ever looked upon.

Not very long afterwards, I happened to be passing the same venerable
cathedral, and heard a clang of joyful bells, and beheld a bridal party
coming down the steps towards a carriage and four horses, with a portly
coachman and two postilions, that waited at the gate. One parson and one
service had amalgamated the wretchedness of a score of paupers; a Bishop
and three or four clergymen had combined their spiritual might to forge
the golden links of this other marriage-bond. The bridegroom's mien had
a sort of careless and kindly English pride; the bride floated along in
her white drapery, a creature so nice and delicate that it was a luxury
to see her, and a pity that her silk slippers should touch anything so
grimy as the old stones of the churchyard avenue. The crowd of ragged
people, who always cluster to witness what they may of an aristocratic
wedding, broke into audible admiration of the bride's beauty and the
bridegroom's manliness, and uttered prayers and ejaculations (possibly
paid for in alms) for the happiness of both. If the most favorable of
earthly conditions could make them happy, they had every prospect of it.
They were going to live on their abundance in one of those stately and
delightful English homes, such as no other people ever created or
inherited, a hall set far and safe within its own private grounds, and
surrounded with venerable trees, shaven lawns, rich shrubbery, and
trimmest pathways, the whole so artfully contrived and tended that
summer rendered it a paradise, and even winter would hardly disrobe it
of its beauty; and all this fair property seemed more exclusively and
inalienably their own, because of its descent through many forefathers,
each of whom had added an improvement or a charm, and thus transmitted
it with a stronger stamp of rightful possession to his heir. And is it
possible, after all, that there may be a flaw in the title-deeds? Is, or
is not, the system wrong that gives one married pair so immense a
superfluity of luxurious home, and shuts out a million others from any
home whatever? One day or another, safe as they deem themselves, and
safe as the hereditary temper of the people really tends to make them,
the gentlemen of England will be compelled to face this question.



XII.

CIVIC BANQUETS


It has often perplexed me to imagine how an Englishman will be able to
reconcile himself to any future state of existence from which the
earthly institution of dinner shall be excluded. Even if he fail to take
his appetite along with him (which it seems to me hardly possible to
believe, since this endowment is so essential to his composition), the
immortal day must still admit an interim of two or three hours during
which he will be conscious of a slight distaste, at all events, if not
an absolute repugnance, to merely spiritual nutriment. The idea of
dinner has so imbedded itself among his highest and deepest
characteristics, so illuminated itself with intellect and softened
itself with the kindest emotions of his heart, so linked itself with
Church and State, and grown so majestic with long hereditary customs and
ceremonies, that, by taking it utterly away, Death, instead of putting
the final touch to his perfection, would leave him infinitely less
complete than we have already known him. He could not be roundly happy.
Paradise, among all its enjoyments, would lack one daily felicity which
his sombre little island possessed. Perhaps it is not irreverent to
conjecture that a provision may have been made, in this particular, for
the Englishman's exceptional necessities. It strikes me that Milton was
of the opinion here suggested, and may have intended to throw out a
delightful and consolatory hope for his countrymen, when he represents
the genial archangel as playing his part with such excellent appetite at
Adam's dinner-table, and confining himself to fruit and vegetables only,
because, in those early days of her housekeeping, Eve had no more
acceptable viands to set before him. Milton, indeed, had a true English
taste for the pleasures of the table, though refined by the lofty and
poetic discipline to which he had subjected himself. It is delicately
implied in the refection in Paradise, and more substantially, though
still elegantly, betrayed in the sonnet proposing to "Laurence, of
virtuous father virtuous son," a series of nice little dinners in
midwinter; and it blazes fully out in that untasted banquet, which,
elaborate as it was, Satan tossed up in a trice from the kitchen-ranges
of Tartarus.

Among this people, indeed, so wise in their generation, dinner has a
kind of sanctity quite independent of the dishes that may be set upon
the table; so that, if it be only a mutton-chop, they treat it with due
reverence, and are rewarded with a degree of enjoyment which such
reckless devourers as ourselves do not often find in our richest
abundance. It is good to see how stanch they are after fifty or sixty
years of heroic eating, still relying upon their digestive powers and
indulging a vigorous appetite; whereas an American has generally lost
the one and learned to distrust the other long before reaching the
earliest decline of life; and thenceforward he makes little account of
his dinner, and dines at his peril, if at all. I know not whether my
countrymen will allow me to tell them, though I think it scarcely too
much to affirm, that on this side of the water people never dine. At any
rate, abundantly as Nature has provided us with most of the material
requisites, the highest possible dinner has never yet been eaten in
America. It is the consummate flower of civilization and refinement;
and our inability to produce it, or to appreciate its admirable beauty
if a happy inspiration should bring it into bloom, marks fatally the
limit of culture which we have attained.

It is not to be supposed, however, that the mob of cultivated Englishmen
know how to dine in this elevated sense. The unpolishable ruggedness of
the national character is still an impediment to them, even in that
particular line where they are best qualified to excel. Though often
present at good men's feasts, I remember only a single dinner, which,
while lamentably conscious that many of its higher excellences were
thrown away upon me, I yet could feel to be a perfect work of art. It
could not, without unpardonable coarseness, be styled a matter of animal
enjoyment, because, out of the very perfection of that lower bliss,
there had arisen a dream-like development of spiritual happiness. As in
the masterpieces of painting and poetry, there was a something
intangible, a final deliciousness that only fluttered about your
comprehension, vanishing whenever you tried to detain it, and compelling
you to recognize it by faith rather than sense. It seemed as if a
diviner set of senses were requisite, and had been partly supplied, for
the special fruition of this banquet, and that the guests around the
table (only eight in number) were becoming so educated, polished, and
softened, by the delicate influences of what they ate and drank, as to
be now a little more than mortal for the nonce. And there was that
gentle, delicious sadness, too, which we find in the very summit of our
most exquisite enjoyments, and feel it a charm beyond all the gayety
through which it keeps breathing its undertone. In the present case, it
was worth a heavier sigh to reflect that such a festal achievement--the
production of so much art, skill, fancy, invention, and perfect
taste--the growth of all the ages, which appeared to have been ripening
for this hour, since man first began to eat and to moisten his food with
wine--must lavish its happiness upon so brief a moment when other
beautiful things can be made a joy forever. Yet a dinner like this is no
better than we can get, any day, at the rejuvenescent Cornhill
Coffee-house, unless the whole man, with soul, intellect, and stomach,
is ready to appreciate it, and unless, moreover, there is such a harmony
in all the circumstances and accompaniments, and especially such a
pitch of well-according minds, that nothing shall jar rudely against the
guest's thoroughly awakened sensibilities. The world, and especially our
part of it, being the rough, ill-assorted, and tumultuous place we find
it, a beefsteak is about as good as any other dinner.

The foregoing reminiscence, however, has drawn me aside from the main
object of my sketch, in which I purposed to give a slight idea of those
public, or partially public banquets, the custom of which so thoroughly
prevails among the English people, that nothing is ever decided upon, in
matters of peace and war, until they have chewed upon it in the shape of
roast-beef, and talked it fully over in their cups. Nor are these
festivities merely occasional, but of stated recurrence in all
considerable municipalities and associated bodies. The most ancient
times appear to have been as familiar with them as the Englishmen of
to-day. In many of the old English towns, you find some stately Gothic
hall or chamber in which the Mayor and other authorities of the place
have long held their sessions; and always, in convenient contiguity,
there is a dusky kitchen, with an immense fireplace where an ox might
lie roasting at his ease, though the less gigantic scale of modern
cookery may now have permitted the cobwebs to gather in its chimney. St.
Mary's Hall, in Coventry, is so good a specimen of an ancient
banqueting-room, that perhaps I may profitably devote a page or two to
the description of it.

In a narrow street opposite to St. Michael's Church, one of the three
famous spires of Coventry, you behold a mediæval edifice, in the
basement of which is such a venerable and now deserted kitchen as I have
above alluded to, and, on the same level, a cellar, with low stone
pillars and intersecting arches, like the crypt of a cathedral. Passing
up a well-worn staircase, the oaken balustrade of which is as black as
ebony, you enter the fine old hall, some sixty feet in length, and broad
and lofty in proportion. It is lighted by six windows of modern stained
glass, on one side, and by the immense and magnificent arch of another
window at the farther end of the room, its rich and ancient panes
constituting a genuine historical piece, in which are represented some
of the kingly personages of old times, with their heraldic blazonries.
Not withstanding the colored light thus thrown into the hall, and
though it was noonday when I last saw it, the paneling of black-oak, and
some faded tapestry that hung round the walls, together with the cloudy
vault of the roof above, made a gloom, which the richness only
illuminated into more appreciable effect. The tapestry is wrought with
figures in the dress of Henry VI.'s time (which is the date of the
hall), and is regarded by antiquaries as authentic evidence both for the
costume of that epoch, and, I believe, for the actual portraiture of men
known in history. They are as colorless as ghosts, however, and vanish
drearily into the old stitch-work of their substance when you try to
make them out. Coats of arms were formerly emblazoned all round the
hall, but have been almost rubbed out by people hanging their overcoats
against them, or by women with dishclouts and scrubbing-brushes,
obliterating hereditary glories in their blind hostility to dust and
spiders' webs. Full-length portraits of several English kings, Charles
II. being the earliest, hang on the walls; and on the daïs, or elevated
part of the floor, stands an antique chair of state, which several royal
characters are traditionally said to have occupied while feasting here
with their loyal subjects of Coventry. It is roomy enough for a person
of kingly bulk, or even two such, but angular and uncomfortable,
reminding me of the oaken settles which used to be seen in old-fashioned
New England kitchens.

Overhead, supported by a self-sustaining power, without the aid of a
single pillar, is the original ceiling of oak, precisely similar in
shape to the roof of a barn, with all the beams and rafters plainly to
be seen. At the remote height of sixty feet, you hardly discern that
they are carved with figures of angels, and doubtless many other
devices, of which the admirable Gothic art is wasted in the duskiness
that has so long been brooding there. Over the entrance of the hall,
opposite the great arched window, the party-colored radiance of which
glimmers faintly through the interval, is a gallery for minstrels; and a
row of ancient suits of armor is suspended from its balustrade. It
impresses me, too (for, having gone so far, I would fain leave nothing
untouched upon), that I remember, somewhere about these venerable
precincts, a picture of the Countess Godiva on horseback, in which the
artist has been so niggardly of that illustrious lady's hair, that, if
she had no ampler garniture, there was certainly much need for the good
people of Coventry to shut their eyes. After all my pains, I fear that I
have made but a poor hand at the description, as regards a transference
of the scene from my own mind to the reader's. It gave me a most vivid
idea of antiquity that had been very little tampered with; insomuch
that, if a group of steel-clad knights had come clanking through the
doorway, and a bearded and beruffed old figure had handed in a stately
dame, rustling in gorgeous robes of a long-forgotten fashion, unveiling
a face of beauty somewhat tarnished in the mouldy tomb, yet stepping
majestically to the trill of harp and viol from the minstrels' gallery,
while the rusty armor responded with a hollow ringing sound
beneath,--why, I should have felt that these shadows, once so familiar
with the spot, had a better right in St. Mary's Hall than I, a stranger
from a far country which has no Past. But the moral of the foregoing
description is to show how tenaciously this love of pompous dinners,
this reverence for dinner as a sacred institution, has caught hold of
the English character; since, from the earliest recognizable period, we
find them building their civic banqueting-halls as magnificently as
their palaces or cathedrals.

I know not whether the hall just described is now used for festive
purposes, but others of similar antiquity and splendor still are. For
example, there is Barber Surgeons' Hall, in London, a very fine old
room, adorned with admirably carved wood-work on the ceiling and walls.
It is also enriched with Holbein's masterpiece, representing a grave
assemblage of barbers and surgeons, all portraits (with such extensive
beards that methinks one half of the company might have been profitably
occupied in trimming the other), kneeling before King Henry VIII. Sir
Robert Peel is said to have offered a thousand pounds for the liberty of
cutting out one of the heads from this picture, he conditioning to have
a perfect facsimile painted in.[18] The room has many other pictures of
distinguished members of the company in long-past times, and of some of
the monarchs and statesmen of England, all darkened with age, but
darkened into such ripe magnificence as only age could bestow. It is not
my design to inflict any more specimens of ancient hall-painting on the
reader; but it may be worth while to touch upon other modes of
stateliness that still survive in these time-honored civic feasts, where
there appears to be a singular assumption of dignity and solemn pomp by
respectable citizens who would never dream of claiming any privilege of
rank outside of their own sphere. Thus, I saw two caps of state for the
warden and junior warden of the company, caps of silver (real coronets
or crowns, indeed, for these city-grandees) wrought in open-work and
lined with crimson velvet. In a strong-closet, opening from the hall,
there was a great deal of rich plate to furnish forth the banquet-table,
comprising hundreds of forks and spoons, a vast silver punch-bowl, the
gift of some jolly king or other, and, besides a multitude of less
noticeable vessels, two loving-cups, very elaborately wrought in silver
gilt, one presented by Henry VIII., the other by Charles II. These cups,
including the covers and pedestals, are very large and weighty, although
the bowl-part would hardly contain more than half a pint of wine, which,
when the custom was first established, each guest was probably expected
to drink off at a draught. In passing them from hand to hand adown a
long table of compotators, there is a peculiar ceremony which I may
hereafter have occasion to describe. Meanwhile, if I might assume such a
liberty, I should be glad to invite the reader to the official
dinner-table of his Worship, the Mayor, at a large English seaport where
I spent several years.

[18] In this room hangs the most valuable picture by Holbein now in
existence, representing the company of Barber Surgeons kneeling before
Henry VIII., and receiving their charter from his hands. The picture is
about six feet square. The king is dressed in scarlet, and quite
fulfills one's idea of his aspect. The Barber-Surgeons, all portraits,
are an assemblage of grave-looking personages, in dark costumes. The
company has refused five thousand pounds for this unique picture; and
the keeper of the Hall told me that Sir Robert Peel had offered a
thousand pounds for liberty to take out only one of the heads, that of a
person named Penn, he conditioning to have a perfect facsimile painted
in. I did not see any merit in this head over the others.--II. 200.

The Mayor's dinner-parties occur as often as once a fortnight, and,
inviting his guests by fifty or sixty at a time, his Worship probably
assembles at his board most of the eminent citizens and distinguished
personages of the town and neighborhood more than once during his year's
incumbency, and very much, no doubt, to the promotion of good feeling
among individuals of opposite parties and diverse pursuits in life. A
miscellaneous party of Englishmen can always find more comfortable
ground to meet upon than as many Americans, their differences of opinion
being incomparably less radical than ours, and it being the sincerest
wish of all their hearts, whether they call themselves Liberals or what
not, that nothing in this world shall ever be greatly altered from what
it has been and is. Thus there is seldom such a virulence of political
hostility that it may not be dissolved in a glass or two of wine,
without making the good liquor any more dry or bitter than accords with
English taste.

The first dinner of this kind at which I had the honor to be present
took place during assize-time, and included among the guests the judges
and the prominent members of the bar. Reaching the Town Hall at seven
o'clock, I communicated my name to one of several splendidly dressed
footmen, and he repeated it to another on the first staircase, by whom
it was passed to a third, and thence to a fourth at the door of the
reception-room, losing all resemblance to the original sound in the
course of these transmissions; so that I had the advantage of making my
entrance in the character of a stranger, not only to the whole company,
but to myself as well. His Worship, however, kindly recognized me, and
put me on speaking-terms with two or three gentlemen, whom I found very
affable, and all the more hospitably attentive on the score of my
nationality. It is very singular how kind an Englishman will almost
invariably be to an individual American, without ever bating a jot of
his prejudice against the American character in the lump. My new
acquaintances took evident pains to put me at my ease; and, in requital
of their good-nature, I soon began to look round at the general company
in a critical spirit, making my crude observations apart, and drawing
silent inferences, of the correctness of which I should not have been
half so well satisfied a year afterwards as at that moment.

There were two judges present, a good many lawyers, and a few officers
of the army in uniform. The other guests seemed to be principally of the
mercantile class, and among them was a ship-owner from Nova Scotia, with
whom I coalesced a little, inasmuch as we were born with the same sky
over our heads, and an unbroken continuity of soil between his abode and
mine. There was one old gentleman, whose character I never made out,
with powdered hair, clad in black breeches and silk stockings, and
wearing a rapier at his side; otherwise, with the exception of the
military uniforms, there was little or no pretense of official costume.
It being the first considerable assemblage of Englishmen that I had
seen, my honest impression about them was that they were a heavy and
homely set of people, with a remarkable roughness of aspect and
behavior, not repulsive, but beneath which it required more familiarity
with the national character than I then possessed always to detect the
good breeding of a gentleman. Being generally middle-aged, or still
further advanced, they were by no means graceful in figure; for the
comeliness of the youthful Englishman rapidly diminishes with years, his
body appearing to grow longer, his legs to abbreviate themselves, and
his stomach to assume the dignified prominence which justly belongs to
that metropolis of his system. His face (what with the acridity of the
atmosphere, ale at lunch, wine at dinner, and a well-digested abundance
of succulent food) gets red and mottled, and develops at least one
additional chin, with a promise of more; so that, finally, a stranger
recognizes his animal part at the most superficial glance, but must take
time and a little pains to discover the intellectual. Comparing him with
an American, I really thought that our national paleness and lean habit
of flesh gave us greatly the advantage in an æsthetic point of view. It
seemed to me, moreover, that the English tailor had not done so much as
he might and ought for these heavy figures, but had gone on willfully
exaggerating their uncouthness by the roominess of their garments; he
had evidently no idea of accuracy of fit, and smartness was entirely out
of his line. But, to be quite open with the reader, I afterwards learned
to think that this aforesaid tailor has a deeper art than his brethren
among ourselves, knowing how to dress his customers with such individual
propriety that they look as if they were born in their clothes, the fit
being to the character rather than the form. If you make an Englishman
smart (unless he be a very exceptional one, of whom I have seen a few),
you make him a monster; his best aspect is that of ponderous
respectability.

To make an end of these first impressions, I fancied that not merely the
Suffolk bar, but the bar of any inland county in New England, might
show a set of thin-visaged men looking wretchedly worn, sallow, deeply
wrinkled across the forehead, and grimly furrowed about the mouth, with
whom these heavy-cheeked English lawyers, slow-paced and fat-witted as
they must needs be, would stand very little chance in a professional
contest. How that matter might turn out, I am unqualified to decide. But
I state these results of my earliest glimpses at Englishmen, not for
what they are worth, but because I ultimately gave them up as worth
little or nothing. In course of time, I came to the conclusion that
Englishmen of all ages are a rather good-looking people, dress in
admirable taste from their own point of view, and, under a surface never
silken to the touch, have a refinement of manners too thorough and
genuine to be thought of as a separate endowment,--that is to say, if
the individual himself be a man of station, and has had gentlemen for
his father and grandfather. The sturdy Anglo-Saxon nature does not
refine itself short of the third generation. The tradesmen, too, and all
other classes, have their own proprieties.

The only value of my criticisms, therefore, lay in their exemplifying
the proneness of a traveler to measure one people by the distinctive
characteristics of another,--as English writers invariably measure us,
and take upon themselves to be disgusted accordingly, instead of trying
to find out some principle of beauty with which we may be in conformity.

In due time we were summoned to the table, and went thither in no solemn
procession, but with a good deal of jostling, thrusting behind, and
scrambling for places when we reached our destination. The legal
gentlemen, I suspect, were responsible for this indecorous zeal, which I
never afterwards remarked in a similar party. The dining-hall was of
noble size, and, like the other rooms of the suite, was gorgeously
painted and gilded and brilliantly illuminated. There was a splendid
table-service, and a noble array of footmen, some of them in plain
clothes, and others wearing the town-livery, richly decorated with
gold-lace, and themselves excellent specimens of the blooming young
manhood of Britain. When we were fairly seated, it was certainly an
agreeable spectacle to look up and down the long vista of earnest faces,
and behold them so resolute, so conscious that there was an important
business in hand, and so determined to be equal to the occasion. Indeed,
Englishman or not, I hardly know what can be prettier than a snow-white
tablecloth, a huge heap of flowers as a central decoration, bright
silver, rich china, crystal glasses, decanters of Sherry at due
intervals, a French roll and an artistically folded napkin at each
plate, all that airy portion of a banquet, in short, that comes before
the first mouthful, the whole illuminated by a blaze of artificial
light, without which a dinner of made-dishes looks spectral, and the
simplest viands are the best. Printed bills-of-fare were distributed,
representing an abundant feast, no part of which appeared on the table
until called for in separate plates. I have entirely forgotten what it
was, but deem it no great matter, inasmuch as there is a pervading
commonplace and identicalness in the composition of extensive dinners,
on account of the impossibility of supplying a hundred guests with
anything particularly delicate or rare. It was suggested to me that
certain juicy old gentlemen had a private understanding what to call
for, and that it would be good policy in a stranger to follow in their
footsteps through the feast. I did not care to do so, however, because,
like Sancho Panza's dip out of Camacho's caldron, any sort of potluck at
such a table would be sure to suit my purpose; so I chose a dish or two
on my own judgment, and, getting through my labors betimes, had great
pleasure in seeing the Englishmen toil onward to the end.

They drank rather copiously, too, though wisely; for I observed that
they seldom took Hock, and let the Champagne bubble slowly away out of
the goblet, solacing themselves with Sherry, but tasting it warily
before bestowing their final confidence. Their taste in wines, however,
did not seem so exquisite, and certainly was not so various, as that to
which many Americans pretend. This foppery of an intimate acquaintance
with rare vintages does not suit a sensible Englishman, as he is very
much in earnest about his wines, and adopts one or two as his lifelong
friends, seldom exchanging them for any Delilahs of a moment, and
reaping the reward of his constancy in an unimpaired stomach, and only
so much gout as he deems wholesome and desirable. Knowing well the
measure of his powers, he is not apt to fill his glass too often.
Society, indeed, would hardly tolerate habitual imprudences of that
kind, though, in my opinion, the Englishmen now upon the stage could
carry off their three bottles, at need, with as steady a gait as any of
their forefathers. It is not so very long since the three-bottle heroes
sank finally under the table. It may be (at least, I should be glad if
it were true) that there was an occult sympathy between our temperance
reform, now somewhat in abeyance, and the almost simultaneous
disappearance of hard-drinking among the respectable classes in England.
I remember a middle-aged gentleman telling me (in illustration of the
very slight importance attached to breaches of temperance within the
memory of men not yet old) that he had seen a certain magistrate, Sir
John Linkwater, or Drinkwater,--but I think the jolly old knight could
hardly have staggered under so perverse a misnomer as this last,--while
sitting on the magisterial bench, pull out a crown-piece and hand it to
the clerk. "Mr. Clerk," said Sir John, as if it were the most
indifferent fact in the world, "I was drunk last night. There are my
five shillings."

During the dinner, I had a good deal of pleasant conversation with the
gentlemen on either side of me. One of them, a lawyer, expatiated with
great unction on the social standing of the judges. Representing the
dignity and authority of the Crown, they take precedence, during
assize-time, of the highest military men in the kingdom, of the Lord
Lieutenant of the county, of the Archbishops, of the royal Dukes, and
even of the Prince of Wales. For the nonce, they are the greatest men in
England. With a glow of professional complacency that amounted to
enthusiasm, my friend assured me, that, in case of a royal dinner, a
judge, if actually holding an assize, would be expected to offer his arm
and take the Queen herself to the table. Happening to be in company with
some of these elevated personages, on subsequent occasions, it appeared
to me that the judges are fully conscious of their paramount claims to
respect, and take rather more pains to impress them on their ceremonial
inferiors than men of high hereditary rank are apt to do. Bishops, if it
be not irreverent to say so, are sometimes marked by a similar
characteristic. Dignified position is so sweet to an Englishman, that
he needs to be born in it, and to feel it thoroughly incorporated with
his nature from its original germ, in order to keep him from flaunting
it obtrusively in the faces of innocent by-standers.

My companion on the other side was a thick-set, middle-aged man, uncouth
in manners, and ugly where none were handsome, with a dark, roughly hewn
visage, that looked grim in repose, and seemed to hold within itself the
machinery of a very terrific frown. He ate with resolute appetite, and
let slip few opportunities of imbibing whatever liquids happened to be
passing by. I was meditating in what way this grisly featured
table-fellow might most safely be accosted, when he turned to me with a
surly sort of kindness, and invited me to take a glass of wine. We then
began a conversation that abounded, on his part, with sturdy sense, and,
somehow or other, brought me closer to him than I had yet stood to an
Englishman. I should hardly have taken him to be an educated man,
certainly not a scholar of accurate training; and yet he seemed to have
all the resources of education and trained intellectual power at
command. My fresh Americanism, and watchful observation of English
characteristics, appeared either to interest or amuse him, or perhaps
both. Under the mollifying influences of abundance of meat and drink, he
grew very gracious (not that I ought to use such a phrase to describe
his evidently genuine good-will), and by and by expressed a wish for
further acquaintance, asking me to call at his rooms in London and
inquire for Sergeant Wilkins,--throwing out the name forcibly, as if he
had no occasion to be ashamed of it. I remembered Dean Swift's retort to
Sergeant Bettesworth on a similar announcement,--"Of what regiment,
pray, sir?"--and fancied that the same question might not have been
quite amiss, if applied to the rugged individual at my side. But I heard
of him subsequently as one of the prominent men at the English bar, a
rough customer, and a terribly strong champion in criminal cases; and it
caused me more regret than might have been expected, on so slight an
acquaintanceship, when, not long afterwards, I saw his death announced
in the newspapers. Not rich in attractive qualities, he possessed, I
think, the most attractive one of all,--thorough manhood.

After the cloth was removed, a goodly group of decanters were set before
the Mayor, who sent them forth on their outward voyage, full freighted
with Port, Sherry, Madeira, and Claret, of which excellent liquors,
methought, the latter found least acceptance among the guests. When
every man had filled his glass, his Worship stood up and proposed a
toast. It was, of course, "Our gracious Sovereign," or words to that
effect; and immediately a band of musicians, whose preliminary tootings
and thrummings I had already heard behind me, struck up "God save the
Queen!" and the whole company rose with one impulse to assist in singing
that famous national anthem. It was the first time in my life that I had
ever seen a body of men, or even a single man, under the active
influence of the sentiment of Loyalty; for, though we call ourselves
loyal to our country and institutions, and prove it by our readiness to
shed blood and sacrifice life in their behalf, still the principle is as
cold and hard, in an American bosom, as the steel spring that puts in
motion a powerful machinery. In the Englishman's system, a force similar
to that of our steel spring is generated by the warm throbbings of human
hearts. He clothes our bare abstraction in flesh and blood,--at
present, in the flesh and blood of a woman,--and manages to combine
love, awe, and intellectual reverence, all in one emotion, and to embody
his mother, his wife, his children, the whole idea of kindred, in a
single person, and make her the representative of his country and its
laws. We Americans smile superior, as I did at the Mayor's table; and
yet, I fancy, we lose some very agreeable titillations of the heart in
consequence of our proud prerogative of caring no more about our
President than for a man of straw, or a stuffed scarecrow straddling in
a cornfield.

But, to say the truth, the spectacle struck me rather ludicrously, to
see this party of stout middle-aged and elderly gentlemen, in the
fullness of meat and drink, their ample and ruddy faces glistening with
wine, perspiration, and enthusiasm, rumbling out those strange old
stanzas from the very bottom of their hearts and stomachs, which two
organs, in the English interior arrangement, lie closer together than in
ours. The song seemed to me the rudest old ditty in the world; but I
could not wonder at its universal acceptance and indestructible
popularity, considering how inimitably it expresses the national faith
and feeling as regards the inevitable righteousness of England, the
Almighty's consequent respect and partiality for that redoubtable little
island, and his presumed readiness to strengthen its defense against the
contumacious wickedness and knavery of all other principalities or
republics. Tennyson himself, though evidently English to the very last
prejudice, could not write half so good a song for the purpose. Finding
that the entire dinner-table struck in, with voices of every pitch
between rolling thunder and the squeak of a cart-wheel, and that the
strain was not of such delicacy as to be much hurt by the harshest of
them, I determined to lend my own assistance in swelling the triumphant
roar. It seemed but a proper courtesy to the first Lady in the land,
whose guest, in the largest sense, I might consider myself. Accordingly,
my first tuneful efforts (and probably my last, for I purpose not to
sing any more, unless it be "Hail Columbia" on the restoration of the
Union) were poured freely forth in honor of Queen Victoria. The Sergeant
smiled like the carved head of a Swiss nutcracker, and the other
gentlemen in my neighborhood, by nods and gestures, evinced grave
approbation of so suitable a tribute to English superiority; and we
finished our stave and sat down in an extremely happy frame of mind.

Other toasts followed in honor of the great institutions and interests
of the country, and speeches in response to each were made by
individuals whom the Mayor designated or the company called for. None of
them impressed me with a very high idea of English post-prandial
oratory. It is inconceivable, indeed, what ragged and shapeless
utterances most Englishmen are satisfied to give vent to, without
attempting anything like artistic shape, but clapping on a patch here
and another there, and ultimately getting out what they want to say, and
generally with a result of sufficiently good sense, but in some such
disorganized mass as if they had thrown it up rather than spoken it. It
seemed to me that this was almost as much by choice as necessity. An
Englishman, ambitious of public favor, should not be too smooth. If an
orator is glib, his countrymen distrust him. They dislike smartness. The
stronger and heavier his thoughts, the better, provided there be an
element of commonplace running through them; and any rough, yet never
vulgar, force of expression, such as would knock an opponent down if it
hit him, only it must not be too personal, is altogether to their taste;
but a studied neatness of language, or other such superficial graces,
they cannot abide. They do not often permit a man to make himself a fine
orator of malice aforethought, that is, unless he be a nobleman (as, for
example, Lord Stanley, of the Derby family), who, as an hereditary
legislator and necessarily a public speaker, is bound to remedy a poor
natural delivery in the best way he can. On the whole, I partly agree
with them, and, if I cared for any oratory whatever, should be as likely
to applaud theirs as our own. When an English speaker sits down, you
feel that you have been listening to a real man, and not to an actor;
his sentiments have a wholesome earth-smell in them, though, very
likely, this apparent naturalness is as much an art as what we expend in
rounding a sentence or elaborating a peroration.

It is one good effect of this inartificial style, that nobody in England
seems to feel any shyness about shoveling the untrimmed and untrimmable
ideas out of his mind for the benefit of an audience. At least, nobody
did on the occasion now in hand, except a poor little Major of
Artillery, who responded for the Army in a thin, quavering voice, with a
terribly hesitating trickle of fragmentary ideas, and, I question not,
would rather have been bayoneted in front of his batteries than to have
said a word. Not his own mouth, but the cannon's, was this poor Major's
proper organ of utterance.

While I was thus amiably occupied in criticising my fellow-guests, the
Mayor had got up to propose another toast; and listening rather
inattentively to the first sentence or two, I soon became sensible of a
drift in his Worship's remarks that made me glance apprehensively
towards Sergeant Wilkins. "Yes," grumbled that gruff personage, shoving
a decanter of Port towards me, "it is your turn next;" and seeing in my
face, I suppose, the consternation of a wholly unpracticed orator, he
kindly added, "It is nothing. A mere acknowledgment will answer the
purpose. The less you say, the better they will like it." That being the
case, I suggested that perhaps they would like it best if I said nothing
at all. But the Sergeant shook his head. Now, on first receiving the
Mayor's invitation to dinner, it had occurred to me that I might
possibly be brought into my present predicament; but I had dismissed the
idea from my mind as too disagreeable to be entertained, and, moreover,
as so alien from my disposition and character that Fate surely could not
keep such a misfortune in store for me. If nothing else prevented, an
earthquake or the crack of doom would certainly interfere before I need
rise to speak. Yet here was the Mayor getting on inexorably,--and,
indeed, I heartily wished that he might get on and on forever, and of
his wordy wanderings find no end.

If the gentle reader, my kindest friend and closest confidant, deigns to
desire it, I can impart to him my own experience as a public speaker
quite as indifferently as if it concerned another person. Indeed, it
does concern another, or a mere spectral phenomenon, for it was not I,
in my proper and natural self, that sat there at table or subsequently
rose to speak. At the moment, then, if the choice had been offered me
whether the Mayor should let off a speech at my head or a pistol, I
should unhesitatingly have taken the latter alternative. I had really
nothing to say, not an idea in my head, nor, which was a great deal
worse, any flowing words or embroidered sentences in which to dress out
that empty Nothing, and give it a cunning aspect of intelligence, such
as might last the poor vacuity the little time it had to live. But time
pressed; the Mayor brought his remarks, affectionately eulogistic of the
United States and highly complimentary to their distinguished
representative at that table, to a close, amid a vast deal of cheering;
and the band struck up "Hail Columbia," I believe, though it might have
been "Old Hundred," or "God save the Queen" over again, for anything
that I should have known or cared. When the music ceased, there was an
intensely disagreeable instant, during which I seemed to rend away and
fling off the habit of a lifetime, and rose, still void of ideas, but
with preternatural composure, to make a speech. The guests rattled on
the table, and cried, "Hear!" most vociferously, as if now, at length,
in this foolish and idly garrulous world, had come the long-expected
moment when one golden word was to be spoken; and in that imminent
crisis, I caught a glimpse of a little bit of an effusion of
international sentiment, which it might, and must, and should do to
utter.

Well; it was nothing, as the Sergeant had said. What surprised me most
was the sound of my own voice, which I had never before heard at
declamatory pitch, and which impressed me as belonging to some other
person, who, and not myself, would be responsible for the speech: a
prodigious consolation and encouragement under the circumstances! I went
on without the slightest embarrassment, and sat down amid great
applause, wholly undeserved by anything that I had spoken, but well won
from Englishmen, methought, by the new development of pluck that alone
had enabled me to speak at all. "It was handsomely done!" quoth Sergeant
Wilkins; and I felt like a recruit who had been for the first time under
fire.[19]

[19] Anybody may make an after-dinner speech who will be content to talk
onward without saying anything. My speech was not more than two or three
inches long; and, considering that I did not know a soul there, except
the Mayor himself, and that I am wholly unpracticed in all sorts of
oratory, and that I had nothing to say, it was quite successful. I
hardly thought it was in me, but, being once started, I felt no
embarrassment, and went through it as coolly as if I were going to be
hanged.--I. 429.

I would gladly have ended my oratorical career then and there forever,
but was often placed in a similar or worse position, and compelled to
meet it as I best might; for this was one of the necessities of an
office which I had voluntarily taken on my shoulders, and beneath which
I might be crushed by no moral delinquency on my own part, but could not
shirk without cowardice and shame. My subsequent fortune was various.
Once, though I felt it to be a kind of imposture, I got a speech by
heart, and doubtless it might have been a very pretty one, only I forgot
every syllable at the moment of need, and had to improvise another as
well as I could. I found it a better method to prearrange a few points
in my mind, and trust to the spur of the occasion, and the kind aid of
Providence, for enabling me to bring them to bear. The presence of any
considerable proportion of personal friends generally dumfounded me. I
would rather have talked with an enemy in the gate. Invariably, too, I
was much embarrassed by a small audience, and succeeded better with a
large one,--the sympathy of a multitude possessing a buoyant effect,
which lifts the speaker a little way out of his individuality, and
tosses him towards a perhaps better range of sentiment than his private
one. Again, if I rose carelessly and confidently, with an expectation of
going through the business entirely at my ease, I often found that I
had little or nothing to say; whereas, if I came to the charge in
perfect despair, and at a crisis when failure would have been horrible,
it once or twice happened that the frightful emergency concentrated my
poor faculties, and enabled me to give definite and vigorous expression
to sentiments which an instant before looked as vague and far off as the
clouds in the atmosphere. On the whole, poor as my own success may have
been, I apprehend that any intelligent man with a tongue possesses the
chief requisite of oratorical power, and may develop many of the others,
if he deems it worth while to bestow a great amount of labor and pains
on an object which the most accomplished orators, I suspect, have not
found altogether satisfactory to their highest impulses. At any rate, it
must be a remarkably true man who can keep his own elevated conception
of truth when the lower feeling of a multitude is assailing his natural
sympathies, and who can speak out frankly the best that there is in him,
when by adulterating it a little, or a good deal, he knows that he may
make it ten times as acceptable to the audience.

This slight article on the civic banquets of England would be too
wretchedly imperfect without an attempted description of a Lord Mayor's
dinner at the Mansion House in London. I should have preferred the
annual feast at Guildhall, but never had the good fortune to witness it.
Once, however, I was honored with an invitation to one of the regular
dinners, and gladly accepted it,--taking the precaution, nevertheless,
though it hardly seemed necessary, to inform the City-King, through a
mutual friend, that I was no fit representative of American eloquence,
and must humbly make it a condition that I should not be expected to
open my mouth, except for the reception of his Lordship's bountiful
hospitality. The reply was gracious and acquiescent; so that I presented
myself in the great entrance-hall of the Mansion House, at half-past six
o'clock, in a state of most enjoyable freedom from the pusillanimous
apprehensions that often tormented me at such times. The Mansion House
was built in Queen Anne's days, in the very heart of old London, and is
a palace worthy of its inhabitant, were he really as great a man as his
traditionary state and pomp would seem to indicate. Times are changed,
however, since the days of Whittington, or even of Hogarth's Industrious
Apprentice, to whom the highest imaginable reward of lifelong integrity
was a seat in the Lord Mayor's chair. People nowadays say that the real
dignity and importance have perished out of the office, as they do,
sooner or later, out of all earthly institutions, leaving only a painted
and gilded shell like that of an Easter egg, and that it is only
second-rate and third-rate men who now condescend to be ambitious of the
Mayoralty. I felt a little grieved at this; for the original emigrants
of New England had strong sympathies with the people of London, who were
mostly Puritans in religion and Parliamentarians in politics, in the
early days of our country; so that the Lord Mayor was a potentate of
huge dimensions in the estimation of our forefathers, and held to be
hardly second to the prime minister of the throne. The true great men of
the city now appear to have aims beyond city greatness, connecting
themselves with national politics, and seeking to be identified with the
aristocracy of the country.

In the entrance-hall I was received by a body of footmen dressed in a
livery of blue coats and buff breeches, in which they looked
wonderfully like American Revolutionary generals, only bedizened with
far more lace and embroidery than those simple and grand old heroes ever
dreamed of wearing. There were likewise two very imposing figures, whom
I should have taken to be military men of rank, being arrayed in scarlet
coats and large silver epaulets; but they turned out to be officers of
the Lord Mayor's household, and were now employed in assigning to the
guests the places which they were respectively to occupy at the
dinner-table. Our names (for I had included myself in a little group of
friends) were announced; and ascending the staircase, we met his
Lordship in the doorway of the first reception-room, where, also, we had
the advantage of a presentation to the Lady Mayoress. As this
distinguished couple retired into private life at the termination of
their year of office, it is inadmissible to make any remarks, critical
or laudatory, on the manners and bearing of two personages suddenly
emerging from a position of respectable mediocrity into one of
preëminent dignity within their own sphere. Such individuals almost
always seem to grow nearly or quite to the full size of their office. If
it were desirable to write an essay on the latent aptitude of ordinary
people for grandeur, we have an exemplification in our own country, and
on a scale incomparably greater than that of the Mayoralty, though
invested with nothing like the outward magnificence that gilds and
embroiders the latter. If I have been correctly informed, the Lord
Mayor's salary is exactly double that of the President of the United
States, and yet is found very inadequate to his necessary expenditure.

There were two reception-rooms, thrown into one by the opening of wide
folding-doors; and though in an old style, and not yet so old as to be
venerable, they are remarkably handsome apartments, lofty as well as
spacious, with carved ceilings and walls, and at either end a splendid
fireplace of white marble, ornamented with sculptured wreaths of flowers
and foliage. The company were about three hundred, many of them
celebrities in politics, war, literature, and science, though I
recollect none preëminently distinguished in either department. But it
is certainly a pleasant mode of doing honor to men of literature, for
example, who deserve well of the public, yet do not often meet it face
to face, thus to bring them together under genial auspices, in
connection with persons of note in other lines. I know not what may be
the Lord Mayor's mode or principle of selecting his guests, nor whether,
during his official term, he can proffer his hospitality to every man of
noticeable talent in the wide world of London, nor, in fine, whether his
Lordship's invitation is much sought for or valued; but it seemed to me
that this periodical feast is one of the many sagacious methods which
the English have contrived for keeping up a good understanding among
different sorts of people. Like most other distinctions of society,
however, I presume that the Lord Mayor's card does not often seek out
modest merit, but comes at last when the recipient is conscious of the
bore, and doubtful about the honor.

One very pleasant characteristic, which I never met with at any other
public or partially public dinner, was the presence of ladies. No doubt,
they were principally the wives and daughters of city magnates; and if
we may judge from the many sly allusions in old plays and satirical
poems, the city of London has always been famous for the beauty of its
women and the reciprocal attractions between them and the men of
quality. Be that as it might, while straying hither and thither through
those crowded apartments, I saw much reason for modifying certain
heterodox opinions which I had imbibed, in my Transatlantic newness and
rawness, as regarded the delicate character and frequent occurrence of
English beauty. To state the entire truth (being, at this period, some
years old in English life), my taste, I fear, had long since begun to be
deteriorated by acquaintance with other models of feminine loveliness
than it was my happiness to know in America. I often found, or seemed to
find, if I may dare to confess it, in the persons of such of my dear
countrywomen as I now occasionally met, a certain meagreness (Heaven
forbid that I should call it scrawniness!), a deficiency of physical
development, a scantiness, so to speak, in the pattern of their material
make, a paleness of complexion, a thinness of voice,--all of which
characteristics, nevertheless, only made me resolve so much the more
sturdily to uphold these fair creatures as angels, because I was
sometimes driven to a half-acknowledgment that the English ladies,
looked at from a lower point of view, were perhaps a little finer
animals than they. The advantages of the latter, if any they could
really be said to have, were all comprised in a few additional lumps of
clay on their shoulders and other parts of their figures. It would be a
pitiful bargain to give up the ethereal charm of American beauty in
exchange for half a hundred-weight of human clay!

At a given signal we all found our way into an immense room, called the
Egyptian Hall, I know not why, except that the architecture was classic,
and as different as possible from the ponderous style of Memphis and the
Pyramids. A powerful band played inspiringly as we entered, and a
brilliant profusion of light shone down on two long tables, extending
the whole length of the hall, and a cross-table between them, occupying
nearly its entire breadth. Glass gleamed and silver glistened on an acre
or two of snowy damask, over which were set out all the accompaniments
of a stately feast. We found our places without much difficulty, and the
Lord Mayor's chaplain implored a blessing on the food,--a ceremony which
the English never omit, at a great dinner or a small one, yet consider,
I fear, not so much a religious rite as a sort of preliminary relish
before the soup.

The soup, of course, on this occasion, was turtle, of which, in
accordance with immemorial custom, each guest was allowed two platefuls,
in spite of the otherwise immitigable law of table-decorum. Indeed,
judging from the proceedings of the gentlemen near me, I surmised that
there was no practical limit, except the appetite of the guests and the
capacity of the soup-tureens. Not being fond of this civic dainty, I
partook of it but once, and then only in accordance with the wise maxim,
always to taste a fruit, a wine, or a celebrated dish, at its indigenous
site; and the fountain-head of turtle-soup, I suppose, is in the Lord
Mayor's dinner-pot. It is one of those orthodox customs which people
follow for half a century without knowing why, to drink a sip of
rum-punch, in a very small tumbler, after the soup. It was excellently
well-brewed, and it seemed to me almost worth while to sup the soup for
the sake of sipping the punch. The rest of the dinner was catalogued in
a bill-of-fare printed on delicate white paper within an arabesque
border of green and gold. It looked very good, not only in the English
and French names of the numerous dishes, but also in the positive
reality of the dishes themselves, which were all set on the table to be
carved and distributed by the guests. This ancient and honest method is
attended with a good deal of trouble, and a lavish effusion of gravy,
yet by no means bestowed or dispensed in vain, because you have thereby
the absolute assurance of a banquet actually before your eyes, instead
of a shadowy promise in the bill-of-fare, and such meagre fulfillment as
a single guest can contrive to get upon his individual plate. I wonder
that Englishmen, who are fond of looking at prize-oxen in the shape of
butcher's meat, do not generally better estimate the æsthetic gormandism
of devouring the whole dinner with their eyesight, before proceeding to
nibble the comparatively few morsels which, after all, the most heroic
appetite and widest stomachic capacity of mere mortals can enable even
an alderman really to eat. There fell to my lot three delectable things
enough, which I take pains to remember, that the reader may not go away
wholly unsatisfied from the Barmecide feast to which I have bidden
him,--a red mullet, a plate of mushrooms, exquisitely stewed, and part
of a ptarmigan, a bird of the same family as the grouse, but feeding
high up towards the summit of the Scotch mountains, whence it gets a
wild delicacy of flavor very superior to that of the artificially
nurtured English game-fowl. All the other dainties have vanished from my
memory as completely as those of Prospero's banquet after Ariel had
clapped his wings over it. The band played at intervals inspiriting us
to new efforts, as did likewise the sparkling wines which the footmen
supplied from an inexhaustible cellar, and which the guests quaffed with
little apparent reference to the disagreeable fact that there comes a
to-morrow morning after every feast. As long as that shall be the case,
a prudent man can never have full enjoyment of his dinner.

Nearly opposite to me, on the other side of the table, sat a young lady
in white, whom I am sorely tempted to describe, but dare not, because
not only the super-eminence of her beauty, but its peculiar character,
would cause the sketch to be recognized, however rudely it might be
drawn. I hardly thought that there existed such a woman outside of a
picture-frame, or the covers of a romance: not that I had ever met with
her resemblance even there, but, being so distinct and singular an
apparition, she seemed likelier to find her sisterhood in poetry and
picture than in real life. Let us turn away from her, lest a touch too
apt should compel her stately and cold and soft and womanly grace to
gleam out upon my page with a strange repulsion and unattainableness in
the very spell that made her beautiful.[20] At her side, and familiarly
attentive to her, sat a gentleman of whom I remember only a hard outline
of the nose and forehead, and such a monstrous portent of a beard that
you could discover no symptom of a mouth, except when he opened it to
speak, or to put in a morsel of food. Then, indeed, you suddenly became
aware of a cave hidden behind the impervious and darksome shrubbery.
There could be no doubt who this gentleman and lady were. Any child
would have recognized them at a glance. It was Bluebeard and a new wife
(the loveliest of the series, but with already a mysterious gloom
overshadowing her fair young brow) traveling in their honeymoon, and
dining, among other distinguished strangers, at the Lord Mayor's table.

[20] My eyes were mostly drawn to a young lady, who sat nearly opposite
me, across the table. She was, I suppose, dark, and yet not dark, but
rather seemed to be of pure white marble, yet not white; but the purest
and finest complexion, without a shade of color in it, yet anything but
sallow or sickly. Her hair was a wonderful deep raven-black, black as
night, black as death; not raven-black, for that has a shiny gloss,
and hers had not, but it was hair never to be painted nor
described,--wonderful hair, Jewish hair. Her nose had a beautiful
outline, though I could see that it was Jewish too; and that, and all
her features, were so fine that sculpture seemed a despicable art beside
her, and certainly my pen is good for nothing. If any likeness could be
given, however, it must be by sculpture, not painting. She was slender
and youthful, and yet had a stately and cold, though soft and womanly
grace; and, looking at her, I saw what were the wives of the old
patriarchs in their maiden or early-married days,--what Judith was, for,
womanly as she looked, I doubt not she could have slain a man in a just
cause,--what Bathsheba was, only she seemed to have no sin in
her,--perhaps what Eve was, though one could hardly think her weak
enough to eat the apple.... Whether owing to distinctness of race, my
sense that she was a Jewess, or whatever else, I felt a sort of
repugnance, simultaneously with my perception that she was an admirable
creature.--II. 238.

After an hour or two of valiant achievement with knife and fork came the
dessert; and at the point of the festival where finger-glasses are
usually introduced, a large silver basin was carried round to the
guests, containing rose-water, into which we dipped the ends of our
napkins and were conscious of a delightful fragrance, instead of that
heavy and weary odor, the hateful ghost of a defunct dinner. This seems
to be an ancient custom of the city, not confined to the Lord Mayor's
table, but never met with westward of Temple Bar.

During all the feast, in accordance with another ancient custom, the
origin or purport of which I do not remember to have heard, there stood
a man in armor, with a helmet on his head, behind his Lordship's chair.
When the after-dinner wine was placed on the table, still another
official personage appeared behind the chair, and proceeded to make a
solemn and sonorous proclamation (in which he enumerated the principal
guests, comprising three or four noblemen, several baronets, and plenty
of generals, members of Parliament, aldermen, and other names of the
illustrious, one of which sounded strangely familiar to my ears), ending
in some such style as this: "and other gentlemen and ladies, here
present, the Lord Mayor drinks to you all in a loving-cup,"--giving a
sort of sentimental twang to the two words,--"and sends it round among
you!" And forthwith the loving-cup--several of them, indeed, on each
side of the tables--came slowly down with all the antique ceremony.

The fashion of it is thus. The Lord Mayor, standing up and taking the
covered cup in both hands, presents it to the guest at his elbow, who
likewise rises, and removes the cover for his Lordship to drink, which
being successfully accomplished, the guest replaces the cover and
receives the cup into his own hands. He then presents it to his next
neighbor, that the cover may be again removed for himself to take a
draught, after which the third person goes through a similar manoeuvre
with a fourth, and he with a fifth, until the whole company find
themselves inextricably inter-twisted and entangled in one complicated
chain of love. When the cup came to my hands, I examined it critically,
both inside and out, and perceived it to be an antique and richly
ornamented silver goblet, capable of holding about a quart of wine.
Considering how much trouble we all expended in getting the cup to our
lips, the guests appeared to content themselves with wonderfully
moderate potations. In truth, nearly or quite the original quart of wine
being still in the goblet, it seemed doubtful whether any of the company
had more than barely touched the silver rim before passing it to their
neighbors,--a degree of abstinence that might be accounted for by a
fastidious repugnance to so many compotators in one cup, or possibly by
a disapprobation of the liquor. Being curious to know all about these
important matters, with a view of recommending to my countrymen whatever
they might usefully adopt, I drank an honest sip from the loving-cup,
and had no occasion for another,--ascertaining it to be Claret of a poor
original quality, largely mingled with water, and spiced and sweetened.
It was good enough, however, for a merely spectral or ceremonial drink,
and could never have been intended for any better purpose.

The toasts now began in the customary order, attended with speeches
neither more nor less witty and ingenious than the specimens of table
eloquence which had heretofore delighted me. As preparatory to each new
display, the herald, or whatever he was, behind the chair of state, gave
awful notice that the Right Honorable the Lord Mayor was about to
propose a toast. His Lordship being happily delivered thereof, together
with some accompanying remarks, the band played an appropriate tune, and
the herald again issued proclamation to the effect that such or such a
nobleman, or gentleman, general, dignified clergyman, or what not, was
going to respond to the Right Honorable the Lord Mayor's toast; then, if
I mistake not, there was another prodigious flourish of trumpets and
twanging of stringed instruments; and, finally, the doomed individual,
waiting all this while to be decapitated, got up and proceeded to make a
fool of himself. A bashful young earl tried his maiden oratory on the
good citizens of London, and, having evidently got every word by heart
(even including, however he managed it, the most seemingly casual
improvisations of the moment), he really spoke like a book, and made
incomparably the smoothest speech I ever heard in England.

The weight and gravity of the speakers, not only on this occasion, but
all similar ones, was what impressed me as most extraordinary, not to
say absurd. Why should people eat a good dinner, and put their spirits
into festive trim with Champagne, and afterwards mellow themselves into
a most enjoyable state of quietude with copious libations of Sherry and
old Port, and then disturb the whole excellent result by listening to
speeches as heavy as an after-dinner nap, and in no degree so
refreshing? If the Champagne had thrown its sparkle over the surface of
these effusions, or if the generous Port had shone through their
substance with a ruddy glow of the old English humor, I might have seen
a reason for honest gentlemen prattling in their cups, and should
undoubtedly have been glad to be a listener. But there was no attempt
nor impulse of the kind on the part of the orators, nor apparent
expectation of such a phenomenon on that of the audience. In fact, I
imagine that the latter were best pleased when the speaker embodied his
ideas in the figurative language of arithmetic, or struck upon any hard
matter of business or statistics, as a heavy-laden bark bumps upon a
rock in mid-ocean.[21] The sad severity, the too earnest utilitarianism,
of modern life, have wrought a radical and lamentable change, I am
afraid, in this ancient and goodly institution of civic banquets. People
used to come to them, a few hundred years ago, for the sake of being
jolly; they come now with an odd notion of pouring sober wisdom into
their wine by way of wormwood-bitters, and thus make such a mess of it
that the wine and wisdom reciprocally spoil one another.

[21] I rather think that Englishmen would purposely avoid eloquence or
neatness in after-dinner speeches. It seems to be no part of their
object. Yet any Englishman almost, much more generally than Americans,
will stand up and talk on in a plain way, uttering one rough, ragged,
and shapeless sentence after another, and will have expressed himself
sensibly, though in a very rude manner, before he sits down. And this is
quite satisfactory to his audience, who, indeed, are rather prejudiced
against the man who speaks too glibly.--I. 540.

Possibly, the foregoing sentiments have taken a spice of acridity from a
circumstance that happened about this stage of the feast, and very much
interrupted my own further enjoyment of it. Up to this time, my
condition had been exceedingly felicitous, both on account of the
brilliancy of the scene, and because I was in close proximity with three
very pleasant English friends. One of them was a lady, whose honored
name my readers would recognize as a household word, if I dared write
it; another, a gentleman, likewise well known to them, whose fine taste,
kind heart, and genial cultivation are qualities seldom mixed in such
happy proportion as in him. The third was the man to whom I owed most in
England, the warm benignity of whose nature was never weary of doing me
good, who led me to many scenes of life, in town, camp, and country,
which I never could have found out for myself, who knew precisely the
kind of help a stranger needs, and gave it as freely as if he had not
had a thousand more important things to live for. Thus I never felt
safer or cosier at anybody's fireside, even my own, than at the
dinner-table of the Lord Mayor.

Out of this serene sky came a thunderbolt. His Lordship got up and
proceeded to make some very eulogistic remarks upon "the literary and
commercial"--I question whether those two adjectives were ever before
married by a copulative conjunction, and they certainly would not live
together in illicit intercourse, of their own accord--"the literary and
commercial attainments of an eminent gentleman there present," and then
went on to speak of the relations of blood and interest between Great
Britain and the aforesaid eminent gentleman's native country. Those
bonds were more intimate than had ever before existed between two great
nations, throughout all history, and his Lordship felt assured that that
whole honorable company would join him in the expression of a fervent
wish that they might be held inviolably sacred, on both sides of the
Atlantic, now and forever. Then came the same wearisome old toast, dry
and hard to chew upon as a musty sea-biscuit, which had been the text of
nearly all the oratory of my public career. The herald sonorously
announced that Mr. So-and-so would now respond to his Right Honorable
Lordship's toast and speech, the trumpets sounded the customary flourish
for the onset, there was a thunderous rumble of anticipatory applause,
and finally a deep silence sank upon the festive hall.

All this was a horrid piece of treachery on the Lord Mayor's part, after
beguiling me within his lines on a pledge of safe-conduct; and it seemed
very strange that he could not let an unobtrusive individual eat his
dinner in peace, drink a small sample of the Mansion House wine, and go
away grateful at heart for the old English hospitality. If his Lordship
had sent me an infusion of ratsbane in the loving-cup, I should have
taken it much more kindly at his hands. But I suppose the secret of the
matter to have been somewhat as follows.

All England, just then, was in one of those singular fits of panic
excitement (not fear, though as sensitive and tremulous as that
emotion), which, in consequence of the homogeneous character of the
people, their intense patriotism, and their dependence for their ideas
in public affairs on other sources than their own examination and
individual thought, are more sudden, pervasive, and unreasoning than any
similar mood of our own public. In truth, I have never seen the American
public in a state at all similar, and believe that we are incapable of
it. Our excitements are not impulsive, like theirs, but, right or wrong,
are moral and intellectual. For example, the grand rising of the North,
at the commencement of this war, bore the aspect of impulse and passion
only because it was so universal, and necessarily done in a moment, just
as the quiet and simultaneous getting-up of a thousand people out of
their chairs would cause a tumult that might be mistaken for a storm. We
were cool then, and have been cool ever since, and shall remain cool to
the end, which we shall take coolly, whatever it may be. There is
nothing which the English find it so difficult to understand in us as
this characteristic. They imagine us, in our collective capacity, a kind
of wild beast, whose normal condition is savage fury, and are always
looking for the moment when we shall break through the slender barriers
of international law and comity, and compel the reasonable part of the
world, with themselves at the head, to combine for the purpose of
putting us into a stronger cage. At times this apprehension becomes so
powerful (and when one man feels it, a million do) that it resembles the
passage of the wind over a broad field of grain, where you see the whole
crop bending and swaying beneath one impulse, and each separate stalk
tossing with the self-same disturbance as its myriad companions. At such
periods all Englishmen talk with a terrible identity of sentiment and
expression. You have the whole country in each man; and not one of them
all, if you put him strictly to the question, can give a reasonable
ground for his alarm. There are but two nations in the world--our own
country and France--that can put England into this singular state. It is
the united sensitiveness of a people extremely well-to-do, careful of
their country's honor, most anxious for the preservation of the cumbrous
and moss-grown prosperity which they have been so long in consolidating,
and incompetent (owing to the national half-sightedness, and their
habit of trusting to a few leading minds for their public opinion) to
judge when that prosperity is really threatened.

If the English were accustomed to look at the foreign side of any
international dispute, they might easily have satisfied themselves that
there was very little danger of a war at that particular crisis, from
the simple circumstance that their own Government had positively not an
inch of honest ground to stand upon, and could not fail to be aware of
the fact. Neither could they have met Parliament with any show of a
justification for incurring war. It was no such perilous juncture as
exists now, when law and right are really controverted on sustainable or
plausible grounds, and a naval commander may at any moment fire off the
first cannon of a terrible contest. If I remember it correctly, it was a
mere diplomatic squabble, in which the British ministers, with the
politic generosity which they are in the habit of showing towards their
official subordinates, had tried to browbeat us for the purpose of
sustaining an ambassador in an indefensible proceeding; and the American
Government (for God had not denied us an administration of statesmen
then) had retaliated with stanch courage and exquisite skill, putting
inevitably a cruel mortification upon their opponents, but indulging
them with no pretense whatever for active resentment.

Now the Lord Mayor, like any other Englishman, probably fancied that War
was on the western gale, and was glad to lay hold of even so
insignificant an American as myself, who might be made to harp on the
rusty old strings of national sympathies, identity of blood and
interest, and community of language and literature, and whisper peace
where there was no peace, in however weak an utterance. And possibly his
Lordship thought, in his wisdom, that the good feeling which was sure to
be expressed by a company of well-bred Englishmen, at his august and
far-famed dinner-table, might have an appreciable influence on the grand
result. Thus, when the Lord Mayor invited me to his feast, it was a
piece of strategy. He wanted to induce me to fling myself, like a lesser
Curtius, with a larger object of self-sacrifice, into the chasm of
discord between England and America, and, on my ignominious demur, had
resolved to shove me in with his own right-honorable hands, in the hope
of closing up the horrible pit forever. On the whole, I forgive his
Lordship. He meant well by all parties,--himself, who would share the
glory, and me, who ought to have desired nothing better than such an
heroic opportunity,--his own country, which would continue to get cotton
and bread-stuffs, and mine, which would get everything that men work
with and wear.

As soon as the Lord Mayor began to speak, I rapped upon my mind, and it
gave forth a hollow sound, being absolutely empty of appropriate ideas.
I never thought of listening to the speech, because I knew it all
beforehand in twenty repetitions from other lips, and was aware that it
would not offer a single suggestive point. In this dilemma, I turned to
one of my three friends, a gentleman whom I knew to possess an enviable
flow of silver speech, and obtested him, by whatever he deemed holiest,
to give me at least an available thought or two to start with, and, once
afloat, I would trust my guardian-angel for enabling me to flounder
ashore again. He advised me to begin with some remarks complimentary to
the Lord Mayor, and expressive of the hereditary reverence in which his
office was held,--at least, my friend thought that there would be no
harm in giving his Lordship this little sugar-plum, whether quite the
fact or no,--was held by the descendants of the Puritan forefathers.
Thence, if I liked, getting flexible with the oil of my own eloquence, I
might easily slide off into the momentous subject of the relations
between England and America, to which his Lordship had made such weighty
allusion.

Seizing this handful of straw with a death-grip, and bidding my three
friends bury me honorably, I got upon my legs to save both countries, or
perish in the attempt. The tables roared and thundered at me, and
suddenly were silent again. But, as I have never happened to stand in a
position of greater dignity and peril, I deem it a stratagem of sage
policy here to close these Sketches, leaving myself still erect in so
heroic an attitude.



INDEX


    Actress, an, in an almshouse, 507;
      starving for admiration, 508.

    Addison, early home of, 215;
      buried among the men of rank, 456.

    Advice, as to giving, 42.

    Ailsa Craig, 358.

    Alexander, Miss, the Lass of Ballochmyle, 344.

    Almshouse, a great English, 498-522.

    American flags, captured, displayed in Chelsea Hospital, 435.

    American mercantile marine, misrepresented at Liverpool, 2, 3, 46;
      its vicious system, 45, 48.

    American shipmasters, cruelties of, 44-49.

    Americans, national characteristics of, as seen by a consul, 9, 10;
      vagabond habits of, 11, 12;
      as claimants of English estates, 18, 22-31;
      growth and change the law of their existence, 93;
      their scholars and critics, 190;
      their light regard for the President, 553.

    André, Major, at Lichfield, 216.

    Anne, Queen, statue of, at Blenheim, 295.

    Antiquity, hoar, in English scenes, 90.

    Archdeacon ale, 300.

    Armour, Jean, 329, 330, 346.

    Auchinleck, estate of, 343.

    Avon, the, arched bridge at Warwick, 105;
      a sluggish river, 166.

    Ayr, ride to, 347;
      its two bridges, 348.


    Bacon, Lord, his Letters, 176.

    Bacon, Miss, a very remarkable woman, 172;
      her Shakespearean theory, 172, 173, 176-178;
      her personal appearance, 174;
      her book, 179, 189, 192;
      an admirable talker, 180;
      at Stratford, 181-191;
      her plans for searching Shakespeare's grave, 182-184;
      Hawthorne incurs her displeasure, 188;
      her insanity, 191;
      her death, 192.

    Ballochmyle, the Lass of, 344.

    Banquets, civic, 527-588.

    Barber Surgeons' Hall, in London, 537-539.

    Bear and Ragged Staff, the, cognizance of the Warwick Earldom, 109;
      silver badge of, 113;
      representations of, at Leicester's Hospital, 116, 118, 133.

    Beauchamp, Richard, Earl of Warwick, memorial of, 138;
      strange accident to, 139.

    Beauchamp Chapel, at Warwick, 137-140.

    Bebbington, monuments at, 85, _note_;
      old village church of, 98, _note_.

    Beggar, a true Englishman's dislike of a, 491;
      hardening the heart against, 492;
      a phenomenal, 493-495.

    Belmont, August, minister at the Hague, 29.

    Ben Lomond, 358.

    Black Swan inn, Lichfield, 199.

    Blackheath, the wide waste of, 370-373;
      amusements at, 373-375.

    Blenheim, excursion to, 281, 282;
      its park, 283-289;
      Marlborough's Triumphal Pillar at, 289;
      its palace, 289-296;
      its gardens, 296-298.

    Bolton, 231.

    Boston, old, trip to, by steamer from Lincoln, 255-259;
      the river side of, 260;
      antique-looking houses at, 263;
      a bookseller's shop at, 264, 265;
      its crooked and narrow streets, 275;
      its Charity School scholars, 277;
      market-day in, 278.

    Boswell, Sir James, grandson of Johnson's friend, 343.

    Brooke, Lord, shot near the Minster Pool, 206.

    Brown, Capability, his lake at Blenheim, 284;
      grounds at Nuneham Courtney, 321.

    Buchanan, James, in London, 20;
      receives Hawthorne's resignation, 55;
      calls on Miss Bacon, 178.

    Buckland, Dean, swallows part of Louis XIV.'s heart, 270.

    Bull, John, too intensely English, 101.

    Bunker Hill, England, 279.

    Burleigh, Lord, waistcoat of, 266.

    Burns, Robert, his house at Dumfries, 325-327;
      his mausoleum, 329, 330;
      marble statue of, 329;
      his outward life, 331;
      his family pew in St. Michael's Church, 334;
      his farm of Moss Giel, 337-342;
      his birthplace, 349-351;
      his monument, 351-353.

    Butchers' shops, in poor streets of London, 474.


    Carfax, the, 320.

    Caskets, burial, "a vile modern phrase," 140.

    Cass, Lewis, responds to interference of British Minister, 46.

    Catrine, "the clean village of Scotland," 345.

    Ceylon, wild men of, 28.

    Charlecote Hall, 195-198.

    Charlecote Park, 193; deer in, 194, 195.

    Charles, the Martyr, king, 270.

    Charles I., Vandyck's picture of, 292.

    Chelsea, 433.

    Chelsea Hospital, 433-437.

    Chester, most curious town in England, 59.

    Children in an English almshouse, 509-519.

    Children, poor, in London streets, 487-489.

    Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford, 155.

    Climate, English, unfavorable to open-air memorials, 83, 84.

    Cockneys, in Greenwich Park, 379.

    Coffee-room, English, ponderous gloom of, 200.

    Combe, John a', boon-companion of Shakespeare, 164;
      buried near Shakespeare, 168;
      marble figure of, 170;
      Shakespeare's squib on, 170.

    Concord River, compared with the Leam, 67.

    Connecticut shopkeeper, a, seeking interview with the Queen, 17-21.

    Conner, Mr., an American patron of Leicester's Hospital, 133.

    Consul, as general adviser and helper, 31, 32, 42, 43;
      as arbiter between seamen and their officers, 44-49;
      not a favorite with shipmasters, 49;
      necessary qualifications, 51, 52;
      wrong system of appointment and removal, 52;
      important duties, 53;
      emoluments, 55,
      _note_.

    Consulate, American, in Liverpool, its location, 1;
      its approaches, 1, 2;
      its furnishings, 3-6;
      visitors at, 7-21;
      faithful English subordinates, 50, 51;
      Hawthorne's successor at, 56.

    Cook, Captain, present from Queen of Otaheite to, 266.

    Cornwall, Barry, 469.

    Cottages, rustic laborers', 79-81.

    Cotton, Rev. John, in Old Boston, 263, 270, 271.

    Crystal Palace, the, 438.

    Cumnor, village of, 301; its church, 302, 303.

    Cymbeline, King, founder of Warwick, 103, 129;
      one of his original gateways, 112.


    Deluge, necessity of a new, 472, 518.

    Dinner, the English idea of, 527;
      Milton on, 528;
      a perfect work of art, 530, 531;
      an English mayor's, 539-560;
      Lord Mayor's, at the Mansion House, 563.

    Doctor of Divinity, an erring, 33-41.

    Doon, the bridge of, 357.

    Dowager, an English, 73-75.

    Dudley, Earl of Leicester, establishes Leicester's Hospital, 115;
      a grim sinner, 127;
      his monument in Beauchamp Chapel, 137;
      his long-enduring kindness, 138.

    Dumfries, excursion to, 325-334.

    Dutch government, an American under the ban of, 29.


    East winds, English, 257.

    Edward IV., King, a lock of his hair, 140.

    Edward the Confessor, shrine of, 455.

    Elizabeth, Queen, Secret-Book of, 269.

    Elm, the beautiful Warwickshire, 69.

    England, conservative, 141;
      yet the foundations of its aristocracy crumbling, 141.

    English, the, forgetful of defeats, 4;
      their character, massive materiality of, 23;
      secret of their practical success, 42;
      impostors betrayed by pronunciation of "been," 44;
      their integrity, 51;
      their love of high stone fences and shrubbery, 69, 371;
      curious infelicity of, 100;
      like to feel the weight of the past, 111;
      the very kindest people on earth, 305;
      their insular narrowness, 306;
      their inability to enjoy summer, 367;
      original simplicity of, 379;
      eager to know their weight, 402;
      women not beautiful, 406;
      their contempt for fine-strained purity, 408, 409;
      their tendency to batter one another's persons, 482.

    English crowds, unfragrant, 397, 398.

    English post-prandial oratory, 555, 579.

    English village, fossilized life of an, 93.

    English weather, 5, 366-368.

    Englishman, a middle-aged, personal appearance of, 542.

    Epitaphs: illegible, on English gravestones, 84;
      moss-embossed, 85;
      forlorn one on John Treeo, 86, 87.

    Eugene, Prince, tapestry portraits of, 294.


    Feeing, in England, 161, 162, _note_.

    Feminine character among the London poor, 481-487.

    Fences, English stone, adorned by Nature, 151, 152, _note_.

    Forster, Anthony, buried in Cumnor Church, 303.

    Fruit, English, poor flavor of, 364.

    Fun of the Fair, the, 399.


    Garrick, David, boyish days at Lichfield, 216.

    Gin-shops, London, 472.

    Girls, English and American, contrasted, 72, 75, 406.

    Godiva, Countess, picture of, 535.

    Godstowe, old nunnery of, 317.

    Gravestones, English, successive crops of, 83;
      illegible inscriptions on, 84;
      moss-embossed inscriptions on, 85.

    Greenwich, its park, 376, 377, 379, 380, 383;
      its observatory, the centre of Time and Space, 376;
      its hospital, 385-396;
      its fair, 396-408.


    Hatton, a community of old settlers, 95;
      its church, 96, 97.

    Hawthorne responds to toasts at civic banquets, 558-560, 582-588.

    Hedges, English, 149.

    Henry V., his helmet and war-saddle displayed in
      Westminster Abbey, 455.

    Highland Mary, the pocket Bible that Burns gave her, 353.

    Holbein, masterpiece of, in Barber Surgeons' Hall, 537.

    Home, a genuine British, 359-364.

    Hotels and hotel bills, English, 162, _note_.

    Houses of Parliament, the, 431.

    Hunt, Leigh, interview with, 459-468;
      final recollection of, 468.


    Imogen, Shakespeare's womanliest woman, 129.


    Jackson, General, bust of, 4.

    James, G. P. R., never saw London Tower, 428.

    James I., King, feasted by an Earl of Warwick, 119, 134.

    Jephson, Dr., discoverer of chalybeate well at Leamington, 63.

    Jephson Garden, on the Leam, 65-67.

    Johnson, Dr., born at Lichfield, 201;
      as a man, a talker, and a humorist, 202;
      the great English moralist, 203;
      his birthplace, 216, 217;
      his statue, by Lucas, 218;
      statue in St. Paul's Cathedral, 219, _note_;
      doing penance in the market-place, 220, 223, 228, 229, 230;
      his faith in beef and mutton, 225.

    Johnson, Michael, selling books on market-day, 221;
      his book-stall, 222;
      at the Nag's Head inn, 226, 227.

    Jolly Beggars, the, at Posie Nansie's inn, 336.

    Jonson, Ben, buried standing upright, 451.

    Judges, social standing of, 549.


    Kemble, John, statue of, in Westminster Abbey, 445.

    Kirk Alloway, 354-356.

    "Kissing in the Ring," 404.

    Kneller, Sir Godfrey, his objection to being buried in
      Westminster Abbey, 449.


    Lambeth Palace, 432.

    Lancashire, a dreary county, 231.

    Lansdowne Circus, 60;
      its houses, 61;
      its inhabitants, 62.

    Leam, the river, 63, 65;
      the laziest in the world, 67.

    Leamington Spa, 60;
      a permanent watering-place, 63, 64;
      the business portion of the town, 68;
      beautiful in street and suburb, 69;
      but pretentious, 70;
      its aristocratic names, 71;
      the throng on its principal Parade, 71, 72.

    Lear, West's dreary picture of, 390.

    Leicester's Hospital at Warwick:
      an assemblage of edifices, 112;
      the twelve brethren of, 113, 115, 116, 118, 125, 131, 134, 135;
      a perfect specimen, 116;
      a jolly old domicile, 121;
      system of life in, 123;
      the porter at, 124-126.

    Lestrange, Sir Nicholas, first proprietor of Leicester's Hospital
      buildings, 114, 115.

    Lichfield, 199;
      origin of the name, 201;
      birthplace of Dr. Johnson, 201, 216;
      its people old-fashioned, 204;
      its cathedral, 206-214.

    Lillington, the village, 78;
      its church, 81, 82;
      its churchyard, 83-87.

    Lincoln, cabs unknown there, 236;
      its narrow principal street, 237;
      its cathedral, 236, 239-249, 253, 254;
      Roman remains at, 250;
      Norman ruins at, 251.

    Linkwater, Sir John, fines himself for drunkenness, 548.

    Liquor, varieties of hop and malt, in England, 299, 300.

    Liverpool, a convenient starting-point for excursions, 58.

    Lodgings, English custom of, 70, _note_.

    London, suburb, a, 359;
      a distant view of, 373;
      grimy, 375.

    Lord Mayor's dinner, at the Mansion House, 563-588.

    Lovers' Grove, at Leamington, 77.

    Loving-cup, the Lord Mayor's, 575-577.

    Lucy, Sir Thomas, and Shakespeare, 196.


    Malay pirates, delightful qualities of, 28.

    Mansfield, Lord, statue of, in Westminster Abbey, 445.

    Mansion House, the, in London, 563.

    Marlborough, Duke of, Triumphal Pillar of, 288.

    Mary Queen of Scots, quilt embroidered by, 265, 271.

    Mauchline, redolent of Burns, 335;
      rusty and time-worn, 336;
      its chief business, 346.

    Maury, Mr., appointed consul at Liverpool by Washington, 50.

    McClellan, General, before Richmond, 43.

    Melville, Herman, his "Israel Potter" referred to, 13.

    "Memory green, keep his," possible origin of the phrase, 86.

    Methodist open-air preaching in Greenwich Park, 380-383.

    Minster Pool, the, at Lichfield, 205.

    Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley, monument to, in Lichfield
      Cathedral, 211.

    Moss Giel, Burns's farm of, 337-342.

    Museum, the British, too many materials for knowledge in, 384,
      _note_.


    Nag's Head inn, the, at Uttoxeter, 226.

    Nelson, Admiral, his highest ambition, 391;
      not a representative man, 392-394;
      Southey's biography of, 393;
      pictures of his exploits, 394;
      two of his coats preserved at Greenwich Hospital, 395.

    Newcastle, Duke and Duchess of, 444.

    New Orleans, battle of, forgotten by Englishmen, 4.

    Nuneham Courtney, 314, 320-322.


    Old age, cheerful and genial in England, 277.

    Open-air life of the London poor, 476-481.

    Otaheite, Queen of, her present to Captain Cook, 266, 271.

    Oxford, barges at, 318;
      indescribable, 322, 323.


    Painted Hall, the, at Greenwich Hospital, 390, 391.

    Parliament, British, and American sailors, 45, 46.

    Parr, Dr., once vicar of Hatton, 95;
      a misplaced man, 97;
      a guest at Leicester's Hospital, 130.

    Peacock hotel, Old Boston, 259.

    Pearce, Mr., vice-consul at Liverpool, 50.

    Peel, Sir Robert, and Holbein's masterpiece in Barber Surgeons'
      Hall, 537.

    Philadelphia printer, a, wandering about England, 13-17.

    Poets' Corner, in Westminster Abbey, 451-459.

    Pope, Alexander, his account of Stanton Harcourt, 308;
      translation of Homer, 314.

    Porter, Mr., bookseller at Old Boston, 265-271.

    Posie Nansie's inn at Mauchline, 336.

    Posthumus and Imogen, 129.

    Poverty, glimpses of English, 470-524.

    Procter, Bryan Waller, 469.


    Raleigh, Sir Walter, and the Thames Tunnel, 420-422.

    "Red Letter A," author of, 306.

    Redfern's Old Curiosity Shop, at Warwick, 142, 143.

    Regatta of the Free Watermen of Greenwich, a, 413.

    Remorse, tragedy of, 40.

    Robsart, Amy, embroidery by, at Leicester's Hospital, 133;
      monument of her avenger, 137.

    Rosamond, Fair, at the nunnery of Godstowe, 317.

    Rosamond's Well, Blenheim, 287.

    Russell, Lord John, remonstrates against outrages on American
      sailors, 46.


    Sacheverell, Dr., 219.

    Sacrament Sunday at Mauchline, 337.

    Sailors, American, ill-usage of, 44.

    St. Botolph's Church, Old Boston, 259, 262, 272-275.

    St. Chad, 201.

    St. Hugh, shrine of, in Lincoln Cathedral, 247.

    St. John's School-House, at Warwick, 104.

    St. Mary's Church, at Warwick, 136.

    St. Mary's Hall, at Coventry, 533-536.

    St. Mary's Square, at Lichfield, 216, 218.

    St. Michael's Church, at Dumfries, 328, 332-334.

    St. Paul's Cathedral, 429.

    Saracen's Head hotel, Lincoln, 236.

    Scenery, English, 146, 232.

    Schools, English, long-established, 104.

    Scott, Sir Walter, attractiveness of his name, 160;
      and Anthony Forster, 303.

    Seward, Miss, at Lichfield, 216.

    Shakespeare: his church, 155;
      his birthplace, 157-163;
      his various guises, 164;
      his curse on the man who should stir his bones, 165;
      his burial-place, 165-171;
      family monuments, 167;
      his bust, in the church at Stratford, 168, 169;
      Miss Bacon's theory, 175;
      immeasurable depth of his plays, 175.

    Sheffield, the town of razors and smoke, 235.

    Sherwood Forest, 235.

    Shrewsbury, pleasant walks in, 238, _note_.

    Southey, Robert, his Life of Nelson, 393.

    Stanton Harcourt, its hospitable parsonage, 305;
      its old castle, 306, 307, 313, 314;
      Pope's connection with, 308, 309, 314, 315;
      its church, 309-312.

    Sterne, Laurence, crayon-portrait of, 267.

    Stocks, village, at Whitnash, 90.

    Stratford-on-Avon, scenery near, 145;
      approach to, 153, 154;
      queer edifices in, 155.

    Swans, aspect and movement of, 66.

    Swynford, Catherine, monument of, in Lincoln Cathedral, 247.


    Tam O'Shanter, statue of, 353.

    Taylor, General, portrait of, 4.

    Temple, the, 431.

    Tennyson, and English scenery, 77.

    Testament, New, consular copy of, 6, 45.

    Thames, ferry near Cumnor, 305;
      steamers on, 412;
      its muddy tide, 414;
      a summer day's voyage on, 412-435.

    Thames Tunnel, the, 415-423.

    Thornhill, Sir James, 291, 390.

    Tickell, Thomas, his lines on Addison, 456.

    Tower of London, the, 427, 428.

    Traitor's Gate, the, 427.

    Treeo, John, forlorn epitaph on, 86.

    Trees, English and American, compared, 147-149.

    Tuckerman, H. T., his "Month in England," 439.


    Uttoxeter, 221;
      its idle people, 223;
      its abundance of public houses, 224.


    Vagabonds, Yankee, abroad, 11-22.

    Vandyck, his picture of Charles I., 292.

    Victoria, Queen, a Connecticut shopkeeper goes to England to see
      her, 18-21;
      some American blood-relatives, 26.


    Walmesley, Gilbert, monument to, in Lichfield Cathedral, 211.

    Wapping, cold and torpid, 425.

    Warren, Sir Peter, bust of, in Westminster Abbey, 444.

    Warwick, founded by Cymbeline, 103, 129;
      its castle, 105, 107;
      its principal street, 108, 109;
      military display at, 109;
      the High Street, 110;
      Leicester's Hospital, 112-127;
      the home of Posthumus and Imogen, 129;
      church of St. Mary's, 136-140;
      Redfern's Old Curiosity Shop, 142, 143.

    Warwickshire Elm, the beautiful, 69.

    Wasps, attracted by pomatum, 319.

    Wedding, of some poor English people, 522-524;
      an aristocratic, in the same cathedral, 525.

    Wedding, silver, as a matter of conscience, 76.

    West, Benjamin, picture by, at Greenwich, 389.

    Westminster Abbey, a Sunday afternoon service in, 440;
      its interior, 441;
      statues and tombs in, 444-447;
      "they do bury fools there," 449;
      Poets' Corner, 451-459.

    Whitefriars, the old rowdy Alsatia, 430.

    Whitnash, secluded village of, 88;
      yew-tree of incalculable age at, 89;
      village stocks of, 90;
      change at work in, 93, 94.

    Wilberforce, William, statue of, in Westminster Abbey, 446, 447.

    Wilding, Mr., vice-consul at Liverpool, 51.

    Wilkins, Sergeant, 550, 551, 557.

    Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, 286.

    Witham, the river, 255, 263.

    Women, in the poorer streets of London, 479, 484;
      in an English almshouse, 499;
      at public dinners, 567.

    Woodstock, 282.

    Wren, Sir Christopher, restorer of St. Mary's Church, Warwick, 136.


    Yew-tree, extraordinary age of, 89.





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