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Title: English Traits
Author: Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882
Language: English
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                            ENGLISH TRAITS.


                          RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

                        NEW AND REVISED EDITION.

                      JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,
            Late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co.

                       COPYRIGHT, 1856 AND 1876,
                        BY RALPH WALDO EMERSON.






                            ENGLISH TRAITS.


I have been twice in England.  In 1833, on my return from a short tour
in Sicily, Italy, and France, I crossed from Boulogne, and landed in
London at the Tower stairs.  It was a dark Sunday morning; there were
few people in the streets; and I remember the pleasure of that first
walk on English ground, with my companion, an American artist, from the
Tower up through Cheapside and the Strand, to a house in Russell Square,
whither we had been recommended to good chambers.  For the first time
for many months we were forced to check the saucy habit of travellers’
criticism, as we could no longer speak aloud in the streets without
being understood.  The shop-signs spoke our language; our country names
were on the door-plates; and the public and private buildings wore a
more native and wonted front.

Like most young men at that time, I was much indebted to the men of
Edinburgh, and of the Edinburgh Review,--to Jeffrey, Mackintosh, Hallam,
and to Scott, Playfair, and De Quincey; and my narrow and desultory
reading had inspired the wish to see the faces of three or four
writers,--Coleridge, Wordsworth, Landor, De Quincey, and the latest and
strongest contributor to the critical journals, Carlyle; and I suppose
if I had sifted the reasons that led me to Europe, when I was ill and
was advised to travel, it was mainly the attraction of these persons.
If Goethe had been still living, I might have wandered into Germany
also. Besides those I have named (for Scott was dead), there was not in
Britain the man living whom I cared to behold, unless it were the Duke
of Wellington, whom I afterwards saw at Westminster Abbey, at the
funeral of Wilberforce.  The young scholar fancies it happiness enough
to live with people who can give an inside to the world; without
reflecting that they are prisoners, too, of their own thought, and
cannot apply themselves to yours.  The conditions of literary success
are almost destructive of the best social power, as they do not leave
that frolic liberty which only can encounter a companion on the best
terms.  It is probable you left some obscure comrade at a tavern, or in
the farms, with right mother-wit, and equality to life, when you crossed
sea and land to play bo-peep with celebrated scribes.  I have, however,
found writers superior to their books, and I cling to my first belief,
that a strong head will dispose fast enough of these impediments, and
give one the satisfaction of reality, the sense of having been met, and
a larger horizon.

On looking over the diary of my journey in 1833, I find nothing to
publish in my memoranda of visits to places.  But I have copied the few
notes I made of visits to persons, as they respect parties quite too
good and too transparent to the whole world to make it needful to affect
any prudery of suppression about a few hints of those bright

At Florence, chief among artists, I found Horatio Greenough, the
American sculptor.  His face was so handsome, and his person so well
formed, that he might be pardoned, if, as was alleged, the face of his
Medora, and the figure of a colossal Achilles in clay, were
idealizations of his own.  Greenough was a superior man, ardent and
eloquent, and all his opinions had elevation and magnanimity.  He
believed that the Greeks had wrought in schools or fraternities,--the
genius of the master imparting his design to his friends, and inflaming
them with it, and when his strength was spent, a new hand, with equal
heat, continued the work; and so by relays, until it was finished in
every part with equal fire. This was necessary in so refractory a
material as stone; and he thought art would never prosper until we left
our shy jealous ways, and worked in society as they.  All his thoughts
breathed the same generosity.  He was an accurate and a deep man.  He
was a votary of the Greeks, and impatient of Gothic art.  His paper on
Architecture, published in 1843, announced in advance the leading
thoughts of Mr. Ruskin on the _morality_ in architecture,
notwithstanding the antagonism in their views of the history of art.  I
have a private letter from him,--later, but respecting the same
period,--in which he roughly sketches his own theory.  "Here is my
theory of structure: A scientific arrangement of spaces and forms to
functions and to site; an emphasis of features proportioned to their
_gradated_ importance in function; color and ornament to be decided and
arranged and varied by strictly organic laws, having a distinct reason
for each decision; the entire and immediate banishment of all makeshift
and make-believe."

Greenough brought me, through a common friend, an invitation from Mr.
Landor, who lived at San Domenica di Fiesole.  On the 15th May I dined
with Mr. Landor. I found him noble and courteous, living in a cloud of
pictures at his Villa Gherardesca, a fine house commanding a beautiful
landscape.  I had inferred from his books, or magnified from some
anecdotes, an impression of Achillean wrath,--an untamable petulance.  I
do not know whether the imputation were just or not, but certainly on
this May day his courtesy veiled that haughty mind, and he was the most
patient and gentle of hosts.  He praised the beautiful cyclamen which
grows all about Florence; he admired Washington; talked of Wordsworth,
Byron, Massinger, Beaumont and Fletcher.  To be sure, he is decided in
his opinions, likes to surprise, and is well content to impress, if
possible, his English whim upon the immutable past.  No great man ever
had a great son, if Philip and Alexander be not an exception; and Philip
he calls the greater man.  In art, he loves the Greeks, and in
sculpture, them only.  He prefers the Venus to everything else, and,
after that, the head of Alexander, in the gallery here.  He prefers John
of Bologna to Michel Angelo; in painting, Raffaelle; and shares the
growing taste for Perugino and the early masters.  The Greek histories
he thought the only good; and after them, Voltaire’s.  I could not make
him praise Mackintosh, nor my more recent friends; Montaigne very
cordially,--and Charron also, which seemed undiscriminating.  He thought
Degerando indebted to "Lucas on Happiness" and "Lucas on Holiness"!  He
pestered me with Southey; but who is Southey?

He invited me to breakfast on Friday.  On Friday I did not fail to go,
and this time with Greenough.  He entertained us at once with reciting
half a dozen hexameter lines of Julius Cæsar’s!--from Donatus, he said.
He glorified Lord Chesterfield more than was necessary, and undervalued
Burke, and undervalued Socrates; designated as three of the greatest of
men, Washington, Phocion, and Timoleon; much as our pomologists, in
their lists, select the three or the six best pears "for a small
orchard"; and did not even omit to remark the similar termination of
their names.  "A great man," he said, "should make great sacrifices, and
kill his hundred oxen, without knowing whether they would be consumed by
gods and heroes, or whether the flies would eat them."  I had visited
Professor Amici, who had shown me his microscopes, magnifying (it was
said) two thousand diameters; and I spoke of the uses to which they were
applied. Landor despised entomology, yet, in the same breath, said, "the
sublime was in a grain of dust."  I suppose I teased him about recent
writers, but he professed never to have heard of Herschel, _not even by
name_.  One room was full of pictures, which he likes to show,
especially one piece, standing before which, he said "he would give
fifty guineas to the man that would swear it was a Pomenichino."  I was
more curious to see his library, but Mr. H----, one of the guests, told
me that Mr. Landor gives away his books, and has never more than a dozen
at a time in his house.

Mr. Landor carries to its height the love of freak which the English
delight to indulge, as if to signalize their commanding freedom.  He has
a wonderful brain, despotic, violent, and inexhaustible, meant for a
soldier, by what chance converted to letters, in which there is not a
style nor a tint not known to him, yet with an English appetite for
action and heroes.  The thing done avails, and not what is said about
it.  An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the
censures. Landor is strangely undervalued in England; usually ignored;
and sometimes savagely attacked in the Reviews. The criticism may be
right or wrong, and is quickly forgotten; but year after year the
scholar must still go back to Landor for a multitude of elegant
sentences,--for wisdom, wit, and indignation that are unforgetable.

From London, on the 5th August, I went to Highgate, and wrote a note to
Mr. Coleridge, requesting leave to pay my respects to him.  It was near
noon.  Mr. Coleridge sent a verbal message, that he was in bed, but if I
would call after one o’clock, he would see me.  I returned at one, and
he appeared, a short, thick old man, with bright blue eyes and fine
clear complexion, leaning on his cane.  He took snuff freely, which
presently soiled his cravat and neat black suit.  He asked whether I
knew Allston, and spoke warmly of his merits and doings when he knew him
in Rome; what a master of the Titianesque he was, etc., etc.  He spoke
of Dr. Channing.  It was an unspeakable misfortune that he should have
turned out a Unitarian after all.  On this, he burst into a declamation
on the folly and ignorance of Unitarianism,--its high unreasonableness;
and taking up Bishop Waterland’s book, which lay on the table, he read
with vehemence two or three pages written by himself in the
fly-leaves,--passages, too, which, I believe, are printed in the "Aids
to Reflection."  When he stopped to take breath, I interposed, that,
"whilst I highly valued all his explanations, I was bound to tell him
that I was born and bred a Unitarian."  "Yes," he said, "I supposed so";
and continued as before.  "It was a wonder, that after so many ages of
unquestioning acquiescence in the doctrine of St. Paul,--the doctrine of
the Trinity, which was also, according to Philo Judæus, the doctrine of
the Jews before Christ,--this handful of Priestleians should take on
themselves to deny it, etc., etc.  He was very sorry that Dr.
Channing,--a man to whom he looked up,--no, to say that he looked _up_
to him would be to speak falsely; but a man whom he looked _at_ with so
much interest,--should embrace such views.  When he saw Dr. Channing, he
had hinted to him that he was afraid he loved Christianity for what was
lovely and excellent,--he loved the good in it, and not the true; and I
tell you, sir, that I have known ten persons who loved the good, for one
person who loved the true; but it is a far greater virtue to love the
true for itself alone, than to love the good for itself alone.  He
(Coleridge) knew all about Unitarianism perfectly well, because he had
once been a Unitarian, and knew what quackery it was.  He had been
called "the rising star of Unitarianism."’  He went on defining, or
rather refining: ’The Trinitarian doctrine was realism; the idea of God
was not essential, but super-essential’; talked of _trinism_ and
_tetrakism_, and much more, of which I only caught this: ’that the will
was that by which a person is a person; because, if one should push me
in the street, and so I should force the man next me into the kennel, I
should at once exclaim, "I did not do it, sir," meaning it was not my
will.’  And this also: ’that if you should insist on your faith here in
England, and I on mine, mine would be the hotter side of the fagot.’

I took advantage of a pause to say, that he had many readers of all
religious opinions in America, and I proceeded to inquire if the
"extract" from the Independent’s pamphlet, in the third volume of the
Friend, were a veritable quotation.  He replied that it was really taken
from a pamphlet in his possession, entitled "A Protest of one of the
Independents," or something to that effect. I told him how excellent I
thought it, and how much I wished to see the entire work.  "Yes," he
said, "the man was a chaos of truths, but lacked the knowledge that God
was a god of order.  Yet the passage would no doubt strike you more in
the quotation than in the original, for I have filtered it."

When I rose to go, he said, "I do not know whether you care about
poetry, but I will repeat some verses I lately made on my baptismal
anniversary"; and he recited with strong emphasis, standing, ten or
twelve lines, beginning,--

    Born unto God in Christ--

He inquired where I had been travelling; and on learning that I had been
in Malta and Sicily, he compared one island with the other, ’repeating
what he had said to the Bishop of London when he returned from that
country, that Sicily was an excellent school of political economy; for,
in any town there, it only needed to ask what the government enacted,
and reverse _that_ to know what ought to be done; it was the most
felicitously opposite legislation to anything good and wise.  There were
only three things which the government had brought into that garden of
delights, namely, itch, pox, and famine; whereas, in Malta, the force of
law and mind was seen, in making that barren rock of semi-Saracen
inhabitants the seat of population and plenty.’  Going out, he showed me
in the next apartment a picture of Allston’s, and told me ’that
Montague, a picture-dealer, once came to see him, and, glancing towards
this, said, "Well, you have got a picture!" thinking it the work of an
old master; afterwards, Montague, still talking with his back to the
canvas, put up his hand and touched it, and exclaimed, "By Heaven! this
picture is not ten years old":--so delicate and skilful was that man’s

I was in his company for about an hour, but find it impossible to recall
the largest part of his discourse, which was often like so many printed
paragraphs in his book,--perhaps the same,--so readily did he fall into
certain commonplaces.  As I might have foreseen, the visit was rather a
spectacle than a conversation, of no use beyond the satisfaction of my
curiosity.  He was old and preoccupied, and could not bend to a new
companion and think with him.

From Edinburgh I went to the Highlands.  On my return, I came from
Glasgow to Dumfries, and being intent on delivering a letter which I had
brought from Rome, inquired for Cragenputtock.  It was a farm in
Nithsdale, in the parish of Dunscore, sixteen miles distant.  No public
coach passed near it, so I took a private carriage from the inn.  I
found the house amid desolate heathery hills, where the lonely scholar
nourished his mighty heart.  Carlyle was a man from his youth, an author
who did not need to hide from his readers, and as absolute a man of the
world, unknown and exiled on that hill-farm, as if holding on his own
terms what is best in London.  He was tall and gaunt, with a cliff-like
brow, self-possessed, and holding his extraordinary powers of
conversation in easy command; clinging to his northern accent with
evident relish; full of lively anecdote, and with a streaming humor,
which floated everything he looked upon.  His talk playfully exalting
the familiar objects, put the companion at once into an acquaintance
with his Lars and Lemurs, and it was very pleasant to learn what was
predestined to be a pretty mythology. Few were the objects and lonely
the man, "not a person to speak to within sixteen miles except the
minister of Dunscore"; so that books inevitably made his topics.

He had names of his own for all the matters familiar to his discourse.
"Blackwood’s" was the "sand magazine"; "Fraser’s" nearer approach to
possibility of life was the "mud magazine"; a piece of road near by that
marked some failed enterprise was the "grave of the last sixpence."
When too much praise of any genius annoyed him, he professed hugely to
admire the talent shown by his pig.  He had spent much time and
contrivance in confining the poor beast to one enclosure in his pen, but
pig, by great strokes of judgment, had found out how to let a board
down, and had foiled him.  For all that, he still thought man the most
plastic little fellow in the planet, and he liked Nero’s death, "_Qualis
artifex pereo!_" better than most history.  He worships a man that will
manifest any truth to him.  At one time he had inquired and read a good
deal about America.  Landor’s principle was mere rebellion, and _that_
he feared was the American principle.  The best thing he knew of that
country was, that in it a man can have meat for his labor.  He had read
in Stewart’s book, that when he inquired in a New York hotel for the
Boots, he had been shown across the street and had found Mungo in his
own house dining on roast turkey.

We talked of books.  Plato he does not read, and he disparaged Socrates;
and, when pressed, persisted in making Mirabeau a hero.  Gibbon he
called the splendid bridge from the old world to the new.  His own
reading had been multifarious.  Tristram Shandy was one of his first
books after Robinson Crusoe, and Robertson’s America an early favorite.
Rousseau’s Confessions had discovered to him that he was not a dunce;
and it was now ten years since he had learned German, by the advice of a
man who told him he would find in that language what he wanted.

He took despairing or satirical views of literature at this moment;
recounted the incredible sums paid in one year by the great booksellers
for puffing.  Hence it comes that no newspaper is trusted now, no books
are bought, and the booksellers are on the eve of bankruptcy.

He still returned to English pauperism, the crowded country, the selfish
abdication by public men of all that public persons should perform.
’Government should direct poor men what to do.  Poor Irish folk come
wandering over these moors.  My dame makes it a rule to give to every
son of Adam bread to eat, and supplies his wants to the next house.  But
here are thousands of acres which might give them all meat, and nobody
to bid these poor Irish go to the moor and till it.  They burned the
stacks, and so found a way to force the rich people to attend to them.’

We went out to walk over long hills, and looked at Criffel, then without
his cap, and down into Wordsworth’s country.  There we sat down, and
talked of the immortality of the soul.  It was not Carlyle’s fault that
we talked on that topic, for he had the natural disinclination of every
nimble spirit to bruise itself against walls, and did not like to place
himself where no step can be taken.  But he was honest and true, and
cognizant of the subtile links that bind ages together, and saw how
every event affects all the future.  ’Christ died on the tree: that
built Dunscore kirk yonder: that brought you and me together.  Time has
only a relative existence.’

He was already turning his eyes towards London with a scholar’s
appreciation.  London is the heart of the world, he said, wonderful only
from the mass of human beings.  He liked the huge machine.  Each keeps
its own round.  The baker’s boy brings muffins to the window at a fixed
hour every day, and that is all the Londoner knows or wishes to know on
the subject.  But it turned out good men.  He named certain individuals,
especially one man of letters, his friend, the best mind he knew, whom
London had well served.

On the 23th August, I went to Rydal Mount, to pay my respects to Mr.
Wordsworth.  His daughters called in their father, a plain, elderly,
white-haired man, not prepossessing, and disfigured by green goggles.
He sat down, and talked with great simplicity.  He had just returned
from a journey.  His health was good, but he had broken a tooth by a
fall, when walking with two lawyers, and had said, that he was glad it
did not happen forty years ago; whereupon they had praised his

He had much to say of America, the more that it gave occasion for his
favorite topic,--that society is being enlightened by a superficial
tuition, out of all proportion to its being restrained by moral culture.
Schools do no good.  Tuition is not education.  He thinks more of the
education of circumstances than of tuition.  ’T is not a question
whether there are offences of which the law takes cognizance, but
whether there are offences of which the law does not take cognizance.
Sin is what he fears, and how society is to escape without gravest
mischiefs from this source--?  He has even said, what seemed a paradox,
that they needed a civil war in America, to teach the necessity of
knitting the social ties stronger.  ’There may be,’ he said, ’in America
some vulgarity in manner, but that ’s not important.  That comes of the
pioneer state of things.  But I fear they are too much given to the
making of money; and secondly, to politics; that they make political
distinction the end, and not the means.  And I fear they lack a class of
men of leisure,--in short, of gentlemen,--to give a tone of honor to the
community.  I am told that things are boasted of in the second class of
society there, which, in England,--God knows, are done in England every
day,--but would never be spoken of.  In America I wish to know not how
many churches or schools, but what newspapers?  My friend, Colonel
Hamilton, at the foot of the hill, who was a year in America, assures me
that the newspapers are atrocious, and accuse members of Congress of
stealing spoons!’  He was against taking off the tax on newspapers in
England, which the reformers represent as a tax upon knowledge, for this
reason, that they would be inundated with base prints.  He said, he
talked on political aspects, for he wished to impress on me and all good
Americans to cultivate the moral, the conservative, etc., etc., and
never to call into action the physical strength of the people, as had
just now been done in England in the Reform Bill,--a thing prophesied by
Delolme.  He alluded once or twice to his conversation with Dr.
Channing, who had recently visited him (laying his hand on a particular
chair in which the Doctor had sat).

The conversation turned on books.  Lucretius he esteems a far higher
poet than Virgil: not in his system, which is nothing, but in his power
of illustration.  Faith is necessary to explain anything, and to
reconcile the foreknowledge of God with human evil.  Of Cousin (whose
lectures we had all been reading in Boston) he knew only the name.

I inquired if he had read Carlyle’s critical articles and translations.
He said he thought him sometimes insane. He proceeded to abuse Goethe’s
Wilhelm Meister heartily. It was full of all manner of fornication.  It
was like the crossing of flies in the air.  He had never gone further
than the first part; so disgusted was he that he threw the book across
the room.  I deprecated this wrath, and said what I could for the better
parts of the book; and he courteously promised to look at it again.
Carlyle, he said, wrote most obscurely.  He was clever and deep, but he
defied the sympathies of everybody. Even Mr. Coleridge wrote more
clearly, though he had always wished Coleridge would write more to be
understood.  He led me out into his garden, and showed me the
gravel-walk in which thousands of his lines were composed.  His eyes are
much inflamed.  This is no loss, except for reading, because he never
writes prose, and of poetry he carries even hundreds of lines in his
head before writing them.  He had just returned from a visit to Staffa,
and within three days had made three sonnets on Fingal’s Cave, and was
composing a fourth, when he was called in to see me.  He said, "If you
are interested in my verses, perhaps you will like to hear these lines."
I gladly assented; and he recollected himself for a few moments, and
then stood forth and repeated, one after the other, the three entire
sonnets with great animation.  I fancied the second and third more
beautiful than his poems are wont to be.  The third is addressed to the
flowers, which, he said, especially the ox-eye daisy, are very abundant
on the top of the rock. The second alludes to the name of the cave,
which is "Cave of Music"; the first to the circumstance of its being
visited by the promiscuous company of the steamboat.

This recitation was so unlooked for and surprising,--he, the old
Wordsworth, standing apart, and reciting to me in a garden-walk, like a
school-boy declaiming,--that I at first was near to laugh; but
recollecting myself, that I had come thus far to see a poet, and he was
chanting poems to me, I saw that he was right and I was wrong, and
gladly gave myself up to hear.  I told him how much the few printed
extracts had quickened the desire to possess his unpublished poems.  He
replied, he never was in haste to publish; partly, because he corrected
a good deal, and every alteration is ungraciously received after
printing; but what he had written would be printed, whether he lived or
died.  I said, "Tintern Abbey" appeared to be the favorite poem with the
public, but more contemplative readers preferred the first books of the
"Excursion," and the Sonnets.  He said, "Yes, they are better."  He
preferred such of his poems as touched the affections, to any others;
for whatever is didactic--what theories of society, and so on--might
perish quickly; but whatever combined a truth with an affection was
[Greek: _chtêma es aei_], good to-day and good forever. He cited the
sonnet "On the feelings of a high-minded Spaniard," which he preferred
to any other (I so understood him), and the "Two Voices"; and quoted,
with evident pleasure, the verses addressed "To the Skylark." In this
connection, he said of the Newtonian theory, that it might yet be
superseded and forgotten; and Dalton’s atomic theory.

When I prepared to depart, he said he wished to show me what a common
person in England could do, and he led me into the enclosure of his
clerk, a young man, to whom he had given this slip of ground, which was
laid out, or its natural capabilities shown, with much taste. He then
said he would show me a better way towards the inn; and he walked a good
part of a mile, talking, and ever and anon stopping short to impress the
word or the verse, and finally parted from me with great kindness, and
returned across the fields.

Wordsworth honored himself by his simple adherence to truth, and was
very willing not to shine; but he surprised by the hard limits of his
thought.  To judge from a single conversation, he made the impression of
a narrow and very English mind; of one who paid for his rare elevation
by general tameness and conformity.  Off his own beat, his opinions were
of no value.  It is not very rare to find persons loving sympathy and
ease, who expiate their departure from the common in one direction, by
their conformity in every other.


The occasion of my second visit to England was an invitation from some
Mechanics’ Institutes in Lancashire and Yorkshire, which separately are
organized much in the same way as our New England Lyceums, but, in 1847,
had been linked into a "Union," which embraced twenty or thirty towns
and cities, and presently extended into the middle counties, and
northward into Scotland. I was invited, on liberal terms, to read a
series of lectures in them all.  The request was urged with every kind
suggestion, and every assurance of aid and comfort, by friendliest
parties in Manchester, who, in the sequel, amply redeemed their word.
The remuneration was equivalent to the fees at that time paid in this
country for the like services.  At all events, it was sufficient to
cover any travelling expenses, and the proposal offered an excellent
opportunity of seeing the interior of England and Scotland, by means of
a home, and a committee of intelligent friends, awaiting me in every

I did not go very willingly.  I am not a good traveller, nor have I
found that long journeys yield a fair share of reasonable hours.  But
the invitation was repeated and pressed at a moment of more leisure, and
when I was a little spent by some unusual studies.  I wanted a change
and a tonic, and England was proposed to me.  Besides, there were, at
least, the dread attraction and salutary influences of the sea.  So I
took my berth in the packet-ship Washington Irving, and sailed from
Boston on Tuesday, 5th October, 1847.

On Friday, at noon, we had only made one hundred and thirty-four miles.
A nimble Indian would have swum as far; but the captain affirmed that
the ship would show us in time all her paces, and we crept along through
the floating drift of boards, logs, and chips, which the rivers of Maine
and New Brunswick pour into the sea after a freshet.

At last, on Sunday night, after doing one day’s work in four, the storm
came, the winds blew, and we flew before a northwester, which strained
every rope and sail.  The good ship darts through the water all day, all
night, like a fish, quivering with speed, gliding through liquid
leagues, sliding from horizon to horizon.  She has passed Cape Sable;
she has reached the Banks; the land-birds are left; gulls, haglets,
ducks, petrels, swim, dive, and hover around; no fishermen; she has
passed the Banks; left five sail behind her, far on the edge of the west
at sundown, which were far east of us at morn,--though they say at sea a
stern chase is a long race,--and still we fly for our lives.  The
shortest sea-line from Boston to Liverpool is 2,850 miles.  This a
steamer keeps, and saves 150 miles.  A sailing ship can never go in a
shorter line than 3,000, and usually it is much longer.  Our good master
keeps his kites up to the last moment, studding-sails alow and aloft,
and, by incessant straight steering, never loses a rod of way.
Watchfulness is the law of the ship,--watch on watch, for advantage and
for life. Since the ship was built, it seems, the master never slept but
in his day-clothes whilst on board.  "There are many advantages," says
Saadi, "in sea-voyaging, but security is not one of them."  Yet in
hurrying over these abysses, whatever dangers we are running into, we
are certainly running out of the risks of hundreds of miles every day,
which have their own chances of squall, collision, sea-stroke, piracy,
cold, and thunder.  Hour for hour, the risk on a steamboat is greater;
but the speed is safety, or twelve days of danger, instead of

Our ship was registered 750 tons, and weighed perhaps, with all her
freight, 1,500 tons.  The mainmast, from the deck to the top-button,
measured 115 feet; the length of the deck, from stem to stern, 155.  It
is impossible not to personify a ship; everybody does in everything they
say:--she behaves well; she minds her rudder; she swims like a duck; she
runs her nose into the water; she looks into a port.  Then that
wonderful _esprit du corps_, by which we adopt into our self-love
everything we touch, makes us all champions of her sailing-qualities.

The conscious ship hears all the praise.  In one week she has made 1,467
miles, and now, at night, seems to hear the steamer behind her, which
left Boston to-day at two, has mended her speed, and is flying before
the gray south-wind eleven and a half knots the hour.  The sea-fire
shines in her wake, and far around wherever a wave breaks.  I read the
hour, 9h. 45’, on my watch by this light.  Near the equator, you can
read small print by it; and the mate describes the phosphoric insects,
when taken up in a pail, as shaped like a Carolina potato.

I find the sea-life an acquired taste, like that for tomatoes and
olives.  The confinement, cold, motion, noise, and odor are not to be
dispensed with.  The floor of your room is sloped at an angle of twenty
or thirty degrees, and I waked every morning with the belief that some
one was tipping up my berth.  Nobody likes to be treated ignominiously,
upset, shoved against the side of the house, rolled over, suffocated
with bilge, mephitis, and stewing oil.  We get used to these annoyances
at last, but the dread of the sea remains longer.  The sea is masculine,
the type of active strength.  Look, what eggshells are drifting all over
it, each one, like ours, filled with men in ecstasies of terror,
alternating with cockney conceit, as the sea is rough or smooth.  Is
this sad-colored circle an eternal cemetery?  In our graveyards we scoop
a pit, but this aggressive water opens mile-wide pits and chasms, and
makes a mouthful of a fleet.  To the geologist, the sea is the only
firmament; the land is in perpetual flux and change, now blown up like a
tumor, now sunk in a chasm, and the registered observations of a few
hundred years find it in a perpetual tilt, rising and falling.  The sea
keeps its old level; and ’t is no wonder that the history of our race is
so recent, if the roar of the ocean is silencing our traditions.  A
rising of the sea, such as has been observed, say an inch in a century,
from east to west on the land, will bury all the towns, monuments,
bones, and knowledge of mankind, steadily and insensibly.  If it is
capable of these great and secular mischiefs, it is quite as ready at
private and local damage; and of this no landsman seems so fearful as
the seaman.  Such discomfort and such danger as the narratives of the
captain and mate disclose are bad enough as the costly fee we pay for
entrance to Europe; but the wonder is always new that any sane man can
be a sailor. And here, on the second day of our voyage, stepped out a
little boy in his shirt-sleeves, who had hid himself, whilst the ship
was in port, in the bread-closet, having no money, and wishing to go to
England.  The sailors have dressed him in Guernsey frock, with a knife
in his belt, and he is climbing nimbly about after them, "likes the work
first-rate, and, if the captain will take him, means now to come back
again in the ship."  The mate avers that this is the history of all
sailors; nine out of ten are runaway boys; and adds, that all of them
are sick of the sea, but stay in it out of pride.  Jack has a life of
risks, incessant abuse, and the worst pay.  It is a little better with
the mate, and not very much better with the captain.  A hundred dollars
a month is reckoned high pay. If sailors were contented, if they had not
resolved again and again not to go to sea any more, I should respect

Of course, the inconveniences and terrors of the sea are not of any
account to those whose minds are preoccupied.  The water-laws, arctic
frost, the mountain, the mine, only shatter cockneyism; every noble
activity makes room for itself.  A great mind is a good sailor, as a
great heart is.  And the sea is not slow in disclosing inestimable
secrets to a good naturalist.

’Tis a good rule in every journey to provide some piece of liberal study
to rescue the hours which bad weather, bad company, and taverns steal
from the best economist.  Classics which at home are drowsily read have
a strange charm in a country inn, or in the transom of a merchant brig.
I remember that some of the happiest and most valuable hours I have owed
to books, passed, many years ago, on shipboard.  The worst impediment I
have found at sea is the want of light in the cabin.

We found on board the usual cabin library; Basil Hall, Dumas, Dickens,
Bulwer, Balzac, and Sand were our sea-gods.  Among the passengers, there
was some variety of talent and profession; we exchanged our experiences,
and all learned something.  The busiest talk with leisure and
convenience at sea, and sometimes a memorable fact turns up, which you
have long had a vacant niche for, and seize with the joy of a collector.
But, under the best conditions, a voyage is one of the severest tests to
try a man.  A college examination is nothing to it.  Sea-days are
long,--these lack-lustre, joyless days which whistled over us; but they
were few,--only fifteen, as the captain counted, sixteen according to
me.  Reckoned from the time when we left soundings, our speed was such
that the captain drew the line of his course in red ink on his chart,
for the encouragement or envy of future navigators.

It has been said that the King of England would consult his dignity by
giving audience to foreign ambassadors in the cabin of a man-of-war.
And I think the white path of an Atlantic ship the right avenue to the
palace front of this sea-faring people, who for hundreds of years
claimed the strict sovereignty of the sea, and exacted toll and the
striking sail from the ships of all other peoples.  When their privilege
was disputed by the Dutch and other junior marines, on the plea that you
could never anchor on the same wave, or hold property in what was always
flowing, the English did not stick to claim the channel, or bottom of
all the main.  "As if," said they, "we contended for the drops of the
sea, and not for its situation, or the bed of those waters.  The sea is
bounded by his Majesty’s empire."

As we neared the land, its genius was felt.  This was inevitably the
British side.  In every man’s thought arises now a new system, English
sentiments, English loves and fears, English history and social modes.
Yesterday, every passenger had measured the speed of the ship by
watching the bubbles over the ship’s bulwarks. To-day, instead of
bubbles, we measure by Kinsale, Cork, Waterford, and Ardmore.  There lay
the green shore of Ireland, like some coast of plenty.  We could see
towns, towers, churches, harvests; but the curse of eight hundred years
we could not discern.


Alfieri thought Italy and England the only countries worth living in:
the former, because there Nature vindicates her rights, and triumphs
over the evils inflicted by the governments; the latter, because art
conquers nature, and transforms a rude, ungenial land into a paradise of
comfort and plenty.  England is a garden. Under an ash-colored sky, the
fields have been combed and rolled till they appear to have been
finished with a pencil instead of a plough.  The solidity of the
structures that compose the towns speaks the industry of ages.  Nothing
is left as it was made.  Rivers, hills, valleys, the sea itself, feel
the hand of a master.  The long habitation of a powerful and ingenious
race has turned every rood of land to its best use, has found all the
capabilities, the arable soil, the quarriable rock, the highways, the
byways, the fords, the navigable waters; and the new arts of intercourse
meet you everywhere; so that England is a huge phalanstery, where all
that man wants is provided within the precinct.  Cushioned and comforted
in every manner, the traveller rides as on a cannon-ball, high and low,
over rivers and towns, through mountains, in tunnels of three or four
miles, at near twice the speed of our trains; and reads quietly the
_Times_ newspaper, which, by its immense correspondence and reporting,
seems to have machinized the rest of the world for his occasion.

The problem of the traveller landing at Liverpool is, Why England is
England.  What are the elements of that power which the English hold
over other nations? If there be one test of national genius universally
accepted, it is success; and if there be one successful country in the
universe for the last millennium, that country is England.

A wise traveller will naturally choose to visit the best of actual
nations; and an American has more reasons than another to draw him to
Britain.  In all that is done or begun by the Americans towards right
thinking or practice, we are met by a civilization already settled and
overpowering.  The culture of the day, the thoughts and aims of men, are
English thoughts and aims.  A nation considerable for a thousand years
since Egbert, it has, in the last centuries, obtained the ascendant, and
stamped the knowledge, activity, and power of mankind with its impress.
Those who resist it do not feel it or obey it less.  The Russian in his
snows is aiming to be English. The Turk and Chinese also are making
awkward efforts to be English.  The practical common-sense of modern
society, the utilitarian direction which labor, laws, opinion, religion,
take, is the natural genius of the British mind.  The influence of
France is a constituent of modern civility, but not enough opposed to
the English for the most wholesome effect.  The American is only the
continuation of the English genius into new conditions, more or less

See what books fill our libraries.  Every book we read, every biography,
play, romance, in whatever form, is still English history and manners.
So that a sensible Englishman once said to me, "As long as you do not
grant us copyright, we shall have the teaching of you."

But we have the same difficulty in making a social or moral estimate of
England, as the sheriff finds in drawing a jury to try some cause which
has agitated the whole community, and on which everybody finds himself
an interested party.  Officers, jurors, judges, have all taken sides.
England has inoculated all nations with her civilization, intelligence,
and tastes; and, to resist the tyranny and prepossession of the British
element, a serious man must aid himself, by comparing with it the
civilizations of the farthest east and west, the old Greek, the
Oriental, and, much more, the ideal standard, if only by means of the
very impatience which English forms are sure to awaken in independent

Besides, if we will visit London, the present time is the best time, as
some signs portend that it has reached its highest point.  It is
observed that the English interest us a little less within a few years;
and hence the impression that the British power has culminated, is in
solstice, or already declining.

As soon as you enter England, which, with Wales, is no larger than the
State of Georgia,¹ this little land stretches by an illusion to the
dimensions of an empire. The innumerable details, the crowded succession
of towns, cities, cathedrals, castles, and great and decorated estates,
the number and power of the trades and guilds, the military strength and
splendor, the multitudes of rich and of remarkable people, the servants
and equipages,--all these catching the eye, and never allowing it to
pause, hide all boundaries, by the impression of magnificence and
endless wealth.

    ¹ Add South Carolina, and you have more than an equivalent for the
      area of Scotland.

I reply to all the urgencies that refer me to this and that object
indispensably to be seen,--Yes, to see England well needs a hundred
years; for, what they told me was the merit of Sir John Soane’s Museum,
in London,--that it was well packed and well saved,--is the merit of
England;--it is stuffed full, in all corners and crevices, with towns,
towers, churches, villas, palaces, hospitals, and charity-houses.  In
the history of art, it is a long way from a cromlech to York minster;
yet all the intermediate steps may still be traced in this
all-preserving island.

The territory has a singular perfection.  The climate is warmer by many
degrees than it is entitled to by latitude.  Neither hot nor cold, there
is no hour in the whole year when one cannot work.  Here is no winter,
but such days as we have in Massachusetts in November, a temperature
which makes no exhausting demand on human strength, but allows the
attainment of the largest stature.  Charles the Second said, "It invited
men abroad more days in the year and more hours in the day than another
country."  Then England has all the materials of a working country
except wood.  The constant rain--a rain with every tide, in some parts
of the island--keeps its multitude of rivers full, and brings
agricultural production up to the highest point.  It has plenty of
water, of stone, of potter’s clay, of coal, of salt, and of iron.  The
land naturally abounds with game, immense heaths and downs are paved
with quails, grouse, and woodcock, and the shores are animated by
water-birds. The rivers and the surrounding sea spawn with fish; there
are salmon for the rich, and sprats and herrings for the poor.  In the
northern lochs, the herring are in innumerable shoals; at one season,
the country people say, the lakes contain one part water and two parts

The only drawback on this industrial conveniency is the darkness of its
sky.  The night and day are too nearly of a color.  It strains the eyes
to read and to write.  Add the coal-smoke.  In the manufacturing towns,
the fine soot or blacks darken the day, give white sheep the color of
black sheep, discolor the human saliva, contaminate the air, poison many
plants, and corrode the monuments and buildings.

The London fog aggravates the distempers of the sky, and sometimes
justifies the epigram on the climate by an English wit, "in a fine day,
looking up a chimney; in a foul day, looking down one."  A gentleman in
Liverpool told me that he found he could do without a fire in his parlor
about one day in the year.  It is however pretended, that the enormous
consumption of coal in the island is also felt in modifying the general

Factitious climate, factitious position.  England resembles a ship in
its shape, and, if it were one, its best admiral could not have worked
it, or anchored it in a more judicious or effective position.  Sir John
Herschel said, "London was the centre of the terrene globs."  The
shopkeeping nation, to use a shop word, has a _good stand_.  The old
Venetians pleased themselves with the flattery, that Venice was in 45°,
midway between the poles and the line; as if that were an imperial
centrality. Long of old, the Greeks fancied Delphi the navel of the
earth, in their favorite mode of fabling the earth to be an animal.  The
Jews believed Jerusalem to be the centre. I have seen a kratometric
chart designed to show that the city of Philadelphia was in the same
thermic belt, and, by inference, in the same belt of empire, as the
cities of Athens, Rome, and London.  It was drawn by a patriotic
Philadelphian, and was examined with pleasure, under his showing, by the
inhabitants of Chestnut Street. But, when carried to Charleston, to New
Orleans, and to Boston, it somehow failed to convince the ingenious
scholars of all those capitals.

But England is anchored at the side of Europe, and right in the heart of
the modern world.  The sea, which, according to Virgil’s famous line,
divided the poor Britons utterly from the world, proved to be the ring
of marriage with all nations.  It is not down in the books,--it is
written only in the geologic strata,--that fortunate day when a wave of
the German Ocean burst the old isthmus which joined Kent and Cornwall to
France, and gave to this fragment of Europe its impregnable sea-wall,
cutting off an island of eight hundred miles in length, with an
irregular breadth reaching to three hundred miles; a territory large
enough for independence enriched with every seed of national power, so
near, that it can see the harvests of the continent; and so far, that
who would cross the strait must be an expert mariner, ready for
tempests.  As America, Europe, and Asia lie, these Britons have
precisely the best commercial position in the whole planet, and are sure
of a market for all the goods they can manufacture.  And to make these
advantages avail, the river Thames must dig its spacious outlet to the
sea from the heart of the kingdom, giving road and landing to
innumerable ships, and all the conveniency to trade, that a people so
skilful and sufficient in economizing water-front by docks, warehouses,
and lighters required.  When James the First declared his purpose of
punishing London by removing his Court, the Lord Mayor replied, "that,
in removing his royal presence from his lieges, they hoped he would
leave them the Thames."

In the variety of surface, Britain is a miniature of Europe, having
plain, forest, marsh, river, sea-shore; mines in Cornwall; caves in
Matlock and Derbyshire; delicious landscape in Dovedale, delicious
sea-view at Tor Bay, Highlands in Scotland, Snowdon in Wales; and, in
Westmoreland and Cumberland, a pocket Switzerland, in which the lakes
and mountains are on a sufficient scale to fill the eye and touch the
imagination.  It is a nation conveniently small.  Fontenelle thought,
that nature had sometimes a little affectation; and there is such an
artificial completeness in this nation of artificers, as if there were a
design from the beginning to elaborate a bigger Birmingham.  Nature held
counsel with herself, and said, ’My Romans are gone.  To build my new
empire, I will choose a rude race, all masculine, with brutish strength.
I will not grudge a competition of the roughest males. Let buffalo gore
buffalo, and the pasture to the strongest!  For I have work that
requires the best will and sinew.  Sharp and temperate northern breezes
shall blow, to keep that will alive and alert.  The sea shall disjoin
the people from others, and knit them to a fierce nationality.  It shall
give them markets on every side.  Long time I will keep them on their
feet, by poverty, border-wars, sea-faring, sea-risks, and the stimulus
of gain.  An island,--but not so large, the people not so many as to
glut the great markets and depress one another, but proportioned to the
size of Europe and the continents.’

With its fruits, and wares, and money, must its civil influence radiate.
It is a singular coincidence to this geographic centrality, the
spiritual centrality, which Emanuel Swedenborg ascribes to the people.
"For the English nation, the best of them are in the centre of all
Christians, because they have interior intellectual light. This appears
conspicuously in the spiritual world.  This light they derive from the
liberty of speaking and writing, and thereby of thinking."


An ingenious anatomist has written a book² to prove that races are
imperishable, but nations are pliant political constructions, easily
changed or destroyed.  But this writer did not found his assumed races
on any necessary law, disclosing their ideal or metaphysical necessity;
nor did he, on the other hand, count with precision the existing races,
and settle the true bounds; a point of nicety, and the popular test of
the theory.  The individuals at the extremes of divergence in one race
of men are as unlike as the wolf to the lapdog.  Yet each variety shades
down imperceptibly into the next, and you cannot draw the line where a
race begins or ends.  Hence every writer makes a different count.
Blumenbach reckons five races; Humboldt, three; and Mr. Pickering, who
lately, in our Exploring Expedition, thinks he saw all the kinds of men
that can be on the planet, makes eleven.

    ² The Races, a Fragment.  By Robert Knox.  London: 1830.

The British Empire is reckoned to contain (in 1848) 222,000,000
souls,--perhaps a fifth of the population of the globe; and to comprise
a territory of 5,000,000 square miles.  So far have British people
predominated. Perhaps forty of these millions are of British stock.  Add
the United States of America, which reckon (in the same year), exclusive
of slaves, 20,000,000 of people, on a territory of 3,000,000 square
miles, and in which the foreign element, however considerable, is
rapidly assimilated, and you have a population of English descent and
language, of 60,000,000, and governing a population of 245,000,000

The British census proper reckons twenty-seven and a half millions in
the home countries.  What makes this census important is the quality of
the units that compose it.  They are free forcible men, in a country
where life is safe, and has reached the greatest value.  They give the
bias to the current age; and that, not by chance or by mass, but by
their character, and by the number of individuals among them of personal
ability.  It has been denied that the English have genius.  Be it as it
may, men of vast intellect have been born on their soil, and they have
made or applied the principal inventions.  They have sound bodies, and
supreme endurance in war and in labor.  The spawning force of the race
has sufficed to the colonization of great parts of the world; yet it
remains to be seen whether they can make good the exodus of millions
from Great Britain, amounting, in 1852, to more than a thousand a day.
They have assimilating force, since they are imitated by their foreign
subjects; and they are still aggressive and propagandist, enlarging the
dominion of their arts and liberty.  Their laws are hospitable, and
slavery does not exist under them.  What oppression exists is incidental
and temporary; their success is not sudden or fortunate, but they have
maintained constancy and self-equality for many ages.

Is this power due to their race, or to some other cause? Men hear gladly
of the power of blood or race.  Everybody likes to know that his
advantages cannot be attributed to air, soil, sea, or to local wealth,
as mines and quarries, nor to laws and traditions, nor to fortune, but
to superior brain, as it makes the praise more personal to him.

We anticipate in the doctrine of race something like that law of
physiology, that, whatever bone, muscle, or essential organ is found in
one healthy individual, the same part or organ may be found in or near
the same place in its congener; and we look to find in the son every
mental and moral property that existed in the ancestor.  In race, it is
not the broad shoulders, or litheness, or stature that give advantage,
but a symmetry that reaches as far as to the wit.  Then the miracle and
renown begin.  Then first we care to examine the pedigree, and copy
needfully the training,--what food they ate, what nursing, school, and
exercises they had, which resulted in this mother-wit, delicacy of
thought, and robust wisdom.  How came such men as King Alfred, and Roger
Bacon, William of Wykeham, Walter Raleigh, Philip Sidney, Isaac Newton,
William Shakspeare, George Chapman, Francis Bacon, George Herbert, Henry
Vane, to exist here?  What made these delicate natures? was it the air?
was it the sea? was it the parentage?  For it is certain that these men
are samples of their contemporaries.  The hearing ear is always found
close to the speaking tongue; and no genius can long or often utter
anything which is not invited and gladly entertained by men around him.

It is race, is it not? that puts the hundred millions of India under the
dominion of a remote island in the north of Europe.  Race avails much,
if that be true, which is alleged, that all Celts are Catholics, and all
Saxons are Protestants; that Celts love unity of power, and Saxons the
representative principle.  Race is a controlling influence in the Jew,
who, for two millenniums, under every climate, has preserved the same
character and employments.  Race in the negro is of appalling
importance.  The French in Canada, cut off from all intercourse with the
parent people, have held their national traits.  I chanced to read
Tacitus "on the Manners of the Germans," not long since, in Missouri,
and the heart of Illinois, and I found abundant points of resemblance
between the Germans of the Hercynian forest, and our _Hoosiers_,
_Suckers_, and _Badgers_ of the American woods.

But whilst race works immortally to keep its own, it is resisted by
other forces.  Civilization is a re-agent, and eats away the old traits.
The Arabs of to-day are the Arabs of Pharaoh; but the Briton of to-day
is a very different person from Cassibelaunus or Ossian.  Each religious
sect has its physiognomy.  The Methodists have acquired a face; the
Quakers, a face; the nuns, a face.  An Englishman will pick out a
dissenter by his manners.  Trades and professions carve their own lines
on face and form.  Certain circumstances of English life are not less
effective: as, personal liberty; plenty of food; good ale and mutton;
open market, or good wages for every kind of labor; high bribes to
talent and skill; the island life, or the million opportunities and
outlets for expanding and misplaced talent; readiness of combination
among themselves for politics or for business; strikes; and sense of
superiority founded on habit of victory in labor and in war; and the
appetite for superiority grows by feeding.

It is easy to add to the counteracting forces to race. Credence is a
main element.  ’T is said, that the views of nature held by any people
determine all their institutions. Whatever influences add to mental or
moral faculty, take men out of nationality, as out of other conditions,
and make the national life a culpable compromise.

These limitations of the formidable doctrine of race suggest others
which threaten to undermine it, as not sufficiently based.  The fixity
or inconvertibleness of races as we see them, is a weak argument for the
eternity of these frail boundaries, since all our historical period is a
point to the duration in which nature has wrought.  Any the least and
solitariest fact in our natural history, such as the melioration of
fruits and of animal stocks, has the worth of a _power_ in the
opportunity of geologic periods.  Moreover, though we flatter the
self-love of men and nations by the legend of pure races, all our
experience is of the gradation and resolution of races, and strange
resemblances meet us everywhere.  It need not puzzle us that Malay and
Papuan, Celt and Itonian, Saxon and Tartar, should mix, when we see the
rudiments of tiger and baboon in our human form, and know that the
barriers of races are not so firm, but that some spray sprinkles us from
the antediluvian seas.

The low organizations are simplest; a mere mouth, a jelly, or a straight
worm.  As the scale mounts, the organizations become complex.  We are
piqued with pure descent, but nature loves inoculation.  A child blends
in his face the faces of both parents, and some feature from every
ancestor whose face hangs on the wall.  The best nations are those most
widely related; and navigation, as effecting a world-wide mixture, is
the most potent advancer of nations.

The English composite character betrays a mixed origin.  Everything
English is a fusion of distant and antagonistic elements.  The language
is mixed; the names of men are of different nations,--three languages,
three or four nations;--the currents of thought are counter:
contemplation and practical skill; active intellect and dead
conservatism; world-wide enterprise, and devoted use and wont;
aggressive freedom and hospitable law, with bitter class legislation; a
people scattered by their wars and affairs over the face of the whole
earth, and homesick to a man; a country of extremes,--dukes and
chartists, Bishops of Durham and naked heathen colliers;--nothing can be
praised in it without damning exceptions, and nothing denounced without
salvos of cordial praise.

Neither do this people appear to be of one stem; but collectively a
better race than any from which they are derived.  Nor is it easy to
trace it home to its original seats.  Who can call by right names what
races are in Britain?  Who can trace them historically?  Who can
discriminate them anatomically, or metaphysically?

In the impossibility of arriving at satisfaction on the historical
question of race, and--come of whatever disputable ancestry--the
indisputable Englishman before me, himself very well marked, and nowhere
else to be found,--I fancied I could leave quite aside the choice of a
tribe as his lineal progenitors.  Defoe said in his wrath, "the
Englishman was the mud of all races."  I incline to the belief that, as
water, lime, and sand make mortar, so certain temperaments marry well,
and, by well-managed contrarieties, develop as drastic a character as
the English.  On the whole, it is not so much a history of one or of
certain tribes of Saxons, Jutes, or Frisians, coming from one place, and
genetically identical, as it is an anthology of temperaments out of them
all.  Certain temperaments suit the sky and soil of England, say eight
or ten or twenty varieties, as, out of a hundred pear-trees, eight or
ten suit the soil of an orchard, and thrive, whilst all the unadapted
temperaments die out.

The English derive their pedigree from such a range of nationalities,
that there needs sea-room and land-room to unfold the varieties of
talent and character.  Perhaps the ocean serves as a galvanic battery to
distribute acids at one pole, and alkalies at the other.  So England
tends to accumulate her Liberals in America, and her conservatives at
London.  The Scandinavians in her race still hear in every age the
murmurs of their mother, the ocean; the Briton in the blood hugs the
homestead still.

Again, as if to intensate the influences that are not of race, what we
think of when we talk of English traits really narrows itself to a small
district.  It excludes Ireland, and Scotland, and Wales, and reduces
itself at last to London, that is, to those who come and go thither.
The portraits that hang on the walls in the Academy Exhibition at
London, the figures in Punch’s drawings of the public men, or of the
club-houses, the prints in the shop-windows, are distinctive English,
and not American, no, nor Scotch, nor Irish: but ’t is a very restricted
nationality.  As you go north into the manufacturing and agricultural
districts, and to the population that never travels, as you go into
Yorkshire, as you enter Scotland, the world’s Englishman is no longer
found. In Scotland, there is a rapid loss of all grandeur of mien and
manners; a provincial eagerness and acuteness appear; the poverty of the
country makes itself remarked, and a coarseness of manners; and, among
the intellectual, is the insanity of dialectics.  In Ireland, are the
same climate and soil as in England, but less food, no right relation to
the land, political dependence, small tenantry, and an inferior or
misplaced race.

These queries concerning ancestry and blood may be well allowed, for
there is no prosperity that seems more to depend on the kind of man than
British prosperity. Only a hardy and wise people could have made this
small territory great.  We say, in a regatta or yacht-race, that if the
boats are anywhere nearly matched, it is the man that wins.  Put the
best sailing-master into either boat, and he will win.

Yet it is fine for us to speculate in face of unbroken traditions,
though vague, and losing themselves in fable. The traditions have got
footing, and refuse to be disturbed.  The kitchen clock is more
convenient than sidereal time.  We must use the popular category, as we
do by the Linnæan classification, for convenience, and not as exact and
final.  Otherwise, we are presently confounded, when the best-settled
traits of one race are claimed by some new ethnologist as precisely
characteristic of the rival tribe.

I found plenty of well-marked English types, the ruddy complexion fair
and plump, robust men, with faces cut like a die, and a strong island
speech and accent; a Norman type, with the complacency that belongs to
that constitution.  Others, who might be Americans, for anything that
appeared in their complexion or form: and their speech was much less
marked, and their thought much less bound.  We will call them Saxons.
Then the Roman has implanted his dark complexion in the trinity or
quaternity of bloods.

1. The sources from which tradition derives their stock are mainly
three.  And, first, they are of the oldest blood of the world,--the
Celtic.  Some peoples are deciduous or transitory.  Where are the
Greeks? where the Etrurians? where the Romans?  But the Celts or
Sidonides are an old family, of whose beginning there is no memory, and
their end is likely to be still more remote in the future; for they have
endurance and productiveness.  They planted Britain, and gave to the
seas and mountains names which are poems, and imitate the pure voices of
nature.  They are favorably remembered in the oldest records of Europe.
They had no violent feudal tenure, but the husbandman owned the land.
They had an alphabet, astronomy, priestly culture, and a sublime creed.
They have a hidden and precarious genius.  They made the best popular
literature of the Middle Ages in the songs of Merlin, and the tender and
delicious mythology of Arthur.

2. The English come mainly from the Germans, whom the Romans found hard
to conquer in two hundred and ten years,--say, impossible to
conquer,--when one remembers the long sequel; a people about whom, in
the old empire, the rumor ran, there was never any that meddled with
them that repented it not.

3. Charlemagne, halting one day in a town of Narbonnese Gaul, looked out
of a window, and saw a fleet of Northmen cruising in the Mediterranean.
They even entered the port of the town where he was, causing no small
alarm and sudden manning and arming of his galleys.  As they put out to
sea again, the emperor gazed long after them, his eyes bathed in tears.
"I am tormented with sorrow," he said, "when I foresee the evils they
will bring on my posterity."  There was reason for these Xerxes’ tears.
The men who have built a ship and invented the rig,--cordage, sail,
compass, and pump,--the working in and out of port, have acquired much
more than a ship.  Now arm them, and every shore is at their mercy.
For, if they have not numerical superiority where they anchor, they have
only to sail a mile or two to find it.  Bonaparte’s art of war, namely,
of concentrating force on the point of attack, must always be theirs who
have the choice of the battle-ground.  Of course they come into the
fight from a higher ground of power than the land-nations; and can
engage them on shore with a victorious advantage in the retreat.  As
soon as the shores are sufficiently peopled to make piracy a losing
business, the same skill and courage are ready for the service of trade.

The _Heimskringla_,³ or Sagas of the Kings of Norway, collected by
Snorro Sturleson, is the Iliad and Odyssey of English history.  Its
portraits, like Homer’s, are strongly individualized.  The Sagas
describe a monarchical republic like Sparta.  The government disappears
before the importance of citizens.  In Norway, no Persian masses fight
and perish to aggrandize a king, but the actors are bonders or
landholders, every one of whom is named and personally and
patronymically described, as the king’s friend and companion.  A sparse
population gives this high worth to every man.  Individuals are often
noticed as very handsome persons, which trait only brings the story
nearer to the English race. Then the solid material interest
predominates, so dear to English understanding, wherein the association
is logical, between merit and land.  The heroes of the Sagas are not the
knights of South Europe.  No vaporing of France and Spain has corrupted
them.  They are substantial farmers, whom the rough times have forced to
defend their properties.  They have weapons which they use in a
determined manner, by no means for chivalry, but for their acres.  They
are people considerably advanced in rural arts, living amphibiously on a
rough coast, and drawing half their food from the sea, and half from the
land.  They have herds of cows, and malt, wheat, bacon, butter, and
cheese.  They fish in the fiord, and hunt the deer.  A king among these
farmers has a varying power, sometimes not exceeding the authority of a
sheriff.  A king was maintained much as, in some of our country
districts, a winter-schoolmaster is quartered, a week here, a week
there, and a fortnight on the next farm,--on all the farms in rotation.
This the king calls going into guest-quarters; and it was the only way
in which, in a poor country, a poor king, with many retainers, could be
kept alive, when he leaves his own farm to collect his dues through the

    ³ Heimskringla.  Translated by Samuel Laing, Esq.  London: 1844.

These Norsemen are excellent persons in the main, with good sense,
steadiness, wise speech, and prompt action.  But they have a singular
turn for homicide; their chief end of man is to murder or to be
murdered; oars, scythes, harpoons, crow-bars, peat-knives, and hay-forks
are tools valued by them all the more for their charming aptitude for
assassinations.  A pair of kings, after dinner, will divert themselves
by thrusting each his sword through the other’s body, as did Yngve and
Alf. Another pair ride out on a morning for a frolic, and, finding no
weapon near, will take the bits out of their horses’ mouths, and crush
each other’s heads with them, as did Alric and Eric.  The sight of a
tent-cord or a cloak-string puts them on hanging somebody, a wife, or a
husband, or, best of all, a king.  If a farmer has so much as a hayfork,
he sticks it into a King Dag.  King Ingiald finds it vastly amusing to
burn up half a dozen kings in a hall, after getting them drunk.  Never
was poor gentleman so surfeited with life, so furious to be rid of it,
as the Northman.  If he cannot pick any other quarrel, he will get
himself comfortably gored by a bull’s horns, like Egil, or slain by a
land-slide, like the agricultural King Onund.  Odin died in his bed, in
Sweden; but it was a proverb of ill condition, to die the death of old
age.  King Hake of Sweden cuts and slashes in battle, as long as he can
stand, then orders his war-ship, loaded with his dead men and their
weapons, to be taken out to sea, the tiller shipped, and the sails
spread; being left alone, he sets fire to some tar-wood, and lies down
contented on deck.  The wind blew off the land, the ship flew burning in
clear flame, out between the islets into the ocean, and there was the
right end of King Hake.

The early Sagas are sanguinary and piratical; the later are of a noble
strain.  History rarely yields us better passages than the conversation
between King Sigurd the Crusader, and King Eystein, his brother, on
their respective merits,--one, the soldier, and the other, a lover of
the arts of peace.

But the reader of the Norman history must steel himself by holding fast
the remote compensations which result from animal vigor.  As the old
fossil world shows that the first steps of reducing the chaos were
confided to saurians and other huge and horrible animals, so the
foundations of the new civility were to be laid by the most savage men.

The Normans came out of France into England worse men than they went
into it, one hundred and sixty years before.  They had lost their own
language, and learned the Romance or barbarous Latin of the Gauls; and
had acquired, with the language, all the vices it had names for.  The
conquest has obtained, in the chronicles, the name of the "memory of
sorrow."  Twenty thousand thieves landed at Hastings.  These founders of
the House of Lords were greedy and ferocious dragoons, sons of greedy
and ferocious pirates.  They were all alike, they took everything they
could carry, they burned, harried, violated, tortured, and killed, until
everything English was brought to the verge of ruin.  Such, however, is
the illusion of antiquity and wealth, that decent and dignified men now
existing boast their descent from these filthy thieves, who showed a far
juster conviction of their own merits, by assuming for their types the
swine, goat, jackal, leopard, wolf, and snake, which they severally

England yielded to the Danes and Northmen in the tenth and eleventh
centuries, and was the receptacle into which all the mettle of that
strenuous population was poured.  The continued draught of the best men
in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, to these piratical expeditions,
exhausted those countries, like a tree which bears much fruit when
young, and these have been second-rate powers ever since.  The power of
the race migrated, and left Norway void.  King Olaf said: "When King
Harold, my father, went westward to England, the chosen men in Norway
followed him; but Norway was so emptied then, that such men have not
since been to find in the country, nor especially such a leader as King
Harold was for wisdom and bravery."

It was a tardy recoil of these invasions, when, in 1801, the British
government sent Nelson to bombard the Danish forts in the Sound; and, in
1807, Lord Cathcart, at Copenhagen, took the entire Danish fleet, as it
lay in the basins, and all the equipments from the Arsenal, and carried
them to England.  Konghelle, the town where the kings of Norway, Sweden,
and Denmark were wont to meet, is now rented to a private English
gentleman for a hunting-ground.

It took many generations to trim, and comb, and perfume the first
boat-load of Norse pirates into royal highnesses and most noble Knights
of the Garter: but every sparkle of ornament dates back to the Norse
boat. There will be time enough to mellow this strength into civility
and religion.  It is a medical fact, that the children of the blind see;
the children of felons have a healthy conscience.  Many a mean,
dastardly boy is, at the age of puberty, transformed into a serious and
generous youth.

The mildness of the following ages has not quite effaced these traits of
Odin; as the rudiment of a structure matured in the tiger is said to be
still found unabsorbed in the Caucasian man.  The nation has a tough,
acrid, animal nature, which centuries of churching and civilizing have
not been able to sweeten.  Alfiori said, "the crimes of Italy were the
proof of the superiority of the stock"; and one may say of England, that
this watch moves on a splinter of adamant.  The English uncultured are a
brutal nation.  The crimes recorded in their calendars leave nothing to
be desired in the way of cold malignity.  Dear to the English heart is a
fair stand-up fight.  The brutality of the manners in the lower class
appears in the boxing, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, love of executions,
and in the readiness for a set-to in the streets, delightful to the
English of all classes.  The costermongers of London streets hold
cowardice in loathing:--"we must work our fists well; we are all handy
with our fists."  The public schools are charged with being bear-gardens
of brutal strength, and are liked by the people for that cause.  The
fagging is a trait of the same quality.  Medwin, in the Life of Shelley,
relates, that, at a military school, they rolled up a young man in a
snowball, and left him so in his room, while the other cadets went to
church;--and crippled him for life. They have retained impressment,
deck-flogging, army-flogging, and school-flogging.  Such is the ferocity
of the army discipline, that a soldier sentenced to flogging, sometimes
prays that his sentence may be commuted to death.  Flogging, banished
from the armies of Western Europe, remains here by the sanction of the
Duke of Wellington.  The right of the husband to sell the wife has been
retained down to our times.  The Jews have been the favorite victims of
royal and popular persecution. Henry III. mortgaged all the Jews in the
kingdom to his brother, the Earl of Cornwall, as security for money
which he borrowed.  The torture of criminals, and the rack for extorting
evidence, were slowly disused. Of the criminal statutes, Sir Samuel
Romilly said, "I have examined the codes of all nations, and ours is the
worst, and worthy of the Anthropophagi."  In the last session (18:18),
the House of Commons was listening to details of flogging and torture
practised in the jails.

As soon as this land, thus geographically posted, got a hardy people
into it, they could not help becoming the sailors and factors of the
globe.  From childhood, they dabbled in water, they swum like fishes,
their playthings were boats.  In the case of the ship-money, the judges
delivered it for law, that "England being an island, the very midland
shires therein are all to be accounted maritime": and Fuller adds, "the
genius even of land-locked countries driving the natives with a maritime
dexterity."  As early as the conquest, it is remarked in explanation of
the wealth of England, that its merchants trade to all countries.

The English, at the present day, have great vigor of body and endurance.
Other countrymen look slight and undersized beside them, and invalids.
They are bigger men than the Americans.  I suppose a hundred English
taken at random out of the street would weigh a fourth more than so many
Americans.  Yet, I am told, the skeleton is not larger.  They are round,
ruddy, and handsome; at least, the whole bust is well formed; and there
is a tendency to stout and powerful frames.  I remarked the stoutness,
on my first landing at Liverpool; porter, drayman, coachman,
guard,--what substantial, respectable, grandfatherly figures, with
costume and manners to suit.  The American has arrived at the old
mansion-house, and finds himself among uncles, aunts, and grandsires.
The pictures on the chimney-tiles of his nursery were pictures of these
people.  Here they are in the identical costumes and air, which so took

It is the fault of their forms that they grow stocky, and the women have
that disadvantage,--few tall, slender figures of flowing shape, but
stunted and thickset persons.  The French say, that the Englishwomen
have two left hands.  But, in all ages, they are a handsome race.  The
bronze monuments of crusaders lying cross-legged, in the Temple Church
at London, and those in Worcester and in Salisbury Cathedrals, which are
seven hundred years old, are of the same type as the best youthful heads
of men now in England;--please by beauty of the same character, an
expression blending good-nature, valor, and refinement, and, mainly, by
that uncorrupt youth in the face of manhood, which is daily seen in the
streets of London.

Both branches of the Scandinavian race are distinguished for beauty.
The anecdote of the handsome captives which Saint Gregory found at Rome,
A.D. 600, is matched by the testimony of the Norman chroniclers, five
centuries later, who wondered at the beauty and long flowing hair of the
young English captives.  Meantime, the Heimskringla has frequent
occasion to speak of the personal beauty of its heroes.  When it is
considered what humanity, what resources of mental and moral power, the
traits of the blond race betoken,--its accession to empire marks a new
and finer epoch, wherein the old mineral force shall be subjugated at
last by humanity, and shall plough in its furrow henceforward.  It is
not a final race, once a crab always crab, but a race with a future.

On the English face are combined decision and nerve, with the fair
complexion, blue eyes, and open and florid aspect.  Hence the love of
truth, hence the sensibility, the fine perception, and poetic
construction.  The fair Saxon man, with open front, and honest meaning,
domestic, affectionate, is not the wood out of which cannibal, or
inquisitor, or assassin is made.  But he is moulded for law, lawful
trade, civility, marriage, the nurture of children, for colleges,
churches, charities, and colonies.

They are rather manly than warlike.  When the war is over, the mask
falls from the affectionate and domestic tastes, which make them women
in kindness.  This union of qualities is fabled in their national legend
of _Beauty and the Beast_, or long before, in the Greek legend of
_Hermaphrodite_.  The two sexes are co-present in the English mind.  I
apply to Britannia, queen of seas and colonies, the words in which her
latest novelist portrays his heroine: "She is as mild as she is game,
and as game as she is mild."  The English delight in the antagonism
which combines in one person the extremes of courage and tenderness.
Nelson, dying at Trafalgar, sends his love to Lord Collingwood, and,
like an innocent school-boy that goes to bed, says, "Kiss me, Hardy,"
and turns to sleep.  Lord Collingwood, his comrade, was of a nature the
most affectionate and domestic.  Admiral Rodney’s figure approached to
delicacy and effeminacy, and he declared himself very sensible to fear,
which he surmounted only by considerations of honor and public duty.
Clarendon says, the Duke of Buckingham was so modest and gentle, that
some courtiers attempted to put affronts on him, until they found that
this modesty and effeminacy was only a mask for the most terrible
determination.  And Sir Edward Parry said of Sir John Franklin, that,
"if he found Wellington Sound open, he explored it; for he was a man who
never turned his back on a danger, yet of that tenderness, that he would
not brush away a mosquito."  Even for their highwaymen the same virtue
is claimed, and Robin Hood comes described to us as _mitissimus
prædonum_, the gentlest thief.  But they know where their war-dogs lie.
Cromwell, Blake, Marlborough, Chatham, Nelson, and Wellington are not to
be trifled with, and the brutal strength which lies at the bottom of
society, the animal ferocity of the quays and cock-pits, the bullies of
the costermongers of Shoreditch, Seven Dials, and Spitalfields, they
know how to wake up.

They have a vigorous health, and last well into middle and old age.  The
old men are as red as roses, and still handsome.  A clear skin, a
peach-bloom complexion, and good teeth are found all over the island.
They use a plentiful and nutritious diet.  The operative cannot subsist
on water-cresses.  Beef, mutton, wheat-bread, and malt-liquors are
universal among the first-class laborers. Good feeding is a chief point
of national pride among the vulgar, and, in their caricatures, they
represent the Frenchman as a poor, starved body.  It is curious that
Tacitus found the English beer already in use among the Germans: "They
make from barley or wheat a drink corrupted into some resemblance to
wine."  Lord Chief Justice Fortescue in Henry VI.’s time, says, "The
inhabitants of England drink no water, unless at certain times, on a
religious score, and by way of penance."  The extremes of poverty and
ascetic penance, it would seem, never reach cold water in England.
Wood, the antiquary, in describing the poverty and maceration of Father
Lacey, an English Jesuit, does not deny him beer.  He says, "his bed was
under a thatching, and the way to it up a ladder; his fare was coarse;
his drink, of a penny a gawn, or gallon."

They have more constitutional energy than any other people.  They think,
with Henri Quatre, that manly exercises are the foundation of that
elevation of mind which gives one nature ascendant over another; or,
with the Arabs, that the days spent in the chase are not counted in the
length of life.  They box, run, shoot, ride, row, and sail from pole to
pole.  They eat and drink, and live jolly in the open air, putting a bar
of solid sleep between day and day.  They walk and ride as fast as they
can, their heads bent forward, as if urged on some pressing affair.  The
French say, that Englishmen in the street always walk straight before
them like mad dogs.  Men and women walk with infatuation.  As soon as he
can handle a gun, hunting is the fine art of every Englishman of
condition.  They are the most voracious people of prey that ever
existed.  Every season turns out the aristocracy into the country, to
shoot and fish.  The more vigorous run out of the island to Europe, to
America, to Asia, to Africa, and Australia, to hunt with fury by gun, by
trap, by harpoon, by lasso, with clog, with horse, with elephant, or
with dromedary, all the game that is in nature.  These men have written
the game-books of all countries, as Hawker, Scrope, Murray, Herbert,
Maxwell, Gumming, and a host of travellers.  The people at home are
addicted to boxing, running, leaping, and rowing matches.

I suppose, the dogs and horses must be thanked for the fact, that the
men have muscles almost as tough and supple as their own.  If in every
efficient man, there is first a fine animal, in the English race it is
of the best breed, a wealthy, juicy, broad-chested creature, steeped in
ale and good cheer, and a little overloaded by his flesh.  Men of animal
nature rely, like animals, on their instincts.  The Englishman
associates well with dogs and horses.  His attachment to the horse
arises from the courage and address required to manage it.  The horse
finds out who is afraid of it, and does not disguise its opinion.  Their
young boiling clerks and lusty collegians like the company of horses
better than the company of professors.  I suppose, the horses are better
company for them.  The horse has more uses than Buffon noted. If you go
into the streets, every driver in bus or dray is a bully, and, if I
wanted a good troop of soldiers, I should recruit among the stables.
Add a certain degree of refinement to the vivacity of these riders, and
you obtain the precise quality which makes the men and women of polite
society formidable.

They come honestly by their horsemanship, with _Hengst_ and _Horsa_ for
their Saxon founders.  The other branch of their race had been Tartar
nomads.  The horse was all their wealth.  The children were fed on
mares’ milk. The pastures of Tartary were still remembered by the
tenacious practice of the Norsemen to eat horse-flesh at religious
feasts.  In the Danish invasions, the marauders seized upon horses where
they landed, and were at once converted into a body of expert cavalry.

At one time, this skill seems to have declined.  Two centuries ago, the
English horse never performed any eminent service beyond the seas; and
the reason assigned was, that the genius of the English hath always more
inclined them to foot-service, as pure and proper manhood, without any
mixture; whilst, in a victory on horseback, the credit ought to be
divided betwixt the man and his horse.  But in two hundred years, a
change has taken place.  Now, they boast that they understand horses
better than any other people in the world, and that their horses are
become their second selves.

"William the Conqueror being," says Camden, "better affected to beasts
than to men, imposed heavy fines and punishments on those that should
meddle with his game."  The Saxon Chronicle says, "he loved the tall
deer as if he were their father."  And rich Englishmen have followed his
example, according to their ability, ever since, in encroaching on the
tillage and commons with their game-preserves.  It is a proverb in
England, that it is safer to shoot a man than a hare.  The severity of
the game-laws certainly indicates an extravagant sympathy of the nation
with horses and hunters.  The gentlemen are always on horseback, and
have brought horses to an ideal perfection,--the English racer is a
factitious breed.  A score or two of mounted gentlemen may frequently be
seen running like centaurs down a hill nearly as steep as the roof of a
house.  Every inn-room is lined with pictures of races; telegraphs
communicate, every hour, tidings of the heats from Newmarket and Ascot:
and the House of Commons adjourns over the ’Derby Day.’


The Saxon and the Northman are both Scandinavians. History does not
allow us to fix the limits of the application of these names with any
accuracy; but from the residence of a portion of these people in France,
and from some effect of that powerful soil on their blood and manners,
the Norman has come popularly to represent in England the aristocratic,
and the Saxon the democratic principle.  And though, I doubt not, the
nobles are of both tribes, and the workers of both, yet we are forced to
use the names a little mythically, one to represent the worker, and the
other the enjoyer.

The island was a prize for the best race.  Each of the dominant races
tried its fortune in turn.  The Phoenician, the Celt, and the Goth had
already got in.  The Roman came, but in the very day when his fortune
culminated. He looked in the eyes of a new people that was to supplant
his own.  He disembarked his legions, erected his camps and
towers,--presently he heard bad news from Italy, and worse and worse,
every year: at last, he made a handsome compliment of roads and walls,
and departed. But the Saxon seriously settled in the land, builded,
tilled, fished, and traded, with German truth and adhesiveness.  The
Dane came, and divided with him.  Last of all, the Norman, or
French-Dane, arrived, and formally conquered, harried, and ruled the
kingdom.  A century later, it came out, that the Saxon had the most
bottom and longevity, had managed to make the victor speak the language
and accept the law and usage of the victim; forced the baron to dictate
Saxon terms to Norman kings; and, step by step, got all the essential
securities of civil liberty invented and confirmed.  The genius of the
race and the genius of the place conspired to this effect.  The island
is lucrative to free labor, but not worth possession on other terms.
The race was so intellectual, that a feudal or military tenure could not
last longer than the war.  The power of the Saxon-Danes, so thoroughly
beaten in the war, that the name of English and villein were synonymous,
yet so vivacious as to extort charters from the kings, stood on the
strong personality of these people.  Sense and economy must rule in a
world which is made of sense and economy, and the banker, with his seven
per cent, drives the earl out of his castle. A nobility of soldiers
cannot keep down a commonalty of shrewd scientific persons.  What
signifies a pedigree of a hundred links, against a cotton-spinner with
steam in his mill; or, against a company of broad-shouldered Liverpool
merchants, for whom Stephenson and Brunel are contriving locomotives and
a tubular bridge?

These Saxons are the hands of mankind.  They have the taste for toil, a
distaste for pleasure or repose, and the telescopic appreciation of
distant gain.  They are the wealth-makers,--and by dint of mental
faculty which has its own conditions.  The Saxon works after liking, or,
only for himself; and to set him at work, and to begin to draw his
monstrous values out of barren Britain, all dishonor, fret, and barrier
must be removed, and then his energies begin to play.

The Scandinavian fancied himself surrounded by Trolls,--a kind of goblin
men, with vast power of work and skilful production,--divine stevedores,
carpenters, reapers, smiths, and masons, swift to reward every kindness
done them, with gifts of gold and silver.  In all English history, this
dream comes to pass.  Certain Trolls or working brains, under the names
of Alfred, Bede, Caxton, Bracton, Camden, Drake, Selden, Dugdale,
Newton, Gibbon, Brindley, Watt, Wedgwood, dwell in the troll-mounts of
Britain, and turn the sweat of their face to power and renown.

If the race is good, so is the place.  Nobody landed on this spell-bound
island with impunity.  The enchantments of barren shingle and rough
weather transformed every adventurer into a laborer.  Each vagabond that
arrived bent his neck to the yoke of gain, or found the air too tense
for him.  The strong survived, the weaker went to the ground.  Even the
pleasure-hunters and sots of England are of a tougher texture.  A hard
temperament had been formed by Saxon and Saxon-Dane, and such of these
French or Normans as could reach it, were naturalized in every sense.

All the admirable expedients or means hit upon in England must be looked
at as growths or irresistible offshoots of the expanding mind of the
race.  A man of that brain thinks and acts thus; and his neighbor, being
afflicted with the same kind of brain, though he is rich, and called a
baron, or a duke, thinks the same thing, and is ready to allow the
justice of the thought and act in his retainer or tenant, though sorely
against his baronial or ducal will.

The island was renowned in antiquity for its breed of mastiffs, so
fierce, that when their teeth were set, you must cut their heads off to
part them.  The man was like his dog.  The people have that nervous
bilious temperament, which is known by medical men to resist every means
employed to make its possessor subservient to the will of others.  The
English game is main force to main force, the planting of foot to foot,
fair play and open field,--a rough tug without trick or dodging, till
one or both come to pieces.  King Ethelwald spoke the language of his
race, when he planted himself at Wimborne, and said, ’he would do one of
two things, or there live, or there lie.’  They hate craft and subtlety.
They neither poison, nor waylay, nor assassinate; and, when they have
pounded each other to a poultice, they will shake hands and be friends
for the remainder of their lives.

You shall trace these Gothic touches at school, at country fairs, at the
hustings, and in parliament.  No artifice, no breach of truth and plain
dealing,--not so much as secret ballot, is suffered in the island.  In
parliament, the tactics of the opposition is to resist every step of the
government, by a pitiless attack; and in a bargain, no prospect of
advantage is so dear to the merchant, as the thought of being tricked is

Sir Kenelm Digby, a courtier of Charles and James, who won the sea-fight
of Scanderoon, was a model Englishman in his day.  "His person was
handsome and gigantic, he had so graceful elocution and noble address,
that, had he been dropt out of the clouds in any part of the world, he
would have made himself respected: he was skilled in six tongues, and
master of arts and arms."⁴  Sir Kenelm wrote a book, "Of Bodies and of
Souls," in which he propounds, that "syllogisms do breed or rather are
all the variety of man’s life.  They are the steps by which we walk in
all our businesses. Man, as he is man, doth nothing else but weave such
chains.  Whatsoever he doth, swarving from this work, lie doth as
deficient from the nature of man: and, if he do aught beyond this, by
breaking out into divers sorts of exterior actions, he findeth,
nevertheless, in this linked sequel of simple discourses, the art, the
cause, the rule, the bounds, and the model of it."⁵

    ⁴ Antony Wood.

    ⁵ Man’s Soule, p. 29.

There spoke the genius of the English people.  There is a necessity on
them to be logical.  They would hardly greet the good that did not
logically fall,--as if it excluded their own merit, or shook their
understandings. They are jealous of minds that have much facility of
association, from an instinctive fear that the seeing many relations to
their thought might impair this serial continuity and lucrative
concentration.  They are impatient of genius, or of minds addicted to
contemplation, and cannot conceal their contempt for sallies of thought,
however lawful, whose steps they cannot count by their wonted rule.
Neither do they reckon better a syllogism that ends in syllogism.  For
they have a supreme eye to facts, and theirs is a logic that brings salt
to soup, hammer to nail, oar to boat, the logic of cooks, carpenters,
and chemists, following the sequence of nature, and one on which words
make no impression.  Their mind is not dazzled by its own means, but
locked and bolted to results.  They love men, who, like Samuel Johnson,
a doctor in the schools, would jump out of his syllogism the instant his
major proposition was in danger, to save that, at all hazards.  Their
practical vision is spacious, and they can hold many threads without
entangling them.  All the steps they orderly take; but with the high
logic of never confounding the minor and major proposition; keeping
their eye on their aim, in all the complicity and delay incident to the
several series of means they employ.  There is room in their minds for
this and that,--a science of degrees.  In the courts, the independence
of the judges and the loyalty of the suitors are equally excellent.  In
Parliament, they have hit on that capital invention of freedom, a
constitutional opposition.  And when courts and Parliament are both
deaf, the plaintiff is not silenced.  Calm, patient, his weapon of
defence from year to year is the obstinate reproduction of the
grievance, with calculations and estimates. But, meantime, he is drawing
numbers and money to his opinion, resolved that if all remedy fails,
right of revolution is at the bottom of his charter-box.  They are bound
to see their measure carried, and stick to it through ages of defeat.

Into this English logic, however, an infusion of justice enters, not so
apparent in other races,--a belief in the existence of two sides, and
the resolution to see fair play. There is on every question an appeal
from the assertion of the parties to the proof of what is asserted.
They are impious in their scepticism of a theory, but kiss the dust
before a fact.  Is it a machine, is it a charter, is it a boxer in the
ring, is it a candidate on the hustings,--the universe of Englishmen
will suspend their judgment, until the trial can be had.  They are not
to be led by a phrase, they want a working plan, a working machine, a
working constitution, and will sit out the trial, and abide by the
issue, and reject all preconceived theories.  In politics they put blunt
questions, which must be answered; who is to pay the taxes? what will
you do for trade? what for corn? what for the spinner?

This singular fairness and its results strike the French with surprise.
Philip de Commines says: "Now, in my opinion, among all the
sovereignties I know in the world, that in which the public good is best
attended to, and the least violence exercised on the people, is that of
England."  Life is safe, and personal rights; and what is freedom,
without security? whilst, in France, ’fraternity,’ ’equality,’ and
’indivisible unity’ are names for assassination.  Montesquieu said:
"England is the freest country in the world.  If a man in England had as
many enemies as hairs on his head, no harm would happen to him."

Their self-respect, their faith in causation, and their realistic logic
or coupling of means to ends, have given them the leadership of the
modern world.  Montesquieu said, "No people have true common-sense but
those who are born in England."  This common-sense is a perception of
all the conditions of our earthly existence, of laws that can be stated,
and of laws that cannot be stated, or that are learned only by practice,
in which allowance for friction is made.  They are impious in their
scepticism of theory, and in high departments they are cramped and
sterile.  But the unconditional surrender to facts, and the choice of
means to reach their ends, are as admirable as with ants and bees.

The bias of the nation is a passion for utility.  They love the lever,
the screw, and pulley, the Flanders draught-horse, the waterfall,
wind-mills, tide-mills; the sea and the wind to bear their
freight-ships.  More than the diamond Koh-i-noor, which glitters among
their crown-jewels, they prize that dull pebble which is wiser than a
man, whose poles turn themselves to the poles of the world, and whose
axis is parallel to the axis of the world.  Now, their toys are steam
and galvanism.  They are heavy at the fine arts, but adroit at the
coarse; not good in jewelry or mosaics, but the best iron-masters,
colliers, wool-combers, and tanners in Europe.  They apply themselves to
agriculture, to draining, to resisting encroachments of sea, wind,
travelling sands, cold and wet subsoil; to fishery, to manufacture of
indispensable staples,--salt, plumbago, leather, wool, glass, pottery,
and brick,--to bees and silk-worms; and by their steady combinations
they succeed.  A manufacturer sits down to dinner in a suit of clothes
which was wool on a sheep’s back at sunrise.  You dine with a gentleman
on venison, pheasant, quail, pigeons, poultry, mushrooms, and
pineapples, all the growth of his estate.  They are neat husbands for
ordering all their tools pertaining to house and field.  All are well
kept.  There is no want and no waste.  They study use and fitness in
their building, in the order of their dwellings, and in their dress.
The Frenchman invented the ruffle, the Englishman added the shirt.  The
Englishman wears a sensible coat buttoned to the chin, of rough but
solid and lasting texture. If he is a lord, he dresses a little worse
than a commoner. They have diffused the taste for plain substantial
hats, shoes, and coats through Europe.  They think him the best dressed
man, whose dress is so fit for his use that you cannot notice or
remember to describe it.

They secure the essentials in their diet, in their arts and
manufactures.  Every article of cutlery shows, in its shape, thought and
long experience of workmen.  They put the expense in the right place,
as, in their sea-steamers, in the solidity of the machinery and the
strength of the boat.  The admirable equipment of their arctic ships
carries London to the pole.  They build roads, aqueducts, warm and
ventilate houses.  And they have impressed their directness and
practical habit on modern civilization.

In trade, the Englishman believes that nobody breaks who ought not to
break; and, that, if he do not make trade everything, it will make him
nothing; and acts on this belief.  The spirit of system, attention to
details, and the subordination of details, or, the not driving things
too finely (which is charged on the Germans), constitute that despatch
of business, which makes the mercantile power of England.

In war, the Englishman looks to his means.  He is of the opinion of
Civilis, his German ancestor, whom Tacitus reports as holding "that the
gods are on the side of the strongest";--a sentence which Bonaparte
unconsciously translated, when he said, "that he had noticed, that
Providence always favored the heaviest battalion."  Their military
science propounds that if the weight of the advancing column is greater
than that of the resisting, the latter is destroyed.  Therefore
Wellington, when he came to the army in Spain, had every man weighed,
first with accoutrements, and then without; believing that the force of
an army depended on the weight and power of the individual soldiers, in
spite of cannon.  Lord Palmerston told the House of Commons, that more
care is taken of the health and comfort of English troops than of any
other troops in the world; and that hence the English can put more men
into the ranks, on the day of action, on the field of battle, than any
other army.  Before the bombardment of the Danish forts in the Baltic,
Nelson spent day after day, himself in the boats, on the exhausting
service of sounding the channel.  Clerk of Eldin’s celebrated manoeuvre
of breaking the line of sea-battle, and Nelson’s feat of _doubling_, or
stationing his ships one on the outer bow, and another on the outer
quarter of each of the enemy’s, were only translations into naval
tactics of Bonaparte’s rule of concentration.  Lord Collingwood was
accustomed to tell his men, that, if they could fire three well-directed
broadsides in five minutes, no vessel could resist them; and, from
constant practice, they came to do it in three minutes and a half.

But conscious that no race of better men exists, they rely most on the
simplest means; and do not like ponderous and difficult tactics, but
delight to bring the affair hand to hand, where the victory lies with
the strength, courage, and endurance of the individual combatants. They
adopt every improvement in rig, in motor, in weapons, but they
fundamentally believe that the best stratagem in naval war is to lay
your ship close alongside of the enemy’s ship, and bring all your guns
to bear on him, until you or he go to the bottom.  This is the old
fashion, which never goes out of fashion, neither in nor out of England.

It is not usually a point of honor, nor a religious sentiment, and never
any whim that they will shed their blood for; but usually property, and
right measured by property, that breeds revolution.  They have no Indian
taste for a tomahawk-dance, no French taste for a badge or a
proclamation.  The Englishman is peaceably minding his business and
earning his day’s wages.  But if you offer to lay hand on his day’s
wages, on his cow, or his right in common, or his shop, he will fight to
the Judgment.  Magna-charta, jury-trial, _habeas-corpus_, star-chamber,
ship-money, Popery, Plymouth colony, American Revolution, are all
questions involving a yeoman’s right to his dinner, and, except as
touching that, would not have lashed the British nation to rage and

Whilst they are thus instinct with a spirit of order, and of
calculation, it must be owned they are capable of larger views; but the
indulgence is expensive to them, costs great crises, or accumulations of
mental power. In common, the horse works best with blinders. Nothing is
more in the line of English thought, than our unvarnished Connecticut
question, "Pray, sir, how do you get your living when you are at home?"
The questions of freedom, of taxation, of privilege, are money
questions.  Heavy fellows, steeped in beer and fleshpots, they are hard
of hearing and dim of sight.  Their drowsy minds need to be flagellated
by war and trade and politics and persecution.  They cannot well read a
principle, except by the light of fagots and of burning towns.

Tacitus says of the Germans, "powerful only in sudden efforts, they are
impatient of toil and labor."  This highly destined race, if it had not
somewhere added the chamber of patience to its brain, would not have
built London. I know not from which of the tribes and temperaments that
went to the composition of the people this tenacity was supplied, but
they clinch every nail they drive. They have no running for luck, and no
immoderate speed.  They spend largely on their fabric, and await the
slow return.  Their leather lies tanning seven years in the vat.  At
Rogers’s mills, in Sheffield, where I was shown the process of making a
razor and a penknife, I was told there is no luck in making good steel;
that they make no mistakes, every blade in the hundred and in the
thousand is good.  And that is characteristic of all their work,--no
more is attempted than is done.

When Thor and his companions arrive at Utgard, he is told that "nobody
is permitted to remain here, unless he understand some art, and excel in
it all other men."  The same question is still put to the posterity of
Thor. A nation of laborers, every man is trained to some one art or
detail, and aims at perfection in that: not content unless he has
something in which he thinks he surpasses all other men.  He would
rather not do anything at all, than not do it well.  I suppose no people
have such thoroughness: from the highest to the lowest, every man
meaning to be master of his art.

"To show capacity," a Frenchman described as the end of a speech in
debate: "no," said an Englishman, "but to set your shoulder at the
wheel,--to advance the business."  Sir Samuel Romilly refused to speak
in popular assemblies, confining himself to the House of Commons, where
a measure can be carried by a speech.  The business of the House of
Commons is conducted by a few persons, but these are hard-worked.  Sir
Robert Peel "knew the Blue Books by heart."  His colleagues and rivals
carry Hansard in their heads.  The high civil and legal offices are not
beds of ease, but posts which exact frightful amounts of mental labor.
Many of the great leaders, like Pitt, Canning, Castlereagh, Romilly, are
soon worked to death.  They are excellent judges in England of a good
worker, and when they find one, like Clarendon, Sir Philip Warwick, Sir
William Coventry, Ashley, Burke, Thurlow, Mansfield, Pitt, Eldon, Peel,
or Russell, there is nothing too good or too high for him.

They have a wonderful heat in the pursuit of a public aim.  Private
persons exhibit, in scientific and antiquarian researches, the same
pertinacity as the nation showed in the coalitions in which it yoked
Europe against the Empire of Bonaparte, one after the other defeated,
and still renewed, until the sixth hurled him from his seat.

Sir John Herschel, in completion of the work of his father, who had made
the catalogue of the stars of the northern hemisphere, expatriated
himself for years at the Cape of Good Hope, finished his inventory of
the southern heaven, came home, and redacted it in eight years more;--a
work whose value does not begin until thirty years have elapsed, and
thenceforward a record to all ages of the highest import.  The Admiralty
sent out the Arctic expeditions year after year, in search of Sir John
Franklin, until, at last, they have threaded their way through polar
pack and Behring’s Straits, and solved the geographical problem.  Lord
Elgin, at Athens, saw the imminent ruin of the Greek remains, set up his
scaffoldings, in spite of epigrams, and, after five years’ labor to
collect them, got his marbles on shipboard.  The ship struck a rock, and
went to the bottom.  He had them all fished up, by divers, at a vast
expense, and brought to London; not knowing that Haydon, Fuseli, and
Canova, and all good heads in all the world, were to be his applauders.
In the same spirit, were the excavation and research by Sir Charles
Fellowes, for the Xanthian monument; and of Layard, for his Nineveh

The nation sits in the immense city they have builded, a London extended
into every man’s mind, though he live in Van Dieman’s Land or Capetown.
Faithful performance of what is undertaken to be performed, they honor
in themselves, and exact in others, as certificate of equality with
themselves.  The modern world is theirs. They have made and make it day
by day.  The commercial relations of the world are so intimately drawn
to London, that every dollar on earth contributes to the strength of the
English government.  And if all the wealth in the planet should perish
by war or deluge, they know themselves competent to replace it.

They have approved their Saxon blood, by their sea-going qualities;
their descent from Odin’s smiths, by their hereditary skill in working
in iron; their British birth, by husbandry and immense wheat harvests;
and justified their occupancy of the centre of habitable land, by their
supreme ability and cosmopolitan spirit.  They have tilled, builded,
forged, spun, and woven.  They have made the island a thoroughfare; and
London a shop, a law-court, a record-office, and scientific bureau,
inviting to strangers; a sanctuary to refugees of every political and
religious opinion; and such a city, that almost every active man, in any
nation, finds himself, at one time or other, forced to visit it.

In every path of practical activity, they have gone even with the best.
There is no secret of war, in which they have not shown mastery.  The
steam-chamber of Watt, the locomotive of Stephenson, the cotton-mule of
Roberts, perform the labor of the world.  There is no department of
literature, of science, or of useful art, in which they have not
produced a first-rate book.  It is England, whose opinion is waited for
on the merit of a new invention, an improved science.  And in the
complications of the trade and politics of their vast empire, they have
been equal to every exigency, with counsel and with conduct. Is it their
luck, or is it in the chambers of their brain,--it is their commercial
advantage, that whatever light appears in better method or happy
invention, breaks out _in their race_.  They are a family to which a
destiny attaches, and the Banshee has sworn that a male heir shall never
be wanting.  They have a wealth of men to fill important posts, and the
vigilance of party criticism insures the selection of a competent

A proof of the energy of the British people is the highly artificial
construction of the whole fabric.  The climate and geography, I said,
were factitious, as if the hands of man had arranged the conditions.
The same character pervades the whole kingdom.  Bacon said, "Rome was a
state not subject to paradoxes"; but England subsists by antagonisms and
contradictions. The foundations of its greatness are the rolling waves;
and, from first to last, it is a museum of anomalies.  This foggy and
rainy country furnishes the world with astronomical observations.  Its
short rivers do not afford water-power, but the land shakes under the
thunder of the mills.  There is no gold-mine of any importance, but
there is more gold in England than in all other countries. It is too far
north for the culture of the vine, but the wines of all countries are in
its docks.  The French Comte de Lauraguais said, "no fruit ripens in
England but a baked apple"; but oranges and pineapples are as cheap in
London as in the Mediterranean.  The Mark-Lane Express, or the
Custom-House Returns bear out to the letter the vaunt of Pope,--

    "Let India boast her palms, nor envy we
    The weeping amber, nor the spicy tree,
    While, by our oaks, those precious loads are borne,
    And realms commanded which those trees adorn."

The native cattle are extinct, but the island is full of artificial
breeds.  The agriculturist Bakewell created sheep and cows and horses to
order, and breeds in which everything was omitted but what is
economical.  The cow is sacrificed to her bag, the ox to his surloin.
Stall-feeding makes sperm-mills of the cattle, and converts the stable
to a chemical factory.  The rivers, lakes, and ponds, too much fished,
or obstructed by factories, are artificially filled with the eggs of
salmon, turbot, and herring.

Chat Moss and the fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire are unhealthy
and too barren to pay rent.  By cylindrical tiles, and gutta-percha
tubes, five millions of acres of bad land have been drained and put on
equality with the best, for rape-culture and grass.  The climate too,
which was already believed to have become, milder and drier by the
enormous consumption of coal, is so far reached by this new action, that
fogs and storms are said to disappear.  In due course, all England will
be drained, and rise a second time out of the waters.  The latest step
was to call in the aid of steam to agriculture.  Steam is almost an
Englishman.  I do not know but they will send him to Parliament, next,
to make laws.  He weaves, forges, saws, pounds, fans, and now he must
pump, grind, dig, and plough for the farmer.  The markets created by the
manufacturing population have erected agriculture into a great thriving
and spending industry.  The value of the houses in Britain is equal to
the value of the soil. Artificial aids of all kinds are cheaper than the
natural resources.  No man can afford to walk, when the parliamentary
train carries him for a penny a mile.  Gas-burners are cheaper than
daylight in numberless floors in the cities.  All the houses in London
buy their water. The English trade does not exist for the exportation of
native products, but on its manufactures, or the making well everything
which is ill made elsewhere.  They make ponchos for the Mexican,
bandannas for the Hindoo, ginseng for the Chinese, beads for the Indian,
laces for the Flemings, telescopes for astronomers, cannons for kings.

The Board of Trade caused the best models of Greece and Italy to be
placed within the reach of every manufacturing population.  They caused
to be translated from foreign languages and illustrated by elaborate
drawings, the most approved works of Munich, Berlin, and Paris. They
have ransacked Italy to find new forms, to add a grace to the products
of their looms, their potteries, and their foundries.⁶

    ⁶ See Memorial of H. Greenough, p. 66, New York, 1853.

The nearer we look, the more artificial is their social system.  Their
law is a network of fictions.  Their property, a scrip or certificate of
right to interest on money that no man ever saw.  Their social classes
are made by statute.  Their ratios of power and representation are
historical and legal.  The last reform-bill took away political power
from a mound, a ruin, and a stone-wall, whilst Birmingham and
Manchester, whose mills paid for the wars of Europe, had no
representative.  Purity in the elective Parliament is secured by the
purchase of seats.⁷  Foreign power is kept by armed colonies; power at
home, by a standing army of police.  The pauper lives better than the
free laborer; the thief better than the pauper; and the transported
felon better than the one under imprisonment.  The crimes are
factitious, as smuggling, poaching, non-conformity, heresy, and treason.
Better, they say in England, kill a man than a hare.  The sovereignty of
the seas is maintained by the impressment of seamen.  "The impressment
of seamen," said Lord Eldon, "is the life of our navy."  Solvency is
maintained by means of a national debt, on the principle, "if you will
not lend me the money, how can I pay you?"  For the administration of
justice, Sir Samuel Romilly’s expedient for clearing the arrears of
business in Chancery, was, the chancellor’s staying away entirely from
his court.  Their system of education is factitious.  The Universities
galvanize dead languages into a semblance of life.  Their church is
artificial.  The manners and customs of society are artificial;--made-up
men with made-up manners;--and thus the whole is Birminghamized, and we
have a nation whose existence is a work of art;--a cold, barren, almost
arctic isle, being made the most fruitful, luxurious, and imperial land
in the whole earth.

    ⁷ Sir S. Romilly, purest of English patriots, decided that the only
      independent mode of entering Parliament was to buy a seat, and he
      bought Horsham.

Man in England submits to be a product of political economy.  On a bleak
moor, a mill is built, a banking-house is opened, and men come in, as
water in a sluice-way, and towns and cities rise.  Man is made as a
Birmingham button.  The rapid doubling of the population dates from
Watt’s steam-engine.  A landlord, who owns a province, says, "the
tenantry are unprofitable; let me have sheep."  He unroofs the houses,
and ships the population to America.  The nation is accustomed to the
instantaneous creation of wealth.  It is the maxim of their economists,
"that the greater part in value of the wealth now existing in England
has been produced by human hands within the last twelve months."
Meantime, three or four days’ rain will reduce hundreds to starving in

One secret of their power is their mutual good understanding.  Not only
good minds are born among them, but all the people have good minds.
Every nation has yielded some good wit, if, as has chanced to many
tribes, only one.  But the intellectual organization of the English
admits a communicableness of knowledge and ideas among them all.  An
electric touch by any of their national ideas, melts them into one
family, and brings the hoards of power which their individuality is
always hiving, into use and play for all.  Is it the smallness of the
country, or is it the pride and affection of race,--they have
solidarity, or responsibleness, and trust in each other.

Their minds, like wool, admit of a dye which is more lasting than the
cloth.  They embrace their cause with more tenacity than their life.
Though not military, yet every common subject by the poll is fit to make
a soldier of.  These private reserved mute family-men can adopt a public
end with all their heat, and this strength of affection makes the
romance of their heroes.  The difference of rank does not divide the
national heart. The Danish poet Oehlenschlager complains, that who
writes in Danish writes to two hundred readers.  In Germany, there is
one speech for the learned, and another for the masses, to that extent,
that, it is said, no sentiment or phrase from the works of any great
German writer is ever heard among the lower classes.  But in England,
the language of the noble is the language of the poor.  In Parliament,
in pulpits, in theatres, when the speakers rise to thought and passion,
the language becomes idiomatic; the people in the street best understand
the best words.  And their language seems drawn from the Bible, the
common law, and the works of Shakspeare, Bacon, Milton, Pope, Young,
Cowper, Burns, and Scott.  The island has produced two or three of the
greatest men that ever existed, but they were not solitary in their own
time.  Men quickly embodied what Newton found out, in Greenwich
observatories, and practical navigation.  The boys knew all that Hutton
knew of strata, or Dalton of atoms, or Harvey of blood-vessels; and
these studies, once dangerous, are in fashion.  So what is invented or
known in agriculture, or in trade, or in war, or in art, or in
literature, and antiquities.  A great ability, not amassed on a few
giants, but poured into the general mind, so that each of them could at
a pinch stand in the shoes of the other; and they are more bound in
character than differenced in ability or in rank. The laborer is a
possible lord.  The lord is a possible basket-maker.  Every man carries
the English system in his brain, knows what is confided to him, and does
therein the best he can.  The chancellor carries England on his mace,
the midshipman at the point of his dirk, the smith on his hammer, the
cook in the bowl of his spoon; the postilion cracks his whip for
England, and the sailor times his oars to "God save the King!"  The very
felons have their pride in each other’s English stanchness. In politics
and in war, they hold together as by hooks of steel.  The charm in
Nelson’s history is, the unselfish greatness; the assurance of being
supported to the uttermost by those whom he supports to the uttermost.
Whilst they are some ages ahead of the rest of the world in the art of
living; whilst in some directions they do not represent the modern
spirit, but constitute it,--this vanguard of civility and power they
coldly hold, marching in phalanx, lock-step, foot after foot, file after
file of heroes, ten thousand deep.


I find the Englishman to be him of all men who stands firmest in his
shoes.  They have in themselves what they value in their horses, mettle
and bottom.  On the day of my arrival at Liverpool, a gentleman, in
describing to me the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, happened to say, "Lord
Clarendon has pluck like a cock, and will fight till he dies"; and, what
I heard first I heard last, and the one thing the English value, is
_pluck_.  The word is not beautiful, but on the quality they signify by
it the nation is unanimous.  The cabmen have it; the merchants have it;
the bishops have it; the women have it; the journals have it; the Times
newspaper, they say, is the pluckiest thing in England, and Sidney Smith
had made it a proverb, that little Lord John Russell, the minister,
would take the command of the Channel fleet to-morrow.

They require you to dare to be of your own opinion, and they hate the
practical cowards who cannot in affairs answer directly yes or no.  They
dare to displease, nay, they will let you break all the commandments, if
you do it natively, and with spirit.  You must be somebody; then you may
do this or that, as you will.

Machinery has been applied to all work, and carried to such perfection,
that little is left for the men but to mind the engines and feed the
furnaces.  But the machines require punctual service, and as they never
tire, they prove too much for their tenders.  Mines, forges, mills,
breweries, railroads, steam-pump, steam-plough, drill of regiments,
drill of police, rule of court, and shop-rule, have operated to give a
mechanical regularity to all the habit and action of men.  A terrible
machine has possessed itself of the ground, the air, the men and women,
and hardly even thought is free.

The mechanical might and organization require in the people constitution
and answering spirits; and he who goes among them must have some weight
of metal.  At last, you take your hint from the fury of life you find,
and say, one thing is plain, this is no country for faint-hearted
people: don’t creep about diffidently; make up your mind; take your own
course, and you shall find respect and furtherance.

It requires, men say, a good constitution to travel in Spain.  I say as
much of England, for other cause, simply on account of the vigor and
brawn of the people. Nothing but the most serious business could give
one any counterweight to these Baresarks, though they were only to order
eggs and muffins for their breakfast. The Englishman speaks with all his
body.  His elocution is stomachic,--as the American’s is labial.  The
Englishman is very petulant and precise about his accommodation at inns,
and on the roads; a quiddle about his toast and his chop, and every
species of convenience, and loud and pungent in his expressions of
impatience at any neglect.  His vivacity betrays itself, at all points,
in his manners, in his respiration, and the inarticulate noises he makes
in clearing the throat,--all significant of burly strength.  He has
stamina; he can take the initiative in emergencies.  He has that
_aplomb_, which results from a good adjustment of the moral and physical
nature, and the obedience of all the powers to the will; as if the axes
of his eyes were united to his backbone, and only moved with the trunk.

This vigor appears in the incuriosity, and stony neglect, each of every
other.  Each man walks, eats, drinks, shaves, dresses, gesticulates,
and, in every manner, acts, and suffers without reference to the
bystanders, in his own fashion, only careful not to interfere with them,
or annoy them; not that he is trained to neglect the eyes of his
neighbors,--he is really occupied with his own affair, and does not
think of them.  Every man in this polished country consults only his
convenience, as much as a solitary pioneer in Wisconsin.  I know not
where any personal eccentricity is so freely allowed, and no man gives
himself any concern with it.  An Englishman walks in a pouring rain,
swinging his closed umbrella like a walking-stick; wears a wig, or a
shawl, or a saddle, or stands on his head, and no remark is made.  And
as he has been doing this for several generations, it is now in the

In short, every one of these islanders is an island himself, safe,
tranquil, incommunicable.  In a company of strangers, you would think
him deaf; his eyes never wander from his table and newspaper.  He is
never betrayed into any curiosity or unbecoming emotion.  They have all
been trained in one severe school of manners, and never put off the
harness.  He does not give his hand. He does not let you meet his eye.
It is almost an affront to look a man in the face, without being
introduced.  In mixed or in select companies they do not introduce
persons; so that a presentation is a circumstance as valid as a
contract.  Introductions are sacraments.  He withholds his name.  At the
hotel, he is hardly willing to whisper it to the clerk at the
book-office.  If he give you his private address on a card, it is like
an avowal of friendship; and his bearing on being introduced is cold,
even though he is seeking your acquaintance, and is studying how he
shall serve you.

It was an odd proof of this impressive energy, that, in my lectures, I
hesitated to read and threw out for its impertinence many a disparaging
phrase, which I had been accustomed to spin, about poor, thin, unable
mortals; so much had the fine physique and the personal vigor of this
robust race worked on my imagination.

I happened to arrive in England at the moment of a commercial crisis.
But it was evident that, let who will fail, England will not.  These
people have sat here a thousand years, and here will continue to sit.
They will not break up, or arrive at any desperate revolution, like
their neighbors; for they have as much energy, as much continence of
character, as they ever had.  The power and possession which surround
them are their own creation, and they exert the same commanding industry
at this moment.

They are positive, methodical, cleanly, and formal, loving routine, and
conventional ways; loving truth and religion, to be sure, but inexorable
on points of form. All the world praises the comfort and private
appointments of an English inn, and of English households. You are sure
of neatness and of personal decorum.  A Frenchman may possibly be clean:
an Englishman is conscientiously clean.  A certain order and complete
propriety is found in his dress and in his belongings.

Born in a harsh and wet climate, which keeps him in doors whenever he is
at rest, and being of an affectionate and loyal temper, he dearly loves
his house.  If he is rich, he buys a demesne, and builds a hall; if he
is in middle condition, he spares no expense on his house. Without, it
is all planted; within, it is wainscoted, carved, curtained, hung with
pictures, and filled with good furniture.  ’T is a passion which
survives all others, to deck and improve it.  Hither he brings all that
is rare and costly, and with the national tendency to sit fast in the
same spot for many generations, it comes to be, in the course of time, a
museum of heirlooms, gifts, and trophies of the adventures and exploits
of the family. He is very fond of silver plate, and, though he have no
gallery of portraits of his ancestors, he has of their punch-bowls and
porringers.  Incredible amounts of plate are found in good houses, and
the poorest have some spoon or saucepan, gift of a godmother, saved out
of better times.

An English family consists of a few persons, who, from youth to age, are
found revolving within a few feet of each other, as if tied by some
invisible ligature, tense as that cartilage which we have seen attaching
the two Siamese.  England produces under favorable conditions of ease
and culture the finest women in the world. And, as the men are
affectionate and true-hearted, the women inspire and refine them.
Nothing can be more delicate without being fantastical, nothing more
firm and based in nature and sentiment, than the courtship and mutual
carriage of the sexes.  The song of 1596 says, "The wife of every
Englishman is counted blest."  The sentiment of Imogen in Cymbeline is
copied from English nature; and not less the Portia of Brutus, the Kate
Percy, and the Desdemona.  The romance does not exceed the height of
noble passion in Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson, or in Lady Russell, or even as
one discerns through the plain prose of Pepys’s Diary, the sacred habit
of an English wife.  Sir Samuel Romilly could not bear the death of his
wife.  Every class has its noble and tender examples.

Domesticity is the taproot which enables the nation to branch wide and
high.  The motive and end of their trade and empire is to guard the
independence and privacy of their homes.  Nothing so much marks their
manners as the concentration on their household ties. This domesticity
is carried into court and camp. Wellington governed India and Spain and
his own troops, and fought battles like a good family-man, paid his
debts, and, though general of an army in Spain, could not stir abroad
for fear of public creditors.  This taste for house and parish merits
has of course its doting and foolish side.  Mr. Cobbett attributes the
huge popularity of Perceval, prime minister in 1810, to the fact that he
was wont to go to church every Sunday, with a large quarto gilt
prayer-book under one arm, his wife hanging on the other, and followed
by a long brood of children.

They keep their old customs, costumes, and pomps, their wig and mace,
sceptre and crown.  The Middle Ages still lurk in the streets of London.
The Knights of the Bath take oath to defend injured ladies; the
gold-stick-in-waiting survives.  They repeated the ceremonies of the
eleventh century in the coronation of the present Queen.  A hereditary
tenure is natural to them.  Offices, farms, trades, and traditions
descend so.  Their leases run for a hundred and a thousand years.  Terms
of service and partnership are lifelong, or are inherited. "Holdship has
been with me," said Lord Eldon, "eight-and-twenty years, knows all my
business and books."  Antiquity of usage is sanction enough.  Wordsworth
says of the small freeholders of Westmoreland, "Many of these humble
sons of the hills had a consciousness that the land which they tilled
had for more than five hundred years been possessed by men of the same
name and blood."  The ship-carpenter in the public yards, my lord’s
gardener and porter, have been there for more than a hundred years,
grandfather, father, and son.

The English power resides also in their dislike of change.  They have
difficulty in bringing their reason to act, and on all occasions use
their memory first.  As soon as they have rid themselves of some
grievance, and settled the better practice, they make haste to fix it as
a finality, and never wish to hear of alteration more.

Every Englishman is an embryonic chancellor: his instinct is to search
for a precedent.  The favorite phrase of their law is, "a custom whereof
the memory of man runneth not back to the contrary."  The barons say,
"Nolumus mutari"; and the cockneys stifle the curiosity of the foreigner
on the reason of any practice, with, "Lord, sir, it was always so."
They hate innovation. Bacon told them, Time was the right reformer;
Chatham, that "confidence was a plant of slow growth"; Canning, to
"advance with the times"; and Wellington, that "habit was ten times
nature."  All their statesmen learn the irresistibility of the tide of
custom, and have invented many fine phrases to cover this slowness of
perception, and prehensility of tail.

A sea-shell should be the crest of England, not only because it
represents a power built on the waves, but also the hard finish of the
men.  The Englishman is finished like a cowry or a murex.  After the
spire and the spines are formed, or, with the formation, a juice exudes,
and a hard enamel varnishes every part.  The keeping of the proprieties
is as indispensable as clean, linen.  No merit quite countervails the
want of this, whilst this sometimes stands in lieu of all.  "’T is in
bad taste," is the most formidable word an Englishman can pronounce.
But this japan costs them dear. There is a prose in certain Englishmen,
which exceeds in wooden deadness all rivalry with other countrymen.
There is a knell in the conceit and externality of their voice, which
seems to say, _Leave all hope behind_.  In this Gibraltar of propriety,
mediocrity gets intrenched, and consolidated, and founded in adamant.
An Englishman of fashion is like one of those souvenirs, bound in gold
vellum, enriched with delicate engravings, on thick hot-pressed paper,
fit for the hands of ladies and princes, but with nothing in it worth
reading or remembering.

A severe decorum rules the court and the cottage. When Thalberg, the
pianist, was one evening performing before the Queen, at Windsor, in a
private party, the Queen accompanied him with her voice.  The
circumstance took air, and all England shuddered from sea to sea.  The
indecorum was never repeated.  Cold, repressive manners prevail.  No
enthusiasm is permitted except at the opera.  They avoid everything
marked.  They require a tone of voice that excites no attention in the
room.  Sir Philip Sidney is one of the patron saints of England, of whom
Wotton said, "His wit was the measure of congruity."

Pretension and vaporing are once for all distasteful. They keep to the
other extreme of low tone in dress and manners.  They avoid pretension
and go right to the heart of the thing.  They hate nonsense,
sentimentalism, and highflown expression; they use a studied plainness.
Even Brummell their fop was marked by the severest simplicity in dress.
They value themselves on the absence of everything theatrical in the
public business, and on conciseness and going to the point, in private

In an aristocratical country, like England, not the Trial by Jury, but
the dinner is the capital institution. It is the mode of doing honor to
a stranger, to invite him to eat,--and has been for many hundred years.
"And they think," says the Venetian traveller of 1500, "no greater honor
can be conferred or received, than to invite others to eat with them, or
to be invited themselves, and they would sooner give five or six ducats
to provide an entertainment for a person, than a groat to assist him in
any distress."⁸  It is reserved to the end of the day, the family-hour
being generally six, in London, and, if any company is expected, one or
two hours later.  Every one dresses for dinner, in his own house, or in
another man’s. The guests are expected to arrive within half an hour of
the time fixed by card of invitation, and nothing but death or
mutilation is permitted to detain them.  The English dinner is precisely
the model on which our own are constructed in the Atlantic cities.  The
company sit one or two hours, before the ladies leave the table.  The
gentlemen remain over their wine an hour longer, and rejoin the ladies
in the drawing-room, and take coffee. The dress dinner generates a
talent of table-talk, which reaches great perfection: the stories are so
good, that one is sure they must have been often told before, to have
got such happy turns.  Hither come all manner of clever projects, bits
of popular science, of practical invention, of miscellaneous humor;
political, literary, and personal news; railroads, horses, diamonds,
agriculture, horticulture, pisciculture, and wine.

    ⁸ "Relation of England."  Printed by the Caraden Society.

English stories, _bon-mots_, and the recorded table-talk of their wits,
are as good as the best of the French.  In America, we are apt scholars,
but have not yet attained the same perfection: for the range of nations
from which London draws, and the steep contrasts of condition, create
the picturesque in society, as broken country makes picturesque
landscape, whilst our prevailing equality makes a prairie tameness: and
secondly, because the usage of a dress-dinner every day at dark has a
tendency to hive and produce to advantage everything good.  Much
attrition has worn every sentence into a bullet.  Also one meets now and
then with polished men, who know everything, have tried everything, can
do everything, and are quite superior to letters and science.  What
could they not, if only they would?


The Teutonic tribes have a national singleness of heart, which contrasts
with the Latin races.  The German name has a proverbial significance of
sincerity and honest meaning.  The arts bear testimony to it.  The faces
of clergy and laity in old sculptures and illuminated missals are
charged with earnest belief.  Add to this hereditary rectitude, the
punctuality and precise dealing which commerce creates, and you have the
English truth and credit. The government strictly performs its
engagements.  The subjects do not understand trifling on its part.  When
any breach of promise occurred, in the old days of prerogative, it was
resented by the people as an intolerable grievance.  And, in modern
times, any slipperiness in the government of political faith, or any
repudiation or crookedness in matters of finance, would bring the whole
nation to a committee of inquiry and reform.  Private men keep their
promises, never so trivial.  Down goes the flying word on the tablets,
and is indelible as Domesday Book.

Their practical power rests on their national sincerity. Veracity
derives from instinct, and marks superiority in organization.  Nature
has endowed some animals with cunning, as a compensation for strength
withheld; but it has provoked the malice of all others, as if avengers
of public wrong.  In the nobler kinds, where strength could be afforded,
her races are loyal to truth, as truth is the foundation of the social
state.  Beasts that make no truce with man, do not break faith with each
other. ’T is said, that the wolf, who makes a _cache_ of his prey, and
brings his fellows with him to the spot, if, on digging it is not found,
is instantly and unresistingly torn in pieces. English veracity seems to
result on a sounder animal structure, as if they could afford it.  They
are blunt in saying what they think, sparing of promises, and they
require plain dealing of others.  We will not have to do with a man in a
mask.  Let us know the truth.  Draw a straight line, hit whom and where
it will.  Alfred, whom the affection of the nation makes the type of
their race, is called by a writer at the Norman Conquest, the
_truth-speaker; Alueredus veridicus_.  Geoffrey of Monmouth says of King
Aurelius, uncle of Arthur, that "above all things he hated a lie."  The
Northman Guttorm said to King Olaf, "It is royal work to fulfil royal
words."  The mottoes of their families are monitory proverbs, as, _Fare
fac_,--Say, do,--of the Fairfaxes; _Say and seal_, of the house of
Fiennes; _Vero nil verius_, of the De Veres. To be king of their word,
is their pride.  When they unmask cant, they say, "The English of this
is," etc.; and to give the lie is the extreme insult.  The phrase of the
lowest of the people is "honor-bright," and their vulgar praise, "his
word is as good as his bond."  They hate shuffling and equivocation, and
the cause is damaged in the public opinion, on which any paltering can
be fixed. Even Lord Chesterfield, with his French breeding, when he came
to define a gentleman, declared that truth made his distinction; and
nothing ever spoken by him would find so hearty a suffrage from his
nation.  The Duke of Wellington, who had the best right to say so,
advises the French General Kellermann, that he may rely on the parole of
an English officer.  The English, of all classes, value themselves on
this trait, as distinguishing them from the French, who, in the popular
belief, are more polite than true.  An Englishman understates, avoids
the superlative, checks himself in compliments, alleging, that in the
French language, one cannot speak without lying.

They love reality in wealth, power, hospitality, and do not easily learn
to make a show, and take the world as it goes.  They are not fond of
ornaments, and if they wear them, they must be gems.  They read gladly
in old Fuller, that a lady, in the reign of Elizabeth, "would have as
patiently digested a lie, as the wearing of false stones or pendants of
counterfeit pearl."  They have the earth-hunger, or preference for
property in land, which is said to mark the Teutonic nations.  They
build of stone; public and private buildings are massive and durable.
In comparing their ships’ houses, and public offices with the American,
it is commonly said, that they spend a pound, where we spend a dollar.
Plain rich clothes, plain rich equipage, plain rich finish throughout
their house and belongings, mark the English truth.

They confide in each other,--English believes in English.  The French
feel the superiority of this probity. The Englishman is not springing a
trap for his admiration, but is honestly minding his business.  The
Frenchman is vain.  Madame de Staël says, that the English irritated
Napoleon, mainly, because they have found out how to unite success with
honesty.  She was not aware how wide an application her foreign readers
would give to the remark.  Wellington discovered the ruin of Bonaparte’s
affairs, by his own probity.  He augured ill of the empire, as soon as
he saw that it was mendacious, and lived by war.  If war do not bring in
its sequel new trade, better agriculture and manufactures, but only
games, fireworks, and spectacles,--no prosperity could support it; much
less, a nation decimated for conscripts, and out of pocket, like France.
So he drudged for years on his military works at Lisbon, and from this
base at last extended his gigantic lines to Waterloo, believing in his
countrymen and their syllogisms above all the rhodomontade of Europe.

At a St. George’s festival, in Montreal, where I happened to be a guest,
since my return home, I observed that the chairman complimented his
compatriots, by saying, "they confided that wherever they met an
Englishman, they found a man who would speak the truth."  And one cannot
think this festival fruitless, if, all over the world, on the 23d of
April, wherever two or three English are found, they meet to encourage
each other in the nationality of veracity.

In the power of saying rude truth, sometimes in the lion’s mouth, no men
surpass them.  On the king’s birthday, when each bishop was expected to
offer the king a purse of gold, Latimer gave Henry VIII. a copy of the
Vulgate, with a mark at the passage, "Whoremongers and adulterers God
will judge"; and they so honor stoutness in each other, that the king
passed it over. They are tenacious of their belief, and cannot easily
change their opinions to suit the hour.  They are like ships with too
much head on to come quickly about, nor will prosperity or even
adversity be allowed to shake their habitual view of conduct.  Whilst I
was in London, M. Guizot arrived there on his escape from Paris, in
February, 1843.  Many private friends called on him. His name was
immediately proposed as an honorary member to the Athenæum.  M. Guizot
was blackballed. Certainly, they knew the distinction of his name.  But
the Englishman is not fickle.  He had really made up his mind, now for
years as he read his newspaper, to hate and despise M. Guizot; and the
altered position of the man as an illustrious exile, and a guest in the
country, makes no difference to him, as it would instantly, to an

They require the same adherence, thorough conviction and reality in
public men.  It is the want of character which makes the low reputation
of the Irish members. "See them," they said, "one hundred and
twenty-seven all voting like sheep, never proposing anything, and all
but four voting the income tax,"--which was an ill-judged concession of
the government, relieving Irish property from the burdens charged on

They have a horror of adventurers in or out of Parliament. The ruling
passion of Englishmen, in these days, is a terror of humbug.  In the
same proportion, they value honesty, stoutness, and adherence to your
own. They like a man committed to his objects.  They hate the French, as
frivolous; they hate the Irish, as aimless; they hate the Germans, as
professors.  In February, 1848, they said, Look, the French king and his
party fell for want of a shot; they had not conscience to shoot, so
entirely was the pith and heart of monarchy eaten out.

They attack their own politicians every day, on the same grounds, as
adventurers.  They love stoutness in standing for your right, in
declining money or promotion that costs any concession.  The barrister
refuses the silk gown of Queen’s Counsel, if his junior have it one day
earlier.  Lord Collingwood would not accept his medal for victory on
14th February, 1797, if he did not receive one for victory on 1st June,
1794; and the long-withholden medal was accorded.  When Castlereagh
dissuaded Lord Wellington from going to the king’s levee, until the
unpopular Cintra business had been explained, he replied: "You furnish
me a reason for going.  I will go to this, or I will never go to a
king’s levee."  The radical mob at Oxford cried after the tory Lord
Eldon, "There’s old Eldon; cheer him; he never ratted."  They have given
the parliamentary nickname of _Trimmers_ to the time-servers, whom
English character does not love.⁹

    ⁹ It is an unlucky moment to remember these sparkles of solitary
      virtue in the face of the honors lately paid in England to the
      Emperor Louis Napoleon.  I am sure that no Englishman whom I had
      the happiness to know, consented, when the aristocracy and the
      commons of London cringed like a Neapolitan rabble, before a
      successful thief.  But--how to resist one step, though odious, in
      a linked series of state necessities?--Governments must always
      learn too late, that the use of dishonest agents is as ruinous for
      nations as for single men.

They are very liable in their politics to extraordinary delusions, thus,
to believe what stands recorded in the gravest books, that the movement
of 10th April, 1848, was urged or assisted by foreigners: which, to be
sure, is paralleled by the democratic whimsey in this country, which I
have noticed to be shared by men sane on other points, that the English
are at the bottom of the agitation of slavery, in American politics: and
then again to the French popular legends on the subject of _perfidious
Albion_.  But suspicion will make fools of nations as of citizens.

A slow temperament makes them less rapid and ready than other
countrymen, and has given occasion to the observation that English wit
comes afterwards,--which the French denote as _esprit d’escalier_.  This
dulness makes their attachment to home, and their adherence in all
foreign countries to home habits.  The Englishman who visits Mount Etna
will carry his teakettle to the top.  The old Italian author of the
"Relation of England" (in 1500) says: "I have it on the best
information, that, when the war is actually raging most furiously, they
will seek for good eating, and all their other comforts, without
thinking what harm might befall them."  Then their eyes seem to be set
at the bottom of a tunnel, and they affirm the one small fact they know,
with the best faith in the world that nothing else exists.  And, as
their own belief in guineas is perfect, they readily, on all occasions,
apply the pecuniary argument as final. Thus when the Rochester rappings
began to be heard of in England, a man deposited £100 in a sealed box in
the Dublin Bank, and then advertised in the newspapers to all
somnambulists, mesmerizers, and others, that whoever could tell him the
number of his note should have the money.  He let it lie there six
months, the newspapers now and then, at his instance, stimulating the
attention of the adepts; but none could ever tell him; and he said, "Now
let me never be bothered more with this proven lie."  It is told of a
good Sir John, that he heard a case stated by counsel, and made up his
mind; then the counsel for the other side taking their turn to speak, he
found himself so unsettled and perplexed, that he exclaimed, "So help me
God!  I will never listen to evidence again."  Any number of delightful
examples of this English stolidity are the anecdotes of Europe.  I knew
a very worthy man,--a magistrate, I believe he was, in the town of
Derby,--who went to the opera, to see Malibrau.  In one scene, the
heroine was to rush across a ruined bridge.  Mr. B. arose, and mildly
yet firmly called the attention of the audience and the performers to
the fact that, in his judgment, the bridge was unsafe! This English
stolidity contrasts with French wit and tact.  The French, it is
commonly said, have greatly more influence in Europe than the English.
What influence the English have is by brute force of wealth and power;
that of the French by affinity and talent.  The Italian is subtle, the
Spaniard treacherous: tortures, it was said, could never wrest from an
Egyptian the confession of a secret.  None of these traits belong to the
Englishman.  His choler and conceit force everything out.  Defoe, who
knew his countrymen well, says of them:--

    "In close intrigue, their faculty ’s but weak,
    For generally whate’er they know, they speak,
    And often their own counsels undermine
    By mere infirmity without design;
    From whence, the learned say, it doth proceed,
    That English treasons never can succeed;
    For they ’re so open-hearted, you may know
    Their own most secret thoughts, and others’ too."


The English race are reputed morose.  I do not know that they have
sadder brows than their neighbors of northern climates.  They are sad by
comparison with the singing and dancing nations: not sadder, but slow
and staid, as finding their joys at home.  They, too, believe that where
there is no enjoyment of life, there can be no vigor and art in speech
or thought; that your merry heart goes all the way, your sad one tires
in a mile.  This trait of gloom has been fixed on them by French
travellers, who, from Froissart, Voltaire, Le Sage, Mirabeau, down to
the lively journalists of the _feuilletous_, have spent their wit on the
solemnity of their neighbors. The French say, gay conversation is
unknown in their island: the Englishman finds no relief from reflection
except in reflection: when he wishes for amusement, he goes to work: his
hilarity is like an attack of fever. Religion, the theatre, and the
reading the books of his country, all feed and increase his natural
melancholy. The police does not interfere with public diversions.  It
thinks itself bound in duty to respect the pleasures and rare gayety of
this inconsolable nation; and their well-known courage is entirely
attributable to their disgust of life.

I suppose their gravity of demeanor and their few words have obtained
this reputation.  As compared with the Americans, I think them cheerful
and contented. Young people, in our country, are much more prone to
melancholy.  The English have a mild aspect, and a ringing, cheerful
voice.  They are large-natured, and not so easily amused as the
southerners, and are among them as grown people among children,
requiring war, or trade, or engineering, or science, instead of
frivolous games. They are proud and private, and, even if disposed to
recreation, will avoid an open garden.  They sported sadly; _ils
s’amusaient tristement, selon la coutume de leur pays_, said Froissart;
and, I suppose, never nation built their party walls so thick, or their
garden fences so high. Meat and wine produce no effect on them: they are
just as cold, quiet, and composed, at the end, as at the beginning of

The reputation of taciturnity they have enjoyed for six or seven hundred
years; and a kind of pride in bad public speaking is noted in the House
of Commons, as if they were willing to show that they did not live by
their tongues, or thought they spoke well enough if they had the tone of
gentlemen.  In mixed company, they shut their mouths.  A Yorkshire
mill-owner told me, he had ridden more than once all the way from London
to Leeds, in the first-class carriage, with the same persons, and no
word exchanged.  The club-houses were established to cultivate social
habits, and it is rare that more than two eat together, and oftenest one
eats alone.  Was it then a stroke of humor in the serious Swedenborg, or
was it only his pitiless logic, that made him shut up the English souls
in a heaven by themselves?

They are contradictorily described as sour, splenetic, and
stubborn,--and as mild, sweet, and sensible.  The truth is, they have
great range and variety of character. Commerce sends abroad multitudes
of different classes. The choleric Welshman, the fervid Scot, the
bilious resident in the East or West Indies, are wide of the perfect
behavior of the educated and dignified man of family.  So is the burly
farmer; so is the country ’squire, with his narrow and violent life.  In
every inn, is the Commercial-Room, in which ’travellers,’ or bagmen who
carry patterns, and solicit orders, for the manufacturers, are wont to
be entertained.  It easily happens that this class should characterize
England to the foreigner, who meets them on the road, and at every
public house, whilst the gentry avoid the taverns, or seclude themselves
whilst in them.

But these classes are the right English stock, and may fairly show the
national qualities, before yet art and education have dealt with them.
They are good lovers, good haters, slow but obstinate admirers, and, in
all things, very much steeped in their temperament, like men hardly
awaked from deep sleep, which they enjoy. Their habits and instincts
cleave to nature.  They are of the earth, earthy; and of the sea, as the
sea-kinds, attached to it for what it yields them, and not from any
sentiment.  They are full of coarse strength, rude exercise, butcher’s
meat, and sound sleep; and suspect any poetic insinuation or any hint
for the conduct of life which reflects on this animal existence, as if
somebody were fumbling at the umbilical cord and might stop their
supplies.  They doubt a man’s sound judgment, if he does not eat with
appetite, and shake their heads if he is particularly chaste.  Take them
as they come, you shall find in the common people a surly indifference,
sometimes gruffness and ill temper; and, in minds of more power,
magazines of inexhaustible war, challenging

    "The ruggedest hour that time and spite dare bring
    To frown upon the enraged Northumberland."

They are headstrong believers and defenders of their opinion, and not
less resolute in maintaining their whim and perversity.  Hezekiah
Woodward wrote a book against the Lord’s Prayer.  And one can believe
that Burton the Anatomist of Melancholy, having predicted from the stars
the hour of his death, slipped the knot himself round his own neck, not
to falsify his horoscope.

Their looks bespeak an invincible stoutness; they have extreme
difficulty to run away, and will die game. Wellington said of the young
coxcombs of the Life-Guards delicately brought up, "But the puppies
fight well"; and Nelson said of his sailors, "They really mind shot no
more than peas."  Of absolute stoutness no nation has more or better
examples.  They are good at storming redoubts, at boarding frigates, at
dying in the last ditch, or any desperate service which has daylight and
honor in it; but not, I think, at enduring the rack, or any passive
obedience, like jumping off a castle-roof at the word of a czar.  Being
both vascular and highly organized, so as to be very sensible of pain;
and intellectual, so as to see reason and glory in a matter.

Of that constitutional force, which yields the supplies of the day, they
have the more than enough, the excess which creates courage on
fortitude, genius in poetry, invention in mechanics, enterprise in
trade, magnificence in wealth, splendor in ceremonies, petulance and
projects in youth.  The young men have a rude health which runs into
peccant humors.  They drink brandy like water, cannot expend their
quantities of waste strength on riding, hunting, swimming, and fencing,
and run into absurd frolics with the gravity of the Eumenides.  They
stoutly carry into every nook and corner of the earth their turbulent
sense; leaving no lie uncontradicted, no pretension unexamined.  They
chew hasheesh; cut themselves with poisoned creases; swing their hammock
in the boughs of the Bohon Upas; taste every poison; buy every secret;
at Naples, they put St. Januarius’s blood in an alembic; they saw a hole
into the head of the "winking Virgin," to know why she winks; measure
with an English foot-rule every cell of the Inquisition, every Turkish
caaba, every Holy of holies; translate and send to Bantley the arcanum
bribed and bullied away from shuddering Bramins; and measure their own
strength by the terror they cause.  These travellers are of every class,
the best and the worst; and it may easily happen that those of rudest
behavior are taken notice of and remembered.  The Saxon melancholy in
the vulgar rich and poor appears as gushes of ill-humor, which every
check exasperates into sarcasm and vituperation.  There are multitudes
of rude young English who have the self-sufficiency and bluntness of
their nation, and who, with their disdain of the rest of mankind, and
with this indigestion and choler, have made the English traveller a
proverb for uncomfortable and offensive manners.  It was no bad
description of the Briton generically, what was said two hundred years
ago, of one particular Oxford scholar: "He was a very bold man, uttered
anything that came into his mind, not only among his companions, but in
public coffee-houses, and would often speak his mind of particular
persons then accidentally present, without examining the company he was
in; for which he was often reprimanded, and several times threatened to
be kicked and beaten."

The common Englishman is prone to forget a cardinal article in the bill
of social rights, that every man has a right to his own ears.  No man
can claim to usurp more than a few cubic feet of the audibilities of a
public room, or to put upon the company the loud statements of his
crotchets or personalities.

But it is in the deep traits of race that the fortunes of nations are
written, and however derived, whether a happier tribe or mixture of
tribes, the air, or what circumstance, that mixed for them the golden
mean of temperament,--here exists the best stock in the world,
broad-fronted, broad-bottomed, best for depth, range, and equability,
men of aplomb and reserves, great range and many moods, strong
instincts, yet apt for culture; war-class as well as clerks; earls and
tradesmen; wise minority, as well as foolish majority; abysmal
temperament, hiding wells of wrath, and glooms on which no sunshine
settles; alternated with a common-sense and humanity which hold them
fast to every piece of cheerful duty; making this temperament a sea to
which all storms are superficial; a race to which their fortunes flow,
as if they alone had the elastic organization at once fine and robust
enough for dominion; as if the burly, inexpressive, now mute and
contumacious, now fierce and sharp-tongued dragon, which once made the
island light with his fiery breath, had bequeathed his ferocity to his
conqueror.  They hide virtues under vices, or the semblance of them.  It
is the misshapen hairy Scandinavian troll again, who lifts the cart out
of the mire, or "threshes the corn that ten day-laborers could not end,"
but it is done in the dark, and with muttered maledictions.  He is a
churl with a soft place in his heart, whose speech is a brash of bitter
waters, but who loves to help you at a pinch.  He says no, but serves
you, and your thanks disgust him.  Here was lately a cross-grained
miser, odd and ugly, resembling in countenance the portrait of Punch,
with the laugh left out; rich by his own industry; sulking in a lonely
house; who never gave a dinner to any man, and disdained all courtesies;
yet as true a worshipper of beauty in form and color as ever existed,
and profusely pouring over the cold mind of his countrymen creations of
grace and truth, removing the reproach of sterility from English art,
catching from their savage climate every fine hint, and importing into
their galleries every tint and trait of sunnier cities and skies; making
an era in painting; and, when he saw that the splendor of one of his
pictures in the Exhibition dimmed his rival’s that hung next it,
secretly took a brush and blackened his own.

They do not wear their heart in their sleeve for daws to peck at.  They
have that phlegm or staidness, which it is a compliment to disturb.
"Great men," said Aristotle, "are always of a nature originally
melancholy."  ’T is the habit of a mind which attaches to abstractions
with a passion which gives vast results.  They dare to displease, they
do not speak to expectation.  They like the sayers of No, better than
the sayers of Yes.  Each of them has an opinion which he feels it
becomes him to express all the more that it differs from yours.  They
are meditating opposition.  This gravity is inseparable from minds of
great resources.

There is an English hero superior to the French, the German, the
Italian, or the Greek.  When he is brought to the strife with fate, he
sacrifices a richer material possession, and on more purely metaphysical
grounds.  He is there with his own consent, face to face with fortune,
which he defies.  On deliberate choice, and from grounds of character,
he has elected his part to live and die for, and dies with grandeur.
This race has added new elements to humanity, and has a deeper root in
the world.

They have great range of scale, from ferocity to exquisite refinement.
With larger scale, they have great retrieving power.  After running each
tendency to an extreme, they try another tack with equal heat.  More
intellectual than other races, when they live with other races, they do
not take their language, but bestow their own.  They subsidize other
nations, and are not subsidized.  They proselyte, and are not
proselyted.  They assimilate other races to themselves, and are not
assimilated.  The English did not calculate the conquest of the Indies.
It fell to their character.  So they administer in different parts of
the world, the codes of every empire and race: in Canada, old French
law; in the Mauritius, the Code Napoleon; in the West Indies, the edicts
of the Spanish Cortes; in the East Indies, the Laws of Menu; in the Isle
of Man, of the Scandinavian Thing; at the Cape of Good Hope, of the Old
Netherlands; and in the Ionian Islands, the Pandects of Justinian.

They are very conscious of their advantageous position in history.
England is the lawgiver, the patron, the instructor, the ally.  Compare
the tone of the French and of the English press: the first querulous,
captious, sensitive, about English opinion; the English press is never
timorous about French opinion, but arrogant and contemptuous.

They are testy and headstrong through an excess of will and bias;
churlish as men sometimes please to be who do not forget a debt, who ask
no favors, and who will do what they like with their own.  With
education and intercourse these asperities wear off, and leave the
good-will pure.  If anatomy is reformed according to national
tendencies, I suppose, the spleen will hereafter be found in the
Englishman, not found in the American, and differencing the one from the
other.  I anticipate another anatomical discovery, that this organ will
be found to be cortical and caducous, that they are superficially
morose, but at last tender-hearted, herein differing from Rome and the
Latin nations.  Nothing savage, nothing mean resides in the English
heart.  They are subject to panics of credulity and of rage, but the
temper of the nation, however disturbed, settles itself soon and easily,
as, in this temperate zone, the sky after whatever storms clears again,
and serenity is its normal condition.

A saving stupidity masks and protects their perception as the curtain of
the eagle’s eye.  Our swifter Americans, when they first deal with
English, pronounce them stupid; but, later, do them justice as people
who wear well, or hide their strength.  To understand the power of
performance that is in their finest wits, in the patient Newton, or in
the versatile transcendent poets, or in the Dugdales, Gibbons, Hallams,
Eldons, and Peels, one should see how English day-laborers hold out.
High and low, they are of an unctuous texture.  There is an adipocere in
their constitution, as if they had oil also for their mental wheels, and
could perform vast amounts of work without damaging themselves.

Even the scale of expense on which people live, and to which scholars
and professional men conform, proves the tension of their muscle, when
vast numbers are found who can each lift this enormous load.  I might
even add, their daily feasts argue a savage vigor of body.

No nation was ever so rich in able men: "Gentlemen," as Charles I. said
of Strafford, "whose abilities might make a prince rather afraid than
ashamed in the greatest affairs of state": men of such temper, that,
like Baron Vere, "had one seen him returning from a victory, he would by
his silence have suspected that he had lost the day; and, had he beheld
him in a retreat, he would have collected him a conqueror by the
cheerfulness of his spirit."¹⁰

   ¹⁰ Fuller.  Worthies of England.

The following passage from the Heimskringla might almost stand as a
portrait of the modern Englishman: "Haldor was very stout and strong,
and remarkably handsome in appearances.  King Harold gave him this
testimony, that he, among all his men, cared least about doubtful
circumstances, whether they betokened danger or pleasure; for, whatever
turned up, he was never in higher nor in lower spirits, never slept less
nor more on account of them, nor ate nor drank but according to his
custom.  Haldor was not a man of many words, but short in conversation,
told his opinion bluntly, and was obstinate and hard; and this could not
please the king, who had many clever people about him, zealous in his
service.  Haldor remained a short time with the king, and then came to
Iceland, where he took up his abode in Hiardaholt, and dwelt in that
farm to a very advanced age."[#]

[#] Heimskringla, Laing’s translation, Vol. III. p. 37.

The national temper, in the civil history, is not flashy or whiffling.
The slow, deep, English mass smoulders with fire, which at last sets all
its borders in flame.  The wrath of London is not French wrath, but has
a long memory, and, in its hottest heat, a register and rule.

Half their strength they put not forth.  They are capable of a sublime
resolution, and if hereafter the war of races, often predicted, and
making itself a war of opinions also (a question of despotism and
liberty coming from Eastern Europe), should menace the English
civilization, these sea-kings may take once again to their floating
castles, and find a new home and a second millennium of power in their

The stability of England is the security of the modern world.  If the
English race were as mutable as the French, what reliance?  But the
English stand for liberty.  The conservative, money-loving, lord-loving
English are yet liberty-loving; and so freedom is safe: for they have
more personal force than other people.  The nation always resist the
immoral action of their government.  They think humanely on the affairs
of France, of Turkey, of Poland, of Hungary, of Schleswig Holstein,
though overborne by the statecraft of the rulers at last.

Does the early history of each tribe show the permanent bias, which,
though not less potent, is masked, as the tribe spreads its activity
into colonies, commerce, codes, arts, letters?  The early history shows
it, as the musician plays the air which he proceeds to conceal in a
tempest of variations.  In Alfred, in the Northmen, one may read the
genius of the English society, namely, that private life is the place of
honor.  Glory, a career, and ambition, words familiar to the longitude
of Paris, are seldom heard in English speech.  Nelson wrote from their
hearts his homely telegraph, "England expects every man to do his duty."

For actual service, for the dignity of a profession, or to appease
diseased or inflamed talent, the army and navy may be entered (the worst
boys doing well in the navy); and the civil service, in departments
where serious official work is done; and they hold in esteem the
barrister engaged in the severer studies of the law.  But the calm,
sound, and most British Briton shrinks from public life, as
charlatanism, and respects an economy founded on agriculture,
coal-mines, manufactures, or trade, which secures an independence
through the creation of real values.

They wish neither to command or obey, but to be kings in their own
houses.  They are intellectual and deeply enjoy literature; they like
well to have the world served up to them in books, maps, models, and
every mode of exact information, and, though not creators in the art,
they value its refinement.  They are ready for leisure, can direct and
fill their own day, nor need so much as others the constraint of a
necessity.  But the history of the nation discloses, at every turn, this
original predilection for private independence, and, however this
inclination may have been disturbed by the bribes with which their vast
colonial power has warped men out of orbit, the inclination endures, and
forms and reforms the laws, letters, manners, and occupations.  They
choose that welfare which is compatible with the commonwealth, knowing
that such alone is stable; as wise merchants prefer investments in three
per cents.


The English are a nation of humorists.  Individual right is pushed to
the uttermost bound compatible with public order.  Property is so
perfect, that it seems the craft of that race, and not to exist
elsewhere.  The king cannot step on an acre which the peasant refuses to
sell. A testator endows a dog or a rookery, and Europe cannot interfere
with his absurdity.  Every individual has his particular way of living,
which he pushes to folly, and the decided sympathy of his compatriots is
engaged to back up Mr. Crump’s whim by statutes, and chancellors, and
horse-guards.  There is no freak so ridiculous but some Englishman has
attempted to immortalize by money and law.  British citizenship is as
omnipotent as Roman was.  Mr. Cockayne is very sensible of this.  The
pursy man means by freedom the right to do as he pleases, and does wrong
in order to feel his freedom, and makes a conscience of persisting in

He is intensely patriotic, for his country is so small. His confidence
in the power and performance of his nation makes him provokingly
incurious about other nations.  He dislikes foreigners.  Swedenborg, who
lived much in England, notes "the similitude of minds among the English,
in consequence of which they contract familiarity with friends who are
of that nation, and seldom with others; and they regard foreigners, as
one looking through a telescope from the top of a palace regards those
who dwell or wander about out of the city."  A much older traveller, the
Venetian who wrote the "Relation of England,"¹¹ in 1500, says: "The
English are great lovers of themselves, and of everything belonging to
them.  They think that there are no other men than themselves, and no
other world but England; and, whenever they see a handsome foreigner,
they say that he looks like an Englishman, and it is a great pity he
should not be an Englishman; and whenever they partake of any delicacy
with a foreigner, they ask him whether such a thing is made in his
country."  When he adds epithets of praise, his climax is "so English";
and when he wishes to pay you the highest compliment, he says, I should
not know you from an Englishman.  France is, by its natural contrast, a
kind of blackboard on which English character draws its own traits in
chalk.  This arrogance habitually exhibits itself in allusions to the
French.  I suppose that all men of English blood in America, Europe, or
Asia have a secret feeling of joy that they are not French natives.  Mr.
Coleridge is said to have given public thanks to God, at the close of a
lecture, that he had defended him from being able to utter a single
sentence in the French language.  I have found that Englishmen have such
a good opinion of England, that the ordinary phrases, in all good
society, of postponing or disparaging one’s own things in talking with a
stranger, are seriously mistaken by them for an insuppressible homage to
the merits of their nation; and the New-Yorker or Pennsylvanian who
modestly laments the disadvantage of a new country, log-huts, and
savages, is surprised by the instant and unfeigned commiseration of the
whole company, who plainly account all the world out of England a heap
of rubbish.

   ¹¹ Printed by the Camden Society.

The same insular limitation pinches his foreign politics.  He sticks to
his traditions and usages, and, so help him God! he will force his
island by-laws down the throat of great countries, like India, China,
Canada, Australia, and not only so, but impose Wapping on the Congress
of Vienna, and trample down all nationalities with his taxed boots.
Lord Chatham goes for liberty, and no taxation without
representation;--for that is British law; but not a hobnail shall they
dare make in America, but buy their nails in England,--for that also is
British law; and the fact that British commerce was to be re-created by
the independence of America, took them all by surprise.

In short, I am afraid that English nature is so rank and aggressive as
to be a little incompatible with every other.  The world is not wide
enough for two.

But, beyond this nationality, it must be admitted, the island offers a
daily worship to the old Norse god Brage, celebrated among our
Scandinavian forefathers, for his eloquence and majestic air.  The
English have a steady courage, that fits them for great attempts and
endurance: they have also a petty courage, through which every man
delights in showing himself for what he is, and in doing what he can; so
that, in all companies, each of them has too good an opinion of himself
to imitate anybody.  He hides no defect of his form, features, dress,
connection, or birthplace, for he thinks every circumstance belonging to
him comes recommended to you.  If one of them have a bald, or a red, or
a green head, or bow legs, or a scar, or mark, or a paunch, or a
squeaking or a raven voice, he has persuaded himself that there is
something modish and becoming in it, and that it sits well on him.

But nature makes nothing in vain, and this little superfluity of
self-regard in the English brain is one of the secrets of their power
and history.  It sets every man on being and doing what he really is and
can.  It takes away a dodging, skulking, secondary air, and encourages a
frank and manly bearing, so that each man makes the most of himself, and
loses no opportunity for want of pushing.  A man’s personal defects will
commonly have with the rest of the world precisely that importance which
they have to himself.  If he makes light of them, so will other men.  We
all find in these a convenient meter of character, since a little man
would be ruined by the vexation.  I remember a shrewd politician, in one
of our Western cities, told me "that he had known several successful
statesmen made by their foible."  And another, an ex-governor of
Illinois, said to me: "If a man knew anything, he would sit in a corner
and be modest; but he is such an ignorant peacock, that he goes bustling
up and down, and hits on extraordinary discoveries."

There is also this benefit in brag, that the speaker is unconsciously
expressing his own ideal.  Humor him by all means, draw it all out, and
hold him to it.  Their culture generally enables the travelled English
to avoid any ridiculous extremes of this self-pleasing, and to give it
an agreeable air.  Then the natural disposition is fostered by the
respect which they find entertained in the world for English ability.
It was said of Louis XIV., that his gait and air were becoming enough in
so great a monarch, yet would have been ridiculous in another man; so
the prestige of the English name warrants a certain confident bearing,
which a Frenchman or Belgian could not carry.  At all events, they feel
themselves at liberty to assume the most extraordinary tone on the
subject of English merits.

An English lady on the Rhine hearing a German speaking of her party as
foreigners, exclaimed, "No, we are not foreigners; we are English: it is
you that are foreigners."  They tell you daily, in London, the story of
the Frenchman and Englishman who quarrelled. Both were unwilling to
fight, but their companions put them up to it; at last, it was agreed,
that they should fight alone, in the dark, and with pistols: the candles
were put out, and the Englishman, to make sure not to hit anybody, fired
up the chimney, and brought down the Frenchman.  They have no curiosity
about foreigners, and answer any information you may volunteer, with
"Oh!  Oh!" until the informant makes up his mind, that they shall die in
their ignorance, for any help he will offer.  There are really no limits
to this conceit, though brighter men among them make painful efforts to
be candid.

The habit of brag runs through all classes, from the _Times_ newspaper
through politicians and poets, through Wordsworth, Carlyle, Mill, and
Sydney Smith, down to the boys of Eton.  In the gravest treatise on
political economy, in a philosophical essay, in books of science, one is
surprised by the most innocent exhibition of unflinching nationality.
In a tract on Corn, a most amiable and accomplished gentleman writes
thus: "Though Britain, according to Bishop Berkeley’s idea, were
surrounded by a wall of brass ten thousand cubits in height, still, she
would as far excel the rest of the globe in riches, as she now does,
both in this secondary quality, and in the more important ones of
freedom, virtue, and science."¹²

   ¹² William Spence.

The English dislike the American structure of society, whilst yet trade,
mills, public education, and chartism are doing what they can to create
in England the same social condition.  America is the paradise of the
economists; is the favorable exception invariably quoted to the rules of
ruin; but when he speaks directly of the Americans, the islander forgets
his philosophy, and remembers his disparaging anecdotes.

But this childish patriotism costs something, like all narrowness.  The
English sway of their colonies has no root of kindness.  They govern by
their arts and ability; they are more just than kind; and, whenever an
abatement of their power is felt, they have not conciliated the
affection on which to rely.

Coarse local distinctions, as those of nation, province, or town, are
useful in the absence of real ones; but we must not insist on these
accidental lines.  Individual traits are always triumphing over national
ones.  There is no fence in metaphysics discriminating Greek, or
English, or Spanish science.  Æsop and Montaigne, Cervantes and Saadi,
are men of the world; and to wave our own flag at the dinner-table or in
the University, is to carry the boisterous dulness of a fire-club into a
polite circle.  Nature and destiny are always on the watch for our
follies.  Nature trips us up when we strut; and there are curious
examples in history on this very point of national pride.

George of Cappadocia, born at Epiphania in Cilicia, was a low parasite,
who got a lucrative contract to supply the army with bacon.  A rogue and
informer, he got rich, and was forced to run from justice.  He saved his
money, embraced Arianism, collected a library, and got promoted by a
faction to the episcopal throne of Alexandria.  When Julian came, A.D.
301, George was dragged to prison; the prison was burst open by the mob,
and George was lynched, as he deserved.  And this precious knave became,
in good time, Saint George of England, patron of chivalry, emblem of
victory and civility, and the pride of the best blood of the modern

Strange, that the solid truth-speaking Briton should derive from an
impostor.  Strange, that the New World should have no better luck,--that
broad America must wear the name of a thief.  Amerigo Vespucci, the
pickle-dealer at Seville, who went out, in 1499, a subaltern with
Hojeda, and whose highest naval rank was boatswain’s mate in an
expedition that never sailed, managed in this lying world to supplant
Columbus, and baptize half the earth with his own dishonest name.  Thus
nobody can throw stones.  We are equally badly off in our founders; and
the false pickle-dealer is an offset to the false bacon-seller.


There is no country in which so absolute a homage is paid to wealth.  In
America, there is a touch of shame when a man exhibits the evidences of
large property, as if, after all, it needed apology.  But the Englishman
has pure pride in his wealth, and esteems it a final certificate. A
coarse logic rules throughout all English souls;--if you have merit, can
you not show it by your good clothes, and coach, and horses?  How can a
man be a gentleman without a pipe of wine?  Haydon says, "There is a
fierce resolution to make every man live according to the means he
possesses."  There is a mixture of religion in it.  They are under the
Jewish law, and read with sonorous emphasis that their days shall be
long in the land, they shall have sous and daughters, flocks and herds,
wine and oil.  In exact proportion is the reproach of poverty.  They do
not wish to be represented except by opulent men.  An Englishman who has
lost his fortune is said to have died of a broken heart. The last term
of insult is, "a beggar."  Nelson said, "The want of fortune is a crime
which I can never get over."  Sydney Smith said, "Poverty is infamous in
England."  And one of their recent writers speaks, in reference to a
private and scholastic life, of "the grave moral deterioration which
follows an empty exchequer."  You shall find this sentiment, if not so
frankly put, yet deeply implied, in the novels and romances of the
present century, and not only in these, but in biography, and in the
votes of public assemblies, in the tone of the preaching, and in the

I was lately turning over Wood’s _Athenæ Oxonienses_, and looking
naturally for another standard in a chronicle of the scholars of Oxford
for two hundred years.  But I found the two disgraces in that, as in
most English books, are, first, disloyalty to Church and State, and,
second, to be born poor, or to come to poverty.  A natural fruit of
England is the brutal political economy. Malthus finds no cover laid at
nature’s table for the laborer’s son.  In 1809, the majority in
Parliament expressed itself by the language of Mr. Fuller in the House
of Commons, "If you do not like the country, damn you, you can leave
it."  When Sir S. Romilly proposed his bill forbidding parish officers
to bind children apprentices at a greater distance than forty miles from
their home, Peel opposed, and Mr. Wortley said, "though, in the higher
ranks, to cultivate family affections was a good thing, ’t was not so
among the lower orders.  Better take them away from those who might
deprave them.  And it was highly injurious to trade to stop binding to
manufacturers, as it must raise the price of labor, and of manufactured

The respect for truth of facts in England is equalled only by the
respect for wealth.  It is at once the pride of art of the Saxon, as he
is a wealth-maker, and his passion for independence.  The Englishman
believes that every man must take care of himself, and has himself to
thank, if he do not mend his condition.  To pay their debts is their
national point of honor.  From the Exchequer and the East India House to
the huckster’s shop, everything prospers, because it is solvent.  The
British armies are solvent, and pay for what they take.  The British
empire is solvent; for, in spite of the huge national debt, the
valuation mounts.  During the war from 1789 to 1815, whilst they
complained that they were taxed within an inch of their lives, and, by
dint of enormous taxes, were subsidizing all the continent against
France, the English were growing rich every year faster than any people
ever grew before.  It is their maxim, that the weight of taxes must be
calculated, not by what is taken, but by what is left.  Solvency is in
the ideas and mechanism of an Englishman.  The Crystal Palace is not
considered honest until it pays; no matter how much convenience, beauty,
or _éclat_, it must be self-supporting.  They are contented with slower
steamers, as long as they know that swifter boats lose money.  They
proceed logically by the double method of labor and thrift.  Every
household exhibits an exact economy, and nothing of that uncalculated
headlong expenditure which families use in America.  If they cannot pay,
they do not buy; for they have no presumption of better fortunes next
year, as our people have; and they say without shame, I cannot afford
it. Gentlemen do not hesitate to ride in the second-class cars, or in
the second cabin.  An economist, or a man who can proportion his means
and his ambition, or bring the year round with expenditure which
expresses his character, without embarrassing one day of his future, is
already a master of life, and a freeman.  Lord Burleigh writes to his
son, "that one ought never to devote more than two thirds of his income
to the ordinary expenses of life, since the extraordinary will be
certain to absorb the other third."

The ambition to create value evokes every kind of ability, government
becomes a manufacturing corporation, and every house a mill.  The
headlong bias to utility will let no talent lie in a napkin,--if
possible, will teach spiders to weave silk stockings.  An Englishman,
while he eats and drinks no more, or not much more than another man,
labors three times as many hours in the course of a year, as an other
European; or, his life as a workman is three lives.  He works fast.
Everything in England is at a quick pace.  They have reinforced their
own productivity, by the creation of that marvellous machinery which
differences this age from any other age.

’T is a curious chapter in modern history, the growth of the
machine-shop.  Six hundred years ago, Roger Bacon explained the
precession of the equinoxes, the consequent necessity of the reform of
the calendar; measured the length of the year, invented gunpowder; and
announced (as if looking from his lofty cell, over five centuries, into
ours) "that machines can be constructed to drive ships more rapidly than
a whole galley of rowers could do; nor would they need anything but a
pilot to steer them.  Carriages also might be constructed to move with
an incredible speed, without the aid of any animal.  Finally, it would
not be impossible to make machines, which, by means of a suit of wings,
should fly in the air in the manner of birds."  But the secret slept
with Bacon.  The six hundred years have not yet fulfilled his words.
Two centuries ago, the sawing of timber was done by hand; the
carriage-wheels ran on wooden axles; the land was tilled by wooden
ploughs. And it was to little purpose that they had pit-coal or that
looms were improved, unless Watt and Stephenson had taught them to work
force-pumps and power-looms by steam.  The great strides were all taken
within the last hundred years.  The life of Sir Robert Peel, in his day
the model Englishman, very properly has, for a frontispiece, a drawing
of the spinning-jenny, which wove the web of his fortunes.  Hargreaves
invented the spinning-jenny, and died in a workhouse.  Arkwright
improved the invention; and the machine dispensed with the work of
ninety-nine men: that is, one spinner could do as much work as one
hundred had done before.  The loom was improved further.  But the men
would sometimes strike for wages, and combine against the masters, and,
about 1829-30, much fear was felt, lest the trade would be drawn away by
these interruptions, and the emigration of the spinners, to Belgium and
the United States.  Iron and steel are very obedient.  Whether it were
not possible to make a spinner that would not rebel, nor mutter, nor
scowl, nor strike for wages, nor emigrate?  At the solicitation of the
masters, after a mob and riot at Staley Bridge, Mr. Roberts of
Manchester undertook to create this peaceful fellow, instead of the
quarrelsome fellow God had made.  After a few trials, he succeeded, and,
in 1830, procured a patent for his self-acting mule; a creation, the
delight of mill-owners, and "destined," they said, "to restore order
among the industrious classes"; a machine requiring only a child’s hand
to piece the broken yarns.  As Arkwright had destroyed domestic
spinning, so Roberts destroyed the factory spinner.  The power of
machinery in Great Britain, in mills, has been computed to be equal to
600,000,000 men, one man being able by the aid of steam to do the work
which required two hundred and fifty men to accomplish fifty years ago.
The production has been commensurate.  England already had this
laborious race, rich soil, water, wood, coal, iron, and favorable
climate. Eight hundred years ago, commerce had made it rich, and it was
recorded, "England is the richest of all the northern nations."  The
Norman historians recite, that "in 1067, William carried with him into
Normandy, from England, more gold and silver than had ever before been
seen in Gaul."  But when, to this labor and trade and these native
resources was added this goblin of steam, with his myriad arms, never
tired, working night and day everlastingly, the amassing of property has
run out of all figures.  It makes the motor of the last ninety years.
The steam-pipe has added to her population and wealth the equivalent of
four or five Englands.  Forty thousand ships are entered in Lloyd’s
lists.  The yield of wheat has gone on from 2,000,000 quarters in the
time of the Stuarts, to 13,000,000 in 1854.  A thousand million pounds
sterling are said to compose the floating money of commerce.  In 1848,
Lord John Russell stated that the people of this country had laid out
£300,000,000 of capital in railways, in the last four years.  But a
better measure than these sounding figures is the estimate, that there
is wealth enough in England to support the entire population in idleness
for one year.

The wise, versatile, all-giving machinery makes chisels, roads,
locomotives, telegraphs.  Whitworth divides a bar to a millionth of an
inch.  Steam twines huge cannon into wreaths, as easily as it braids
straw, and vies with the volcanic forces which twisted the strata.  It
can clothe shingle mountains with ship-oaks, make sword-blades that will
cut gun-barrels in two.  In Egypt, it can plant forests, and bring rain
after three thousand years.  Already it is ruddering the balloon, and
the next war will be fought in the air.  But another machine more potent
in England than steam is the Bank.

It votes an issue of bills, population is stimulated, and cities rise;
it refuses loans, and emigration empties the country; trade sinks;
revolutions break out; kings are dethroned.  By these new agents our
social system is moulded.  By dint of steam and of money, war and
commerce are changed.  Nations have lost their old omnipotence; the
patriotic tie does not hold.  Nations are getting obsolete, we go and
live where we will.  Steam has enabled men to choose what law they will
live under. Money makes place for them.  The telegraph is a limp-band
that will hold the Fenris-wolf of war.  For now, that a telegraph line
runs through France and Europe, from London, every message it transmits
makes stronger by one thread the band which war will have to cut.

The introduction of these elements gives new resources to existing
proprietors.  A sporting duke may fancy that the state depends on the
House of Lords, but the engineer sees, that every stroke of the
steam-piston gives value to the duke’s land, fills it with tenants;
doubles, quadruples, centuples the duke’s capital, and creates new
measures and new necessities for the culture of his children.  Of
course, it draws the nobility into the competition as stockholders in
the mine, the canal, the railway, in the application of steam to
agriculture, and sometimes into trade.  But it also introduces large
classes into the same competition; the old energy of the Norse race arms
itself with these magnificent powers; new men prove an overmatch for the
land-owner, and the mill buys out the castle.  Scandinavian Thor, who
once forged his bolts in icy Hecla, and built galleys by lonely fiords,
in England, has advanced with the times, has shorn his beard, enters
Parliament, sits down at a desk in the India House, and lends Miollnir
to Birmingham for a steam-hammer.

The creation of wealth in England in the last ninety years is a main
fact in modern history.  The wealth of London determines prices all over
the globe.  All things precious, or useful, or amusing, or intoxicating,
are sucked into this commerce and floated to London.  Some English
private fortunes reach, and some exceed, a million of dollars a year.  A
hundred thousand palaces adorn the island.  All that can feed the senses
and passions, all that can succor the talent, or arm the hands of the
intelligent middle class who never spare in what they buy for their own
consumption; all that can aid science, gratify taste, or soothe comfort,
is in open market. Whatever is excellent and beautiful in civil, rural,
or ecclesiastic architecture; in fountain, garden, or grounds; the
English noble crosses sea and land to see and to copy at home.  The
taste and science of thirty peaceful generations; the gardens which
Evelyn planted; the temples and pleasure-houses which Inigo Jones and
Christopher Wren built; the wood that Gibbons carved; the taste of
foreign and domestic artists, Shenstone, Pope, Brown, Loudon, Paxton,
are in the vast auction, and the hereditary principle heaps on the owner
of to-day the benefit of ages of owners.  The present possessors are to
the full as absolute as any of their fathers, in choosing and procuring
what they like.  This comfort and splendor, the breadth of lake and
mountain, tillage, pasture, and park, sumptuous castle and modern
villa,--all consist with perfect order.  They have no revolutions; no
horse-guards dictating to the crown; no Parisian _poissardes_ and
barricades; no mob; but drowsy habitude, daily dress-dinners, wine, and
ale, and beer, and gin, and sleep.

With this power of creation, and this passion for independence, property
has reached an ideal perfection. It is felt and treated as the national
life-blood.  The laws are framed to give property the securest possible
basis, and the provisions to lock and transmit it have exercised the
cunningest heads in a profession which never admits a fool.  The rights
of property nothing but felony and treason can override.  The house is a
castle which the king cannot enter.  The Bank is a strong-box to which
the king has no key.  Whatever surly sweetness possession can give, is
tasted in England to the dregs.  Vested rights are awful things, and
absolute possession gives the smallest freeholder identity of interest
with the duke.  High stone fences and padlocked garden gates announce
the absolute will of the owner to be alone.  Every whim of exaggerated
egotism is put into stone and iron, into silver and gold, with costly
deliberation and detail.

An Englishman hears that the Queen Dowager wishes to establish some
claim to put her park paling a rod forward into his grounds, so as to
get a coachway, and save her a mile to the avenue.  Instantly he
transforms his paling into stone masonry, solid as the walls of Cuma,
and all Europe cannot prevail on him to sell or compound for an inch of
the land.  They delight in a freak as the proof of their sovereign
freedom.  Sir Edward Boynton, at Spic Park, at Cadenham, on a precipice
of incomparable prospect, built a house like a long barn, which had not
a window on the prospect side.  Strawberry Hill of Horace Walpole,
Fonthill Abbey of Mr. Beckford, were freaks; and Newstead Abbey became
one in the hands of Lord Byron.

But the proudest result of this creation has been the great and refined
forces it has put at the disposal of the private citizen.  In the social
world, an Englishman to-day has the best lot.  He is a king in a plain
coat.  He goes with the most powerful protection, keeps the best
company, is armed by the best education, is seconded by wealth; and his
English name and accidents are like a flourish of trumpets announcing
him.  This, with his quiet style of manners, gives him the power of a
sovereign, without the inconveniences which belong to that rank.  I much
prefer the condition of an English gentleman of the better class, to
that of any potentate in Europe,--whether for travel, or for opportunity
of society, or for access to means of science or study, or for mere
comfort and easy healthy relation to people at home.

Such, as we have seen, is the wealth of England, a mighty mass, and made
good in whatever details we care to explore.  The cause and spring of it
is the wealth of temperament in the people.  The wonder of Britain is
this plenteous nature.  Her worthies are ever surrounded by as good men
as themselves; each is a captain a hundred strong, and that wealth of
men is represented again in the faculty of each individual,--that he has
waste strength, power to spare.  The English are so rich, and seem to
have established a taproot in the bowels of the planet, because they are
constitutionally fertile and creative.

But a man must keep an eye on his servants, if he would not have them
rule him.  Man is a shrewd inventor, and is ever taking the hint of a
new machine from his own structure, adapting some secret of his own
anatomy in iron, wood, and leather, to some required function in the
work of the world.  But it is found that the machine unmans the user.
What he gains in making cloth, he loses in general power.  There should
be temperance in making cloth, as well as in eating.  A man should not
be a silkworm; nor a nation a tent of caterpillars. The robust rural
Saxon degenerates in the mills to the Leicester stockinger, to the
imbecile Manchester spinner,--far on the way to be spiders and needles.
The incessant repetition of the same hand-work dwarfs the man, robs him
of his strength, wit, and versatility, to make a pin-polisher, a
buckle-maker, or any other specialty; and presently, in a change of
industry, whole towns are sacrificed like ant-hills, when, the fashion
of shoestrings supersedes buckles, when cotton takes the place of linen,
or railways of turnpikes, or when commons are enclosed by landlords.
Then society is admonished of the mischief of the division of labor, and
that the best political economy is care and culture of men; for, in
these crises, all are ruined except such as are proper individuals,
capable of thought, and of new choice and the application of their
talent to new labor.  Then again come in new calamities.  England is
aghast at the disclosure of her fraud in the adulteration of food, of
drugs, and of almost every fabric in her mills and shops; finding that
milk will not nourish, nor sugar sweeten, nor bread satisfy, nor pepper
bite the tongue, nor glue stick.  In true England all is false and
forged.  This too is the reaction of machinery, but of the larger
machinery of commerce.  ’T is not, I suppose, want of probity, so much
as the tyranny of trade, which necessitates a perpetual competition of
underselling, and that again a perpetual deterioration of the fabric.

The machinery has proved, like the balloon, unmanageable, and flies away
with the aeronaut.  Steam from the first hissed and screamed to warn
him; it was dreadful with its explosion, and crushed the engineer.  The
machinist has wrought and watched, engineers and firemen without number
have been sacrificed in learning to tame and guide the monster.  But
harder still it has proved to resist and rule the dragon Money, with his
paper wings.  Chancellors and Boards of Trade, Pitt, Peel, and Robinson,
and their Parliaments, and their whole generation, adopted false
principles, and went to their graves in the belief that they were
enriching the country which they were impoverishing.  They congratulated
each other on ruinous expedients.  It is rare to find a merchant who
knows why a crisis occurs in trade, why prices rise or fall, or who
knows the mischief of paper-money.  In the culmination of national
prosperity, in the annexation of countries; building of ships, depots,
towns; in the influx of tons of gold and silver; amid the chuckle of
chancellors and financiers, it was found that bread rose to famine
prices, that the yeoman was forced to sell his cow and pig, his tools,
and his acre of land; and the dreadful barometer of the poor-rates was
touching the point of ruin.  The poor-rate was sucking in the solvent
classes, and forcing an exodus of farmers and mechanics.  What befalls
from the violence of financial crises, befalls daily in the violence of
artificial legislation.

Such a wealth has England earned, ever new, bounteous, and augmenting.
But the question recurs, does she take the step beyond, namely, to the
wise use, in view of the supreme wealth of nations?  We estimate the
wisdom of nations by seeing what they did with their surplus capital.
And, in view of these injuries, some compensation has been attempted in
England.  A part of the money earned returns to the brain to buy
schools, libraries, bishops, astronomers, chemists, and artists with;
and a part to repair the wrongs of this intemperate weaving, by
hospitals, savings-banks, Mechanics’ Institutes, public grounds, and
other charities and amenities.  But the antidotes are frightfully
inadequate, and the evil requires a deeper cure, which time and a
simpler social organization must supply.  At present, she does not rule
her wealth.  She is simply a good England, but no divinity, or wise and
instructed soul.  She too is in the stream of fate, one victim more in a
common catastrophe.

But being in the fault, she has the misfortune of greatness to be held
as the chief offender.  England must be held responsible for the
despotism of expense.  Her prosperity, the splendor which so much
manhood and talent and perseverance has thrown upon vulgar aims, is the
very argument of materialism.  Her success strengthens the hands of base
wealth.  Who can propose to youth poverty and wisdom, when mean gain has
arrived at the conquest of letters and arts; when English success has
grown out of the very renunciation of principles, and the dedication to
outsides.  A civility of trifles, of money and expense, an erudition of
sensation takes place, and the putting as many impediments as we can,
between the man and his objects.  Hardly the bravest among them have the
manliness to resist it successfully.  Hence, it has come, that not the
aims of a manly life, but the means of meeting a certain ponderous
expense, is that which is to be considered by a youth in England,
emerging from his minority.  A large family is reckoned a misfortune.
And it is a consolation in the death of the young, that a source of
expense is closed.


The feudal character of the English state, now that it is getting
obsolete, glares a little, in contrast with the democratic tendencies.
The inequality of power and property shocks republican nerves.  Palaces,
halls, villas, walled parks, all over England, rival the splendor of
royal seats.  Many of the halls, like Haddon, or Kedleston, are
beautiful desolations.  The proprietor never saw them, or never lived in
them.  Primogeniture built these sumptuous piles, and, I suppose, it is
the sentiment of every traveller, as it was mine, ’T was well to come
ere these were gone.  Primogeniture is a cardinal rule of English
property and institutions.  Laws, customs, manners, the very persons and
faces, affirm it.

The frame of society is aristocratic, the taste of the people is loyal.
The estates, names, and manners of the nobles flatter the fancy of the
people, and conciliate the necessary support.  In spite of broken faith,
stolen charters, and the devastation of society by the profligacy of the
court, we take sides as we read for the loyal England and King Charles’s
"return to his right" with his Cavaliers,--knowing what a heartless
trifler he is, and what a crew of God-forsaken robbers they are.  The
people of England knew as much.  But the fair idea of a settled
government connecting itself with heraldic names, with the written and
oral history of Europe, and, at last, with the Hebrew religion, and the
oldest traditions of the world, was too pleasing a vision to be
shattered by a few offensive realities, and the politics of shoemakers
and costermongers.  The hopes of the commoners take the same direction
with the interest of the patricians.  Every man who becomes rich buys
land, and does what he can to fortify the nobility, into which he hopes
to rise.  The Anglican clergy are identified with the aristocracy.  Time
and law have made the joining and moulding perfect in every part.  The
Cathedrals, the Universities, the national music, the popular romances,
conspire to uphold the heraldry, which the current politics of the day
are sapping.  The taste of the people is conservative.  They are proud
of the castles, and of the language and symbol of chivalry.  Even the
word "lord" is the luckiest style that is used in any language to
designate a patrician.  The superior education and manners of the nobles
recommend them to the country.

The Norwegian pirate got what he could, and held it for his eldest son.
The Norman noble, who was the Norwegian pirate baptized, did likewise.
There was this advantage of Western over Oriental nobility, that this
was recruited from below.  English history is aristocracy with the doors
open.  Who has courage and faculty, let him come in.  Of course, the
terms of admission to this club are hard and high.  The selfishness of
the nobles comes in aid of the interest of the nation to require signal
merit.  Piracy and war gave place to trade, politics, and letters; the
war-lord to the law-lord; the law-lord to the merchant and the
mill-owner; but the privilege was kept, whilst the means of obtaining it
were changed.

The foundations of these families lie deep in Norwegian exploits by sea,
and Saxon sturdiness on land.  All nobility in its beginnings was
somebody’s natural superiority. The things these English have done were
not done without peril of life, nor without wisdom and conduct; and the
first hands, it may be presumed, were often challenged to show their
right to their honors, or yield them to better men.  "He that will be a
head, let him be a bridge," said the Welsh chief Benegridran, when he
carried all his men over the river on his back.  "He shall have the
book," said the mother of Alfred, "who can read it"; and Alfred won it
by that title: and I make no doubt that feudal tenure was no sinecure,
but baron, knight, and tenant often had their memories refreshed, in
regard to the service by which they held their lands. The De Veres,
Bohuns, Mowbrays, and Plantagenets were not addicted to contemplation.
The Middle Age adorned itself with proofs of manhood and devotion.  Of
Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, the Emperor told Henry V. that no
Christian king had such another knight for wisdom, nurture, and manhood,
and caused him to be named, "Father of curtesie."  "Our success in
France," says the historian, "lived and died with him."¹³

   ¹³ Fuller’s Worthies, II.  p. 472.

The war-lord earned his honors, and no donation of land was large, as
long as it brought the duty of protecting it, hour by hour, against a
terrible enemy.  In France and in England, the nobles were, down to a
late day, born and bred to war; and the duel, which in peace still held
them to the risks of war, diminished the envy that, in trading and
studious nations, would else have pried into their title.  They were
looked on as men who played high for a great stake.

Great estates are not sinecures, if they are to be kept great.  A
creative economy is the fuel of magnificence. In the same line of
Warwick, the successor next but one to Beauchamp was the stout earl of
Henry VI. and Edward IV.  Few esteemed themselves in the mode, whose
heads were not adorned with the black ragged staff, his badge.  At his
house in London, six oxen were daily eaten at a breakfast; and every
tavern was full of his meat; and who had any acquaintance in his family,
should have as much boiled and roast as he could carry on a long dagger.

The new age brings new qualities into request, the virtues of pirates
gave way to those of planters, merchants, senators, and scholars.
Comity, social talent, and fine manners, no doubt, have had their part
also.  I have met somewhere with a historiette, which, whether more or
less true in its particulars, carries a general truth. "How came the
Duke of Bedford by his great landed estates?  His ancestor having
travelled on the continent, a lively, pleasant man, became the companion
of a foreign prince wrecked on the Dorsetshire coast, where Mr. Russell
lived.  The prince recommended him to Henry VIII., who, liking his
company, gave him a large share of the plundered church lands."

The pretence is that the noble is of unbroken descent from the Norman,
and has never worked for eight hundred years.  But the fact is
otherwise.  Where is Bohun? where is De Vere?  The lawyer, the farmer,
the silk-mercer, lies _perdu_ under the coronet, and winks to the
antiquary to say nothing; especially skilful lawyers, nobody’s sons, who
did some piece of work at a nice moment for government, and were
rewarded with ermine.

The national tastes of the English do not lead them to the life of the
courtier, but to secure the comfort and independence of their homes.
The aristocracy are marked by their predilection for country-life.  They
are called the county-families.  They have often no residence in London,
and only go thither for a short time, during the season, to see the
opera; but they concentrate the love and labor of many generations on
the building, planting, and decoration of their homesteads.  Some of
them are too old and too proud to wear titles, or, as Sheridan said of
Coke, "disdain to hide their head in a coronet"; and some curious
examples are cited to show the stability of English families.  Their
proverb is, that, fifty miles from London, a family will last a hundred
years; at a hundred miles, two hundred years; and so on; but I doubt
that steam, the enemy of time, as well as of space, will disturb these
ancient rules.  Sir Henry Wotton says of the first Duke of Buckingham:
"He was born at Brookeby in Leicestershire, where his ancestors had
chiefly continued about the space of four hundred years, rather without
obscurity, than with any great lustre."¹⁴  Wraxall says, that, in 1781,
Lord Surrey, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, told him, that when the year
1783 should arrive, he meant to give a grand festival to all the
descendants of the body of Jockey of Norfolk, to mark the day when the
dukedom should have remained three hundred years in their house, since
its creation by Richard III.  Pepys tells us, in writing of an Earl
Oxford, in 1666, that the honor had now remained in that name and blood
six hundred years.

   ¹⁴ Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, p. 208.

This long descent of families and this cleaving through ages to the same
spot of ground captivates the imagination. It has too a connection with
the names of the towns and districts of the country.

The names are excellent,--an atmosphere of legendary melody spread over
the land.  Older than all epics and histories, which clothe a nation,
this undershirt sits close to the body.  What history too, and what
stores of primitive and savage observation, it infolds!  Cambridge is
the bridge of the Cam; Sheffield, the field of the river Sheaf;
Leicester, the _castra_ or camp of the Lear or Leir (now Soar);
Rochdale, of the Roch; Exeter or Excester, the _castra_ of the Ex;
Exmouth, Dartmouth, Sidmouth, Teignmouth, the mouths of the Ex, Dart,
Sid, and Teign Rivers.  Waltham is strong town; Radcliffe is red cliff;
and so on;--a sincerity and use in naming very striking to an American,
whose country is whitewashed all over by unmeaning names, the cast-off
clothes of the country from which its emigrants came; or, named at a
pinch from a psalm-tune.  But the English are those "barbarians" of
Jamblichus, who "are stable in their manners, and firmly continue to
employ the same words, which also are dear to the gods."

’T is an old sneer, that the Irish peerage drew their names from
playbooks.  The English lords do not call their lands after their own
names, but call themselves after their lands; as if the man represented
the country that bred him; and they rightly wear the token of the glebe
that gave them birth; suggesting that the tie is not cut, but that there
in London,--the crags of Argyle, the kail of Cornwall, the downs of
Devon, the iron of Wales, the clays of Stafford, are neither forgetting
nor forgotten, but know the man who was born by them, and who, like the
long line of his fathers, has carried that crag, that shore, dale, fen,
or woodland in his blood and manners. It has, too, the advantage of
suggesting responsibleness. A susceptible man could not wear a name
which represented in a strict sense a city or a county of England,
without hearing in it a challenge to duty and honor.

The predilection of the patricians for residence in the country,
combined with the degree of liberty possessed by the peasant, makes the
safety of the English hall. Mirabeau wrote prophetically from England,
in 1784: "If revolution break out in France, I tremble for the
aristocracy: their chaâeaux will be reduced to ashes, and their blood
spilt in torrents.  The English tenant would defend his lord to the last
extremity."  The English go to their estates for grandeur.  The French
live at court, and exile themselves to their estates for economy.  As
they do not mean to live with their tenants, they do not conciliate
them, but wring from them the last sous. Evelyn writes from Blois, in
1644: "The wolves are here in such numbers, that they often come and
take children out of the streets; yet will not the Duke, who is
sovereign here, permit them to be destroyed."

In evidence of the wealth amassed by ancient families, the traveller is
shown the palaces in Piccadilly, Burlington House, Devonshire House,
Lansdowne House in Berkshire Square, and, lower down in the city, a few
noble houses which still withstand in all their amplitude the
encroachment of streets.  The Duke of Bedford includes or included a
mile square in the heart of London, where the British Museum, once
Montague House, now stands, and the land occupied by Woburn Square,
Bedford Square, Russell Square.  The Marquis of Westminster built within
a few years the series of squares called Belgravia.  Stafford House is
the noblest palace in London.  Northumberland House holds its place by
Charing Cross.  Chesterfield House remains in Audley Street. Sion House
and Holland House are in the suburbs.  But most of the historical houses
are masked or lost in the modern uses to which trade or charity has
converted them.  A multitude of town palaces contain inestimable
galleries of art.

In the country, the size of private estates is more impressive.  From
Barnard Castle I rode on the highway twenty-three miles from High Force,
a fall of the Tees, towards Darlington, past Raby Castle, through the
estate of the Duke of Cleveland.  The Marquis of Breadalbane rides out
of his house a hundred miles in a straight line to the sea, on his own
property.  The Duke of Sutherland owns the county of Sutherland,
stretching across Scotland from sea to sea.  The Duke of Devonshire,
besides his other estates, owns 96,000 acres in the county of Derby.
The Duke of Richmond has 40,000 acres at Goodwood, and 300,000 at Gordon
Castle.  The Duke of Norfolk’s park in Sussex is fifteen miles in
circuit.  An agriculturist bought lately the island of Lewes, in
Hebrides, containing 500,000 acres. The possessions of the Earl of
Lonsdale gave him eight seats in Parliament.  This is the Heptarchy
again; and before the Reform of 1832, one hundred and fifty-four persons
sent three hundred and seven members to Parliament.  The borough-mongers
governed England.

These large domains are growing larger.  The great estates are absorbing
the small freeholds.  In 1786, the soil of England was owned by 250,000
corporations and proprietors; and, in 1822, by 32,000.  These broad
estates find room in this narrow island.  All over England, scattered at
short intervals among ship-yards, mills, mines, and forges, are the
paradises of the nobles, where the livelong repose and refinement are
heightened by the contrast with the roar of industry and necessity, out
of which you have stepped aside.

I was surprised to observe the very small attendance usually in the
House of Lords.  Out of 573 peers, on ordinary days, only twenty or
thirty.  Where are they? I asked.  "At home on their estates, devoured
by _ennui_, or in the Alps, or up the Rhine, in the Harz Mountains, or
in Egypt, or in India, on the Ghauts."  But, with such interests at
stake, how can these men afford to neglect them?  "O," replied my
friend, "why should they work for themselves, when every man in England
works for them, and will suffer before they come to harm?"  The hardest
radical instantly uncovers, and changes his tone to a lord.  It was
remarked on the 10th April, 1848 (the day of the Chartist
demonstration), that the upper classes were, for the first time,
actively interesting themselves in their own defence, and men of rank
were sworn special constables, with the rest. "Besides, why need they
sit out the debate?  Has not the Duke of Wellington, at this moment,
their proxies,--the proxies of fifty peers in his pocket, to vote for
them, if there be an emergency?"

It is however true, that the existence of the House of Peers as a branch
of the government entitles them to fill half the Cabinet; and their
weight of property and station gives them a virtual nomination of the
other half; whilst they have their share in the subordinate offices, as
a school of training.  This monopoly of political power has given them
their intellectual and social eminence in Europe. A few law lords and a
few political lords take the brunt of public business.  In the army, the
nobility fill a large part of the high commissions, and give to these a
tone of expense and splendor, and also of exclusiveness.  They have
borne their full share of duty and danger in this service; and there are
few noble families which have not paid in some of their members, the
debt of life or limb, in the sacrifices of the Russian war.  For the
rest, the nobility have the lead in matters of state, and of expense; in
questions of taste, in social usages, in convivial and domestic
hospitalities.  In general, all that is required of them is to sit
securely, to preside at public meetings, to countenance charities, and
to give the example of that decorum so dear to the British heart.

If one asks, in the critical spirit of the day, what service this class
have rendered?--uses appear, or they would have perished long ago.  Some
of these are easily enumerated, others more subtle make a part of
unconscious history.  Their institution is one step in the progress of
society.  For a race yields a nobility in some form, however we name the
lords, as surely as it yields women.

The English nobles are high-spirited, active, educated men, born to
wealth and power, who have run through every country, and kept in every
country the best company, have seen every secret of art and nature, and,
when men of any ability or ambition, have been consulted in the conduct
of every important action.  You cannot wield great agencies without
lending yourself to them, and when it happens that the spirit of the
earl meets his rank and duties, we have the best examples of behavior.
Power of any kind readily appears in the manners; and beneficent power,
_le talent de bien faire_, gives a majesty which cannot be concealed or

These people seem to gain as much as they lose by their position.  They
survey society, as from the top of St. Paul’s, and if they never hear
plain truth from men, they see the best of everything, in every kind,
and they see things so grouped and amassed as to infer easily the sum
and genius, instead of tedious particularities.  Their good behavior
deserves all its fame, and they have that simplicity, and that air of
repose, which are the finest ornament of greatness.

The upper classes have only birth, say the people here, and not
thoughts.  Yes, but they have manners, and ’t is wonderful, how much
talent runs into manners:--nowhere and never so much as in England.
They have the sense of superiority, the absence of all the ambitious
effort which disgusts in the aspiring classes, a pure tone of thought
and feeling, and the power to command, among their other luxuries, the
presence of the most accomplished men in their festive meetings.

Loyalty is in the English a sub-religion.  They wear the laws as
ornaments, and walk by their faith in their painted May-Fair, as if
among the forms of gods.  The economist of 1855 who asks, of what use
are the lords? may learn of Franklin to ask, of what use is a baby? They
have been a social church proper to inspire sentiments mutually honoring
the lover and the loved. Politeness is the ritual of society, as prayers
are of the church; a school of manners, and a gentle blessing to the age
in which it grew.  ’T is a romance adorning English life with a larger
horizon; a midway heaven, fulfilling to their sense their fairy tales
and poetry.  This, just as far as the breeding of the nobleman, really
made him brave, handsome, accomplished, and great-hearted.

On general grounds, whatever tends to form manners, or to finish men,
has a great value.  Every one who has tasted the delight of friendship,
will respect every social guard which our manners can establish, tending
to secure from the intrusion of frivolous and distasteful people. The
jealousy of every class to guard itself, is a testimony to the reality
they have found in life.  When a man once knows that he has done justice
to himself, let him dismiss all terrors of aristocracy as superstitions,
so far as he is concerned.  He who keeps the door of a mine, whether of
cobalt, or mercury, or nickel, or plumbago, securely knows that the
world cannot do without him. Everybody who is real is open and ready for
that which is also real.

Besides, these are they who make England that strongbox and museum it
is; who gather and protect works of art, dragged from amidst burning
cities and revolutionary countries, and brought hither out of all the
world.  I look with respect at houses six, seven, eight hundred, or,
like Warwick Castle, nine hundred years old.  I pardoned high park
fences, when I saw, that, besides does and pheasants, these have
preserved Arundel marbles, Townley galleries, Howard and Spenserian
libraries, Warwick and Portland vases, Saxon manuscripts, monastic
architectures, millennial trees, and breeds of cattle elsewhere extinct.
In these manors, after the frenzy of war and destruction subsides a
little, the antiquary finds the frailest Roman jar, or crumbling
Egyptian mummy-case, without so much as a new layer of dust, keeping the
series of history unbroken, and waiting for its interpreter, who is sure
to arrive.  These lords are the treasurers and librarians of mankind,
engaged by their pride and wealth to this function.

Yet there were other works for British dukes to do. George Loudon,
Quintinye, Evelyn, had taught them to make gardens.  Arthur Young,
Bakewell, and Mechi have made them agricultural.  Scotland was a camp
until the day of Culloden.  The Dukes of Athol, Sutherland, Buccleugh,
and the Marquis of Breadalbane have introduced the rape-culture, the
sheep-farm, wheat, drainage, the plantation of forests, the artificial
replenishment of lakes and ponds with fish, the renting of
game-preserves. Against the cry of the old tenantry, and the sympathetic
cry of the English press, they have rooted out and planted anew, and now
six millions of people live, and live better on the same land that fed
three millions.

The English barons, in every period, have been brave and great, after
the estimate and opinion of their times. The grand old halls scattered
up and down in England are dumb vouchers to the state and broad
hospitality of their ancient lords.  Shakspeare’s portraits of good Duke
Humphrey, of Warwick, of Northumberland, of Talbot, were drawn in strict
consonance with the traditions.  A sketch of the Earl of Shrewsbury,
from the pen of Queen Elizabeth’s Archbishop Parker;¹⁵ Lord Herbert of
Cherbury’s autobiography; the letters and essays of Sir Philip Sidney;
the anecdotes preserved by the antiquaries Fuller and Collins; some
glimpses at the interiors of noble houses, which we owe to Pepys and
Evelyn; the details which Ben Jonson’s masques (performed at Kenilworth,
Althorpe, Belvoir, and other noble houses) record or suggest; down to
Aubrey’s passages of the life of Hobbes in the house of the Earl of
Devon, are favorable pictures of a romantic style of manners.  Penshurst
still shines for us, and its Christmas revels, "where logs not burn, but
men."  At Wilton House, the "Arcadia" was written, amidst conversations
with Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, a man of no vulgar mind, as his own
poems declare him.  I must hold Ludlow Castle an honest house, for which
Milton’s "Comus" was written, and the company nobly bred which performed
it with knowledge and sympathy.  In the roll of nobles are found poets,
philosophers, chemists, astronomers, also men of solid virtues and of
lofty sentiments; often they have been the friends and patrons of genius
and learning, and especially of the fine arts; and at this moment,
almost every great house has its sumptuous picture-gallery.

   ¹⁵ Dibdin’s Literary Reminiscences, Vol. I. xii.

Of course, there is another side to this gorgeous show. Every victory
was the defeat of a party only less worthy. Castles are proud things,
but ’t is safest to be outside of them.  War is a foul game, and yet war
is not the worst part of aristocratic history.  In later times, when the
baron, educated only for war, with his brains paralyzed by his stomach,
found himself idle at home, he grew fat and wanton, and a sorry brute.
Grammont, Pepys, and Evelyn show the kennels to which the king and court
went in quest of pleasure.  Prostitutes taken from the theatres were
made duchesses, their bastards dukes and earls.  "The young men sat
uppermost, the old serious lords were out of favor."  The discourse that
the king’s companions had with him was "poor and frothy."  No man who
valued his head might do what these pot-companions familiarly did with
the king.  In logical sequence of these dignified revels, Pepys can tell
the beggarly shifts to which the king was reduced, who could not find
paper at his council table, and "no handkerchers" in his wardrobe, "and
but three bands to his neck," and the linen-draper and the stationer
were out of pocket, and refusing to trust him, and the baker will not
bring bread any longer.  Meantime, the English Channel was swept, and
London threatened by the Dutch fleet, manned too by English sailors,
who, having been cheated of their pay for years by the king, enlisted
with the enemy.

The Selwyn correspondence in the reign of George III. discloses a
rottenness in the aristocracy, which threatened to decompose the state.
The sycophancy and sale of votes and honor, for place and title;
lewdness, gaming, smuggling, bribery, and cheating; the sneer at the
childish indiscretion of quarrelling with ten thousand a year; the want
of ideas; the splendor of the titles, and the apathy of the nation, are
instructive, and make the reader pause and explore the firm bounds which
confined these vices to a handful of rich men.  In the reign of the
Fourth George, things do not seem to have mended, and the rotten
debauchee let down from a window by an inclined plane into his coach to
take the air, was a scandal to Europe which the ill fame of his queen
and of his family did nothing to retrieve.

Under the present reign, the perfect decorum of the Court is thought to
have put a check on the gross vices of the aristocracy; yet gaming,
racing, drinking, and mistresses bring them down, and the democrat can
still gather scandals, if he will.  Dismal anecdotes abound, verifying
the gossip of the last generation of dukes served by bailiffs, with all
their plate in pawn; of great lords living by the showing of their
houses; and of an old man wheeled in his chair from room to room, whilst
his chambers are exhibited to the visitor for money: of ruined dukes and
earls living in exile for debt.  The historic names of the Buckinghams,
Beauforts, Marlboroughs, and Hertfords have gained no new lustre, and
now and then darker scandals break out, ominous as the new chapters
added under the Orleans dynasty to the "_Causes Célèbres_" in France.
Even peers, who are men of worth and public spirit, are overtaken and
embarrassed by their vast expense.  The respectable Duke of Devonshire,
willing to be the Mecænas and Lucullus of his island, is reported to
have said that he cannot live at Chatsworth but one month in the year.
Their many houses eat them up. They cannot sell them, because they are
entailed.  They will not let them, for pride’s sake, but keep them
empty, aired, and the grounds mown and dressed, at a cost of four or
five thousand pounds a year.  The spending is for a great part in
servants, in many houses exceeding a hundred.

Most of them are only chargeable with idleness, which, because it
squanders such vast power of benefit, has the mischief of crime.  "They
might be little Providences on earth," said my friend, "and they are,
for the most part, jockeys and fops."  Campbell says: "Acquaintance with
the nobility, I could never keep up.  It requires a life of idleness,
dressing, and attendance on their parties."  I suppose, too, that a
feeling of self-respect is driving cultivated men out of this society,
as if the noble were slow to receive the lessons of the times, and had
not learned to disguise his pride of place.  A man of wit, who is also
one of the celebrities of wealth and fashion, confessed to his friend,
that he could not enter their houses without being made to feel that
they were great lords, and he a low plebeian.  With the tribe of
_artistes_, including the musical tribe, the patrician morgue keeps no
terms, but excludes them.  When Julia Grisi and Mario sang at the houses
of the Duke of Wellington and other grandees, a ribbon was stretched
between the singer and the company.

When every noble was a soldier, they were carefully bred to great
personal prowess.  The education of a soldier is a simpler affair than
that of an earl in the nineteenth century.  And this was very seriously
pursued; they were expert in every species of equitation, to the most
dangerous practices, and this down to the accession of William of
Orange.  But graver men appear to have trained their sons for civil
affairs.  Elizabeth extended her thought to the future; and Sir Philip
Sidney in his letter to his brother, and Milton and Evelyn, gave plain
and hearty counsel.  Already, too, the English noble and squire were
preparing for the career of the country-gentleman, and his peaceable
expense.  They went from city to city, learning receipts to make
perfumes, sweet powders, pomanders, antidotes, gathering seeds, gems,
coins, and divers curiosities, preparing for a private life thereafter,
in which they should take pleasure in these recreations.

All advantages given to absolve the young patrician from intellectual
labor are of course mistaken.  "In the university, noblemen are exempted
from the public exercises for the degree, etc., by which they attain a
degree called honorary.  At the same time the fees they must pay for
matriculation, and on all other occasions, are much higher."¹⁶  Fuller
records "the observation of foreigners, that Englishmen, by making their
children gentlemen, before they are men, cause they are so seldom wise
men."  This cockering justifies Dr. Johnson’s bitter apology for
primogeniture, "that it makes but one fool in a family."

   ¹⁶ Huber, History of English Universities.

The revolution in society has reached this class.  The great powers of
industrial art have no exclusion of name or blood.  The tools of our
time, namely, steam, ships, printing, money, and popular education,
belong to those who can handle them; and their effect has been, that
advantages once confined to men of family are now open to the whole
middle class.  The road that grandeur levels for his coach, toil can
travel in his cart.

This is more manifest every day, but I think it is true throughout
English history.  English history, wisely read, is the vindication of
the brain of that people.  Here, at last, were climate and condition
friendly to the working faculty.  Who now will work and dare, shall
rule. This is the charter, or the chartism, which fogs, and seas, and
rains proclaimed,--that intellect and personal force should make the
law; that industry and administrative talent should administer; that
work should wear the crown.  I know that not this, but something else is
pretended.  The fiction with which the noble and the bystander equally
please themselves is, that the former is of unbroken descent from the
Norman, and so has never worked for eight hundred years.  All the
families are new, but the name is old, and they have made a covenant
with their memories not to disturb it.  But the analysis of the peerage
and gentry shows the rapid decay and extinction of old families, the
continual recruiting of these from new blood.  The doors, though
ostentatiously guarded, are really open, and hence the power of the
bribe.  All the barriers to rank only whet the thirst, and enhance the
prize.  "Now," said Nelson, when clearing for battle, "a peerage, or
Westminster Abbey!"  "I have no illusion left," said Sidney Smith, "but
the Archbishop of Canterbury."  "The lawyers," said Burke, "are only
birds of passage in this House of Commons," and then added, with a new
figure, "they have their best bower anchor in the House of Lords."

Another stride that has been taken, appears in the perishing of
heraldry.  Whilst the privileges of nobility are passing to the middle
class, the badge is discredited, and the titles of lordship are getting
musty and cumbersome.  I wonder that sensible men have not been already
impatient of them.  They belong, with wigs, powder, and scarlet coats,
to an earlier age, and may be advantageously consigned, with paint and
tattoo, to the dignitaries of Australia and Polynesia.

A multitude of English, educated at the universities, bred into their
society with manners, ability, and the gifts of fortune, are every day
confronting the peers on a footing of equality, and outstripping them,
as often, in the race of honor and influence.  That cultivated class is
large and ever enlarging.  It is computed that, with titles and without,
there are seventy thousand of these people coming and going in London,
who make up what is called high society.  They cannot shut their eyes to
the fact that an untitled nobility possess all the power without the
inconveniences that belong to rank, and the rich Englishman goes over
the world at the present day, drawing more than all the advantages which
the strongest of his kings could command.


Of British universities, Cambridge has the most illustrious names on its
list.  At the present day, too, it has the advantage of Oxford, counting
in its _alumni_ a greater number of distinguished scholars.  I regret
that I had but a single day wherein to see King’s College Chapel, the
beautiful lawns and gardens of the colleges, and a few of its gownsmen.

But I availed myself of some repeated invitations to Oxford, where I had
introductions to Dr. Daubeny, Professor of Botany, and to the Regius
Professor of Divinity, as well as to a valued friend, a Fellow of Oriel,
and went thither on the last day of March, 1848.  I was the guest of my
friend in Oriel, was housed close upon that college, and I lived on
college hospitalities.

My new friends showed me their cloisters, the Bodleian Library, the
Randolph Gallery, Merton Hall, and the rest.  I saw several faithful,
high-minded young men, some of them in the mood of making sacrifices for
peace of mind,--a topic, of course, on which I had no counsel to offer.
Their affectionate and gregarious ways reminded me at once of the habits
of _our_ Cambridge men, though I imputed to these English an advantage
in their secure and polished manners.  The halls are rich with oaken
wainscoting and ceiling.  The pictures of the founders hang from the
walls; the tables glitter with plate.  A youth came forward to the upper
table, and pronounced the ancient form of grace before meals, which, I
suppose, has been in use here for ages, _Benedictus benedicat;
benedicitur, benedicatur_.

It is a curious proof of the English use and wont, or of their
good-nature, that these young men are locked up every night at nine
o’clock, and the porter at each hall is required to give the name of any
belated student who is admitted after that hour.  Still more descriptive
is the fact, that out of twelve hundred young men, comprising the most
spirited of the aristocracy, a duel has never occurred.

Oxford is old, even in England, and conservative.  Its foundations date
from Alfred, and even from Arthur, if, as is alleged, the Pheryllt of
the Druids had a seminary here.  In the reign of Edward I., it is
pretended, here were thirty thousand students; and nineteen most noble
foundations were then established.  Chaucer found it as firm as if it
had always stood; and it is in British story, rich with great names, the
school of the island, and the link of England to the learned of Europe.
Hither came Erasmus, with delight, in 1497.  Albericus Gentilis, in
1580, was relieved and maintained by the university. Albert Alaskie, a
noble Polonian, Prince of Sirad, who visited England to admire the
wisdom of Queen Elizabeth, was entertained with stage-plays in the
Refectory of Christ-church, in 1583.  Isaac Casaubon, coming from Henri
Quatre of France, by invitation of James I., was admitted to Christ’s
College, in July, 1613.  I saw the Ashmolean Museum, whither Elias
Ashmole, in 1682, sent twelve cart-loads of rarities.  Here indeed was
the Olympia of all Antony Wood’s and Aubrey’s games and heroes, and
every inch of ground has its lustre.  For Wood’s _Athenæ Oxonienses_, or
calendar of the writers of Oxford for two hundred years, is a lively
record of English manners and merits, and as much a national monument as
Purchas’s Pilgrims or Hansard’s Register. On every side, Oxford is
redolent of age and authority. Its gates shut of themselves against
modern innovation. It is still governed by the statutes of Archbishop
Laud. The books in Merton Library are still chained to the wall.  Here,
on August 27, 1660, John Milton’s _Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio_ and
_Iconoclastes_ were committed to the flames.  I saw the school-court or
quadrangle, where, in 1683, the Convocation caused the Leviathan of
Thomas Hobbes to be publicly burnt.  I do not know whether this learned
body have yet heard of the Declaration of American Independence, or
whether the Ptolemaic astronomy does not still hold its ground against
the novelties of Copernicus.

As many sons, almost so many benefactors.  It is usual for a nobleman,
or indeed for almost every wealthy student, on quitting college, to
leave behind him some article of plate; and gifts of all values, from a
hall, or a fellowship, or a library, down to a picture or a spoon, are
continually accruing, in the course of a century.  My friend Doctor J.
gave me the following anecdote.  In Sir Thomas Lawrence’s collection at
London were the cartoons of Raphael and Michel Angelo.  This inestimable
prize was offered to Oxford University for seven thousand pounds.  The
offer was accepted, and the committee charged with the affair had
collected three thousand pounds, when among other friends they called on
Lord Eldon.  Instead of a hundred pounds, he surprised them by putting
down his name for three thousand pounds.  They told him, they should now
very easily raise the remainder.  "No," he said, "your men have probably
already contributed all they can spare; I can as well give the rest":
and he withdrew his check for three thousand, and wrote four thousand
pounds.  I saw the whole collection in April, 1848.

In the Bodleian Library, Dr. Bandinel showed me the manuscript Plato, of
the date of A.D. 896, brought by Dr. Clarke from Egypt; a manuscript
Virgil, of the same century; the first Bible printed at Mentz (I believe
in 1450); and a duplicate of the same, which had been deficient in about
twenty leaves at the end.  But, one day, being in Venice, he bought a
room full of books and manuscripts--every scrap and fragment--for four
thousand louis d’ors, and had the doors locked and sealed by the consul.
On proceeding, afterwards, to examine his purchase, he found the twenty
deficient pages of his Mentz Bible, in perfect order; brought them to
Oxford, with the rest of his purchase, and placed them in the volume;
but has too much awe for the Providence that appears in bibliography
also, to suffer the reunited parts to be rebound.  The oldest building
here is two hundred years younger than the frail manuscript brought by
Dr. Clarke from Egypt.  No candle or fire is ever lighted in the
Bodleian.  Its catalogue is the standard catalogue on the desk of every
library in Oxford.  In each several college, they underscore in red ink
on this catalogue the titles of books contained in the library of that
college,--the theory being that the Bodleian has all books.  This rich
library spent during the last year (1847) for the purchase of books

The logical English train a scholar as they train an engineer.  Oxford
is a Greek factory, as Wilton mills weave carpet, and Sheffield grinds
steel.  They know the use of a tutor, as they know the use of a horse;
and they draw the greatest amount of benefit out of both.  The
reading-men are kept by hard walking, hard riding, and measured eating
and drinking, at the top of their condition, and two days before the
examination, do no work, but lounge, ride, or run, to be fresh on the
college doomsday.  Seven years’ residence is the theoretic period for a
master’s degree.  In point of fact, it has long been three years’
residence, and four years more of standing.  This "three years" is about
twenty-one months in all.¹⁷

   ¹⁷ Huber, II.  p. 304.

"The whole expense," says Professor Sewel, "of ordinary college tuition
at Oxford, is about sixteen guineas a year."  But this plausible
statement may deceive a reader unacquainted with the fact, that the
principal teaching relied on is private tuition.  And the expenses of
private tuition are reckoned at from £50 to £70 a year, or $1,000 for
the whole course of three years and a half.  At Cambridge $750 a year is
economical, and $1,500 not extravagant.¹⁸

   ¹⁸ Bristed, Five Years at an English University.

The number of students and of residents, the dignity of the authorities,
the value of the foundations, the history and the architecture, the
known sympathy of entire Britain in what is done there, justify a
dedication to study in the undergraduate, such as cannot easily be in
America, where his college is half suspected by the Freshman to be
insignificant in the scale beside trade and politics.  Oxford is a
little aristocracy in itself, numerous and dignified enough to rank with
other estates in the realm; and where fame and secular promotion are to
be had for study, and in a direction which has the unanimous respect of
all cultivated nations.

This aristocracy, of course, repairs its own losses; fills places, as
they fall vacant, from the body of students. The number of fellowships
at Oxford is 540, averaging £200 a year, with lodging and diet at the
college.  If a young American, loving learning, and hindered by poverty,
were offered a home, a table, the walks, and the library, in one of
these academical palaces, and a thousand dollars a year as long as he
chose to remain a bachelor, he would dance for joy.  Yet these young men
thus happily placed, and paid to read, are impatient of their few
checks, and many of them preparing to resign their fellowships. They
shuddered at the prospect of dying a Fellow, and they pointed out to me
a paralytic old man, who was assisted into the hall.  As the number of
undergraduates at Oxford is only about 1,200 or 1,300, and many of these
are never competitors, the chance of a fellowship is very great.  The
income of the nineteen colleges is conjectured at £150,000 a year.

The effect of this drill is the radical knowledge of Greek and Latin,
and of mathematics, and the solidity and taste of English criticism.
Whatever luck there may be in this or that award, an Eton captain can
write Latin longs and shorts, can turn the Court-Guide into hexameters,
and it is certain that a Senior Classic can quote correctly from the
_Corpus Poetarum_, and is critically learned in all the humanities.
Greek erudition exists on the Isis and Cam, whether the Maud man or the
Brazen Nose man be properly ranked or not; the atmosphere is loaded with
Greek learning; the whole river has reached a certain height, and kills
all that growth of weeds, which this Castalian water kills.  The English
nature takes culture kindly.  So Milton thought.  It refines the
Norseman.  Access to the Greek mind lifts his standard of taste.  He has
enough to think of, and, unless of an impulsive nature, is indisposed
from writing or speaking, by the fulness of his mind, and the new
severity of his taste.  The great silent crowd of thorough-bred Grecians
always known to be around him, the English writer cannot ignore.  They
prune his orations, and point his pen.  Hence, the style and tone of
English journalism. The men have learned accuracy and comprehension,
logic, and pace, or speed of working.  They have bottom, endurance,
wind.  When born with good constitutions, they make those eupeptic
studying-mills, the cast-iron men, the _dura ilia_, whose powers of
performance compare with ours, as the steam-hammer with the
music-box;--Cokes, Mansfields, Seldens, and Bentleys, and when it
happens that a superior brain puts a rider on this admirable horse, we
obtain those masters of the world who combine the highest energy in
affairs, with a supreme culture.

It is contended by those who have been bred at Eton, Harrow, Rugby, and
Westminster, that the public sentiment within each of those schools is
high-toned and manly; that, in their playgrounds, courage is universally
admired, meanness despised, manly feelings and generous conduct are
encouraged; that an unwritten code of honor deals to the spoiled child
of rank and to the child of upstart wealth an even-handed justice,
purges their nonsense out of both, and does all that can be done to make
them gentlemen.

Again, at the universities, it is urged, that all goes to form what
England values as the flower of its national life,--a well-educated
gentleman.  The German Huber, in describing to his countrymen the
attributes of an English gentleman, frankly admits, that "in Germany, we
have nothing of the kind.  A gentleman must possess a political
character, an independent and public position, or, at least, the right
of assuming it.  He must have average opulence, either of his own, or in
his family. He should also have bodily activity and strength,
unattainable by our sedentary life in public offices.  The race of
English gentlemen presents an appearance of manly vigor and form, not
elsewhere to be found among an equal number of persons.  No other nation
produces the stock. And in England, it has deteriorated.  The university
is a decided presumption in any man’s favor.  And so eminent are the
members that a glance at the calendars will show that in all the world
one cannot be in better company than on the books of one of the larger
Oxford or Cambridge colleges."¹⁹

   ¹⁹ Huber, History of the English Universities.  Newman’s Translation.

These seminaries are finishing schools for the upper classes, and not
for the poor.  The useful is exploded. The definition of a public school
is "a school which excludes all that could fit a man for standing behind
a counter."²⁰

   ²⁰ See Bristed, Five Years in an English University.  New York, 1852.

No doubt, the foundations have been perverted. Oxford, which equals in
wealth several of the smaller European states, shuts up the lectureships
which were made "public for all men thereunto to have concourse";
misspends the revenues bestowed for such youths "as should be most meet
for towardness, poverty, and painfulness"; there is gross favoritism;
many chairs and many fellowships are made beds of ease; and ’tis likely
that the university will know how to resist and make inoperative the
terrors of parliamentary inquiry; no doubt, their learning is grown
obsolete; but Oxford also has its merits, and I found here also proof of
the national fidelity and thoroughness.  Such knowledge as they prize
they possess and impart.  Whether in course or by indirection, whether
by a cramming tutor or by examiners with prizes and foundation
scholarships, education according to the English notion of it is
acquired.  I looked over the Examination Papers of the year 1848, for
the various scholarships and fellowships, the Lusby, the Hertford, the
Dean-Ireland, and the University (copies of which were kindly given me
by a Greek professor), containing the tasks which many competitors had
victoriously performed, and I believed they would prove too severe tests
for the candidates for a Bachelor’s degree in Yale or Harvard.  And, in
general, here was proof of a more searching study in the appointed
directions, and the knowledge pretended to be conveyed was conveyed.
Oxford sends out yearly twenty or thirty very able men, and three or
four hundred well-educated men.

The diet and rough exercise secure a certain amount of old Norse power.
A fop will fight, and, in exigent circumstances, will play the manly
part.  In seeing these youths, I believed I saw already an advantage in
vigor and color and general habit, over their contemporaries in the
American colleges.  No doubt much of the power and brilliancy of the
reading-men is merely constitutional or hygienic.  With a hardier habit
and resolute gymnastics, with five miles more walking, or five ounces
less eating, or with a saddle and gallop of twenty miles a day, with
skating and rowing matches, the American would arrive at as robust
exegesis, and cheery and hilarious tone.  I should readily concede these
advantages, which it would be easy to acquire, if I did not find also
that they read better than we, and write better.

English wealth falling on their school and university training, makes a
systematic reading of the best authors, and to the end of a knowledge
how the things whereof they treat really stand: whilst pamphleteer or
journalist reading for an argument for a party, or reading to write, or,
at all events, for some by end imposed on them, must read meanly and
fragmentarily.  Charles I. said, that he understood English law as well
as a gentleman ought to understand it.

Then they have access to books; the rich libraries collected at every
one of many thousands of houses, give an advantage not to be attained by
a youth in this country, when one thinks how much more and better may be
learned by a scholar, who, immediately on hearing of a book, can consult
it, than by one who is on the quest for years, and reads inferior books,
because he cannot find the best.

Again, the great number of cultivated men keep each other up to a high
standard.  The habit of meeting well-read and knowing men teaches the
art of omission and selection.

Universities are, of course, hostile to geniuses, which seeing and using
ways of their own, discredit the routine: as churches and monasteries
persecute youthful saints.  Yet we all send our sons to college, and,
though he be a genius, he must take his chance.  The university must be
retrospective.  The gale that gives direction to the vanes on all its
towers blows out of antiquity. Oxford is a library, and the professors
must be librarians. And I should as soon think of quarrelling with the
janitor for not magnifying his office by hostile sallies into the
street, like the Governor of Kertch or Kinburn, as of quarrelling with
the professors for not admiring the young neologists who pluck the
beards of Euclid and Aristotle, or for not attempting themselves to fill
their vacant shelves as original writers.

It is easy to carp at colleges, and the college, if we will wait for it,
will have its own turn.  Genius exists there also, but will not answer a
call of a committee of the House of Commons.  It is rare, precarious,
eccentric, and darkling.  England is the land of mixture and surprise,
and when you have settled it that the universities are moribund, out
comes a poetic influence from the heart of Oxford, to mould the opinions
of cities, to build their houses as simply as birds their nests, to give
veracity to art, and charm mankind, as an appeal to moral order always
must.  But besides this restorative genius, the best poetry of England
of this age, in the old forms, comes from two graduates of Cambridge.


No people, at the present day, can be explained by their national
religion.  They do not feel responsible for it; it lies far outside of
them.  Their loyalty to truth and their labor and expenditure rest on
real foundations, and not on a national church.  And English life, it is
evident, does not grow out of the Athanasian creed, or the Articles, or
the Eucharist.  It is with religion as with marriage.  A youth marries
in haste; afterwards, when his mind is opened to the reason of the
conduct of life, he is asked, what he thinks of the institution of
marriage, and of the right relations of the sexes.  ’I should have much
to say,’ he might reply, ’if the question were open, but I have a wife
and children, and all question is closed for me.’  In the barbarous days
of a nation, some cultus is formed or imported; altars are built, tithes
are paid, priests ordained.  The education and expenditure of the
country take that direction, and when wealth, refinement, great men, and
ties to the world supervene, its prudent men say, why fight against
Fate, or lift these absurdities which are now mountainous?  Better find
some niche or crevice in this mountain of stone which religious ages
have quarried and carved, wherein to bestow yourself, than attempt
anything ridiculously and dangerously above your strength, like removing

In seeing old castles and cathedrals, I sometimes say, as to-day, in
front of Dundee Church tower, which is eight hundred years old, ’this
was built by another and a better race than any that now look on it.’
And, plainly, there has been great power of sentiment at work in this
island, of which these buildings are the proofs: as volcanic basalts
show the work of fire which has been extinguished for ages.  England
felt the full heat of the Christianity which fermented Europe, and drew,
like the chemistry of fire, a firm line between barbarism and culture.
The power of the religious sentiment put an end to human sacrifices,
checked appetite, inspired the crusades, inspired resistance to tyrants,
inspired self-respect, set bounds to serfdom and slavery, founded
liberty, created the religious architecture,--York, Newstead,
Westminster, Fountains Abbey, Ripon, Beverley, and Dundee,--works to
which the key is lost, with the sentiment which created them; inspired
the English Bible, the liturgy, the monkish histories, the chronicle of
Richard of Devizes.  The priest translated the Vulgate, and translated
the sanctities of old hagiology into English virtues on English ground.
It was a certain affirmative or aggressive state of the Caucasian races.
Man awoke refreshed by the sleep of ages.  The violence of the Northern
savages exasperated Christianity into power. It lived by the love of the
people.  Bishop Wilfrid manumitted two hundred and fifty serfs, whom he
found attached to the soil.  The clergy obtained respite from labor for
the boor on the Sabbath, and on church festivals.  "The lord who
compelled his boor to labor between sunset on Saturday and sunset on
Sunday, forfeited him altogether."  The priest came out of the people,
and sympathized with his class.  The church was the mediator, check, and
democratic principle in Europe.  Latimer, Wicliffe, Arundel, Cobham,
Antony Parsons, Sir Harry Vane, George Fox, Penn, Bunyan, are the
democrats, as well as the saints of their times.  The Catholic Church,
thrown on this toiling, serious people, has made in fourteen centuries a
massive system, close fitted to the manners and genius of the country,
at once domestical and stately.  In the long time, it has blended with
everything in heaven above and the earth beneath.  It moves through a
zodiac of feasts and fasts, names every day of the year, every town and
market and headland and monument, and has coupled itself with the
almanac, that no court can be held, no field ploughed, no horse shod,
without some leave from the church.  All maxims of prudence or shop or
farm are fixed and dated by the church. Hence, its strength in the
agricultural districts.  The distribution of land into parishes enforces
a church sanction to every civil privilege; and the gradation of the
clergy,--prelates for the rich, and curates for the poor,--with the fact
that a classical education has been secured to the clergyman, makes them
"the link which unites the sequestered peasantry with the intellectual
advancement of the age."²¹

   ²¹ Wordsworth.

The English Church has many certificates to show, of humble effective
service in humanizing the people, in cheering and refining men, feeding,
healing, and educating.  It has the seal of martyrs and confessors; the
noblest books; a sublime architecture; a ritual marked by the same
secular merits, nothing cheap or purchasable.

From this slow-grown church important reactions proceed; much for
culture, much for giving a direction to the nation’s affection and will
to-day.  The carved and pictured chapel--its entire surface animated
with image and emblem--made the parish-church a sort of book and Bible
to the people’s eye.

Then, when the Saxon instinct had secured a service in the vernacular
tongue, it was the tutor and university of the people.  In York minster,
on the day of the enthronization of the new archbishop, I heard the
service of evening prayer read and chanted in the choir. It was strange
to hear the pretty pastoral of the betrothal of Rebecca and Isaac, in
the morning of the world, read with circumstantiality in York minster,
on the 13th January, 1848, to the decorous English audience, just fresh
from the Times newspaper and their wine; and listening with all the
devotion of national pride.  That was binding old and new to some
purpose.  The reverence for the Scriptures is an element of
civilization, for thus has the history of the world, been preserved, and
is preserved.  Here in England every day a chapter of Genesis, and a
leader in the Times.

Another part of the same service on this occasion was not insignificant.
Handel’s coronation anthem, _God save the King_, was played by Dr.
Camidge on the organ, with sublime effect.  The minster and the music
were made for each other.  It was a hint of the part the church plays as
a political engine.  From his infancy, every Englishman is accustomed to
hear daily prayers for the queen, for the royal family, and the
Parliament, by name; and this lifelong consecration of these personages
cannot be without influence on his opinions.

The universities, also, are parcel of the ecclesiastical system, and
their first design is to form the clergy.  Thus the clergy for a
thousand years have been the scholars of the nation.

The national temperament deeply enjoys the unbroken order and tradition
of its church; the liturgy, ceremony, architecture; the sober grace, the
good company, the connection with the throne, and with history, which
adorn it.  And whilst it endears itself thus to men of more taste than
activity, the stability of the English nation is passionately enlisted
to its support, from its inextricable connection with the cause of
public order, with politics, and with the funds.

Good churches are not built by bad men; at least there must be probity
and enthusiasm somewhere in society.  These minsters were neither built
nor filled by atheists.  No church has had more learned, industrious, or
devoted men; plenty of "clerks and bishops, who, out of their gowns,
would turn their backs on no man."²² Their architecture still glows with
faith in immortality. Heats and genial periods arrive in history, or,
shall we say, plenitudes of Divine Presence, by which high tides are
caused in the human spirit, and great virtues and talents appear, as in
the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and again in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, when the nation was full of genius and piety.

   ²² Fuller.

But the age of the Wicliffes, Cobhams, Arundels, Beckets; of the
Latimers, Mores, Cranmers; of the Taylors, Leightons, Herberts; of the
Sherlocks, and Butlers, is gone.  Silent revolutions in opinion have
made it impossible that men like these should return or find a place in
their once sacred stalls.  The spirit that dwelt in this church has
glided away to animate other activities; and they who come to the old
shrines find apes and players rustling the old garments.

The religion of England is part of good breeding. When you see on the
Continent the well-dressed Englishman come into his ambassador’s chapel,
and put his face for silent prayer into his smooth-brushed hat, one
cannot help feeling how much national pride prays with him, and the
religion of a gentleman.  So far is he from attaching any meaning to the
words, that he believes himself to have done almost the generous thing,
and that it is very condescending in him to pray to God.  A great duke
said on the occasion of a victory, in the House of Lords, that he
thought the Almighty God had not been well used by them, and that it
would become their magnanimity, after so great successes, to take order
that a proper acknowledgment be made.  It is the church of the gentry;
but it is not the church of the poor.  The operatives do not own it, and
gentlemen lately testified in the House of Commons that in their lives
they never saw a poor man in a ragged coat inside a church.

The torpidity on the side of religion of the vigorous English
understanding shows how much wit and folly can agree in one brain.
Their religion is a quotation; their church is a doll; and any
examination is interdicted with screams of terror.  In good company, you
expect them to laugh at the fanaticism of the vulgar; but they do not;
they are the vulgar.

The English, in common perhaps with Christendom in the nineteenth
century, do not respect power, but only performance; value ideas only
for an economic result. Wellington esteems a saint only as far as he can
be an army chaplain: "Mr. Briscoll, by his admirable conduct and good
sense, got the better of Methodism, which had appeared among the
soldiers, and once among the officers."  They value a philosopher as
they value an apothecary who brings bark or a drench; and inspiration is
only some blowpipe, or a finer mechanical aid.

I suspect that there is in an Englishman’s brain a valve that can be
closed at pleasure, as an engineer shuts off steam.  The most sensible
and well-informed men possess the power of thinking just so far as the
bishop in religious matters, and as the chancellor of the exchequer in
politics.  They talk with courage and logic, and show you magnificent
results; but the same men who have brought free-trade or geology to
their present standing, look grave and lofty, and shut down their valve,
as soon as the conversation approaches the English Church. After that,
you talk with a box-turtle.

The action of the university, both in what is taught, and in the spirit
of the place, is directed more on producing an English gentleman, than a
saint or a psychologist.  It ripens a bishop, and extrudes a
philosopher.  I do not know that there is more cabalism in the Anglican,
than in other churches, but the Anglican clergy are identified with the
aristocracy.  They say, here, that, if you talk with a clergyman, you
are sure to find him well bred, informed, and candid, he entertains your
thought or your project with sympathy and praise.  But if a second
clergyman come in, the sympathy is at an end: two together are
inaccessible to your thought, and, whenever it comes to action, the
clergyman invariably sides with his church.

The Anglican church is marked by the grace and good sense of its forms,
by the manly grace of its clergy.  The gospel it preaches is, ’By taste
are ye saved.’  It keeps the old structures in repair, spends a world of
money in music and building; and in buying Pugin, and architectural
literature.  It has a general good name for amenity and mildness.  It is
not in ordinary a persecuting church; it is not inquisitorial, not even
inquisitive, is perfectly well bred, and can shut its eyes on all proper
occasions. If you let it alone, it will let you alone.  But its instinct
is hostile to all change in politics, literature, or social arts.  The
church has not been the founder of the London University, of the
Mechanics’ Institutes, of the Free School, or whatever aims at diffusion
of knowledge.  The Platonists of Oxford are as bitter against this
heresy, as Thomas Taylor.

The doctrine of the Old Testament is the religion of England.  The first
leaf of the New Testament it does not open.  It believes in a Providence
which does not treat with levity a pound sterling.  They are neither
transcendentalists nor Christians.  They put up no Socratic prayer, much
less any saintly prayer for the queen’s mind; ask neither for light nor
right, but say bluntly, "Grant her in health and wealth long to live."
And one traces this Jewish prayer in all English private history, from
the prayers of King Richard, in Richard of Devizes’ Chronicle, to those
in the diaries of Sir Samuel Romilly, and of Haydon the painter.
"Abroad with my wife," writes Pepys piously, "the first time that ever I
rode in my own coach; which do make my heart rejoice and praise God, and
pray him to bless it to me, and continue it."  The bill for the
naturalization of the Jews (in 1753) was resisted by petitions from all
parts of the kingdom, and by petition from the city of London,
reprobating this bill, as "tending extremely to the dishonor of the
Christian religion, and extremely injurious to the interests and
commerce of the kingdom in general, and of the city of London in

But they have not been able to congeal humanity by act of Parliament.
"The heavens journey still and sojourn not," and arts, wars,
discoveries, and opinion go onward at their own pace.  The new age has
new desires, new enemies, new trades, new charities, and reads the
Scriptures with new eyes.  The chatter of French politics, the
steam-whistle, the hum of the mill, and the noise of embarking
emigrants, had quite put most of the old legends out of mind; so that
when you came to read the liturgy to a modern congregation, it was
almost absurd in its unfitness, and suggested a masquerade of old

No chemist has prospered in the attempt to crystallize a religion.  It
is endogenous, like the skin, and other vital organs.  A new statement
every day.  The prophet and apostle knew this, and the non-conformist
confutes the conformists, by quoting the texts they must allow. It is
the condition of a religion, to require religion for its expositor.
Prophet and apostle can only be rightly understood by prophet and
apostle.  The statesman knows that the religious element will not fail,
any more than the supply of fibrine and chyle; but it is in its nature
constructive, and will organize such a church as it wants.  The wise
legislator will spend on temples, schools, libraries, colleges, but will
shun the enriching of priests.  If, in any manner, he can leave the
election and paying of the priest to the people, he will do well.  Like
the Quakers, he may resist the separation of a class of priests, and
create opportunity and expectation in the society, to run to meet
natural endowment, in this kind. But, when wealth accrues to a
chaplaincy, a bishopric, or rectorship, it requires moneyed men for its
stewards, who will give it another direction than to the mystics of
their day.  Of course, money will do after its kind, and will steadily
work to unspiritualize and unchurch the people to whom it was
bequeathed.  The class certain to be excluded from all preferment are
the religious,--and driven to other churches;--which is nature’s _vis

The curates are ill paid, and the prelates are overpaid. This abuse
draws into the church the children of the nobility, and other unfit
persons, who have a taste for expense.  Thus a bishop is only a
surpliced merchant. Through his lawn, I can see the bright buttons of
the shopman’s coat glitter.  A wealth like that of Durham makes almost a
premium on felony.  Brougham, in a speech in the House of Commons on the
Irish elective franchise, said, "How will the reverend bishops of the
other house be able to express their due abhorrence of the crime of
perjury, who solemnly declare in the presence of God, that when they are
called upon to accept a living, perhaps of £4,000 a year, at that very
instant, they are moved by the Holy Ghost to accept the office and
administration thereof, and for no other reason whatever?"  The modes of
initiation are more damaging than custom-house oaths.  The bishop is
elected by the Dean and Prebends of the cathedral.  The Queen sends
these gentlemen a _congé d’élire_, or leave to elect; but also sends
them the name of the person whom they are to elect.  They go into the
cathedral, chant and pray, and beseech the Holy Ghost to assist them in
their choice; and, after these invocations, invariably find that the
dictates of the Holy Ghost agree with the recommendations of the Queen.

But you must pay for conformity.  All goes well as long as you run with
conformists.  But you, who are an honest man in other particulars, know,
that there is alive somewhere a man whose honesty reaches to this point
also, that he shall not kneel to false gods, and, on the day when you
meet him, you sink into the class of counterfeits.  Besides, this
succumbing has grave penalties. If you take in a lie, you must take in
all that belongs to it.  England accepts this ornamented national
church, and it glazes the eyes, bloats the flesh, gives the voice a
stertorous clang, and clouds the understanding of the receivers.

The English Church, undermined by German criticism, had nothing left but
tradition, and was led logically back to Romanism.  But that was an
element which only hot heads could breathe: in view of the educated
class, generally, it was not a fact to front the sun; and the alienation
of such men from the church became complete.

Nature, to be sure, had her remedy.  Religious persons are driven out of
the Established Church into sects, which instantly rise to credit, and
hold the Establishment in check.  Nature has sharper remedies, also.
The English, abhorring change in all things, abhorring it most in
matters of religion, cling to the last rag of form, and are dreadfully
given to cant.  The English (and I wish it were confined to them, but ’t
is a taint in the Anglo-Saxon blood in both hemispheres), the English
and the Americans cant beyond all other nations.  The French relinquish
all that industry to them.  What is so odious as the polite bows to God,
in our books and newspapers? The popular press is flagitious in the
exact measure of its sanctimony, and the religion of the day is a
theatrical Sinai, where the thunders are supplied by the property-man.
The fanaticism and hypocrisy create satire.  Punch finds an
inexhaustible material.  Dickens writes novels on Exeter Hall humanity.
Thackeray exposes the heartless high life.  Nature revenges herself more
summarily by the heathenism of the lower classes.  Lord Shaftesbury
calls the poor thieves together, and reads sermons to them, and they
call it ’gas.’  George Borrow summons the Gypsies to hear his discourse
on the Hebrews in Egypt, and reads to them the Apostles’ creed in
Romany.  "When I had concluded," he says, "I looked around me.  The
features of the assembly were twisted, and the eyes of all turned upon
me with a frightful squint: not an individual present but squinted; the
genteel Pepa, the good-humored Chicharona, the Cosdami, all squinted:
the Gypsy jockey squinted worst of all."

The church at this moment is much to be pitied.  She has nothing left
but possession.  If a bishop meets an intelligent gentleman, and reads
fatal interrogations in his eyes, he has no resource but to take wine
with him. False position introduces cant, perjury, simony, and ever a
lower class of mind and character into the clergy; and, when the
hierarchy is afraid of science and education, afraid of piety, afraid of
tradition, and afraid of theology, there is nothing left but to quit a
church which is no longer one.

But the religion of England,--is it the Established Church? no; is it
the sects? no; they are only perpetuations of some private man’s
dissent, and are to the Established Church as cabs are to a coach,
cheaper and more convenient, but really the same thing.  Where dwells
the religion?  Tell me first where dwells electricity, or motion, or
thought, or gesture.  They do not dwell or stay at all.  Electricity
cannot be made fast, mortared up and ended, like London Monument, or the
Tower, so that you shall know where to find it, and keep it fixed, as
the English do with their things, forevermore; it is passing, glancing,
gesticular; it is a traveller, a newness, a surprise, a secret, which
perplexes them, and puts them out.  Yet, if religion be the doing of all
good, and for its sake the suffering of all evil, _souffrir de tout le
monde et ne faire souffrir personne_, that divine secret has existed in
England from the days of Alfred to those of Romilly, of Clarkson, and of
Florence Nightingale, and in thousands who have no fame.


A strong common-sense, which it is not easy to unseat or disturb, marks
the English mind for a thousand years; a rude strength newly applied to
thought, as of sailors and soldiers who had lately learned to read.
They have no fancy, and never are surprised into a covert or witty word,
such as pleased the Athenians and Italians, and was convertible into a
fable not long after; but they delight in strong earthy expression, not
mistakable, coarsely true to the human body, and, though spoken among
princes, equally fit and welcome to the mob.  This homeliness, veracity,
and plain style appear in the earliest extant works, and in the latest.
It imports into songs and ballads the smell of the earth, the breath of
cattle, and, like a Dutch painter, seeks a household charm, though by
pails and pans.  They ask their constitutional utility in verse.  The
kail and herrings are never out of sight.  The poet nimbly recovers
himself from every sally of the imagination.  The English muse loves the
farm-yard, the lane and market.  She says, with De Staël, "I tramp in
the mire with wooden shoes, whenever they would force me into the
clouds."  For, the Englishman has accurate perceptions; takes hold of
things by the right end, and there is no slipperiness in his grasp.  He
loves the axe, the spade, the oar, the gun, the steam-pipe: he has built
the engine he uses. He is materialist, economical, mercantile.  He must
be treated with sincerity and reality, with muffins and not the promise
of muffins; and prefers his hot chop, with perfect security and
convenience in the eating of it, to the chances of the amplest and
Frenchiest bill of fare, engraved on embossed paper.  When he is
intellectual, and a poet or a philosopher, he carries the same hard
truth and the same keen machinery into the mental sphere.  His mind must
stand on a fact.  He will not be baffled, or catch at clouds, but the
mind must have a symbol palpable and resisting.  What he relishes in
Dante, is the vice-like tenacity with which he holds a mental image
before the eyes, as if it were a scutcheon painted on a shield.  Byron
"liked something craggy to break his mind upon."  A taste for plain
strong speech, what is called a biblical style, marks the English. It is
in Alfred, and the Saxon Chronicle, and in the Sagas of the Northmen.
Latimer was homely.  Hobbes was perfect in the "noble vulgar speech."
Donne, Bunyan, Milton, Taylor, Evelyn, Pepys, Hooker, Cotton, and the
translators, wrote it.  How realistic or materialistic in treatment of
his subject is Swift.  He describes his fictitious persons as if for the
police.  Defoe has no insecurity or choice, Hudibras has the same hard
mentality,--keeping the truth at once to the senses, and to the

It is not less seen in poetry.  Chaucer’s hard painting of his
Canterbury pilgrims satisfies the senses. Shakspeare, Spenser, and
Milton, in their loftiest ascents, have this national grip and
exactitude of mind.  This mental materialism makes the value of English
transcendental genius; in these writers, and in Herbert, Henry More,
Donne, and Sir Thomas Browne.  The Saxon materialism and narrowness,
exalted into the sphere of intellect, makes the very genius of
Shakspeare and Milton.  When it reaches the pure element, it treads the
clouds as securely as the adamant.  Even in its elevations,
materialistic, its poetry is common-sense inspired; or iron raised to
white heat.

The marriage of the two qualities is in their speech. It is a tacit rule
of the language to make the frame or skeleton of Saxon words, and, when
elevation or ornament is sought, to interweave Roman; but sparingly; nor
is a sentence made of Roman words alone, without loss of strength.  The
children and laborers use the Saxon unmixed.  The Latin unmixed is
abandoned to the colleges and Parliament.  Mixture is a secret of the
English island; and, in their dialect, the male principle is the Saxon;
the female, the Latin; and they are combined in every discourse.  A good
writer, if he has indulged in a Roman roundness, makes haste to chasten
and nerve his period by English monosyllables.

When the Gothic nations came into Europe, they found it lighted with the
sun and moon of Hebrew and of Greek genius.  The tablets of their brain,
long kept in the dark, were finely sensible to the double glory.  To the
images from this twin source (of Christianity and art), the mind became
fruitful as by the incubation of the Holy Ghost.  The English mind
flowered in every faculty. The common-sense was surprised and inspired.
For two centuries, England was philosophic, religious, poetic. The
mental furniture seemed of larger scale; the memory capacious like the
storehouse of the rains.  The ardor and endurance of study; the boldness
and facility of their mental construction; their fancy, and imagination,
and easy spanning of vast distances of thought; the enterprise or
accosting of new subjects; and, generally, the easy exertion of power,
astonish, like the legendary feats of Guy of Warwick.  The union of
Saxon precision and Oriental soaring, of which Shakspeare is the perfect
example, is shared in less degree by the writers of two centuries.  I
find not only the great masters out of all rivalry and reach, but the
whole writing of the time charged with a masculine force and freedom.

There is a hygienic simpleness, rough vigor, and closeness to the matter
in hand, even in the second and third class of writers; and, I think, in
the common style of the people, as one finds it in the citation of
wills, letters, and public documents, in proverbs, and forms of speech.
The more hearty and sturdy expression may indicate that the savageness
of the Norseman was not all gone. Their dynamic brains hurled off their
words, as the revolving stone hurls off scraps of grit.  I could cite
from the seventeenth century sentences and phrases of edge not to be
matched in the nineteenth.  Their poets by simple force of mind
equalized themselves with the accumulated science of ours.  The country
gentlemen had a posset or drink they called October; and the poets, as
if by this hint, knew how to distil the whole season into their autumnal
verses: and, as nature, to pique the more, sometimes works up
deformities into beauty, in some rare Aspasia, or Cleopatra; and, as the
Greek art wrought many a vase or column, in which too long, or too
lithe, or nodes, or pits and flaws, are made a beauty of; so these were
so quick and vital, that they could charm and enrich by mean and vulgar

A man must think that age well taught and thoughtful, by which masques
and poems, like those of Ben Jonson, full of heroic sentiment in a manly
style, were received with favor.  The unique fact in literary history,
the unsurprised reception of Shakspeare,--the reception proved by his
making his fortune; and the apathy proved by the absence of all
contemporary panegyric,--seems to demonstrate an elevation in the mind
of the people.  Judge of the splendor of a nation, by the insignificance
of great individuals in it.  The manner in which they learned Greek and
Latin, before our modern facilities were yet ready, without
dictionaries, grammars, or indexes, by lectures of a professor, followed
by their own searchings,--required a more robust memory, and cooperation
of all the faculties; and their scholars, Camden, Usher, Selden, Mede,
Gataker, Hooker, Taylor, Burton, Bentley, Brian Walton, acquired the
solidity and method of engineers.

The influence of Plato tinges the British genius. Their minds loved
analogy; were cognizant of resemblances, and climbers on the staircase
of unity.  ’T is a very old strife between those who elect to see
identity, and those who elect to see discrepancies; and it renews itself
in Britain.  The poets, of course, are of one part; the men of the
world, of the other.  But Britain had many disciples of Plato,--More,
Hooker, Bacon, Sidney, Lord Brooke, Herbert, Browne, Donne, Spenser,
Chapman, Milton, Crashaw, Norris, Cudworth, Berkeley, Jeremy Taylor.

Lord Bacon has the English duality.  His centuries of observations, on
useful science, and his experiments, I suppose, were worth nothing.  One
hint of Franklin, or Watt, or Dalton, or Davy, or any one who had a
talent for experiment, was worth all his lifetime of exquisite trifles.
But he drinks of a diviner stream, and marks the influx of idealism into
England.  Where that goes, is poetry, health, and progress.  The rules
of its genesis or its diffusion are not known.  That knowledge, if we
had it, would supersede all we call science of the mind.  It seems an
affair of race, or of meta-chemistry;--the vital point being,--how far
the sense of unity, or instinct of seeking resemblances predominated.
For, wherever the mind takes a step, it is, to put itself at one with a
larger class, discerned beyond the lesser class with which it has been
conversant.  Hence, all poetry, and all affirmative action comes.

Bacon, in the structure of his mind, held of the analogists, of the
idealists, or (as we popularly say, naming from the best example)
Platonists.  Whoever discredits analogy, and requires heaps of facts,
before any theories can be attempted, has no poetic power, and nothing
original or beautiful will be produced by him.  Locke is as surely the
influx of decomposition and of prose, as Bacon and the Platonists, of
growth.  The Platonic is the poetic tendency; the so-called scientific
is the negative and poisonous.  ’T is quite certain, that Spenser,
Burns, Byron, and Wordsworth will be Platonists; and that the dull men
will be Lockists.  Then politics and commerce will absorb from the
educated class men of talents without genius, precisely because such
have no resistance.

Bacon, capable of ideas, yet devoted to ends, required in his map of the
mind, first of all, universality, or _prima philosophia_, the receptacle
for all such profitable observations and axioms as fall not within the
compass of any of the special parts of philosophy, but are more common,
and of a higher stage.  He held this element essential: it is never out
of mind: he never spares rebukes for such as neglect it; believing that
no perfect discovery can be made in a flat or level, but you must ascend
to a higher science.  "If any man thinketh philosophy and universality
to be idle studies, he does not consider that all professions are from
thence served and supplied; and this I take to be a great cause that has
hindered the progression of learning, because these fundamental
knowledges have been studied but in passage."  He explained himself by
giving various quaint examples of the summary or common laws, of which
each science has its own illustration.  He complains, that "he finds
this part of learning very deficient, the profounder sort of wits
drawing a bucket now and then for their own use, but the spring-head
unvisited.  This was the _dry light_ which did scorch and offend most
men’s watery natures."  Plato had signified the same sense, when he
said: "All the great arts require a subtle and speculative research into
the law of nature, since loftiness of thought and perfect mastery over
every subject seem to be derived from some such source as this.  This
Pericles had, in addition to a great natural genius.  For, meeting with
Anaxagoras, who was a person of this kind, he attached himself to him,
and nourished himself with sublime speculations on the absolute
intelligence; and imported thence into the oratorical art whatever could
be useful to it."

A few generalizations always circulate in the world, whose authors we do
not rightly know, which astonish, and appear to be avenues to vast
kingdoms of thought, and these are in the world _constants_, like the
Copernican and Newtonian theories in physics.  In England, these may be
traced usually to Shakspeare, Bacon, Milton, or Hooker, even to Van
Helmont and Behmen, and do all have a kind of filial retrospect to Plato
and the Greeks. Of this kind is Lord Bacon’s sentence, that "Nature is
commanded by obeying her"; his doctrine of poetry, which "accommodates
the shows of things to the desires of the mind"; or the Zoroastrian
definition of poetry, mystical, yet exact, "apparent pictures of
unapparent natures"; Spenser’s creed, that "soul is form, and doth the
body make"; the theory of Berkeley, that we have no certain assurance of
the existence of matter; Doctor Samuel Clarke’s argument for theism from
the nature of space and time; Harrington’s political rule, that power
must rest on land,--a rule which requires to be liberally interpreted;
the theory of Swedenborg, so cosmically applied by him, that the man
makes his heaven and hell; Hegel’s study of civil history, as the
conflict of ideas and the victory of the deeper thought; the
identity-philosophy of Schelling, couched in the statement that "all
difference is quantitative."  So the very announcement of the theory of
gravitation, of Kepler’s three harmonic laws, and even of Dalton’s
doctrine of definite proportions, finds a sudden response in the mind,
which remains a superior evidence to empirical demonstrations.  I cite
these generalizations, some of which are more recent, merely to indicate
a class.  Not these particulars, but the mental plane or the atmosphere
from which they emanate, was the home and element of the writers and
readers in what we loosely call the Elizabethan age (say in literary
history, the period from 1575 to 1625), yet a period almost short enough
to justify Ben Jonson’s remark on Lord Bacon: "About his time, and
within his view, were born all the wits that could honor a nation, or
help study."

Such richness of genius had not existed more than once before.  These
heights could not be maintained.  As we find stumps of vast trees in our
exhausted soils, and have received traditions of their ancient fertility
to tillage, so history reckons epochs in which the intellect of famed
races became effete.  So it fared with English genius. These heights
were followed by a meanness, and a descent of the mind into lower
levels; the loss of wings; no high speculation.  Locke, to whom the
meaning of ideas was unknown, became the type of philosophy, and his
"understanding" the measure, in all nations, of the English intellect.
His countrymen forsook the lofty sides of Parnassus, on which they had
once walked with echoing steps, and disused the studies once so beloved;
the powers of thought fell into neglect.  The later English want the
faculty of Plato and Aristotle, of grouping men in natural classes by an
insight of general laws, so deep, that the rule is deduced with equal
precision from few subjects or from one, as from multitudes of lives.
Shakspeare is supreme in that, as in all the great mental energies.  The
German’s generalize: the English cannot interpret the German mind.
German science comprehends the English.  The absence of the faculty in
England is shown by the timidity which accumulates mountains of facts,
as a bad general wants myriads of men and miles of redoubts, to
compensate the inspirations of courage and conduct.

The English shrink from a generalization.  "They do not look abroad into
universality, or they draw only a bucketful at the fountain of the First
Philosophy for their occasion, and do not go to the spring-head."
Bacon, who said this, is almost unique among his countrymen in that
faculty, at least among the prose-writers. Milton, who was the stair or
high table-land to let down the English genius from the summits of
Shakspeare, used this privilege sometimes in poetry, more rarely in
prose. For a long interval afterwards, it is not found.  Burke was
addicted to generalizing, but his was a shorter line; as his thoughts
have less depth, they have less compass. Hume’s abstractions are not
deep or wise.  He owes his fame to one keen observation, that no copula
had been detected between any cause and effect, either in physics or in
thought; that the term cause and effect was loosely or gratuitously
applied to what we know only as consecutive, not at all as causal.  Dr.
Johnson’s written abstractions have little value: the tone of feeling in
them makes their chief worth.

Mr. Hallam, a learned and elegant scholar, has written the history of
European literature for three centuries,--a performance of great
ambition, inasmuch as a judgment was to be attempted on every book.  But
his eye does not reach to the ideal standards; the verdicts are all
dated from London: all new thought must be cast into the old moulds.
The expansive element which creates literature is steadily denied.
Plato is resisted, and his school.  Hallam is uniformly polite, but with
deficient sympathy; writes with resolute generosity, but is unconscious
of the deep worth which lies in the mystics, and which often outvalues
as a seed of power and a source of revolution all the correct writers
and shining reputations of their day.  He passes in silence, or
dismisses with a kind of contempt, the profounder masters: a lover of
ideas is not only uncongenial, but unintelligible.  Hallam inspires
respect by his knowledge and fidelity, by his manifest love of good
books, and he lifts himself to own better than almost any the greatness
of Shakspeare, and better than Johnson he appreciates Milton.  But in
Hallam, or in the firmer intellectual nerve of Mackintosh, one still
finds the same type of English genius.  It is wise and rich, but it
lives on its capital.  It is retrospective. How can it discern and hail
the new forms that are looming up on the horizon,--new and gigantic
thoughts which cannot dress themselves out of any old wardrobe of the

The essays, the fiction, and the poetry of the day have the like
municipal limits.  Dickens, with preternatural apprehension of the
language of manners, and the varieties of street life, with pathos and
laughter, with patriotic and still enlarging generosity, writes London
tracts.  He is a painter of English details, like Hogarth; local and
temporary in his tints and style, and local in his aims. Bulwer, an
industrious writer, with occasional ability, is distinguished for his
reverence of intellect as a temporality, and appeals to the worldly
ambition of the student. His romances tend to fan these low flames.
Their novelists despair of the heart.  Thackeray finds that God has made
no allowance for the poor thing in his universe;--more ’s the pity, he
thinks;--but ’t is not for us to be wiser: we must renounce ideals, and
accept London.

The brilliant Macaulay, who expresses the tone of the English governing
classes of the day, explicitly teaches, that good means good to eat,
good to wear, material commodity; that the glory of modern philosophy is
its direction on "fruit"; to yield economical inventions; and that its
merit is to avoid ideas, and avoid morals. He thinks it the distinctive
merit of the Baconian philosophy, in its triumph over the old Platonic,
its disentangling the intellect from theories of the all-Fair and
all-Good, and pinning it down to the making a better sick-chair and a
better wine-whey for an invalid;--this not ironically, but in good
faith;--that, "solid advantage," as he calls it, meaning always sensual
benefit, is the only good.  The eminent benefit of astronomy is the
better navigation it creates to enable the fruit-ships to bring home
their lemons and wine to the London grocer. It was a curious result, in
which the civility and religion of England for a thousand years ends in
denying morals, and reducing the intellect to a saucepan.  The critic
hides his scepticism under the English cant of practical. To convince
the reason, to touch the conscience, is romantic pretension.  The fine
arts fall to the ground. Beauty, except as luxurious commodity, does not
exist. It is very certain, I may say in passing, that if Lord Bacon had
been only the sensualist his critic pretends, he would never have
acquired the fame which now entitles him to this patronage.  It is
because he had imagination, the leisures of the spirit, and basked in an
element of contemplation out of all modern English atmospheric gauges,
that he is impressive to the imaginations of men, and has become a
potentate not to be ignored.  Sir David Brewster sees the high place of
Bacon, without finding Newton indebted to him, and thinks it a mistake.
Bacon occupies it by specific gravity or levity, not by any feat he did,
or by any tutoring more or less of Newton, etc., but an effect of the
same cause which showed itself more pronounced afterwards in Hooke,
Boyle, and Halley.

Coleridge, a catholic mind, with a hunger for ideas, with eyes looking
before and after to the highest bards and sages, and who wrote and spoke
the only high criticism in his time, is one of those who save England
from the reproach of no longer possessing the capacity to appreciate
what rarest wit the island has yielded. Yet the misfortune of his life,
his vast attempts but most inadequate performings, failing to accomplish
any one masterpiece, seems to mark the closing of an era.  Even in him,
the traditional Englishman was too strong for the philosopher, and he
fell into _accommodations_: and, as Burke had striven to idealize the
English State, so Coleridge ’narrowed his mind’ in the attempt to
reconcile the Gothic rule and dogma of the Anglican Church, with eternal
ideas.  But for Coleridge, and a lurking taciturn minority, uttering
itself in occasional criticism, oftener in private discourse, one would
say, that in Germany and in America is the best mind in England rightly
respected.  It is the surest sign of national decay, when the Bramins
can no longer read or understand the Braminical philosophy.

In the decomposition and asphyxia that followed all this materialism,
Carlyle was driven by his disgust at the pettiness and the cant, into
the preaching of Fate.  In comparison with all this rottenness, any
check, any cleansing, though by fire, seemed desirable and beautiful. He
saw little difference in the gladiators, or the "causes" for which they
combated; the one comfort was, that they were all going speedily into
the abyss together.  And his imagination, finding no nutriment in any
creation, avenged itself by celebrating the majestic beauty of the laws
of decay.  The necessities of mental structure force all minds into a
few categories, and where impatience of the tricks of men makes Nemesis
amiable, and builds altars to the negative Deity, the inevitable recoil
is to heroism or the gallantry of the private heart, which decks its
immolation with glory, in the unequal combat of will against fate.

Wilkinson, the editor of Swedenborg, the annotator of Fourier, and the
champion of Halmeman, has brought to metaphysics and to physiology a
native vigor, with a catholic perception of relations, equal to the
highest attempts, and a rhetoric like the armory of the invincible
knights of old.  There is in the action of his mind a long Atlantic roll
not known except in deepest waters, and only lacking what ought to
accompany such powers, a manifest centrality.  If his mind does not rest
in immovable biases, perhaps the orbit is larger, and the return is not
yet: but a master should inspire a confidence that he will adhere to his
convictions, and give his present studies always the same high place.

It would be easy to add exceptions to the limitary tone of English
thought, and much more easy to adduce examples of excellence in
particular veins; and if, going out of the region of dogma, we pass into
that of general culture, there is no end to the graces and amenities,
wit, sensibility, and erudition, of the learned class.  But the
artificial succor which marks all English performance, appears in
letters also: much of their æsthetic production is antiquarian and
manufactured, and literary reputations have been achieved by forcible
men, whose relation to literature was purely accidental, but who were
driven by tastes and modes they found in vogue into their several
careers.  So, at this moment, every ambitious young man studies geology;
so members of Parliament are made, and churchmen.

The bias of Englishmen to practical skill has reacted on the national
mind.  They are incapable of an inutility, and respect the five mechanic
powers even in their song. The voice of their modern muse has a slight
hint of the steam-whistle, and the poem is created as an ornament and
finish of their monarchy, and by no means as the bird of a new morning
which forgets the past world in the full enjoyment of that which is
forming.  They are with difficulty ideal; they are the most conditioned
men, as if, having the best conditions, they could not bring themselves
to forfeit them.  Every one of them is a thousand years old, and lives
by his memory; and when you say this, they accept it as praise.

Nothing comes to the book-shops but politics, travels, statistics,
tabulation, and engineering, and even what is called philosophy and
letters is mechanical in its structure, as if inspiration had ceased, as
if no vast hope, no religion, no song of joy, no wisdom, no analogy,
existed any more.  The tone of colleges and of scholars and of literary
society has this mortal air.  I seem to walk on a marble floor, where
nothing will grow.  They exert every variety of talent on a lower
ground, and may be said to live and act in a sub-mind.  They have lost
all commanding views in literature, philosophy, and science. A good
Englishman shuts himself out of three fourths of his mind, and confines
himself to one fourth.  He has learning, good sense, power of labor, and
logic: but a faith in the laws of the mind like that of Archimedes; a
belief like that of Euler and Kepler, that experience must follow and
not lead the laws of the mind; a devotion to the theory of politics,
like that of Hooker, and Milton, and Harrington, the modern English mind

I fear the same fault lies in their science, since they have known how
to make it repulsive, and bereave nature of its charm;--though perhaps
the complaint flies wider, and the vice attaches to many more than to
British physicists.  The eye of the naturalist must have a scope like
nature itself, a susceptibility to all impressions, alive to the heart
as well as to the logic of creation.  But English science puts humanity
to the door.  It wants the connection which is the test of genius.  The
science is false by not being poetic.  It isolates the reptile or
mollusk it assumes to explain; whilst reptile or mollusk only exists in
system, in relation.  The poet only sees it as an inevitable step in the
path of the Creator.  But, in England, one hermit finds this fact, and
another finds that, and lives and dies ignorant of its value.  There are
great exceptions, of John Hunter, a man of ideas; perhaps of Robert
Brown, the botanist; and of Richard Owen, who has imported into Britain
the German homologies, and enriched science with contributions of his
own, adding sometimes the divination of the old masters to the unbroken
power of labor in the English mind.  But for the most part, the natural
science in England is out of its loyal alliance with morals, and is as
void of imagination and free play of thought, as conveyancing.  It
stands in strong contrast with the genius of the Germans, those
semi-Greeks, who love analogy, and, by means of their height of view,
preserve their enthusiasm, and think for Europe.

No hope, no sublime augury, cheers the student, no secure striding from
experiment onward to a foreseen law, but only a casual dipping here and
there, like diggers in California "prospecting for a placer" that will
pay.  A horizon of brass of the diameter of his umbrella shuts down
around his senses.  Squalid contentment with conventions, satire at the
names of philosophy and religion, parochial and shop-till politics, and
idolatry of usage, betray the ebb of life and spirit.  As they trample
on nationalities to reproduce London and Londoners in Europe and Asia,
so they fear the hostility of ideas, of poetry, of religion,--ghosts
which they cannot lay; and, having attempted to domesticate and dress
the Blessed Soul itself in English broadcloth and gaiters, they are
tormented with fear that herein lurks a force that will sweep their
system away.  The artists say, "Nature puts us out"; the scholars have
become un-ideal.  They parry earnest speech with banter and levity; they
laugh you down, or they change the subject.  "The fact is," say they
over their wine, "all that about liberty, and so forth, is gone by; it
won’t do any longer."  The practical and comfortable oppress them with
inexorable claims, and the smallest fraction of power remains for
heroism and poetry. No poet dares murmur of beauty out of the precinct
of his rhymes.  No priest dares hint at a Providence which does not
respect English utility.  The island is a roaring volcano of fate, of
material values, of tariffs, and laws of repression, glutted markets and
low prices.

In the absence of the highest aims, of the pure love of knowledge, and
the surrender to nature, there is the suppression of the imagination,
the priapism of the senses and the understanding; we have the factitious
instead of the natural; tasteless expense, arts of comfort, and the
rewarding as an illustrious inventor whosoever will contrive one
impediment more to interpose between the man and his objects.

Thus poetry is degraded, and made ornamental.  Pope and his school wrote
poetry fit to put round frosted cake.  What did Walter Scott write
without stint? a rhymed traveller’s guide to Scotland.  And the
libraries of verses they print have this Birmingham character. How many
volumes of well-bred metre we must jingle through, before we can be
filled, taught, renewed!  We want the miraculous; the beauty which we
can manufacture at no mill,--can give no account of; the beauty of which
Chaucer and Chapman had the secret.  The poetry of course is low and
prosaic; only now and then, as in Wordsworth, conscientious; or in
Byron, passional; or in Tennyson, factitious.  But if I should count the
poets who have contributed to the Bible of existing England sentences of
guidance and consolation which are still glowing and effective,--how
few!  Shall I find my heavenly bread in the reigning poets?  Where is
great design in modern English poetry?  The English have lost sight of
the fact that poetry exists to speak the spiritual law, and that no
wealth of description or of fancy is yet essentially new, and out of the
limits of prose, until this condition is reached.  Therefore the grave
old poets, like the Greek artists, heeded their designs, and less
considered the finish.  It was their office to lead to the divine
sources, out of which all this, and much more, readily springs; and, if
this religion is in the poetry, it raises us to some purpose, and we can
well afford some staidness; or hardness, or want of popular tune in the

The exceptional fact of the period is the genius of Wordsworth.  He had
no master but nature and solitude.  "He wrote a poem," says Landor,
"without the aid of war."  His verse is the voice of sanity in a worldly
and ambitious age.  One regrets that his temperament was not more liquid
and musical.  He has written longer than he was inspired.  But for the
rest, he has no competitor.

Tennyson is endowed precisely in points where Wordsworth wanted.  There
is no finer ear than Tennyson’s, nor more command of the keys of
language.  Color, like the dawn, flows over the horizon from his pencil,
in waves so rich that we do not miss the central form. Through all his
refinements, too, he has reached the public,--a certificate of good
sense and general power, since he who aspires to be the English poet
must be as large as London, not in the same kind as London, but in his
own kind.  But he wants a subject, and climbs no mount of vision to
bring its secrets to the people.  He contents himself with describing
the Englishman as he is, and proposes no better.  There are all degrees
in poetry, and we must be thankful for every beautiful talent.  But it
is only a first success, when the ear is gained.  The best office of the
best poets has been to show how low and uninspired was their general
style, and that only once or twice they have struck the high chord.

That expansiveness which is the essence of the poetic element, they have
not.  It was no Oxonian, but Hafiz, who said: "Let us be crowned with
roses, let us drink wine, and break up the tiresome old roof of heaven
into new forms."  A stanza of the song of nature the Oxonian has no ear
for, and he does not value the salient and curative influence of
intellectual action, studious of truth, without a by-end.

By the law of contraries, I look for an irresistible taste for
Orientalism in Britain.  For a self-conceited modish life, made up of
trifles, clinging to a corporeal civilization, hating ideas, there is no
remedy like the Oriental largeness.  That astonishes and disconcerts
English decorum.  For once there is thunder it never heard, light it
never saw, and power which trifles with time and space.  I am not
surprised, then, to find an Englishman like Warren Hastings, who had
been struck with the grand style of thinking in the Indian writings,
deprecating the prejudices of his countrymen, while offering them a
translation of the Bhagvat.  "Might I," he says, "an unlettered man,
venture to prescribe bounds to the latitude of criticism, I should
exclude, in estimating the merit of such a production, all rules drawn
from the ancient or modern literature of Europe, all references to such
sentiments or manners as are become the standards of propriety for
opinion and action in our own modes, and, equally, all appeals to our
revealed tenets, of religion and moral duty." [#] He goes on to bespeak
indulgence to "ornaments of fancy unsuited to our taste, and passages
elevated to a tract of sublimity into which our habits of judgment will
find it difficult to pursue them."

[#] Preface to Wilkins’s Translation of the Bhagvat Geeta.

Meantime, I know that a retrieving power lies in the English race, which
seems to make any recoil possible; in other words, there is at all times
a minority of profound minds existing in the nation, capable of
appreciating every soaring of intellect and every hint of tendency.
While the constructive talent seems dwarfed and superficial, the
criticism is often in the noblest tone, and suggests the presence of the
invisible gods.  I can well believe what I have often heard, that there
are two nations in England; but it is not the Poor and the Rich; nor is
it the Normans and Saxons; nor the Celt and the Goth.  These are each
always becoming the other; for Robert Owen does not exaggerate the power
of circumstance. But the two complexions, or two styles of mind,--the
perceptive class, and the practical finality class,--are ever in
counterpoise, interacting mutually; one, in hopeless minorities; the
other, in huge masses; one studious, contemplative, experimenting; the
other, the ungrateful pupil, scornful of the source, whilst availing
itself of the knowledge for gain; these two nations, of genius and of
animal force, though the first consist of only a dozen souls, and the
second of twenty millions, forever by their discord and their accord
yield the power of the English State.


The power of the newspaper is familiar in America, and in accordance
with our political system.  In England, it stands in antagonism with the
feudal institutions, and it is all the more beneficent succor against
the secretive tendencies of a monarchy.  The celebrated Lord Somers
"knew of no good law proposed and passed in his time, to which the
public papers had not directed his attention."  There is no corner and
no night.  A relentless inquisition drags every secret to the day, turns
the glare of this solar microscope on every malfaisance, so as to make
the public a more terrible spy than any foreigner; and no weakness can
be taken advantage of by an enemy, since the whole people are already
forewarned. Thus England rids herself of those incrustations which have
been the ruin of old states.  Of course, this inspection is feared.  No
antique privilege, no comfortable monopoly, but sees surely that its
days are counted; the people are familiarized with the reason of reform,
and, one by one, take away every argument of the obstructives. "So your
Grace likes the comfort of reading the newspapers," said Lord Mansfield
to the Duke of Northumberland; "mark my words; you and I shall not live
to see it, but this young gentleman (Lord Eldon) may, or it may be a
little later; but a little sooner or later, these newspapers will most
assuredly write the dukes of Northumberland out of their titles and
possessions, and the country out of its king."  The tendency in England
towards social and political institutions like those of America, is
inevitable, and the ability of its journals is the driving force.

England is full of manly, clever, well-bred men who possess the talent
of writing off-hand pungent paragraphs, expressing with clearness and
courage their opinion on any person or performance.  Valuable or not, it
is a skill that is rarely found, out of the English journals. The
English do this, as they write poetry, as they ride and box, by being
educated to it.  Hundreds of clever Praeds, and Freres, and Froudes, and
Hoods, and Hooks, and Maginns, and Mills, and Macaulays, make poems, or
short essays for a journal, as they make speeches in Parliament and on
the hustings, or, as they shoot and ride. It is a quite accidental and
arbitrary direction of their general ability.  Rude health and spirits,
an Oxford education, and the habits of society are implied, but not a
ray of genius.  It comes of the crowded state of the professions, the
violent interest which all men take in politics, the facility of
experimenting in the journals, and high pay.

The most conspicuous result of this talent is the "Times" newspaper.  No
power in England is more felt, more feared, or more obeyed.  What you
read in the morning in that journal, you shall hear in the evening in
all society.  It has ears everywhere, and its information is earliest,
completest, and surest.  It has risen, year by year, and victory by
victory, to its present authority.  I asked one of its old contributors,
whether it had once been abler than it is now.  "Never," he said; "these
are its palmiest days."  It has shown those qualities which are dear to
Englishmen, unflinching adherence to its objects, prodigal intellectual
ability, and a towering assurance, backed by the perfect organization in
its printing-house, and its world-wide network of correspondence and
reports.  It has its own history and famous trophies.  In 1820, it
adopted the cause of Queen Caroline, and carried it against the king.
It adopted a poor-law system, and almost alone lifted it through.  When
Lord Brougham was in power, it decided against him, and pulled him down.
It declared war against Ireland, and conquered it.  It adopted the
League against the Corn Laws, and, when Cobden had begun to despair, it
announced his triumph.  It denounced and discredited the French Republic
of 1848, and checked every sympathy with it in England, until it had
enrolled 200,000 special constables to watch the Chartists, and make
them ridiculous on the 10th April. It first denounced and then adopted
the new French Empire, and urged the French Alliance and its results. It
has entered into each municipal, literary, and social question, almost
with a controlling voice.  It has done bold and seasonable service in
exposing frauds which threatened the commercial community.  Meantime, it
attacks its rivals by perfecting its printing machinery, and will drive
them out of circulation; for the only limit to the circulation of the
"Times" is the impossibility of printing copies fast enough; since a
daily paper can only be new and seasonable for a few hours.  It will
kill all but that paper which is diametrically in opposition; since many
papers, first and last, have lived by their attacks on the leading

The late Mr. Walter was printer of the "Times," and had gradually
arranged the whole _materiel_ of it in perfect system.  It is told, that
when he demanded a small share in the proprietary, and was refused, he
said, "As you please, gentlemen; and you may take away the ’Times’ from
this office when you will; I shall publish the ’New Times’ next Monday
morning."  The proprietors, who had already complained that his charges
for printing were excessive, found that they were in his power, and gave
him whatever he wished.

I went one day with a good friend to the "Times": office, which was
entered through a pretty garden-yard, in Printing-House Square.  We
walked with some circumspection, as if we were entering a powder-mill;
but the door was opened by a mild old woman, and, by dint of some
transmission of cards, we were at last conducted into the parlor of Mr.
Morris, a very gentle person, with no hostile appearances.  The
statistics are now quite out of date, but I remember he told us that the
daily printing was then 35,000 copies; that on the 1st March, 1848, the
greatest number ever printed,--54,000 were issued; that, since February,
the daily circulation had increased by 8,000 copies.  The old press they
were then using printed five or six thousand sheets per hour; the new
machine, for which they were then building an engine, would print twelve
thousand per hour. Our entertainer confided us to a courteous assistant
to show us the establishment, in which, I think, they employed a hundred
and twenty men.  I remember, I saw the reporters’ room, in which they
redact their hasty stenographs, but the editor’s room, and who is in it,
I did not see, though I shared the curiosity of mankind respecting it.

The staff of the "Times" has always been made up of able men.  Old
Walter, Sterling, Bacon, Barnes, Alsiger, Horace Twiss, Jones Loyd, John
Oxenford, Mr. Mosely, Mr. Bailey, have contributed to its renown in
their special departments.  But it has never wanted the first pens for
occasional assistance.  Its private information is inexplicable, and
recalls the stories of Fouché’s police, whose omniscience made it
believed that the Empress Josephine must be in his pay.  It has
mercantile and political correspondents in every foreign city; and its
expresses outrun the despatches of the government.  One hears anecdotes
of the rise of its servants, as of the functionaries of the India House.
I was told of the dexterity of one of its reporters, who, finding
himself, on one occasion, where the magistrates had strictly forbidden
reporters, put his hands into his coat-pocket, and with pencil in one
hand, and tablet in the other, did his work.

The influence of this journal is a recognized power in Europe, and, of
course, none is more conscious of it than its conductors.  The tone of
its articles has often been the occasion of comment from the official
organs of the continental courts, and sometimes the ground of diplomatic
complaint.  What would the "Times" say? is a terror in Paris, in Berlin,
in Vienna, in Copenhagen, and in Nepaul.  Its consummate discretion and
success exhibit the English skill of combination.  The daily paper is
the work of many hands, chiefly, it is said, of young men recently from
the University, and perhaps reading law in chambers in London.  Hence
the academic elegance, and classic allusion, which adorn its columns.
Hence, too, the heat and gallantry of its onset. But the steadiness of
the aim suggests the belief that this fire is directed and fed by older
engineers; as if persons of exact information, and with settled views of
policy, supplied the writers with the basis of fact, and the object to
be attained, and availed themselves of their younger energy and
eloquence to plead the cause. Both the council and the executive
departments gain by this division.  Of two men of equal ability, the one
who does not write, but keeps his eye on the course of public affairs,
will have the higher judicial wisdom.  But the parts are kept in
concert; all the articles appear to proceed from a single will.  The
"Times" never disapproves of what itself has said, or cripples itself by
apology for the absence of the editor, or the indiscretion of him who
held the pen.  It speaks out bluff and bold, and sticks to what it says.
It draws from any number of learned and skilful contributors; but a more
learned and skilful person supervises, corrects, and co-ordinates.  Of
this closet, the secret does not transpire.  No writer is suffered to
claim the authorship of any paper; everything good, from whatever
quarter, comes out editorially; and thus, by making the paper
everything, and those who write it nothing, the character and the awe of
the journal gain.

The English like it for its complete information.  A statement of fact
in the "Times" is as reliable as a citation from Hansard.  Then, they
like its independence; they do not know, when they take it up, what
their paper is going to say; but, above all, for the nationality and
confidence of its tone.  It thinks for them all; it is their
understanding and day’s ideal daguerreotyped.  When I see them reading
its columns, they seem to me becoming every moment more British.  It has
the national courage, not rash and petulant, but considerate and
determined. No dignity or wealth is a shield from its assault.  It
attacks a duke as readily as a policeman, and with the most provoking
airs of condescension.  It makes rude work with the Board of Admiralty.
The Bench of Bishops is still less safe.  One bishop fares badly for his
rapacity, and another for his bigotry, and a third for his courtliness.
It addresses occasionally a hint to majesty itself, and sometimes a hint
which is taken.  There is an air of freedom even in their advertising
columns, which speaks well for England to a foreigner.  On the days when
I arrived in London in 1847, I read among the daily announcements, one
offering a reward of fifty pounds to any person who would put a
nobleman, described by name and title, late a member of Parliament, into
any county jail in England, he having been convicted of obtaining money
under false pretences.

Was never such arrogancy as the tone of this paper. Every slip of an
Oxonian or Cantabrigian who writes his first leader assumes that we
subdued the earth before we sat down to write this particular "Times."
One would think the world was on its knees to the "Times" Office, for
its daily breakfast.  But this arrogance is calculated. Who would care
for it, if it "surmised," or "dared to confess," or "ventured to
predict," etc.?  No; _it is so_, and so it shall be.

The morality and patriotism of the "Times" claims only to be
representative, and by no means ideal.  It gives the argument, not of
the majority, but of the commanding class.  Its editors know better than
to defend Russia, or Austria, or English vested rights, on abstract
grounds.  But they give a voice to the class who, at the moment, take
the lead; and they have an instinct for finding where the power now
lies, which is eternally shifting its banks.  Sympathizing with, and
speaking for the class that rules the hour, yet, being apprised of every
ground-swell, every Chartist resolution, every Church squabble, every
strike in the mills, they detect the first tremblings of change.  They
watch the hard and bitter struggles of the authors of each liberal
movement, year by year,--watching them only to taunt and obstruct
them,--until, at last, when they see that these have established their
fact, that power is on the point of passing to them, they strike in,
with the voice of a monarch, astonish those whom they succor, as much as
those whom they desert, and make victory sure.  Of course, the aspirants
see that the "Times" is one of the goods of fortune, not to be won but
by winning their cause.

"Punch" is equally an expression of English good sense, as the "London
Times."  It is the comic version of the same sense.  Many of its
caricatures are equal to the best pamphlets, and will convey to the eye
in an instant the popular view which was taken of each turn of public
affairs.  Its sketches are usually made by masterly hands, and sometimes
with genius; the delight of every class, because uniformly guided by
that taste which is tyrannical in England.  It is a new trait of the
nineteenth century, that the wit and humor of England, as in Punch, so
in the humorists, Jerrold, Dickens, Thackeray, Hood, have taken the
direction of humanity and freedom.

The "Times," like every important institution, shows the way to a
better.  It is a living index of the colossal British power.  Its
existence honors the people who dare to print all they know, dare to
know all the facts, and do not wish to be flattered by hiding the extent
of the public disaster.  There is always safety in valor.  I wish I
could add, that this journal aspired to deserve the power it wields, by
guidance of the public sentiment to the right.  It is usually pretended,
in Parliament and elsewhere, that the English press has a high
tone,--which it has not.  It has an imperial tone, as of a powerful and
independent nation.  But as with other empires, its tone is prone to be
official, and even officinal. The "Times" shares all the limitations of
the governing classes, and wishes never to be in a minority.  If only it
dared to cleave to the right, to show the right to be the only
expedient, and feed its batteries from the central heart of humanity, it
might not have so many men of rank among its contributors, but genius
would be its cordial and invincible ally; it might now and then bear the
brunt of formidable combinations, but no journal is ruined by wise
courage.  It would be the natural leader of British reform; its proud
function, that of being the voice of Europe, the defender of the exile
and patriot against despots, would be more effectually discharged; it
would have the authority which is claimed for that dream of good men not
yet come to pass, an International Congress; and the least of its
victories would be to give to England a new millennium of beneficent


It had been agreed between my friend Mr. C. and me, that before I left
England we should make an excursion together to Stonehenge, which
neither of us had seen; and the project pleased my fancy with the double
attraction of the monument and the companion.  It seemed a bringing
together of extreme points, to visit the oldest religious monument in
Britain in company with her latest thinker, and one whose influence may
be traced in every contemporary book.  I was glad to sum up a little my
experiences, and to exchange a few reasonable words on the aspects of
England, with a man on whose genius I set a very high value, and who had
as much penetration, and as severe a theory of duty as any person in it.
On Friday, 7th July, we took the South-western Railway through Hampshire
to Salisbury, where we found a carriage to convey us to Amesbury.  The
fine weather and my friend’s local knowledge of Hampshire, in which he
is wont to spend a part of every summer, made the way short.  There was
much to say, too, of the travelling Americans, and their usual objects
in London.  I thought it natural that they should give some time to
works of art collected here, which they cannot find at home, and a
little to scientific clubs and museums, which, at this moment, make
London very attractive.  But my philosopher was not contented. Art and
’high art’ is a favorite target for his wit. "Yes, _Kunst_ is a great
delusion, and Goethe and Schiller wasted a great deal of good time on
it":--and he thinks he discovers that old Goethe found this out, and, in
his later writings, changed his tone.  As soon as men begin to talk of
art, architecture, and antiquities, nothing good comes of it.  He wishes
to go through the British Museum in silence, and thinks a sincere man
will see something, and say nothing.  In these days, he thought, it
would become an architect to consult only the grim necessity, and say,
’I can build you a coffin for such dead persons as you are, and for such
dead purposes as you have, but you shall have no ornament.’  For the
science, he had, if possible, even less tolerance, and compared the
savans of Somerset House to the boy who asked Confucius "how many stars
in the sky?"  Confucius replied, "he minded things near him"; then said
the boy, "how many hairs are there in your eyebrows?"  Confucius said,
"he didn’t know and didn’t care."

Still speaking of the Americans, C. complained that they dislike the
coldness and exclusiveness of the English, and run away to France, and
go with their countrymen, and are amused, instead of manfully staying in
London, and confronting Englishmen, and acquiring their culture, who
really have much to teach them.

I told C. that I was easily dazzled, and was accustomed to concede
readily all that an Englishman would ask; I saw everywhere in the
country proofs of sense and spirit, and success of every sort: I like
the people: they are as good as they are handsome; they have everything,
and can do everything: but meantime, I surely know, that, as soon as I
return to Massachusetts, I shall lapse at once into the feeling, which
the geography of America inevitably inspires, that we play the game with
immense advantage; that there and not here is the seat and centre of the
British race; and that no skill or activity can long compete with the
prodigious natural advantages of that country, in the hands of the same
race; and that England, an old and exhausted island, must one day be
contented, like other parents, to be strong only in her children.  But
this was a proposition which no Englishman of whatever condition can
easily entertain.

We left the train at Salisbury, and took a carriage to Amesbury, passing
by Old Sarum, a bare, treeless hill, once containing the town which sent
two members to Parliament,--now, not a hut,--and, arriving at Amesbury,
stopped at the George Inn.  After dinner, we walked to Salisbury Plain.
On the broad downs, under the gray sky, not a house was visible, nothing
but Stonehenge, which looked like a group of brown dwarfs in the wide
expanse,--Stonehenge and the barrows, which rose like green bosses about
the plain, and a few hay-ricks.  On the top of a mountain, the old
temple would not be more impressive.  Far and wide a few shepherds with
their flocks sprinkled the plain, and a bagman drove along the road.  It
looked as if the wide margin given in this crowded isle to this primeval
temple were accorded by the veneration of the British race to the old
egg out of which all their ecclesiastical structures and history had
proceeded.  Stonehenge is a circular colonnade with a diameter of a
hundred feet, and enclosing a second and a third colonnade within.  We
walked round the stones, and clambered over them, to wont ourselves with
their strange aspect and groupings, and found a nook sheltered from the
wind among them, where C. lighted his cigar.  It was pleasant to see,
that just this simplest of all simple structures--two upright stones and
a lintel laid across--had long outstood all later churches, and all
history, and were like what is most permanent on the face of the planet:
these, and the barrows,--mere mounds (of which there are a hundred and
sixty within a circle of three miles about Stonehenge), like the same
mound on the plain of Troy, which still makes good to the passing
mariner on Hellespont, the vaunt of Homer and the fame of Achilles.
Within the enclosure grow buttercups, nettles, and, all around, wild
thyme, daisy, meadow-sweet, golden-rod, thistle, and the carpeting
grass.  Over us, larks were soaring and singing,--as my friend said:
"the larks which were hatched last year, and the wind which was hatched
many thousand years ago."  We counted and measured by paces the biggest
stones, and soon knew as much as any man can suddenly know of the
inscrutable temple.  There are ninety-four stones, and there were once
probably one hundred and sixty.  The temple is circular, and uncovered,
and the situation fixed astronomically;--the grand entrances here, and
at Abury, being placed exactly north-east, "as all the gates of the old
cavern temples are."  How came the stones here? for these _sarsens_ or
Druidical sandstones are not found in this neighborhood.  The
_sacrificial stone_, as it is called, is the only one in all these
blocks, that can resist the action of fire, and as I read in the books,
must have been brought one hundred and fifty miles.

On almost every stone we found the marks of the mineralogist’s hammer
and chisel.  The nineteen smaller stones of the inner circle are of
granite.  I, who had just come from Professor Sedgwick’s Cambridge
Museum of megatheria and mastodons, was ready to maintain that some
cleverer elephants or mylodonta had borne off and laid these rocks one
on another.  Only the good beasts must have known how to cut a
well-wrought tenon and mortise, and to smooth the surface of some of the
stones.  The chief mystery is, that any mystery should have been allowed
to settle on so remarkable a monument, in a country on which all the
muses have kept their eyes now for eighteen hundred years.  We are not
yet too late to learn much more than is known of this structure.  Some
diligent Fellowes or Layard will arrive, stone by stone, at the whole
history, by that exhaustive British sense and perseverance, so whimsical
in its choice of objects, which leaves its own Stonehenge or Choir Gaur
to the rabbits, whilst it opens pyramids, and uncovers Nineveh.
Stonehenge, in virtue of the simplicity of its plan, and its good
preservation, is as if new and recent; and, a thousand years hence, men
will thank this age for the accurate history it will yet eliminate. We
walked in and out, and took again and again a fresh look at the uncanny
stones.  The old sphinx put our petty differences of nationality out of
sight.  To these conscious stones we two pilgrims were alike known and
near.  We could equally well revere their old British meaning.  My
philosopher was subdued and gentle.  In this quiet house of destiny, he
happened to say, "I plant cypresses wherever I go, and if I am in search
of pain, I cannot go wrong."  The spot, the gray blocks, and their rude
order, which refuses to be disposed of, suggested to him the flight of
ages, and the succession of religious.  The old times of England impress
C. much; he reads little, he says, in these last years, but "_Acta
Sanctorum_," the fifty-three volumes of which are in the "London
Library."  He finds all English history therein.  He can see, as he
reads, the old saint of Iona sitting there, and writing, a man to men.
The _Acta Sanctorum_ show plainly that the men of those times believed
in God, and in the immortality of the soul, as their abbeys and
cathedrals testify: now, even the puritanism is all gone.  London is
pagan.  He fancied that greater men had lived in England than any of her
writers; and, in fact, about the time when those writers appeared, the
last of these were already gone.

We left the mound in the twilight, with the design to return the next
morning, and coming back two miles to our inn, we were met by little
showers, and late as it was, men and women were out attempting to
protect their spread windrows.  The grass grows rank and dark in the
showery England.  At the inn, there was only milk for one cup of tea.
When we called for more, the girl brought us three drops.  My friend was
annoyed who stood for the credit of an English inn, and still more, the
next morning, by the dog-cart, sole procurable vehicle, in which we were
to be sent to Wilton.  I engaged the local antiquary, Mr. Brown, to go
with us to Stonehenge, on our way, and show us what he knew of the
"astronomical" and "sacrificial" stones.  I stood on the last, and he
pointed to the upright, or rather, inclined stone, called the
"astronomical," and bade me notice that its top ranged with the
sky-line.  "Yes."  Very well.  Now, at the summer solstice, the sun
rises exactly over the top of that stone, and, at the Druidical temple
at Abury, there is also an astronomical stone, in the same relative

In the silence of tradition, this one relation to science becomes an
important clew; but we were content to leave the problem, with the
rocks.  Was this the "Giants’ Dance" which Merlin brought from
Killaraus, in Ireland, to be Uther Pendragon’s monument to the British
nobles whom Hengist slaughtered here, as Geoffrey of Monmouth relates?
or was it a Roman work, as Inigo Jones explained to King James; or
identical in design and style with the East Indian temples of the sun;
as Davies in the Celtic Researches maintains?  Of all the writers,
Stukeley is the best.  The heroic antiquary, charmed with the geometric
perfections of his ruin, connects it with the oldest monuments and
religion of the world, and, with the courage of his tribe, does not
stick to say, "the Deity who made the world by the scheme of
Stonehenge."  He finds that the _cursus_²³ on Salisbury Plain stretches
across the downs, like a line of latitude upon the globe, and the
meridian line of Stonehenge passes exactly through the middle of this
_cursus_. But here is the high point of the theory: the Druids had the
magnet; laid their courses by it; their cardinal points in Stonehenge,
Ambresbury, and elsewhere, which vary a little from true east and west,
followed the variations of the compass.  The Druids were Phoenicians.
The name of the magnet is _lapis Heracleus_, and Hercules was the god of
the Phoenicians.  Hercules, in the legend, drew his bow at the sun, and
the sun-god gave him a golden cup, with which he sailed over the ocean.
What was this, but a compass-box?  This cup or little boat, in which the
magnet was made to float on water, and so show the north, was probably
its first form, before it was suspended on a pin.  But science was an
_arcanum_, and, as Britain was a Phoenician secret, so they kept their
compass a secret, and it was lost with the Tyrian commerce.  The golden
fleece, again, of Jason, was the compass,--a bit of loadstone, easily
supposed to be the only one in the world, and therefore naturally
awakening the cupidity and ambition of the young heroes of a maritime
nation to join in an expedition to obtain possession of this wise stone.
Hence the fable that the ship Argo was loquacious and oracular.  There
is also some curious coincidence in the names.  Apollodorus makes
_Magnes_ the son of _Æolus_, who married _Nais_.  On hints like these,
Stukeley builds again the grand colonnade into historic harmony, and
computing backward by the known variations of the compass, bravely
assigns the year 406 before Christ for the date of the temple.

   ²³ Connected with Stonehenge are an avenue and a _cursus_. The avenue
      is a narrow road of raised earth, extending 594 yards in a
      straight line from the grand entrance, then dividing into two
      branches, which lead, severally, to a row of barrows: and to the
      cursus,--an artificially formed flat tract of ground.  This is
      half a mile northeast from Stonehenge, bounded by banks and
      ditches, 3,036 yards long, by 110 broad.

For the difficulty of handling and carrying stones of this size, the
like is done in all cities, every day, with no other aid than
horse-power.  I chanced to see a year ago men at work on the
substructure of a house in Bowdoin Square, in Boston, swinging a block
of granite of the size of the largest of the Stonehenge columns with an
ordinary derrick.  The men were common masons, with paddies to help, nor
did they think they were doing anything remarkable.  I suppose there
were as good men a thousand years ago.  And we wonder how Stonehenge was
built and forgotten.  After spending half an hour on the spot, we set
forth in our dog-cart over the downs for Wilton, C. not suppressing some
threats and evil omens on the proprietors, for keeping these broad
plains a wretched sheep-walk when so many thousands of Englishmen were
hungry and wanted labor.  But I heard afterwards that it is not an
economy to cultivate this land, which only yields one crop on being
broken up, and is then spoiled.

We came to Wilton and to Wilton Hall,--the renowned seat of the Earls of
Pembroke, a house known to Shakspeare and Massinger, the frequent home
of Sir Philip Sidney, where he wrote the Arcadia; where he conversed
with Lord Brooke, a man of deep thought, and a poet, who caused to be
engraved on his tombstone, "Here lies Fulke Greville Lord Brooke, the
friend of Sir Philip Sidney."  It is now the property of the Earl of
Pembroke, and the residence of his brother, Sidney Herbert, Esq., and is
esteemed a noble specimen of the English manor-hall.  My friend had a
letter from Mr. Herbert to his housekeeper, and the house was shown. The
state drawing-room is a double cube, thirty feet high, by thirty wide,
by sixty feet long: the adjoining room is a single cube, of thirty feet
every way.  Although these apartments and the long library were full of
good family portraits, Vandykes and other; and though there were some
good pictures, and a quadrangle cloister full of antique and modern
statuary,--to which C., catalogue in hand, did all too much
justice,--yet the eye was still drawn to the windows, to a magnificent
lawn, on which grew the finest cedars in England.  I had not seen more
charming grounds.  We went out, and walked over the estate.  We crossed
a bridge built by Inigo Jones over a stream, of which the gardener did
not know the name, (_Qu._ Alph?) watched the deer; climbed to the lonely
sculptured summer-house, on a hill backed by a wood; came down into the
Italian garden, and into a French pavilion, garnished with French busts;
and so, again to the house, where we found a table laid for us with
bread, meats, peaches, grapes, and wine.

On leaving Wilton House, we took the coach for Salisbury.  The Cathedral
which was finished six hundred years ago has even a spruce and modern
air, and its spire is the highest in England.  I know not why, but I had
been more struck with one of no fame at Coventry, which rises three
hundred feet from the ground, with the lightness of a mullein-plant, and
not at all implicated with the church.  Salisbury is now esteemed the
culmination of the Gothic art in England, as the buttresses are fully
unmasked, and honestly detailed from the sides of the pile.  The
interior of the Cathedral is obstructed by the organ in the middle,
acting like a screen.  I know not why in real architecture the hunger of
the eye for length of line is so rarely gratified.  The rule of art is
that a colonnade is more beautiful the longer it is, and that _ad
infinitum_.  And the nave of a church is seldom so long that it need be
divided by a screen.

We loitered in the church, outside the choir, whilst service was said.
Whilst we listened to the organ, my friend remarked, the music is good
and yet not quite religious, but somewhat as if a monk were panting to
some fine Queen of Heaven.  C. was unwilling, and we did not ask to have
the choir shown us, but returned to our inn, after seeing another old
church of the place. We passed in the train Clarendon Park, but could
see little but the edge of a wood, though C. had wished to pay closer
attention to the birthplace of the Decrees of Clarendon.  At Bishopstoke
we stopped, and found Mr. H., who received us in his carriage, and took
us to his house at Bishops Waltham.

On Sunday, we had much discourse on a very rainy day.  My friends ask,
whether there were any Americans?--any with an American idea,--any
theory of the right future of that country?  Thus challenged, I
bethought myself neither of caucuses nor congress, neither of presidents
nor of cabinet-ministers, nor of such as would make of America another
Europe.  I thought only of the simplest and purest minds; I said,
’Certainly yes; but those who hold it are fanatics of a dream which I
should hardly care to relate to your English ears, to which it might be
only ridiculous,--and yet it is the only true.’  So I opened the dogma
of no government and non-resistance, and anticipated the objections and
the fun, and procured a kind of hearing for it.  I said, it is true that
I have never seen in any country a man of sufficient valor to stand for
this truth, and yet it is plain to me that no less valor than this can
command my respect.  I can easily see the bankruptcy of the vulgar
musket-worship,--though great men be musket-worshippers; and ’t is
certain, as God liveth, the gun that does not need another gun, the law
of love and justice alone, can effect a clean revolution.  I fancied
that one or two of my anecdotes made some impression on C., and I
insisted that the manifest absurdity of the view to English feasibility
could make no difference to a gentleman; that as to our secure tenure of
our mutton-chop and spinage in London or in Boston, the soul might quote
Talleyrand, "_Monsieur, je n’en vois pas la nécessité_."²⁴  As I had
thus taken in the conversation the saint’s part, when dinner was
announced, C. refused to go out before me,--"he was altogether too
wicked."  I planted my back against the wall, and our host wittily
rescued us from the dilemma, by saying, he was the wickedest, and would
walk out first, then C. followed, and I went last.

   ²⁴ "Mais, Monseigneur, il faut que j’existe."

On the way to Winchester, whither our host accompanied us in the
afternoon, my friends asked many questions respecting American
landscape, forests, houses,--my house, for example.  It is not easy to
answer these queries well.  There I thought, in America, lies nature
sleeping, overgrowing, almost conscious, too much by half for man in the
picture, and so giving a certain tristesse, like the rank vegetation of
swamps and forests seen at night, steeped in dews and rains, which it
loves; and on it man seems not able to make much impression. There, in
that great sloven continent, in high Alleghany pastures, in the
sea-wide, sky-skirted prairie, still sleeps and murmurs and hides the
great mother, long since driven away from the trim hedge-rows and
over-cultivated garden of England.  And, in England, I am quite too
sensible of this.  Every one is on his good behavior, and must be
dressed for dinner at six.  So I put off my friends with very inadequate
details, as best I could.

Just before entering Winchester, we stopped at the Church of Saint
Cross, and, after looking through the quaint antiquity, we demanded a
piece of bread and a draught of beer, which the founder, Henry de Blois,
in 1136, commanded should be given to every one who should ask it at the
gate.  We had both, from the old couple who take care of the church.
Some twenty people, every day, they said, make the same demand.  This
hospitality of seven hundred years’ standing did not hinder C. from
pronouncing a malediction on the priest who receives £2,000 a year, that
were meant for the poor, and spends a pittance on this small-beer and

In the Cathedral, I was gratified, at least by the ample dimensions.
The length of line exceeds that of any other English church; being 556
feet by 250 in breadth of transept.  I think I prefer this church to all
I have seen, except Westminster and York.  Here was Canute buried, and
here Alfred the Great was crowned and buried, and here the Saxon kings:
and, later, in his own church, William of Wykeham.  It is very old: part
of the crypt into which we went down and saw the Saxon and Norman arches
of the old church on which the present stands, was built fourteen or
fifteen hundred years ago.  Sharon Turner says: "Alfred was buried at
Winchester, in the Abbey he had founded there, but his remains were
removed by Henry I. to the new Abbey in the meadows at Hyde, on the
northern quarter of the city, and laid under the high altar.  The
building was destroyed at the Reformation, and what is left of Alfred’s
body now lies covered by modern buildings, or buried in the ruins of the
old."²⁵  William of Wykeham’s shrine tomb was unlocked for us, and C.
took hold of the recumbent statue’s marble hands, and patted them
affectionately, for he rightly values the brave man who built Windsor,
and this Cathedral, and the School here, and New College at Oxford.  But
it was growing late in the afternoon.  Slowly we left the old house, and
parting with our host, we took the train for London.

   ²⁵ History of the Anglo-Saxons, I.  599.


In these comments on an old journey now revised after seven busy years
have much changed men and things in England, I have abstained from
reference to persons, except in the last chapter, and in one or two
cases where the fame of the parties seemed to have given the public a
property in all that concerned them.  I must further allow myself a few
notices, if only as an acknowledgment of debts that cannot be paid.  My
journeys were cheered by so much kindness from new friends, that my
impression of the island is bright with agreeable memories both of
public societies and of households; and, what is nowhere better found
than in England, a cultivated person fitly surrounded by a happy home,
"with honor, love, obedience, troops of friends," is of all institutions
the best.  At the landing in Liverpool, I found my Manchester
correspondent awaiting me, a gentleman whose kind reception was followed
by a train of friendly and effective attentions which never rested
whilst I remained in the country.  A man of sense and of letters, the
editor of a powerful local journal, he added to solid virtues an
infinite sweetness and _bonhommie_.  There seemed a pool of honey about
his heart which lubricated all his speech and action with fine jets of
mead.  An equal good-fortune attended many later accidents of my
journey, until the sincerity of English kindness ceased to surprise.  My
visit fell in the fortunate days when Mr. Bancroft was the American
Minister in London, and at his house, or through his good offices, I had
easy access to excellent persons and to privileged places.  At the house
of Mr. Carlyle, I met persons eminent in society and in letters.  The
privileges of the Athenæum and of the Reform Clubs were hospitably
opened to me, and I found much advantage in the circles of the
"Geologic," the "Antiquarian," and the "Royal Societies."  Every day in
London gave me new opportunities of meeting men and women who give
splendor to society.  I saw Rogers, Hallam, Macaulay, Milnes, Milman,
Barry Cornwall, Dickens, Thackeray, Tennyson, Leigh Hunt, D’Israeli,
Helps, Wilkinson, Bailey, Kenyon, and Forster: the younger poets,
Clough, Arnold, and Patmore; and, among the men of science, Robert
Brown, Owen, Sedgwick, Faraday, Buckland, Lyell, De la Beche, Hooker,
Carpenter, Babbage, and Edward Forbes.  It was my privilege also to
converse with Miss Baillie, with Lady Morgan, with Mrs. Jameson, and
Mrs. Somerville. A finer hospitality made many private houses not less
known and dear.  It is not in distinguished circles that wisdom and
elevated characters are usually found, or, if found, not confined
thereto; and my recollections of the best hours go back to private
conversations in different parts of the kingdom, with persons little
known.  Nor am I insensible to the courtesy which frankly opened to me
some noble mansions, if I do not adorn my page with their names.  Among
the privileges of London, I recall with pleasure two or three signal
days, one at Kew, where Sir William Hooker showed me all the riches of
the vast botanic garden; one at the Museum, where Sir Charles Fellowes
explained in detail the history of his Ionic trophy-monument; and still
another, on which Mr. Owen accompanied my countryman Mr. H. and myself
through the Hunterian Museum.

The like frank hospitality, bent on real service, I found among the
great and the humble, wherever I went; in Birmingham, in Oxford, in
Leicester, in Nottingham, in Sheffield, in Manchester, in Liverpool.  At
Edinburgh, through the kindness of Dr. Samuel Brown, I made the
acquaintance of De Quincey, of Lord Jeffrey, of Wilson, of Mrs. Crowe,
of the Messrs. Chambers, and of a man of high character and genius, the
short-lived painter David Scott.

At Ambleside, in March, 1848, I was for a couple of days the guest of
Miss Martineau, then newly returned from her Egyptian tour.  On Sunday
afternoon, I accompanied her to Rydal Mount.  And as I have recorded a
visit to Wordsworth, many years before, I must not forget this second
interview.  We found Mr. Wordsworth asleep on the sofa.  He was at first
silent and indisposed, as an old man, suddenly waked, before he had
ended his nap; but soon became full of talk on the French news. He was
nationally bitter on the French: bitter on Scotchmen, too.  No
Scotchman, he said, can write English. He detailed the two models, on
one or the other of which all the sentences of the historian Robertson
are framed. Nor could Jeffrey, nor the Edinburgh Reviewers write
English, nor can .... who is a pest to the English tongue.  Incidentally
he added, Gibbon cannot write English.  The _Edinburgh Review_ wrote
what would tell and what would sell.  It had however changed the tone of
its literary criticism from the time when a certain letter was written
to the editor by Coleridge.  Mrs. W. had the Editor’s answer in her
possession.  Tennyson he thinks a right poetic genius, though with some
affectation.  He had thought an elder brother of Tennyson at first the
better poet, but must now reckon Alfred the true one..... In speaking of
I know not what style, he said, "To be sure it was the manner, but then
you know the matter always comes out of the manner." .... He thought Rio
Janeiro the best place in the world for a great capital city.....  We
talked of English national character.  I told him it was not creditable
that no one in all the country knew anything of Thomas Taylor, the
Platonist, whilst in every American library his translations are found.
I said, if Plato’s Republic were published in England as a new book
to-day, do you think it would find any readers?--he confessed, it would
not: "And yet," he added after a pause, with that complacency which
never deserts a true-born Englishman,--"and yet we have embodied it

His opinions of French, English, Irish, and Scotch seemed rashly
formulized from little anecdotes of what had befallen himself and
members of his family, in a diligence or stage-coach.  His face
sometimes lighted up, but his conversation was not marked by special
force or elevation.  Yet perhaps it is a high compliment to the
cultivation of the English generally, when we find such a man not
distinguished.  He had a healthy look, with a weather-beaten face, his
face corrugated, especially the large nose.

Miss Martineau, who lived near him, praised him to me, not for his
poetry, but for thrift and economy; for having afforded to his country
neighbors an example of a modest household, where comfort and culture
were secured without any display.  She said, that, in his early
housekeeping at the cottage where he first lived, he was accustomed to
offer his friends bread and plainest fare: if they wanted anything more,
they must pay him for their board.  It was the rule of the house.  I
replied, that it evinced English pluck more than any anecdote I knew.  A
gentleman in the neighborhood told the story of Walter Scott’s once
staying a week with Wordsworth, and slipping out every day under
pretence of a walk, to the Swan Inn, for a cold cut and porter; and one
day passing with Wordsworth the inn, he was betrayed by the landlord’s
asking him if he had come for his porter. Of course, this trait would
have another look in London, and there you will hear from different
literary men, that Wordsworth had no personal friend, that he was not
amiable, that he was parsimonious, etc.  Landor, always generous, says
that he never praised anybody.  A gentleman in London showed me a watch
that once belonged to Milton, whose initials are engraved on its face.
He said, he once showed this to Wordsworth, who took it in one hand,
then drew out his own watch, and held it up with the other, before the
company, but no one making the expected remark, he put back his own in
silence.  I do not attach much importance to the disparagement of
Wordsworth among London scholars.  Who reads him well will know, that in
following the strong bent of his genius, he was careless of the many,
careless also of the few, self-assured that he should "create the taste
by which he is to be enjoyed."  He lived long enough to witness the
revolution he had wrought, and "to see what he foresaw."  There are
torpid places in his mind, there is something hard and sterile in his
poetry, want of grace and variety, want of due catholicity and
cosmopolitan scope: he had conformities to English politics and
traditions; he had egotistic puerilities in the choice and treatment of
his subjects; but let us say of him, that, alone in his time, he treated
the human mind well, and with an absolute trust.  His adherence to his
poetic creed rested on real inspirations.  The Ode on Immortality is the
high-water mark which the intellect has reached in this age.  New means
were employed, and new realms added to the empire of the muse, by his


England is the best of actual nations.  It is no ideal framework, it is
an old pile built in different ages, with repairs, additions, and
makeshifts; but you see the poor best you have got.  London is the
epitome of our times, and the Rome of to-day.  Broad-fronted,
broad-bottomed Teutons, they stand in solid phalanx foursquare to the
points of compass; they constitute the modern world, they have earned
their vantage-ground, and held it through ages of adverse possession.
They are well marked and differing from other leading races.  England is
tender-hearted.  Rome was not.  England is not so public in its bias;
private life is its place of honor. Truth in private life, untruth in
public, marks these home-loving men.  Their political conduct is not
decided by general views, but by internal intrigues and personal and
family interest.  They cannot readily see beyond England.  The history
of Rome and Greece, when written by their scholars, degenerates into
English party pamphlets.  They cannot see beyond England, nor in England
can they transcend the interests of the governing classes.  "English
principles" mean a primary regard to the interests of property.
England, Scotland, and Ireland combine to check the colonies.  England
and Scotland combine to check Irish manufactures and trade.  England
rallies at home to check Scotland.  In England, the strong classes check
the weaker.  In the home population of near thirty millions, there are
but one million voters.  The Church punishes dissent, punishes
education.  Down to a late day, marriages performed by dissenters were
illegal.  A bitter class-legislation gives power to those who are rich
enough to buy a law.  The game-laws are a proverb of oppression.
Pauperism incrusts and clogs the state, and in hard times becomes
hideous.  In bad seasons, the porridge was diluted. Multitudes lived
miserably by shell-fish and sea-ware. In cities, the children are
trained to beg, until they shall be old enough to rob.  Men and women
were convicted of poisoning scores of children for burial fees.  In
Irish districts, men deteriorated in size and shape.  The nose sunk, the
gums were exposed, with diminished brain and brutal form.  During the
Australian emigration, multitudes were rejected by the commissioners as
being too emaciated for useful colonists.  During the Russian war, few
of those that offered as recruits were found up to the medical standard,
though it had been reduced.

The foreign policy of England, though ambitious and lavish of money, has
not often been generous or just.  It has a principal regard to the
interest of trade, checked however by the aristocratic bias of the
ambassador, which usually puts him in sympathy with the continental
Courts. It sanctioned the partition of Poland, it betrayed Genoa,
Sicily, Parga, Greece, Turkey, Rome, and Hungary.

Some public regards they have.  They have abolished slavery in the West
Indies, and put an end to human sacrifices in the East.  At home they
have a certain statute hospitality.  England keeps open doors, as a
trading country must, to all nations.  It is one of their fixed ideas,
and wrathfully supported by their laws in unbroken sequence for a
thousand years.  In _Magna Charta_ it was ordained, that all "merchants
shall have safe and secure conduct to go out and come into England, and
to stay there, and to pass as well by land as by water, to buy and sell
by the ancient allowed customs, without any evil toll, except in time of
war, or when they shall be of any nation at war with us."  It is a
statute and obliged hospitality, and peremptorily maintained.  But this
shop-rule had one magnificent effect. It extends its cold unalterable
courtesy to political exiles of every opinion, and is a fact which might
give additional light to that portion of the planet seen from the
farthest star.  But this perfunctory hospitality puts no sweetness into
their unaccommodating manners, no check on that puissant nationality
which makes their existence incompatible with all that is not English.

What we must say about a nation is a superficial dealing with symptoms.
We cannot go deep enough into the biography of the spirit who never
throws himself entire into one hero, but delegates his energy in parts
or spasms to vicious and defective individuals.  But the wealth of the
source is seen in the plenitude of English nature.  What variety of
power and talent; what facility and plenteousness of knighthood,
lordship, ladyship, royalty, loyalty; what a proud chivalry is indicated
in "Collins’s Peerage," through eight hundred years! What dignity
resting on what reality and stoutness! What courage in war, what sinew
in labor, what cunning workmen, what inventors and engineers, what
seamen and pilots, what clerks and scholars!  No one man and no few men
can represent them.  It is a people of myriad personalities.  Their
many-headedness is owing to the advantageous position of the middle
class, who are always the source of letters and science.  Hence the vast
plenty of their æsthetic production.  As they are many-headed, so they
are many-nationed; their colonization annexes archipelagoes and
continents, and their speech seems destined to be the universal language
of men.  I have noted the reserve of power in the English temperament.
In the island, they never let out all the length of all the reins, there
is no Berserkir rage, no abandonment or ecstasy of will or intellect,
like that of the Arabs in the time of Mahomet, or like that which
intoxicated France in 1789.  But who would see the uncoiling of that
tremendous spring, the explosion of their well-husbanded forces, must
follow the swarms which, pouring now for two hundred years from the
British islands, have sailed, and rode, and traded, and planted, through
all climates, mainly following the belt of empire, the temperate zones,
carrying the Saxon seed, with its instinct for liberty and law, for arts
and for thought,--acquiring under some skies a more electric energy than
the native air allows,--to the conquest of the globe.  Their colonial
policy, obeying the necessities of a vast empire, has become liberal.
Canada and Australia have been contented with substantial independence.
They are expiating the wrongs of India, by benefits: first, in works for
the irrigation of the peninsula, and roads and telegraphs; and secondly,
in the instruction of the people, to qualify them for self-government,
when the British power shall be finally called home.

Their mind is in a state of arrested development,--a divine cripple like
Vulcan; a blind _savant_ like Huber and Sanderson.  They do not occupy
themselves on matters of general and lasting import, but on a corporeal
civilization, on goods that perish in the using.  But they read with
good intent, and what they learn they incarnate.  The English mind turns
every abstraction it can receive into a portable utensil, or a working
institution. Such is their tenacity, and such their practical turn, that
they hold all they gain.  Hence we say, that only the English race can
be trusted with freedom,--freedom which is double-edged and dangerous to
any but the wise and robust.  The English designate the kingdoms emulous
of free institutions as the sentimental nations. Their own culture is
not an outside varnish, but is thorough and secular in families and the
race.  They are oppressive with their temperament, and all the more that
they are refined.  I have sometimes seen them walk with my countrymen,
when I was forced to allow them every advantage, and their companions
seemed bags of bones. There is cramp limitation in their habit of
thought, sleepy routine, and a tortoise’s instinct to hold hard to the
ground with his claws, lest he should be thrown on his back.  There is a
drag of inertia which resists reform in every shape; law-reform,
army-reform, extension of suffrage, Jewish franchise, Catholic
emancipation,--the abolition of slavery, of impressment, penal code, and
entails.  They praise this drag, under the formula, that it is the
excellence of the British constitution, that no law can anticipate the
public opinion.  These poor tortoises must hold hard, for they feel no
wings sprouting at their shoulders.  Yet somewhat divine warms at their
heart, and waits a happier hour.  It hides in their sturdy will.
"Will," said the old philosophy, "is the measure of power," and
personality is the token of this race. _Quid vult valde vult_.  What
they do they do with a will. You cannot account for their success by
their Christianity, commerce, charter, common law, Parliament, or
letters, but by the contumacious sharp-tongued energy of English
_naturel_, with a poise impossible to disturb, which makes all these its
instruments.  They are slow and reticent, and are like a dull good horse
which lets every nag pass him, but with whip and spur will run down
every racer in the field.  They are right in their feeling, though wrong
in their speculation.

The feudal system survives in the steep inequality of property and
privilege, in the limited franchise, in the social barriers which
confine patronage and promotion to a caste, and still more in the
submissive ideas pervading these people.  The fagging of the schools is
repeated in the social classes.  An Englishman shows no mercy to those
below him in the social scale, as he looks for none from those above
him; any forbearance from his superiors surprises him, and they suffer
in his good opinion.  But the feudal system can be seen with less pain
on large historical grounds.  It was pleaded in mitigation of the rotten
borough, that it worked well, that substantial justice was done.  Fox,
Burke, Pitt, Erskine, Wilberforce, Sheridan, Romilly, or whatever
national men, were by this means sent to Parliament, when their return
by large constituencies would have been doubtful.  So now we say, that
the right measures of England are the men it bred; that it has yielded
more able men in five hundred years than any other nation; and, though
we must not play Providence, and balance the chances of producing ten
great men against the comfort of ten thousand mean men, yet
retrospectively we may strike the balance, and prefer one Alfred, one
Shakspeare, one Milton, one Sidney, one Raleigh, one Wellington, to a
million foolish democrats.

The American system is more democratic, more humane; yet the American
people do not yield better or more able men, or more inventions or books
or benefits, than the English.  Congress is not wiser or better than
Parliament.  France has abolished its suffocating old _régime_, but is
not recently marked by any more wisdom or virtue.

The power of performance has not been exceeded,--the creation of value.
The English have given importance to individuals, a principal end and
fruit of every society. Every man is allowed and encouraged to be what
he is, and is guarded in the indulgence of his whim.  "Magna Charta,"
said Rushworth, "is such a fellow that he will have no sovereign."  By
this general activity, and by this sacredness of individuals, they have
in seven hundred years evolved the principles of freedom.  It is the
land of patriots, martyrs, sages, and bards, and if the ocean out of
which it emerged should wash it away, it will be remembered as an island
famous for immortal laws, for the announcements of original right which
make the stone tables of liberty.

A few days after my arrival at Manchester, in November, 1847, the
Manchester Athenæum gave its annual Banquet in the Free-Trade Hall.
With other guests, I was invited to be present, and to address the
company. In looking over recently a newspaper report of my remarks, I
incline to reprint it, as fitly expressing the feeling with which I
entered England, and which agrees well enough with the more deliberate
results of better acquaintance recorded in the foregoing pages.  Sir
Archibald Alison, the historian, presided, and opened the meeting with a
speech.  He was followed by Mr. Cobden, Lord Brackley, and others, among
whom was Mr. Cruikshank, one of the contributors to "Punch."  Mr.
Dickens’s letter of apology for his absence was read.  Mr. Jerrold, who
had been announced, did not appear.  On being introduced to the meeting
I said:--

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: It is pleasant to me to meet this great and
brilliant company, and doubly pleasant to see the faces of so many
distinguished persons on this platform.  But I have known all these
persons already.  When I was at home, they were as near to me as they
are to you.  The arguments of the League and its leader are known to all
the friends of free trade. The gayeties and genius, the political, the
social, the parietal wit of "Punch" go duly every fortnight to every boy
and girl in Boston and New York.  Sir, when I came to sea, I found the
"History of Europe"²⁶ on the ship’s cabin table, the property of the
captain;--a sort of programme or play-bill to tell the seafaring
New-Englander what he shall find on his landing here.  And as for
Dombey, sir, there is no land where paper exists to print on, where it
is not found; no man who can read, that does not read it, and, if he
cannot, he finds some charitable pair of eyes that can, and hears it.

   ²⁶ By Sir A. Alison.

But these things are not for me to say; these compliments, though true,
would better come from one who felt and understood these merits more.  I
am not here to exchange civilities with you, but rather to speak of that
which I am sure interests these gentlemen more than their own praises;
of that which is good in holidays and working-days, the same in one
century and in another century.  That which lures a solitary American in
the woods with the wish to see England, is the moral peculiarity of the
Saxon race,--its commanding sense of right and wrong,--the love and
devotion to that,--this is the imperial trait, which arms them with the
sceptre of the globe.  It is this which lies at the foundation of that
aristocratic character, which certainly wanders into strange vagaries,
so that its origin is often lost sight of, but which, if it should lose
this, would find itself paralyzed; and in trade, and in the mechanic’s
shop, gives that honesty in performance, that thoroughness and solidity
of work, which is a national characteristic.  This conscience is one
element, and the other is that loyal adhesion, that habit of friendship,
that homage of man to man, running through all classes,--the electing of
worthy persons to a certain fraternity, to acts of kindness and warm and
stanch support, from year to year, from youth to age,--which is alike
lovely and honorable to those who render and those who receive
it;--which stands in strong contrast with the superficial attachments of
other races, their excessive courtesy, and short-lived connection.

You will think me very pedantic, gentlemen, but holiday though it be, I
have not the smallest interest in any holiday, except as it celebrates
real and not pretended joys; and I think it just, in this time of gloom
and commercial disaster, of affliction and beggary in these districts,
that on these very accounts I speak of, you should not fail to keep your
literary anniversary.  I seem to hear you say, that, for all that is
come and gone yet, we will not reduce by one chaplet or one oak-leaf the
braveries of our annual feast.  For I must tell you, I was given to
understand in my childhood, that the British island from which my
forefathers came, was no lotus-garden, no paradise of serene sky and
roses and music and merriment all the year round, no, but a cold, foggy,
mournful country, where nothing grew well in the open air, but robust
men and virtuous women, and these of a wonderful fibre and endurance;
that their best parts were slowly revealed; their virtues did not come
out until they quarrelled: they did not strike twelve the first time;
good lovers, good haters, and you could know little about them till you
had seen them long, and little good of them till you had seen them in
action; that in prosperity they were moody and dumpish, but in adversity
they were grand.  Is it not true, sir, that the wise ancients did not
praise the ship parting with flying colors from the port, but only that
brave sailer which came back with torn sheets and battered sides, stript
of her banners, but having ridden out the storm?  And so, gentlemen, I
feel in regard to this aged England, with the possessions, honors, and
trophies, and also with the infirmities of a thousand years gathering
around her, irretrievably committed as she now is to many old customs
which cannot be suddenly changed; pressed upon by the transitions of
trade, and new and all incalculable modes, fabrics, arts, machines, and
competing populations,--I see her not dispirited, not weak, but well
remembering that she has seen dark days before; indeed, with a kind of
instinct that she sees a little better in a cloudy day, and that in
storm of battle and calamity, she has a secret vigor and a pulse like a
cannon.  I see her in her old age, not decrepit, but young, and still
daring to believe in her power of endurance and expansion.  Seeing this,
I say, All hail! mother of nations, mother of heroes, with strength
still equal to the time; still wise to entertain and swift to execute
the policy which the mind and heart of mankind require in the present
hour, and thus only hospitable to the foreigner, and truly a home to the
thoughtful and generous who are born in the soil.  So be it! so let it
be!  If it be not so, if the courage of England goes with the chances of
a commercial crisis, I will go back to the capes of Massachusetts, and
my own Indian stream, and say to my countrymen, the old race are all
gone, and the elasticity and hope of mankind must henceforth remain on
the Alleghauy ranges, or nowhere.

                                THE END.

      Cambridge: Electrotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.

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