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´╗┐Title: Our Old Home: A Series of English Sketches
Author: Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
Language: English
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OUR OLD HOME

A Series of English Sketches

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne


To Franklin Pierce,

As a Slight Memorial of a College Friendship, prolonged through Manhood,
and retaining all its Vitality in our Autumnal Years,

This Volume is inscribed by  NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.



TO A FRIEND.


I have not asked your consent, my dear General, to the foregoing
inscription, because it would have been no inconsiderable disappointment
to me had you withheld it; for I have long desired to connect your name
with some book of mine, in commemoration of an early friendship that has
grown old between two individuals of widely dissimilar pursuits and
fortunes.  I only wish that the offering were a worthier one than this
volume of sketches, which certainly are not of a kind likely to prove
interesting to a statesman in retirement, inasmuch as they meddle with no
matters of policy or government, and have very little to say about the
deeper traits of national character.  In their humble way, they belong
entirely to aesthetic literature, and can achieve no higher success than
to represent to the American reader a few of the external aspects of
English scenery and life, especially those that are touched with the
antique charm to which our countrymen are more susceptible than are the
people among whom it is of native growth.

I once hoped, indeed, that so slight a volume would not be all that I
might write.  These and other sketches, with which, in a somewhat rougher
form than I have given them here, my journal was copiously filled, were
intended for the side-scenes and backgrounds and exterior adornment of a
work of fiction of which the plan had imperfectly developed itself in my
mind, and into which I ambitiously proposed to convey more of various
modes of truth than I could have grasped by a direct effort.  Of course,
I should not mention this abortive project, only that it has been utterly
thrown aside and will never now be accomplished.  The Present, the
Immediate, the Actual, has proved too potent for me.  It takes away not
only my scanty faculty, but even my desire for imaginative composition,
and leaves me sadly content to scatter a thousand peaceful fantasies upon
the hurricane that is sweeping us all along with it, possibly, into a
Limbo where our nation and its polity may be as literally the fragments
of a shattered dream as my unwritten Romance.  But I have far better
hopes for our dear country; and for my individual share of the
catastrophe, I afflict myself little, or not at all, and shall easily
find room for the abortive work on a certain ideal shelf, where are
reposited many other shadowy volumes of mine, more in number, and very
much superior in quality, to those which I have succeeded in rendering
actual.

To return to these poor Sketches; some of my friends have told me that
they evince an asperity of sentiment towards the English people which I
ought not to feel, and which it is highly inexpedient to express.  The
charge surprises me, because, if it be true, I have written from a
shallower mood than I supposed.  I seldom came into personal relations
with an Englishman without beginning to like him, and feeling my
favorable impression wax stronger with the progress of the acquaintance.
I never stood in an English crowd without being conscious of hereditary
sympathies.  Nevertheless, it is undeniable that an American is
continually thrown upon his national antagonism by some acrid quality in
the moral atmosphere of England.  These people think so loftily of
themselves, and so contemptuously of everybody else, that it requires
more generosity than I possess to keep always in perfectly good-humor
with them.  Jotting down the little acrimonies of the moment in my
journal, and transferring them thence (when they happened to be tolerably
well expressed) to these pages, it is very possible that I may have said
things which a profound observer of national character would hesitate to
sanction, though never any, I verily believe, that had not more or less
of truth.  If they be true, there is no reason in the world why they
should not be said.  Not an Englishman of them all ever spared America
for courtesy's sake or kindness; nor, in my opinion, would it contribute
in the least to our mutual advantage and comfort if we were to besmear
one another all over with butter and honey.  At any rate, we must not
judge of an Englishman's susceptibilities by our own, which, likewise, I
trust, are of a far less sensitive texture than formerly.

And now farewell, my dear friend; and excuse (if you think it needs any
excuse) the freedom with which I thus publicly assert a personal
friendship between a private individual and a statesman who has filled
what was then the most august position in the world.  But I dedicate my
book to the Friend, and shall defer a colloquy with the Statesman till
some calmer and sunnier hour.  Only this let me say, that, with the
record of your life in my memory, and with a sense of your character in
my deeper consciousness as among the few things that time has left as it
found them, I need no assurance that you continue faithful forever to
that grand idea of an irrevocable Union, which, as you once told me, was
the earliest that your brave father taught you.  For other men there may
be a choice of paths,--for you, but one; and it rests among my
certainties that no man's loyalty is more steadfast, no man's hopes or
apprehensions on behalf of our national existence more deeply heartfelt,
or more closely intertwined with his possibilities of personal happiness,
than those of FRANKLIN PIERCE.

THE WAYSIDE, July 2, 1863.



CONTENTS.

Consular Experiences
Leamington Spa
About Warwick
Recollections of a Gifted Woman
Lichfield and Uttoxeter
Pilgrimage to Old Boston
Near Oxford
Some of the Haunts of Burns
A London Suburb
Up the Thames
Outside Glimpses of English Poverty
Civic Banquets.



OUR OLD HOME.



CONSULAR EXPERIENCES.


The Consulate of the United States, in my day, was located in Washington
Buildings (a shabby and smoke-stained edifice of four stories high, thus
illustriously named in honor of our national establishment), at the lower
corner of Brunswick Street, contiguous to the Gorec Arcade, and in the
neighborhood of scone of the oldest docks.  This was by no means a polite
or elegant portion of England's great commercial city, nor were the
apartments of the American official so splendid as to indicate the
assumption of much consular pomp on his part.  A narrow and ill-lighted
staircase gave access to an equally narrow and ill-lighted passageway on
the first floor, at the extremity of which, surmounting a door-frame,
appeared an exceedingly stiff pictorial representation of the Goose and
Gridiron, according to the English idea of those ever-to-be-honored
symbols.  The staircase and passageway were often thronged, of a morning,
with a set of beggarly and piratical-looking scoundrels (I do no wrong to
our own countrymen in styling them so, for not one in twenty was a
genuine American), purporting to belong to our mercantile marine, and
chiefly composed of Liverpool Blackballers and the scum of every maritime
nation on earth; such being the seamen by whose assistance we then
disputed the navigation of the world with England.  These specimens of a
most unfortunate class of people were shipwrecked crews in quest of bed,
board, and clothing, invalids asking permits for the hospital, bruised
and bloody wretches complaining of ill-treatment by their officers,
drunkards, desperadoes, vagabonds, and cheats, perplexingly intermingled
with an uncertain proportion of reasonably honest men.  All of them (save
here and there a poor devil of a kidnapped landsman in his shore-going
rags) wore red flannel shirts, in which they had sweltered or shivered
throughout the voyage, and all required consular assistance in one form
or another.

Any respectable visitor, if he could make up his mind to elbow a passage
among these sea-monsters, was admitted into an outer office, where he
found more of the same species, explaining their respective wants or
grievances to the Vice-Consul and clerks, while their shipmates awaited
their turn outside the door.  Passing through this exterior court, the
stranger was ushered into an inner privacy, where sat the Consul himself,
ready to give personal attention to such peculiarly difficult and more
important cases as might demand the exercise of (what we will courteously
suppose to be) his own higher judicial or administrative sagacity.

It was an apartment of very moderate size, painted in imitation of oak,
and duskily lighted by two windows looking across a by-street at the
rough brick-side of an immense cotton warehouse, a plainer and uglier
structure than ever was built in America.  On the walls of the room hung
a large map of the United States (as they were, twenty years ago, but
seem little likely to be, twenty years hence), and a similar one of Great
Britain, with its territory so provokingly compact, that we may expect it
to sink sooner than sunder.  Farther adornments were some rude engravings
of our naval victories in the War of 1812, together with the Tennessee
State House, and a Hudson River steamer, and a colored, life-size
lithograph of General Taylor, with an honest hideousness of aspect,
occupying the place of honor above the mantel-piece.  On the top of a
bookcase stood a fierce and terrible bust of General Jackson, pilloried
in a military collar which rose above his ears, and frowning forth
immitigably at any Englishman who might happen to cross the threshold.  I
am afraid, however, that the truculence of the old General's expression
was utterly thrown away on this stolid and obdurate race of men; for,
when they occasionally inquired whom this work of art represented, I was
mortified to find that the younger ones had never heard of the battle of
New Orleans, and that their elders had either forgotten it altogether, or
contrived to misremember, and twist it wrong end foremost into something
like an English victory.  They have caught from the old Romans (whom they
resemble in so many other characteristics) this excellent method of
keeping the national glory intact by sweeping all defeats and
humiliations clean out of their memory.  Nevertheless, my patriotism
forbade me to take down either the bust, or the pictures, both because it
seemed no more than right that an American Consulate (being a little
patch of our nationality imbedded into the soil and institutions of
England) should fairly represent the American taste in the fine arts, and
because these decorations reminded me so delightfully of an old-fashioned
American barber's shop.

One truly English object was a barometer hanging on the wall, generally
indicating one or another degree of disagreeable weather, and so seldom
pointing to Fair, that I began to consider that portion of its circle as
made superfluously.  The deep chimney, with its grate of bituminous coal,
was English too, as was also the chill temperature that sometimes called
for a fire at midsummer, and the foggy or smoky atmosphere which often,
between November and March, compelled me to set the gas aflame at
noonday.  I am not aware of omitting anything important in the above
descriptive inventory, unless it be some book-shelves filled with octavo
volumes of the American Statutes, and a good many pigeon-holes stuffed
with dusty communications from former Secretaries of State, and other
official documents of similar value, constituting part of the archives of
the Consulate, which I might have done my successor a favor by flinging
into the coal-grate.  Yes; there was one other article demanding
prominent notice: the consular copy of the New Testament, bound in black
morocco, and greasy, I fear, with a daily succession of perjured kisses;
at least, I can hardly hope that all the ten thousand oaths, administered
by me between two breaths, to all sorts of people and on all manner of
worldly business, were reckoned by the swearer as if taken at his soul's
peril.

Such, in short, was the dusky and stifled chamber in which I spent
wearily a considerable portion of more than four good years of my
existence.  At first, to be quite frank with the reader, I looked upon it
as not altogether fit to be tenanted by the commercial representative of
so great and prosperous a country as the United States then were; and I
should speedily have transferred my headquarters to airier and loftier
apartments, except for the prudent consideration that my government would
have left me thus to support its dignity at my own personal expense.
Besides, a long line of distinguished predecessors, of whom the latest is
now a gallant general under the Union banner, had found the locality good
enough for them; it might certainly be tolerated, therefore, by an
individual so little ambitious of external magnificence as myself.  So I
settled quietly down, striking some of my roots into such soil as I could
find, adapting myself to circumstances, and with so much success, that,
though from first to last I hated the very sight of the little room, I
should yet have felt a singular kind of reluctance in changing it for a
better.

Hither, in the course of my incumbency, came a great variety of visitors,
principally Americans, but including almost every other nationality on
earth, especially the distressed and downfallen ones like those of Poland
and Hungary.  Italian bandits (for so they looked), proscribed
conspirators from Old Spain, Spanish-Americans, Cubans who processed to
have stood by Lopez and narrowly escaped his fate, scarred French
soldiers of the Second Republic,--in a word, all sufferers, or pretended
ones, in the cause of Liberty, all people homeless in the widest sense,
those who never had a country or had lost it, those whom their native
land had impatiently flung off for planning a better system of things
than they were born to,--a multitude of these and, doubtless, an equal
number of jail-birds, outwardly of the same feather, sought the American
Consulate, in hopes of at least a bit of bread, and, perhaps, to beg a
passage to the blessed shores of Freedom.  In most cases there was
nothing, and in any case distressingly little, to be done for them;
neither was I of a proselyting disposition, nor desired to make my
Consulate a nucleus for the vagrant discontents of other lands.  And yet
it was a proud thought, a forcible appeal to the sympathies of an
American, that these unfortunates claimed the privileges of citizenship
in our Republic on the strength of the very same noble misdemeanors that
had rendered them outlaws to their native despotisms.  So I gave them
what small help I could.  Methinks the true patriots and martyr-spirits
of the whole world should have been conscious of a pang near the heart,
when a deadly blow was aimed at the vitality of a country which they have
felt to be their own in the last resort.

As for my countrymen, I grew better acquainted with many of our national
characteristics during those four years than in all my preceding life.
Whether brought more strikingly out by the contrast with English manners,
or that my Yankee friends assumed an extra peculiarity from a sense of
defiant patriotism, so it was that their tones, sentiments, and behavior,
even their figures and cast of countenance, all seemed chiselled in
sharper angles than ever I had imagined them to be at home.  It impressed
me with an odd idea of having somehow lost the property of my own person,
when I occasionally heard one of them speaking of me as "my Consul"!
They often came to the Consulate in parties of half a dozen or more, on
no business whatever, but merely to subject their public servant to a
rigid examination, and see how he was getting on with his duties.  These
interviews were rather formidable, being characterized by a certain
stiffness which I felt to be sufficiently irksome at the moment, though
it looks laughable enough in the retrospect.  It is my firm belief that
these fellow-citizens, possessing a native tendency to organization,
generally halted outside of the door to elect a speaker, chairman, or
moderator, and thus approached me with all the formalities of a
deputation from the American people.  After salutations on both sides,--
abrupt, awful, and severe on their part, and deprecatory on mine,--and
the national ceremony of shaking hands being duly gone through with, the
interview proceeded by a series of calm and well-considered questions or
remarks from the spokesman (no other of the guests vouchsafing to utter a
word), and diplomatic responses from the Consul, who sometimes found the
investigation a little more searching than he liked.  I flatter myself,
however, that, by much practice, I attained considerable skill in this
kind of intercourse, the art of which lies in passing off commonplaces
for new and valuable truths, and talking trash and emptiness in such a
way that a pretty acute auditor might mistake it for something solid.  If
there be any better method of dealing with such junctures,--when talk is
to be created out of nothing, and within the scope of several minds at
once, so that you cannot apply yourself to your interlocutor's
individuality,--I have not learned it.

Sitting, as it were, in the gateway between the Old World and the New,
where the steamers and packets landed the greater part of our wandering
countrymen, and received them again when their wanderings were done, I
saw that no people on earth have such vagabond habits as ourselves.  The
Continental races never travel at all if they can help it; nor does an
Englishman ever think of stirring abroad, unless he has the money to
spare, or proposes to himself some definite advantage from the journey;
but it seemed to me that nothing was more common than for a young
American deliberately to spend all his resources in an aesthetic
peregrination about Europe, returning with pockets nearly empty to begin
the world in earnest.  It happened, indeed, much oftener than was at all
agreeable to myself, that their funds held out just long enough to bring
them to the door of my Consulate, where they entered as if with an
undeniable right to its shelter and protection, and required at my hands
to be sent home again.  In my first simplicity,--finding them gentlemanly
in manners, passably educated, and only tempted a little beyond their
means by a laudable desire of improving and refining themselves, or,
perhaps for the sake of getting better artistic instruction in music,
painting, or sculpture than our country could supply,--I sometimes took
charge of them on my private responsibility, since our government gives
itself no trouble about its stray children, except the seafaring class.
But, after a few such experiments, discovering that none of these
estimable and ingenuous young men, however trustworthy they might appear,
ever dreamed of reimbursing the Consul, I deemed it expedient to take
another course with them.  Applying myself to some friendly shipmaster, I
engaged homeward passages on their behalf, with the understanding that
they were to make themselves serviceable on shipboard; and I remember
several very pathetic appeals from painters and musicians, touching the
damage which their artistic fingers were likely to incur from handling
the ropes.  But my observation of so many heavier troubles left me very
little tenderness for their finger-ends.  In time I grew to be reasonably
hard-hearted, though it never was quite possible to leave a countryman
with no shelter save an English poorhouse, when, as he invariably
averred, he had only to set foot on his native soil to be possessed of
ample funds.  It was my ultimate conclusion, however, that American
ingenuity may be pretty safely left to itself, and that, one way or
another, a Yankee vagabond is certain to turn up at his own threshold, if
he has any, without help of a Consul, and perhaps be taught a lesson of
foresight that may profit him hereafter.

Among these stray Americans, I met with no other case so remarkable as
that of an old man, who was in the habit of visiting me once in a few
months, and soberly affirmed that he had been wandering about England
more than a quarter of a century (precisely twenty-seven years, I think),
and all the while doing his utmost to get home again.  Herman Melville,
in his excellent novel or biography of "Israel Potter," has an idea
somewhat similar to this.  The individual now in question was a mild and
patient, but very ragged and pitiable old fellow, shabby beyond
description, lean and hungry-looking, but with a large and somewhat red
nose.  He made no complaint of his ill-fortune, but only repeated in a
quiet voice, with a pathos of which he was himself evidently unconscious,
"I want to get home to Ninety-second Street, Philadelphia."  He described
himself as a printer by trade, and said that he had come over when he was
a younger man, in the hope of bettering himself, and for the sake of
seeing the Old Country, but had never since been rich enough to pay his
homeward passage.  His manner and accent did not quite convince me that
he was an American, and I told him so; but he steadfastly affirmed, "Sir,
I was born and have lived in Ninety-second Street, Philadelphia," and
then went on to describe some public edifices and other local objects
with which he used to be familiar, adding, with a simplicity that touched
me very closely, "Sir, I had rather be there than here!"  Though I still
manifested a lingering doubt, he took no offence, replying with the
same mild depression as at first, and insisting again and again on
Ninety-second Street.  Up to the time when I saw him, he still got a
little occasional job-work at his trade, but subsisted mainly on such
charity as he met with in his wanderings, shifting from place to place
continually, and asking assistance to convey him to his native land.
Possibly he was an impostor, one of the multitudinous shapes of English
vagabondism, and told his falsehood with such powerful simplicity,
because, by many repetitions, he had convinced himself of its truth.  But
if, as I believe, the tale was fact, how very strange and sad was this
old man's fate!  Homeless on a foreign shore, looking always towards his
country, coming again and again to the point whence so many were setting
sail for it,--so many who would soon tread in Ninety-second Street,--
losing, in this long series of years, some of the distinctive
characteristics of an American, and at last dying and surrendering his
clay to be a portion of the soil whence he could not escape in his
lifetime.

He appeared to see that he had moved me, but did not attempt to press his
advantage with any new argument, or any varied form of entreaty.  He had
but scanty and scattered thoughts in his gray head, and in the intervals
of those, like the refrain of an old ballad, came in the monotonous
burden of his appeal, "If I could only find myself in Ninety-second
Street, Philadelphia!"  But even his desire of getting home had ceased to
be an ardent one (if, indeed, it had not always partaken of the dreamy
sluggishness of his character), although it remained his only locomotive
impulse, and perhaps the sole principle of life that kept his blood from
actual torpor.

The poor old fellow's story seemed to me almost as worthy of being
chanted in immortal song as that of Odysseus or Evangeline.  I took his
case into deep consideration, but dared not incur the moral
responsibility of sending him across the sea, at his age, after so many
years of exile, when the very tradition of him had passed away, to find
his friends dead, or forgetful, or irretrievably vanished, and the whole
country become more truly a foreign land to him than England was now,--
and even Ninety-second Street, in the weedlike decay and growth of our
localities, made over anew and grown unrecognizable by his old eyes.
That street, so patiently longed for, had transferred itself to the New
Jerusalem, and he must seek it there, contenting his slow heart,
meanwhile, with the smoke-begrimed thoroughfares of English towns,
or the green country lanes and by-paths with which his wanderings had
made him familiar; for doubtless he had a beaten track and was the
"long-remembered beggar" now, with food and a roughly hospitable greeting
ready for him at many a farm-house door, and his choice of lodging under
a score of haystacks.  In America, nothing awaited him but that worst
form of disappointment which comes under the guise of a long-cherished
and late-accomplished purpose, and then a year or two of dry and barren
sojourn in an almshouse, and death among strangers at last, where he had
imagined a circle of familiar faces.  So I contented myself with giving
him alms, which he thankfully accepted, and went away with bent shoulders
and an aspect of gentle forlornness; returning upon his orbit, however,
after a few months, to tell the same sad and quiet story of his abode in
England for more than twenty-seven years, in all which time he had been
endeavoring, and still endeavored as patiently as ever, to find his way
home to Ninety-second Street, Philadelphia.

I recollect another case, of a more ridiculous order, but still with a
foolish kind of pathos entangled in it, which impresses me now more
forcibly than it did at the moment.  One day, a queer, stupid,
good-natured, fat-faced individual came into my private room, dressed in
a sky-blue, cut-away coat and mixed trousers, both garments worn and
shabby, and rather too small for his overgrown bulk.  After a little
preliminary talk, he turned out to be a country shopkeeper (from
Connecticut, I think), who had left a flourishing business, and come over
to England purposely and solely to have an interview with the Queen.
Some years before he had named his two children, one for her Majesty and
the other for Prince Albert, and had transmitted photographs of the
little people, as well as of his wife and himself, to the illustrious
godmother.  The Queen had gratefully acknowledged the favor in a letter
under the hand of her private secretary.  Now, the shopkeeper, like a
great many other Americans, had long cherished a fantastic notion that he
was one of the rightful heirs of a rich English estate; and on the
strength of her Majesty's letter and the hopes of royal patronage which
it inspired, he had shut up his little country-store and come over to
claim his inheritance.  On the voyage, a German fellow-passenger had
relieved him of his money on pretence of getting it favorably exchanged,
and had disappeared immediately on the ship's arrival; so that the poor
fellow was compelled to pawn all his clothes, except the remarkably
shabby ones in which I beheld him, and in which (as he himself hinted,
with a melancholy, yet good-natured smile) he did not look altogether fit
to see the Queen.  I agreed with him that the bobtailed coat and mixed
trousers constituted a very odd-looking court-dress, and suggested that
it was doubtless his present purpose to get back to Connecticut as fast
as possible.  But no!  The resolve to see the Queen was as strong in him
as ever; and it was marvellous the pertinacity with which he clung to it
amid raggedness and starvation, and the earnestness of his supplication
that I would supply him with funds for a suitable appearance at Windsor
Castle.

I never had so satisfactory a perception of a complete booby before in my
life; and it caused me to feel kindly towards him, and yet impatient and
exasperated on behalf of common-sense, which could not possibly tolerate
that such an unimaginable donkey should exist.  I laid his absurdity
before him in the very plainest terms, but without either exciting his
anger or shaking his resolution.  "O my dear man," quoth he, with
good-natured, placid, simple, and tearful stubbornness, "if you could but
enter into my feelings and see the matter from beginning to end as I see
it!"  To confess the truth, I have since felt that I was hard-hearted to
the poor simpleton, and that there was more weight in his remonstrance
than I chose to be sensible of, at the time; for, like many men who have
been in the habit of making playthings or tools of their imagination and
sensibility, I was too rigidly tenacious of what was reasonable in the
affairs of real life.  And even absurdity has its rights, when, as in
this case, it has absorbed a human being's entire nature and purposes.  I
ought to have transmitted him to Mr. Buchanan, in London, who, being a
good-natured old gentleman, and anxious, just then, to gratify the
universal Yankee nation, might, for the joke's sake, have got him
admittance to the Queen, who had fairly laid herself open to his visit,
and has received hundreds of our countrymen on infinitely slighter
grounds.  But I was inexorable, being turned to flint by the insufferable
proximity of a fool, and refused to interfere with his business in any
way except to procure him a passage home.  I can see his face of mild,
ridiculous despair, at this moment, and appreciate, better than I could
then, how awfully cruel he must have felt my obduracy to be.  For years
and years, the idea of an interview with Queen Victoria had haunted his
poor foolish mind; and now, when he really stood on English ground, and
the palace-door was hanging ajar for him, he was expected to turn brick,
a penniless and bamboozled simpleton, merely because an iron-hearted
consul refused to lend him thirty shillings (so low had his demand
ultimately sunk) to buy a second-class ticket on the rail for London!

He visited the Consulate several times afterwards, subsisting on a
pittance that I allowed him in the hope of gradually starving him back to
Connecticut, assailing me with the old petition at every opportunity,
looking shabbier at every visit, but still thoroughly good-tempered,
mildly stubborn, and smiling through his tears, not without a perception
of the ludicrousness of his own position.  Finally, he disappeared
altogether, and whither he had wandered, and whether he ever saw the
Queen, or wasted quite away in the endeavor, I never knew; but I remember
unfolding the "Times," about that period, with a daily dread of reading
an account of a ragged Yankee's attempt to steal into Buckingham Palace,
and how he smiled tearfully at his captors and besought them to introduce
him to her Majesty.  I submit to Mr. Secretary Seward that he ought to
make diplomatic remonstrances to the British Ministry, and require them
to take such order that the Queen shall not any longer bewilder the wits
of our poor compatriots by responding to their epistles and thanking them
for their photographs.

One circumstance in the foregoing incident--I mean the unhappy
storekeeper's notion of establishing his claim to an English estate--was
common to a great many other applications, personal or by letter, with
which I was favored by my countrymen.  The cause of this peculiar
insanity lies deep in the Anglo-American heart.  After all these bloody
wars and vindictive animosities, we have still an unspeakable yearning
towards England.  When our forefathers left the old home, they pulled up
many of their roots, but trailed along with them others, which were never
snapt asunder by the tug of such a lengthening distance, nor have been
torn out of the original soil by the violence of subsequent struggles,
nor severed by the edge of the sword.  Even so late as these days, they
remain entangled with our heart-strings, and might often have influenced
our national cause like the tiller-ropes of a ship, if the rough gripe of
England had been capable of managing so sensitive a kind of machinery.
It has required nothing less than the boorishness, the stolidity, the
self-sufficiency, the contemptuous jealousy, the half-sagacity,
invariably blind of one eye and often distorted of the other, that
characterize this strange people, to compel us to be a great nation in
our own right, instead of continuing virtually, if not in name, a
province of their small island.  What pains did they take to shake us
off, and have ever since taken to keep us wide apart from them!  It might
seem their folly, but was really their fate, or, rather, the Providence
of God, who has doubtless a work for us to do, in which the massive
materiality of the English character would have been too ponderous a
dead-weight upon our progress.  And, besides, if England had been wise
enough to twine our new vigor round about her ancient strength, her power
would have been too firmly established ever to yield, in its due season,
to the otherwise immutable law of imperial vicissitude.  The earth might
then have beheld the intolerable spectacle of a sovereignty and
institutions, imperfect, but indestructible.

Nationally, there has ceased to be any peril of so inauspicious and yet
outwardly attractive an amalgamation.  But as an individual, the American
is often conscious of the deep-rooted sympathies that belong more fitly
to times gone by, and feels a blind pathetic tendency to wander back
again, which makes itself evident in such wild dreams as I have alluded
to above, about English inheritances.  A mere coincidence of names (the
Yankee one, perhaps, having been assumed by legislative permission), a
supposititious pedigree, a silver mug on which an anciently engraved
coat-of-arms has been half scrubbed out, a seal with an uncertain crest,
an old yellow letter or document in faded ink, the more scantily legible
the better,--rubbish of this kind, found in a neglected drawer, has been
potent enough to turn the brain of many an honest Republican, especially
if assisted by an advertisement for lost heirs, cut out of a British
newspaper.  There is no estimating or believing, till we come into a
position to know it, what foolery lurks latent in the breasts of very
sensible people.  Remembering such sober extravagances, I should not be
at all surprised to find that I am myself guilty of some unsuspected
absurdity, that may appear to me the most substantial trait in my
character.

I might fill many pages with instances of this diseased American appetite
for English soil.  A respectable-looking woman, well advanced in life, of
sour aspect, exceedingly homely, but decidedly New-Englandish in figure
and manners, came to my office with a great bundle of documents, at the
very first glimpse of which I apprehended something terrible.  Nor was I
mistaken.  The bundle contained evidences of her indubitable claim to the
site on which Castle Street, the Town Hall, the Exchange, and all the
principal business part of Liverpool have long been situated; and with
considerable peremptoriness, the good lady signified her expectation that
I should take charge of her suit, and prosecute it to judgment; not,
however, on the equitable condition of receiving half the value of the
property recovered (which, in case of complete success, would have made
both of us ten or twenty fold millionaires), but without recompense or
reimbursement of legal expenses, solely as an incident of my official
duty.  Another time came two ladies, bearing a letter of emphatic
introduction from his Excellency the Governor of their native State, who
testified in most satisfactory terms to their social respectability.
They were claimants of a great estate in Cheshire, and announced
themselves as blood-relatives of Queen Victoria,--a point, however, which
they deemed it expedient to keep in the background until their
territorial rights should be established, apprehending that the Lord High
Chancellor might otherwise be less likely to come to a fair decision in
respect to them, from a probable disinclination to admit new members into
the royal kin.  Upon my honor, I imagine that they had an eye to the
possibility of the eventual succession of one or both of them to the
crown of Great Britain through superiority of title over the Brunswick
line; although, being maiden ladies, like their predecessor Elizabeth,
they could hardly have hoped to establish a lasting dynasty upon the
throne.  It proves, I trust, a certain disinterestedness on my part,
that, encountering them thus in the dawn of their fortunes, I forbore to
put in a plea for a future dukedom.

Another visitor of the same class was a gentleman of refined manners,
handsome figure, and remarkably intellectual aspect.  Like many men of an
adventurous cast, he had so quiet a deportment, and such an apparent
disinclination to general sociability, that you would have fancied him
moving always along some peaceful and secluded walk of life.  Yet,
literally from his first hour, he had been tossed upon the surges of a
most varied and tumultuous existence, having been born at sea, of
American parentage, but on board of a Spanish vessel, and spending many
of the subsequent years in voyages, travels, and outlandish incidents and
vicissitudes, which, methought, had hardly been paralleled since the days
of Gulliver or De Foe.  When his dignified reserve was overcome, he had
the faculty of narrating these adventures with wonderful eloquence,
working up his descriptive sketches with such intuitive perception of the
picturesque points that the whole was thrown forward with a positively
illusive effect, like matters of your own visual experience.  In fact,
they were so admirably done that I could never more than half believe
them, because the genuine affairs of life are not apt to transact
themselves so artistically.  Many of his scenes were laid in the East,
and among those seldom-visited archipelagoes of the Indian Ocean, so that
there was an Oriental fragrance breathing through his talk and an odor of
the Spice Islands still lingering in his garments.  He had much to say of
the delightful qualities of the Malay pirates, who, indeed, carry on a
predatory warfare against the ships of all civilized nations, and cut
every Christian throat among their prisoners; but (except for deeds of
that character, which are the rule and habit of their life, and matter of
religion and conscience with them) they are a gentle-natured people, of
primitive innocence and integrity.

But his best story was about a race of men (if men they were) who seemed
so fully to realize Swift's wicked fable of the Yahoos, that my friend
was much exercised with psychological speculations whether or no they had
any souls.  They dwelt in the wilds of Ceylon, like other savage beasts,
hairy, and spotted with tufts of fur, filthy, shameless, weaponless
(though warlike in their individual bent), tool-less, houseless,
language-less, except for a few guttural sounds, hideously dissonant,
whereby they held some rudest kind of communication among themselves.
They lacked both memory and foresight, and were wholly destitute of
government, social institutions, or law or rulership of any description,
except the immediate tyranny of the strongest; radically untamable,
moreover, save that the people of the country managed to subject a few of
the less ferocious and stupid ones to outdoor servitude among their other
cattle.  They were beastly in almost all their attributes, and that to
such a degree that the observer, losing sight of any link betwixt them
and manhood, could generally witness their brutalities without greater
horror than at those of some disagreeable quadruped in a menagerie.  And
yet, at times, comparing what were the lowest general traits in his own
race with what was highest in these abominable monsters, he found a
ghastly similitude that half compelled him to recognize them as human
brethren.

After these Gulliverian researches, my agreeable acquaintance had fallen
under the ban of the Dutch government, and had suffered (this, at least,
being matter of fact) nearly two years' imprisonment, with confiscation
of a large amount of property, for which Mr. Belmont, our minister at the
Hague, had just made a peremptory demand of reimbursement and damages.
Meanwhile, since arriving in England on his way to the United States, he
had been providentially led to inquire into the circumstances of his
birth on shipboard, and had discovered that not himself alone, but
another baby, had come into the world during the same voyage of the
prolific vessel, and that there were almost irrefragable reasons for
believing that these two children had been assigned to the wrong mothers.
Many reminiscences of his early days confirmed him in the idea that his
nominal parents were aware of the exchange.  The family to which he felt
authorized to attribute his lineage was that of a nobleman, in the
picture-gallery of whose country-seat (whence, if I mistake not, our
adventurous friend had just returned) he had discovered a portrait
bearing a striking resemblance to himself.  As soon as he should have
reported the outrageous action of the Dutch government to President
Pierce and the Secretary of State, and recovered the confiscated
property, he purposed to return to England and establish his claim to the
nobleman's title and estate.

I had accepted his Oriental fantasies (which, indeed, to do him justice,
have been recorded by scientific societies among the genuine phenomena of
natural history), not as matters of indubitable credence, but as
allowable specimens of an imaginative traveller's vivid coloring and rich
embroidery on the coarse texture and dull neutral tints of truth.  The
English romance was among the latest communications that he intrusted to
my private ear; and as soon as I heard the first chapter,--so wonderfully
akin to what I might have wrought out of my own head, not unpractised in
such figments,--I began to repent having made myself responsible for the
future nobleman's passage homeward in the next Collins steamer.
Nevertheless, should his English rent-roll fall a little behindhand, his
Dutch claim for a hundred thousand dollars was certainly in the hands of
our government, and might at least be valuable to the extent of thirty
pounds, which I had engaged to pay on his behalf.  But I have reason to
fear that his Dutch riches turned out to be Dutch gilt, or fairy gold,
and his English country-seat a mere castle in the air,--which I
exceedingly regret, for he was a delightful companion and a very
gentlemanly man.

A Consul, in his position of universal responsibility, the general
adviser and helper, sometimes finds himself compelled to assume the
guardianship of personages who, in their own sphere, are supposed capable
of superintending the highest interests of whole communities.  An elderly
Irishman, a naturalized citizen, once put the desire and expectation of
all our penniless vagabonds into a very suitable phrase, by pathetically
entreating me to be a "father to him"; and, simple as I sit scribbling
here, I have acted a father's part, not only by scores of such unthrifty
old children as himself, but by a progeny of far loftier pretensions.  It
may be well for persons who are conscious of any radical weakness in
their character, any besetting sin, any unlawful propensity, any
unhallowed impulse, which (while surrounded with the manifold restraints
that protect a man from that treacherous and lifelong enemy, his lower
self, in the circle of society where he is at home) they may have
succeeded in keeping under the lock and key of strictest propriety,--it
may be well for them, before seeking the perilous freedom of a distant
land, released from the watchful eyes of neighborhoods and coteries,
lightened of that wearisome burden, an immaculate name, and blissfully
obscure after years of local prominence,--it may be well for such
individuals to know that when they set foot on a foreign shore, the
long-imprisoned Evil, scenting a wild license in the unaccustomed
atmosphere, is apt to grow riotous in its iron cage.  It rattles the
rusty barriers with gigantic turbulence, and if there be an infirm joint
anywhere in the framework, it breaks madly forth, compressing the
mischief of a lifetime into a little space.

A parcel of letters had been accumulating at the Consulate for two or
three weeks, directed to a certain Doctor of Divinity, who had left
America by a sailing-packet and was still upon the sea.  In due time, the
vessel arrived, and the reverend Doctor paid me a visit.  He was a
fine-looking middle-aged gentleman, a perfect model of clerical
propriety, scholar-like, yet with the air of a man of the world rather
than a student, though overspread with the graceful sanctity of a popular
metropolitan divine, a part of whose duty it might be to exemplify the
natural accordance between Christianity and good-breeding.  He seemed a
little excited, as an American is apt to be on first arriving in England,
but conversed with intelligence as well as animation, making himself so
agreeable that his visit stood out in considerable relief from the
monotony of my daily commonplace.  As I learned from authentic sources,
he was somewhat distinguished in his own region for fervor and eloquence
in the pulpit, but was now compelled to relinquish it temporarily for the
purpose of renovating his impaired health by an extensive tour in Europe.
Promising to dine with me, he took up his bundle of letters and went
away.

The Doctor, however, failed to make his appearance at dinner-time, or to
apologize the next day for his absence; and in the course of a day or two
more, I forgot all about him, concluding that he must have set forth on
his Continental travels, the plan of which he had sketched out at our
interview.  But, by and by, I received a call from the master of the
vessel in which he had arrived.  He was in some alarm about his
passenger, whose luggage remained on shipboard, but of whom nothing had
been heard or seen since the moment of his departure from the Consulate.
We conferred together, the captain and I, about the expediency of setting
the police on the traces (if any were to be found) of our vanished
friend; but it struck me that the good captain was singularly reticent,
and that there was something a little mysterious in a few points that he
hinted at rather than expressed; so that, scrutinizing the affair
carefully, I surmised that the intimacy of life on shipboard might have
taught him more about the reverend gentleman than, for some reason or
other, he deemed it prudent to reveal.  At home, in our native country, I
would have looked to the Doctor's personal safety and left his reputation
to take care of itself, knowing that the good fame of a thousand saintly
clergymen would amply dazzle out any lamentable spot on a single
brother's character.  But in scornful and invidious England, on the idea
that the credit of the sacred office was measurably intrusted to my
discretion, I could not endure, for the sake of American Doctors of
Divinity generally, that this particular Doctor should cut an ignoble
figure in the police reports of the English newspapers, except at the
last necessity.  The clerical body, I flatter myself, will acknowledge
that I acted on their own principle.  Besides, it was now too late; the
mischief and violence, if any had been impending, were not of a kind
which it requires the better part of a week to perpetrate; and to sum up
the entire matter, I felt certain, from a good deal of somewhat similar
experience, that, if the missing Doctor still breathed this vital air, he
would turn up at the Consulate as soon as his money should be stolen or
spent.

Precisely a week after this reverend person's disappearance, there came
to my office a tall, middle-aged gentleman in a blue military surtout,
braided at the seams, but out at elbows, and as shabby as if the wearer
had been bivouacking in it throughout a Crimean campaign.  It was
buttoned up to the very chin, except where three or four of the buttons
were lost; nor was there any glimpse of a white shirt-collar illuminating
the rusty black cravat.  A grisly mustache was just beginning to roughen
the stranger's upper lip.  He looked disreputable to the last degree, but
still had a ruined air of good society glimmering about him, like a few
specks of polish on a sword-blade that has lain corroding in a mud-puddle.
I took him to be some American marine officer, of dissipated habits, or
perhaps a cashiered British major, stumbling into the wrong quarters
through the unrectified bewilderment of last night's debauch.  He greeted
me, however, with polite familiarity, as though we had been previously
acquainted; whereupon I drew coldly back (as sensible people naturally
do, whether from strangers or former friends, when too evidently at odds
with fortune) and requested to know who my visitor might be, and what was
his business at the Consulate.  "Am I then so changed?" he exclaimed with
a vast depth of tragic intonation; and after a little blind and
bewildered talk, behold! the truth flashed upon me.  It was the Doctor of
Divinity!  If I had meditated a scene or a coup de theatre, I could not
have contrived a more effectual one than by this simple and genuine
difficulty of recognition.  The poor Divine must have felt that he had
lost his personal identity through the misadventures of one little week.
And, to say the truth, he did look as if, like Job, on account of his
especial sanctity, he had been delivered over to the direst temptations
of Satan, and proving weaker than the man of Uz, the Arch Enemy had been
empowered to drag him through Tophet, transforming him, in the process,
from the most decorous of metropolitan clergymen into the rowdiest and
dirtiest of disbanded officers.  I never fathomed the mystery of his
military costume, but conjectured that a lurking sense of fitness had
induced him to exchange his clerical garments for this habit of a sinner;
nor can I tell precisely into what pitfall, not more of vice than
terrible calamity, he had precipitated himself,--being more than
satisfied to know that the outcasts of society can sink no lower than
this poor, desecrated wretch had sunk.

The opportunity, I presume, does not often happen to a layman, of
administering moral and religious reproof to a Doctor of Divinity; but
finding the occasion thrust upon me, and the hereditary Puritan waxing
strong in my breast, I deemed it a matter of conscience not to let it
pass entirely unimproved.  The truth is, I was unspeakably shocked and
disgusted.  Not, however, that I was then to learn that clergymen are
made of the same flesh and blood as other people, and perhaps lack one
small safeguard which the rest of us possess, because they are aware of
their own peccability, and therefore cannot look up to the clerical class
for the proof of the possibility of a pure life on earth, with such
reverential confidence as we are prone to do.  But I remembered the
innocent faith of my boyhood, and the good old silver-headed clergyman,
who seemed to me as much a saint then on earth as he is now in heaven,
and partly for whose sake, through all these darkening years, I retain a
devout, though not intact nor unwavering respect for the entire
fraternity.  What a hideous wrong, therefore, had the backslider
inflicted on his brethren, and still more on me, who much needed whatever
fragments of broken reverence (broken, not as concerned religion, but its
earthly institutions and professors) it might yet be possible to patch
into a sacred image!  Should all pulpits and communion-tables have
thenceforth a stain upon them, and the guilty one go unrebuked for it?
So I spoke to the unhappy man as I never thought myself warranted in
speaking to any other mortal, hitting him hard, doing my utmost to find
out his vulnerable part, and prick him into the depths of it.  And not
without more effect than I had dreamed of, or desired!

No doubt, the novelty of the Doctor's reversed position, thus standing up
to receive such a fulmination as the clergy have heretofore arrogated the
exclusive right of inflicting, might give additional weight and sting to
the words which I found utterance for.  But there was another reason
(which, had I in the least suspected it, would have closed my lips at
once) for his feeling morbidly sensitive to the cruel rebuke that I
administered.  The unfortunate man had come to me, laboring under one of
the consequences of his riotous outbreak, in the shape of delirium
tremens; he bore a hell within the compass of his own breast, all the
torments of which blazed up with tenfold inveteracy when I thus took upon
myself the Devil's office of stirring up the red-hot embers.  His
emotions, as well as the external movement and expression of them by
voice, countenance, and gesture, were terribly exaggerated by the
tremendous vibration of nerves resulting from the disease.  It was the
deepest tragedy I ever witnessed.  I know sufficiently, from that one
experience, how a condemned soul would manifest its agonies; and for the
future, if I have anything to do with sinners, I mean to operate upon
them through sympathy, and not rebuke.  What had I to do with rebuking
him?  The disease, long latent in his heart, had shown itself in a
frightful eruption on the surface of his life.  That was all!  Is it a
thing to scold the sufferer for?

To conclude this wretched story, the poor Doctor of Divinity, having been
robbed of all his money in this little airing beyond the limits of
propriety, was easily persuaded to give up the intended tour and return
to his bereaved flock, who, very probably, were thereafter conscious of
an increased unction in his soul-stirring eloquence, without suspecting
the awful depths into which their pastor had dived in quest of it.  His
voice is now silent.  I leave it to members of his own profession to
decide whether it was better for him thus to sin outright, and so to be
let into the miserable secret what manner of man he was, or to have gone
through life outwardly unspotted, making the first discovery of his
latent evil at the judgment-seat.  It has occurred to me that his dire
calamity, as both he and I regarded it, might have been the only method
by which precisely such a man as himself, and so situated, could be
redeemed.  He has learned, ere now, how that matter stood.

For a man, with a natural tendency to meddle with other people's
business, there could not possibly be a more congenial sphere than the
Liverpool Consulate.  For myself, I had never been in the habit of
feeling that I could sufficiently comprehend any particular conjunction
of circumstances with human character, to justify me in thrusting in my
awkward agency among the intricate and unintelligible machinery of
Providence.  I have always hated to give advice, especially when there is
a prospect of its being taken.  It is only one-eyed people who love to
advise, or have any spontaneous promptitude of action.  When a man opens
both his eyes, he generally sees about as many reasons for acting in any
one way as in any other, and quite as many for acting in neither; and is
therefore likely to leave his friends to regulate their own conduct, and
also to remain quiet as regards his especial affairs till necessity shall
prick him onward.  Nevertheless, the world and individuals flourish upon
a constant succession of blunders.  The secret of English practical
success lies in their characteristic faculty of shutting one eye, whereby
they get so distinct and decided a view of what immediately concerns them
that they go stumbling towards it over a hundred insurmountable
obstacles, and achieve a magnificent triumph without ever being aware of
half its difficulties.  If General McClellan could but have shut his left
eye, the right one would long ago have guided us into Richmond.
Meanwhile, I have strayed far away from the Consulate, where, as I was
about to say, I was compelled, in spite of my disinclination, to impart
both advice and assistance in multifarious affairs that did not
personally concern me, and presume that I effected about as little
mischief as other men in similar contingencies.  The duties of the office
carried me to prisons, police-courts, hospitals, lunatic asylums,
coroner's inquests, death-beds, funerals, and brought me in contact with
insane people, criminals, ruined speculators, wild adventurers,
diplomatists, brother-consuls, and all manner of simpletons and
unfortunates, in greater number and variety than I had ever dreamed of as
pertaining to America; in addition to whom there was an equivalent
multitude of English rogues, dexterously counterfeiting the genuine
Yankee article.  It required great discrimination not to be taken in by
these last-mentioned scoundrels; for they knew how to imitate our
national traits, had been at great pains to instruct themselves as
regarded American localities, and were not readily to be caught by a
cross-examination as to the topographical features, public institutions,
or prominent inhabitants of the places where they pretended to belong.
The best shibboleth I ever hit upon lay in the pronunciation of the word
"been," which the English invariably make to rhyme with "green," and we
Northerners, at least (in accordance, I think, with the custom of
Shakespeare's time), universally pronounce "bin."

All the matters that I have been treating of, however, were merely
incidental, and quite distinct from the real business of the office.  A
great part of the wear and tear of mind and temper resulted from the bad
relations between the seamen and officers of American ships.  Scarcely a
morning passed, but that some sailor came to show the marks of his
ill-usage on shipboard.  Often, it was a whole crew of them, each with
his broken head or livid bruise, and all testifying with one voice to a
constant series of savage outrages during the voyage; or, it might be,
they laid an accusation of actual murder, perpetrated by the first or
second officers with many blows of steel-knuckles, a rope's end, or a
marline-spike, or by the captain, in the twinkling of an eye, with a shot
of his pistol.  Taking the seamen's view of the case, you would suppose
that the gibbet was hungry for the murderers.  Listening to the captain's
defence, you would seem to discover that he and his officers were the
humanest of mortals, but were driven to a wholesome severity by the
mutinous conduct of the crew, who, moreover, had themselves slain their
comrade in the drunken riot and confusion of the first day or two after
they were shipped.  Looked at judicially, there appeared to be no right
side to the matter, nor any right side possible in so thoroughly vicious
a system as that of the American mercantile marine.  The Consul could do
little, except to take depositions, hold forth the greasy Testament to be
profaned anew with perjured kisses, and, in a few instances of murder or
manslaughter, carry the case before an English magistrate, who generally
decided that the evidence was too contradictory to authorize the
transmission of the accused for trial in America.  The newspapers all
over England contained paragraphs, inveighing against the cruelties of
American shipmasters.  The British Parliament took up the matter (for
nobody is so humane as John Bull, when his benevolent propensities are to
be gratified by finding fault with his neighbor), and caused Lord John
Russell to remonstrate with our government on the outrages for which it
was responsible before the world, and which it failed to prevent or
punish.  The American Secretary of State, old General Cass, responded,
with perfectly astounding ignorance of the subject, to the effect that
the statements of outrages had probably been exaggerated, that the
present laws of the United States were quite adequate to deal with them,
and that the interference of the British Minister was uncalled for.

The truth is, that the state of affairs was really very horrible, and
could be met by no laws at that time (or I presume now) in existence.  I
once thought of writing a pamphlet on the subject, but quitted the
Consulate before finding time to effect my purpose; and all that phase of
my life immediately assumed so dreamlike a consistency that I despaired
of making it seem solid or tangible to the public.  And now it looks
distant and dim, like troubles of a century ago.  The origin of the evil
lay in the character of the seamen, scarcely any of whom were American,
but the offscourings and refuse of all the seaports of the world, such
stuff as piracy is made of, together with a considerable intermixture of
returning emigrants, and a sprinkling of absolutely kidnapped American
citizens.  Even with such material, the ships were very inadequately
manned.  The shipmaster found himself upon the deep, with a vast
responsibility of property and human life upon his hands, and no means of
salvation except by compelling his inefficient and demoralized crew to
heavier exertions than could reasonably be required of the same number of
able seamen.  By law he had been intrusted with no discretion of
judicious punishment, he therefore habitually left the whole matter of
discipline to his irresponsible mates, men often of scarcely a superior
quality to the crew.  Hence ensued a great mass of petty outrages,
unjustifiable assaults, shameful indignities, and nameless cruelty,
demoralizing alike to the perpetrators and the sufferers; these
enormities fell into the ocean between the two countries, and could be
punished in neither.  Many miserable stories come back upon my memory as
I write; wrongs that were immense, but for which nobody could be held
responsible, and which, indeed, the closer you looked into them, the more
they lost the aspect of wilful misdoing and assumed that of an inevitable
calamity.  It was the fault of a system, the misfortune of an individual.
Be that as it may, however, there will be no possibility of dealing
effectually with these troubles as long as we deem it inconsistent with
our national dignity or interests to allow the English courts, under such
restrictions as may seem fit, a jurisdiction over offences perpetrated on
board our vessels in mid-ocean.

In such a life as this, the American shipmaster develops himself into a
man of iron energies, dauntless courage, and inexhaustible resource, at
the expense, it must be acknowledged, of some of the higher and gentler
traits which might do him excellent service in maintaining his authority.
The class has deteriorated of late years on account of the narrower field
of selection, owing chiefly to the diminution of that excellent body of
respectably educated New England seamen, from the flower of whom the
officers used to be recruited.  Yet I found them, in many cases, very
agreeable and intelligent companions, with less nonsense about them than
landsmen usually have, eschewers of fine-spun theories, delighting in
square and tangible ideas, but occasionally infested with prejudices that
stuck to their brains like barnacles to a ship's bottom.  I never could
flatter myself that I was a general favorite with them.  One or two,
perhaps, even now, would scarcely meet me on amicable terms.  Endowed
universally with a great pertinacity of will, they especially disliked
the interference of a consul with their management on shipboard;
notwithstanding which I thrust in my very limited authority at every
available opening, and did the utmost that lay in my power, though with
lamentably small effect, towards enforcing a better kind of discipline.
They thought, no doubt (and on plausible grounds enough, but scarcely
appreciating just that one little grain of hard New England sense, oddly
thrown in among the flimsier composition of the Consul's character), that
he, a landsman, a bookman, and, as people said of him, a fanciful
recluse, could not possibly understand anything of the difficulties or
the necessities of a shipmaster's position.  But their cold regards were
rather acceptable than otherwise, for it is exceedingly awkward to assume
a judicial austerity in the morning towards a man with whom you have been
hobnobbing over night.

With the technical details of the business of that great Consulate (for
great it then was, though now, I fear, wofully fallen off, and perhaps
never to be revived in anything like its former extent), I did not much
interfere.  They could safely be left to the treatment of two as
faithful, upright, and competent subordinates, both Englishmen, as ever a
man was fortunate enough to meet with, in a line of life altogether new
and strange to him.  I had come over with instructions to supply both
their places with Americans, but, possessing a happy faculty of knowing
my own interest and the public's, I quietly kept hold of them, being
little inclined to open the consular doors to a spy of the State
Department or an intriguer for my own office.  The venerable Vice-Consul,
Mr. Pearce, had witnessed the successive arrivals of a score of newly
appointed Consuls, shadowy and short-lived dignitaries, and carried his
reminiscences back to the epoch of Consul Maury, who was appointed by
Washington, and has acquired almost the grandeur of a mythical personage
in the annals of the Consulate.  The principal clerk, Mr. Wilding, who
has since succeeded to the Vice-Consulship, was a man of English
integrity,--not that the English are more honest than ourselves, but only
there is a certain sturdy reliableness common among them, which we do not
quite so invariably manifest in just these subordinate positions,--of
English integrity, combined with American acuteness of intellect,
quick-wittedness, and diversity of talent.  It seemed an immense pity
that he should wear out his life at a desk, without a step in advance
from year's end to year's end, when, had it been his luck to be born on
our side of the water, his bright faculties and clear probity would have
insured him eminent success in whatever path he night adopt.  Meanwhile,
it would have been a sore mischance to me, had any better fortune on his
part deprived me of Mr. Wilding's services.

A fair amount of common-sense, some acquaintance with the United States
Statutes, an insight into character, a tact of management, a general
knowledge of the world, and a reasonable but not too inveterately decided
preference for his own will and judgment over those of interested
people,--these natural attributes and moderate acquirements will enable a
consul to perform many of his duties respectably, but not to dispense
with a great variety of other qualifications, only attainable by long
experience.  Yet, I think, few consuls are so well accomplished.  An
appointment of whatever grade, in the diplomatic or consular service of
America, is too often what the English call a "job"; that is to say, it
is made on private and personal grounds, without a paramount eye to the
public good or the gentleman's especial fitness for the position.  It is
not too much to say (of course allowing for a brilliant exception here
and there), that an American never is thoroughly qualified for a foreign
post, nor has time to make himself so, before the revolution of the
political wheel discards him from his office.  Our country wrongs itself
by permitting such a system of unsuitable appointments, and, still more,
of removals for no cause, just when the incumbent might be beginning to
ripen into usefulness.  Mere ignorance of official detail is of
comparatively small moment; though it is considered indispensable, I
presume, that a man in any private capacity shall be thoroughly
acquainted with the machinery and operation of his business, and shall
not necessarily lose his position on having attained such knowledge.  But
there are so many more important things to be thought of, in the
qualifications of a foreign resident, that his technical dexterity or
clumsiness is hardly worth mentioning.

One great part of a consul's duty, for example, should consist in
building up for himself a recognized position in the society where he
resides, so that his local influence might be felt in behalf of his own
country, and, so far as they are compatible (as they generally are to the
utmost extent), for the interests of both nations.  The foreign city
should know that it has a permanent inhabitant and a hearty well-wisher
in him.  There are many conjunctures (and one of them is now upon us)
where a long-established, honored, and trusted American citizen, holding
a public position under our government in such a town as Liverpool, might
go far towards swaying and directing the sympathies of the inhabitants.
He might throw his own weight into the balance against mischief makers;
he might have set his foot on the first little spark of malignant
purpose, which the next wind may blow into a national war.  But we
wilfully give up all advantages of this kind.  The position is totally
beyond the attainment of an American; there to-day, bristling all over
with the porcupine quills of our Republic, and gone to-morrow, just as he
is becoming sensible of the broader and more generous patriotism which
might almost amalgamate with that of England, without losing an atom of
its native force and flavor.  In the changes that appear to await us, and
some of which, at least, can hardly fail to be for good, let us hope for
a reform in this matter.

For myself, as the gentle reader would spare me the trouble of saying, I
was not at all the kind of man to grow into such an ideal Consul as I
have here suggested.  I never in my life desired to be burdened with
public influence.  I disliked my office from the first, and never came
into any good accordance with it.  Its dignity, so far as it had any, was
an encumbrance; the attentions it drew upon me (such as invitations to
Mayor's banquets and public celebrations of all kinds, where, to my
horror, I found myself expected to stand up and speak) were--as I may say
without incivility or ingratitude, because there is nothing personal in
that sort of hospitality--a bore.  The official business was irksome, and
often painful.  There was nothing pleasant about the whole affair, except
the emoluments; and even those, never too bountifully reaped, were
diminished by more than half in the second or third year of my
incumbency.  All this being true, I was quite prepared, in advance of the
inauguration of Mr. Buchanan, to send in my resignation.  When my
successor arrived, I drew the long, delightful breath which first made me
thoroughly sensible what an unnatural life I had been leading, and
compelled me to admire myself for having battled with it so sturdily.
The newcomer proved to be a very genial and agreeable gentleman, an
F. F. V., and, as he pleasantly acknowledged, a Southern Fire Eater,
--an announcement to which I responded, with similar good-humor and
self-complacency, by parading my descent from an ancient line of
Massachusetts Puritans.  Since our brief acquaintanceship, my fire-eating
friend has had ample opportunities to banquet on his favorite diet, hot
and hot, in the Confederate service.  For myself, as soon as I was out of
office, the retrospect began to look unreal.  I could scarcely believe
that it was I,--that figure whom they called a Consul,--but a sort of
Double Ganger, who had been permitted to assume my aspect, under which he
went through his shadowy duties with a tolerable show of efficiency,
while my real self had lain, as regarded my proper mode of being and
acting, in a state of suspended animation.

The same sense of illusion still pursues me.  There is some mistake in
this matter.  I have been writing about another man's consular
experiences, with which, through some mysterious medium of transmitted
ideas, I find myself intimately acquainted, but in which I cannot
possibly have had a personal interest.  Is it not a dream altogether?
The figure of that poor Doctor of Divinity looks wonderfully lifelike; so
do those of the Oriental adventurer with the visionary coronet above his
brow, and the moonstruck visitor of the Queen, and the poor old wanderer,
seeking his native country through English highways and by-ways for
almost thirty years; and so would a hundred others that I might summon up
with similar distinctness.  But were they more than shadows?  Surely, I
think not.  Nor are these present pages a bit of intrusive autobiography.
Let not the reader wrong me by supposing it.  I never should have written
with half such unreserve, had it been a portion of this life congenial
with my nature, which I am living now, instead of a series of incidents
and characters entirely apart from my own concerns, and on which the
qualities personally proper to me could have had no bearing.  Almost the
only real incidents, as I see them now, were the visits of a young
English friend, a scholar and a literary amateur, between whom and myself
there sprung up an affectionate, and, I trust, not transitory regard.  He
used to come and sit or stand by my fireside, talking vivaciously and
eloquently with me about literature and life, his own national
characteristics and mine, with such kindly endurance of the many rough
republicanisms wherewith I assailed him, and such frank and amiable
assertion of all sorts of English prejudices and mistakes, that I
understood his countrymen infinitely the better for him, and was almost
prepared to love the intensest Englishman of them all, for his sake.  It
would gratify my cherished remembrance of this dear friend, if I could
manage, without offending him, or letting the public know it, to
introduce his name upon my page.  Bright was the illumination of my dusky
little apartment, as often as he made his appearance there!

The English sketches which I have been offering to the public comprise a
few of the more external and therefore more readily manageable things
that I took note of, in many escapes from the imprisonment of my consular
servitude.  Liverpool, though not very delightful as a place of
residence, is a most convenient and admirable point to get away from.
London is only five hours off by the fast train.  Chester, the most
curious town in England, with its encompassing wall, its ancient rows,
and its venerable cathedral, is close at hand.  North Wales, with all its
hills and ponds, its noble sea-scenery, its multitude of gray castles and
strange old villages, may be glanced at in a summer day or two.  The
lakes and mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland may be reached before
dinner-time.  The haunted and legendary Isle of Man, a little kingdom by
itself, lies within the scope of an afternoon's voyage.  Edinburgh or
Glasgow are attainable over night, and Loch Lomond betimes in the
morning.  Visiting these famous localities, and a great many others, I
hope that I do not compromise my American patriotism by acknowledging
that I was often conscious of a fervent hereditary attachment to the
native soil of our forefathers, and felt it to be our own Old Home.



LEAMINGTON SPA.


In the course of several visits and stays of considerable length we
acquired a homelike feeling towards Leamington, and came back thither
again and again, chiefly because we had been there before.  Wandering and
wayside people, such as we had long since become, retain a few of the
instincts that belong to a more settled way of life, and often prefer
familiar and commonplace objects (for the very reason that they are so)
to the dreary strangeness of scenes that might be thought much better
worth the seeing.  There is a small nest of a place in Leamington--at
No. 10, Lansdowne Circus--upon which, to this day, my reminiscences are
apt to settle as one of the coziest nooks in England or in the world; not
that it had any special charm of its own, but only that we stayed long
enough to know it well, and even to grow a little tired of it.  In my
opinion, the very tediousness of home and friends makes a part of what we
love them for; if it be not mixed in sufficiently with the other elements
of life, there may be mad enjoyment, but no happiness.

The modest abode to which I have alluded forms one of a circular range of
pretty, moderate-sized, two-story houses, all built on nearly the same
plan, and each provided with its little grass-plot, its flowers, its
tufts of box trimmed into globes and other fantastic shapes, and its
verdant hedges shutting the house in from the common drive and dividing
it from its equally cosey neighbors.  Coming out of the door, and taking
a turn round the circle of sister-dwellings, it is difficult to find your
way back by any distinguishing individuality of your own habitation.  In
the centre of the Circus is a space fenced in with iron railing, a small
play-place and sylvan retreat for the children of the precinct, permeated
by brief paths through the fresh English grass, and shadowed by various
shrubbery; amid which, if you like, you may fancy yourself in a deep
seclusion, though probably the mark of eye-shot from the windows of all
the surrounding houses.  But, in truth, with regard to the rest of the
town and the world at large, all abode here is a genuine seclusion; for
the ordinary stream of life does not run through this little, quiet pool,
and few or none of the inhabitants seem to be troubled with any business
or outside activities.  I used to set them down as half-pay officers,
dowagers of narrow income, elderly maiden ladies, and other people of
respectability, but small account, such as hang on the world's skirts
rather than actually belong to it.  The quiet of the place was seldom
disturbed, except by the grocer and butcher, who came to receive orders,
or by the cabs, hackney-coaches, and Bath-chairs, in which the ladies
took an infrequent airing, or the livery-steed which the retired captain
sometimes bestrode for a morning ride, or by the red-coated postman who
went his rounds twice a day to deliver letters, and again in the evening,
ringing a hand-bell, to take letters for the mail.  In merely mentioning
these slight interruptions of its sluggish stillness, I seem to myself to
disturb too much the atmosphere of quiet that brooded over the spot;
whereas its impression upon me was, that the world had never found the
way hither, or had forgotten it, and that the fortunate inhabitants were
the only ones who possessed the spell-word of admittance.  Nothing could
have suited me better, at the time; for I had been holding a position of
public servitude, which imposed upon me (among a great many lighter
duties) the ponderous necessity of being universally civil and sociable.

Nevertheless, if a man were seeking the bustle of society, he might find
it more readily in Leamington than in most other English towns.  It is a
permanent watering-place, a sort of institution to which I do not know
any close parallel in American life: for such places as Saratoga bloom
only for the summer-season, and offer a thousand dissimilitudes even
then; while Leamington seems to be always in flower, and serves as a home
to the homeless all the year round.  Its original nucleus, the plausible
excuse for the town's coming into prosperous existence, lies in the
fiction of a chalybeate well, which, indeed, is so far a reality that out
of its magical depths have gushed streets, groves, gardens, mansions,
shops, and churches, and spread themselves along the banks of the little
river Leam.  This miracle accomplished, the beneficent fountain has
retired beneath a pump-room, and appears to have given up all pretensions
to the remedial virtues formerly attributed to it.  I know not whether
its waters are ever tasted nowadays; but not the less does Leamington--in
pleasant Warwickshire, at the very midmost point of England, in a good
hunting neighborhood, and surrounded by country-seats and castles--
continue to be a resort of transient visitors, and the more permanent
abode of a class of genteel, unoccupied, well-to-do, but not very wealthy
people, such as are hardly known among ourselves.  Persons who have no
country-houses, and whose fortunes are inadequate to a London
expenditure, find here, I suppose, a sort of town and country life in
one.

In its present aspect the town is of no great age.  In contrast with the
antiquity of many places in its neighborhood, it has a bright, new face,
and seems almost to smile even amid the sombreness of an English autumn.
Nevertheless, it is hundreds upon hundreds of years old, if we reckon up
that sleepy lapse of time during which it existed as a small village of
thatched houses, clustered round a priory; and it would still have been
precisely such a rural village, but for a certain Dr. Jephson, who lived
within the memory of man, and who found out the magic well, and foresaw
what fairy wealth might be made to flow from it.  A public garden has
been laid out along the margin of the Leam, and called the Jephson
Garden, in honor of him who created the prosperity of his native spot.  A
little way within the garden-gate there is a circular temple of Grecian
architecture, beneath the dome of which stands a marble statue of the
good Doctor, very well executed, and representing him with a face of
fussy activity and benevolence: just the kind of man, if luck favored
him, to build up the fortunes of those about him, or, quite as probably,
to blight his whole neighborhood by some disastrous speculation.

The Jephson Garden is very beautiful, like most other English
pleasure-grounds; for, aided by their moist climate and not too fervid
sun, the landscape-gardeners excel in converting flat or tame surfaces
into attractive scenery, chiefly through the skilful arrangement of trees
and shrubbery.  An Englishman aims at this effect even in the little
patches under the windows of a suburban villa, and achieves it on a
larger scale in a tract of many acres.  The Garden is shadowed with trees
of a fine growth, standing alone, or in dusky groves and dense
entanglements, pervaded by woodland paths; and emerging from these
pleasant glooms, we come upon a breadth of sunshine, where the
greensward--so vividly green that it has a kind of lustre in it--is
spotted with beds of gemlike flowers.  Rustic chairs and benches are
scattered about, some of them ponderously fashioned out of the stumps of
obtruncated trees, and others more artfully made with intertwining
branches, or perhaps an imitation of such frail handiwork in iron.  In a
central part of the Garden is an archery-ground, where laughing maidens
practise at the butts, generally missing their ostensible mark, but, by
the mere grace of their action, sending an unseen shaft into some young
man's heart.  There is space, moreover, within these precincts, for an
artificial lake, with a little green island in the midst of it; both lake
and island being the haunt of swans, whose aspect and movement in the
water are most beautiful and stately,--most infirm, disjointed, and
decrepit, when, unadvisedly, they see fit to emerge, and try to walk upon
dry land.  In the latter case, they look like a breed of uncommonly
ill-contrived geese; and I record the matter here for the sake of the
moral,--that we should never pass judgment on the merits of any person or
thing, unless we behold them in the sphere and circumstances to which
they are specially adapted.  In still another part of the Garden there is
a labyrinthine maze, formed of an intricacy of hedge-bordered walks,
involving himself in which, a man might wander for hours inextricably
within a circuit of only a few yards.  It seemed to me a sad emblem of
the mental and moral perplexities in which we sometimes go astray, petty
in scope, yet large enough to entangle a lifetime, and bewilder us with a
weary movement, but no genuine progress.

The Leam,--the "high complectioned Leam," as Drayton calls it,--after
drowsing across the principal street of the town beneath a handsome
bridge, skirts along the margin of the Garden without any perceptible
flow.  Heretofore I had fancied the Concord the laziest river in the
world, but now assign that amiable distinction to the little English
stream.  Its water is by no means transparent, but has a greenish,
goose-puddly hue, which, however, accords well with the other coloring
and characteristics of the scene, and is disagreeable neither to sight
nor smell.  Certainly, this river is a perfect feature of that gentle
picturesqueness in which England is so rich, sleeping, as it does,
beneath a margin of willows that droop into its bosom, and other trees,
of deeper verdure than our own country can boast, inclining lovingly over
it.  On the Garden-side it is bordered by a shadowy, secluded grove, with
winding paths among its boskiness, affording many a peep at the river's
imperceptible lapse and tranquil gleam; and on the opposite shore stands
the priory-church, with its churchyard full of shrubbery and tombstones.

The business portion of the town clusters about the banks of the Leam,
and is naturally densest around the well to which the modern settlement
owes its existence.  Here are the commercial inns, the post-office, the
furniture-dealers, the iron-mongers, and all the heavy and homely
establishments that connect themselves even with the airiest modes of
human life; while upward from the river, by a long and gentle ascent,
rises the principal street, which is very bright and cheerful in its
physiognomy, and adorned with shop-fronts almost as splendid as those of
London, though on a diminutive scale.  There are likewise side-streets
and cross-streets, many of which are bordered with the beautiful
Warwickshire elm, a most unusual kind of adornment for an English town;
and spacious avenues, wide enough to afford room for stately groves, with
foot-paths running beneath the lofty shade, and rooks cawing and
chattering so high in the tree-tops that their voices get musical before
reaching the earth.  The houses are mostly built in blocks and ranges, in
which every separate tenement is a repetition of its fellow, though the
architecture of the different ranges is sufficiently various.  Some of
them are almost palatial in size and sumptuousness of arrangement.  Then,
on the outskirts of the town, there are detached villas, enclosed within
that separate domain of high stone fence and embowered shrubbery which an
Englishman so loves to build and plant around his abode, presenting to
the public only an iron gate, with a gravelled carriage-drive winding
away towards the half-hidden mansion.  Whether in street or suburb,
Leamington may fairly be called beautiful, and, at some points,
magnificent; but by and by you become doubtfully suspicious of a somewhat
unreal finery: it is pretentious, though not glaringly so; it has been
built with malice aforethought, as a place of gentility and enjoyment.
Moreover, splendid as the houses look, and comfortable as they often are,
there is a nameless something about them, betokening that they have not
grown out of human hearts, but are the creations of a skilfully applied
human intellect: no man has reared any one of them, whether stately or
humble, to be his lifelong residence, wherein to bring up his children,
who are to inherit it as a home.  They are nicely contrived
lodging-houses, one and all,--the best as well as the shabbiest of them,
--and therefore inevitably lack some nameless property that a home should
have.  This was the case with our own little snuggery in Lansdowne
Circus, as with all the rest; it had not grown out of anybody's
individual need, but was built to let or sell, and was therefore like a
ready-made garment,--a tolerable fit, but only tolerable.

All these blocks, ranges, and detached villas are adorned with the finest
and most aristocratic manes that I have found anywhere in England,
except, perhaps, in Bath, which is the great metropolis of that
second-class gentility with which watering-places are chiefly populated.
Lansdowne Crescent, Lansdowne Circus, Lansdowne Terrace, Regent Street,
Warwick Street, Clarendon Street, the Upper and Lower Parade: such are a
few of the designations.  Parade, indeed, is a well-chosen name for the
principal street, along which the population of the idle town draws
itself out for daily review and display.  I only wish that my descriptive
powers would enable me to throw off a picture of the scene at a sunny
noontide, individualizing each character with a touch the great people
alighting from their carriages at the principal shop-doors; the elderly
ladies and infirm Indian officers drawn along in Bath-chairs; the comely,
rather than pretty, English girls, with their deep, healthy bloom, which
an American taste is apt to deem fitter for a milkmaid than for a lady;
the mustached gentlemen with frogged surtouts and a military air; the
nursemaids and chubby children, but no chubbier than our own, and
scampering on slenderer legs; the sturdy figure of John Bull in all
varieties and of all ages, but ever with the stamp of authenticity
somewhere about him.

To say the truth, I have been holding the pen over my paper, purposing to
write a descriptive paragraph or two about the throng on the principal
Parade of Leamington, so arranging it as to present a sketch of the
British out-of-door aspect on a morning walk of gentility; but I find no
personages quite sufficiently distinct and individual in my memory to
supply the materials of such a panorama.

Oddly enough, the only figure that comes fairly forth to my mind's eye is
that of a dowager, one of hundreds whom I used to marvel at, all over
England, but who have scarcely a representative among our own ladies of
autumnal life, so thin, careworn, and frail, as age usually makes the
latter.

I have heard a good deal of the tenacity with which English ladies retain
their personal beauty to a late period of life; but (not to suggest that
an American eye needs use and cultivation before it can quite appreciate
the charm of English beauty at any age) it strikes me that an English
lady of fifty is apt to become a creature less refined and delicate, so
far as her physique goes, than anything that we Western people class
under the name of woman.  She has an awful ponderosity of frame, not
pulpy, like the looser development of our few fat women, but massive with
solid beef and streaky tallow; so that (though struggling manfully
against the idea) you inevitably think of her as made up of steaks and
sirloins.  When she walks, her advance is elephantine.  When she sits
down, it is on a great round space of her Maker's footstool, where she
looks as if nothing could ever move her.  She imposes awe and respect by
the muchness of her personality, to such a degree that you probably
credit her with far greater moral and intellectual force than she can
fairly claim.  Her visage is usually grim and stern, seldom positively
forbidding, yet calmly terrible, not merely by its breadth and
weight of feature, but because it seems to express so much well-founded
self-reliance, such acquaintance with the world, its toils, troubles, and
dangers, and such sturdy capacity for trampling down a foe.  Without
anything positively salient, or actively offensive, or, indeed, unjustly
formidable to her neighbors, she has the effect of a seventy-four
gun-ship in time of peace; for, while you assure yourself that there is
no real danger, you cannot help thinking how tremendous would be her
onset, if pugnaciously inclined, and how futile the effort to inflict any
counter-injury.  She certainly looks tenfold--nay, a hundred-fold--better
able to take care of herself than our slender-framed and haggard
womankind; but I have not found reason to suppose that the English
dowager of fifty has actually greater courage, fortitude, and strength of
character than our women of similar age, or even a tougher physical
endurance than they.  Morally, she is strong, I suspect, only in society,
and in the common routine of social affairs, and would be found powerless
and timid in any exceptional strait that might call for energy outside of
the conventionalities amid which she has grown up.

You can meet this figure in the street, and live, and even smile at the
recollection.  But conceive of her in a ball-room, with the bare, brawny
arms that she invariably displays there, and all the other corresponding
development, such as is beautiful in the maiden blossom, but a spectacle
to howl at in such an over-blown cabbage-rose as this.

Yet, somewhere in this enormous bulk there must be hidden the modest,
slender, violet-nature of a girl, whom an alien mass of earthliness has
unkindly overgrown; for an English maiden in her teens, though very
seldom so pretty as our own damsels, possesses, to say the truth, a
certain charm of half-blossom, and delicately folded leaves, and tender
womanhood shielded by maidenly reserves, with which, somehow or other,
our American girls often fail to adorn themselves during an appreciable
moment.  It is a pity that the English violet should grow into such an
outrageously developed peony as I have attempted to describe.  I wonder
whether a middle-aged husband ought to be considered as legally married
to all the accretions that have overgrown the slenderness of his bride,
since he led her to the altar, and which make her so much more than he
ever bargained for!  Is it not a sounder view of the case, that the
matrimonial bond cannot be held to include the three fourths of the wife
that had no existence when the ceremony was performed?  And as a matter
of conscience and good morals, ought not an English married pair to
insist upon the celebration of a silver-wedding at the end of twenty-five
years, in order to legalize and mutually appropriate that corporeal
growth of which both parties have individually come into possession since
they were pronounced one flesh?

The chief enjoyment of my several visits to Leamington lay in rural walks
about the neighborhood, and in jaunts to places of note and interest,
which are particularly abundant in that region.  The high-roads are made
pleasant to the traveller by a border of trees, and often afford him the
hospitality of a wayside bench beneath a comfortable shade.  But a
fresher delight is to be found in the foot-paths, which go wandering away
from stile to stile, along hedges, and across broad fields, and through
wooded parks, leading you to little hamlets of thatched cottages,
ancient, solitary farm-houses, picturesque old mills, streamlets, pools,
and all those quiet, secret, unexpected, yet strangely familiar features
of English scenery that Tennyson shows us in his idyls and eclogues.
These by-paths admit the wayfarer into the very heart of rural life, and
yet do not burden him with a sense of intrusiveness.  He has a right to
go whithersoever they lead him; for, with all their shaded privacy, they
are as much the property of the public as the dusty high-road itself, and
even by an older tenure.  Their antiquity probably exceeds that of the
Roman ways; the footsteps of the aboriginal Britons first wore away the
grass, and the natural flow of intercourse between village and village
has kept the track bare ever since.  An American farmer would plough
across any such path, and obliterate it with his hills of potatoes and
Indian corn; but here it is protected by law, and still more by the
sacredness that inevitably springs up, in this soil, along the
well-defined footprints of centuries.  Old associations are sure to be
fragrant herbs in English nostrils; we pull them up as weeds.

I remember such a path, the access to which is from Lovers' Grove, a
range of tall old oaks and elms on a high hill-top, whence there is a
view of Warwick Castle, and a wide extent of landscape, beautiful, though
bedimmed with English mist.  This particular foot-path, however, is not a
remarkably good specimen of its kind, since it leads into no hollows and
seclusions, and soon terminates in a high-road.  It connects Leamington
by a short cut with the small neighboring village of Lillington, a place
which impresses an American observer with its many points of contrast to
the rural aspects of his own country.  The village consists chiefly of
one row of contiguous dwellings, separated only by party-walls, but
ill-matched among themselves, being of different heights, and apparently
of various ages, though all are of an antiquity which we should call
venerable.  Some of the windows are leaden-framed lattices, opening on
hinges.  These houses are mostly built of gray stone; but others, in the
same range, are of brick, and one or two are in a very old fashion,--
Elizabethan, or still older,--having a ponderous framework of oak,
painted black, and filled in with plastered stone or bricks.  Judging by
the patches of repair, the oak seems to be the more durable part of the
structure.  Some of the roofs are covered with earthen tiles; others
(more decayed and poverty-stricken) with thatch, out of which sprouts a
luxurious vegetation of grass, house-leeks, and yellow flowers.  What
especially strikes an American is the lack of that insulated space, the
intervening gardens, grass-plots, orchards, broad-spreading shade-trees,
which occur between our own village-houses.  These English dwellings have
no such separate surroundings; they all grow together, like the cells of
a honeycomb.

Beyond the first row of houses, and hidden from it by a turn of the road,
there was another row (or block, as we should call it) of small old
cottages, stuck one against another, with their thatched roofs forming a
single contiguity.  These, I presume, were the habitations of the poorest
order of rustic laborers; and the narrow precincts of each cottage, as
well as the close neighborhood of the whole, gave the impression of a
stifled, unhealthy atmosphere among the occupants.  It seemed impossible
that there should be a cleanly reserve, a proper self-respect among
individuals, or a wholesome unfamiliarity between families where human
life was crowded and massed into such intimate communities as these.
Nevertheless, not to look beyond the outside, I never saw a prettier
rural scene than was presented by this range of contiguous huts.  For in
front of the whole row was a luxuriant and well-trimmed hawthorn hedge,
and belonging to each cottage was a little square of garden-ground,
separated from its neighbors by a line of the same verdant fence.  The
gardens were chockfull, not of esculent vegetables, but of flowers,
familiar ones, but very bright-colored, and shrubs of box, some of which
were trimmed into artistic shapes; and I remember, before one door, a
representation of Warwick Castle, made of oyster-shells.  The cottagers
evidently loved the little nests in which they dwelt, and did their best
to make them beautiful, and succeeded more than tolerably well,--so
kindly did nature help their humble efforts with its verdure, flowers,
moss, lichens, and the green things that grew out of the thatch.  Through
some of the open doorways we saw plump children rolling about on the
stone floors, and their mothers, by no means very pretty, but as
happy-looking as mothers generally are; and while we gazed at these
domestic matters, an old woman rushed wildly out of one of the gates,
upholding a shovel, on which she clanged and clattered with a key.  At
first we fancied that she intended an onslaught against ourselves, but
soon discovered that a more dangerous enemy was abroad; for the old
lady's bees had swarmed, and the air was full of them, whizzing by our
heads like bullets.

Not far from these two rows of houses and cottages, a green lane,
overshadowed with trees, turned aside from the main road, and tended
towards a square, gray tower, the battlements of which were just high
enough to be visible above the foliage.  Wending our way thitherward, we
found the very picture and ideal of a country church and churchyard.  The
tower seemed to be of Norman architecture, low, massive, and crowned with
battlements.  The body of the church was of very modest dimensions, and
the eaves so low that I could touch them with my walking-stick.  We
looked into the windows and beheld the dim and quiet interior, a narrow
space, but venerable with the consecration of many centuries, and keeping
its sanctity as entire and inviolate as that of a vast cathedral.  The
nave was divided from the side aisles of the church by pointed arches
resting on very sturdy pillars: it was good to see how solemnly they held
themselves to their age-long task of supporting that lowly roof.  There
was a small organ, suited in size to the vaulted hollow, which it weekly
filled with religious sound.  On the opposite wall of the church, between
two windows, was a mural tablet of white marble, with an inscription in
black letters,--the only such memorial that I could discern, although
many dead people doubtless lay beneath the floor, and had paved it with
their ancient tombstones, as is customary in old English churches.  There
were no modern painted windows, flaring with raw colors, nor other
gorgeous adornments, such as the present taste for mediaeval restoration
often patches upon the decorous simplicity of the gray village-church.
It is probably the worshipping-place of no more distinguished a
congregation than the farmers and peasantry who inhabit the houses and
cottages which I have just described.  Had the lord of the manor been one
of the parishioners, there would have been an eminent pew near the
chancel, walled high about, curtained, and softly cushioned, warmed by a
fireplace of its own, and distinguished by hereditary tablets and
escutcheons on the enclosed stone pillar.

A well-trodden path led across the churchyard, and the gate being on the
latch, we entered, and walked round among the graves and monuments.  The
latter were chiefly head-stones, none of which were very old, so far as
was discoverable by the dates; some, indeed, in so ancient a cemetery,
were disagreeably new, with inscriptions glittering like sunshine in gold
letters.  The ground must have been dug over and over again, innumerable
times, until the soil is made up of what was once human clay, out of
which have sprung successive crops of gravestones, that flourish their
allotted time, and disappear, like the weeds and flowers in their briefer
period.  The English climate is very unfavorable to the endurance of
memorials in the open air.  Twenty years of it suffice to give as much
antiquity of aspect, whether to tombstone or edifice, as a hundred years
of our own drier atmosphere,--so soon do the drizzly rains and constant
moisture corrode the surface of marble or freestone.  Sculptured edges
loose their sharpness in a year or two; yellow lichens overspread a
beloved name, and obliterate it while it is yet fresh upon some
survivor's heart.  Time gnaws an English gravestone with wonderful
appetite; and when the inscription is quite illegible, the sexton takes
the useless slab away, and perhaps makes a hearthstone of it, and digs up
the unripe bones which it ineffectually tried to memorialize, and gives
the bed to another sleeper.  In the Charter Street burial-ground at
Salem, and in the old graveyard on the hill at Ipswich, I have seen more
ancient gravestones, with legible inscriptions on them, than in any
English churchyard.

And yet this same ungenial climate, hostile as it generally is to the
long remembrance of departed people, has sometimes a lovely way of
dealing with the records on certain monuments that lie horizontally in
the open air.  The rain falls into the deep incisions of the letters, and
has scarcely time to be dried away before another shower sprinkles the
flat stone again, and replenishes those little reservoirs.  The unseen,
mysterious seeds of mosses find their way into the lettered furrows, and
are made to germinate by the continual moisture and watery sunshine of
the English sky; and by and by, in a year, or two years, or many years,
behold the complete inscription--

     Here Lieth the body,

and all the rest of the tender falsehood--beautifully embossed in raised
letters of living green, a bas-relief of velvet moss on the marble slab!
It becomes more legible, under the skyey influences, after the world has
forgotten the deceased, than when it was fresh from the stone-cutter's
hands.  It outlives the grief of friends.  I first saw an example of this
in Bebbington churchyard, in Cheshire, and thought that Nature must needs
have had a special tenderness for the person (no noted man, however, in
the world's history) so long ago laid beneath that stone, since she took
such wonderful pains to "keep his memory green."  Perhaps the proverbial
phrase just quoted may have had its origin in the natural phenomenon here
described.

While we rested ourselves on a horizontal monument, which was elevated
just high enough to be a convenient seat, I observed that one of the
gravestones lay very close to the church,--so close that the droppings of
the eaves would fall upon it.  It seemed as if the inmate of that grave
had desired to creep under the church-wall.  On closer inspection, we
found an almost illegible epitaph on the stone, and with difficulty made
out this forlorn verse:--

    "Poorly lived,
     And poorly died,
     Poorly buried,
     And no one cried."

It would be hard to compress the story of a cold and luckless life,
death, and burial into fewer words, or more impressive ones; at least, we
found them impressive, perhaps because we had to re-create the
inscription by scraping away the lichens from the faintly traced letters.
The grave was on the shady and damp side of the church, endwise towards
it, the head-stone being within about three feet of the foundation-wall;
so that, unless the poor man was a dwarf, he must have been doubled up to
fit him into his final resting-place.  No wonder that his epitaph
murmured against so poor a burial as this!  His name, as well as I could
make it out, was Treeo,--John Treeo, I think,--and he died in 1810, at
the age of seventy-four.  The gravestone is so overgrown with grass and
weeds, so covered with unsightly lichens, and so crumbly with time and
foul weather, that it is questionable whether anybody will ever be at the
trouble of deciphering it again.  But there is a quaint and sad kind of
enjoyment in defeating (to such slight degree as my pen may do it) the
probabilities of oblivion for poor John Treeo, and asking a little
sympathy for him, half a century after his death, and making him better
and more widely known, at least, than any other slumberer in Lillington
churchyard: he having been, as appearances go, the outcast of them all.

You find similar old churches and villages in all the neighboring
country, at the distance of every two or three miles; and I describe
them, not as being rare, but because they are so common and
characteristic.  The village of Whitnash, within twenty minutes' walk of
Leamington, looks as secluded, as rural, and as little disturbed by the
fashions of to-day, as if Dr. Jephson had never developed all those
Parades and Crescents out of his magic well.  I used to wonder whether
the inhabitants had ever yet heard of railways, or, at their slow rate of
progress, had even reached the epoch of stage-coaches.  As you approach
the village, while it is yet unseen, you observe a tall, overshadowing
canopy of elm-tree tops, beneath which you almost hesitate to follow the
public road, on account of the remoteness that seems to exist between the
precincts of this old-world community and the thronged modern street out
of which you have so recently emerged.  Venturing onward, however, you
soon find yourself in the heart of Whitnash, and see an irregular ring of
ancient rustic dwellings surrounding the village-green, on one side of
which stands the church, with its square Norman tower and battlements,
while close adjoining is the vicarage, made picturesque by peaks and
gables.  At first glimpse, none of the houses appear to be less than two
or three centuries old, and they are of the ancient, wooden-framed
fashion, with thatched roofs, which give them the air of birds' nests,
thereby assimilating them closely to the simplicity of nature.

The church-tower is mossy and much gnawed by time; it has narrow
loopholes up and down its front and sides, and an arched window over the
low portal, set with small panes of glass, cracked, dim, and irregular,
through which a bygone age is peeping out into the daylight.  Some of
those old, grotesque faces, called gargoyles, are seen on the projections
of the architecture.  The churchyard is very small, and is encompassed by
a gray stone fence that looks as ancient as the church itself.  In front
of the tower, on the village-green, is a yew-tree of incalculable age,
with a vast circumference of trunk, but a very scanty head of foliage;
though its boughs still keep some of the vitality which perhaps was in
its early prime when the Saxon invaders founded Whitnash.  A thousand
years is no extraordinary antiquity in the lifetime of a yew.  We were
pleasantly startled, however, by discovering an exuberance of more
youthful life than we had thought possible in so old a tree; for the
faces of two children laughed at us out of an opening in the trunk, which
had become hollow with long decay.  On one side of the yew stood a
framework of worm-eaten timber, the use and meaning of which puzzled me
exceedingly, till I made it out to be the village-stocks; a public
institution that, in its day, had doubtless hampered many a pair of
shank-bones, now crumbling in the adjacent churchyard.  It is not to be
supposed, however, that this old-fashioned mode of punishment is still in
vogue among the good people of Whitnash.  The vicar of the parish has
antiquarian propensities, and had probably dragged the stocks out of some
dusty hiding-place, and set them up on their former site as a curiosity.

I disquiet myself in vain with the effort to hit upon some characteristic
feature, or assemblage of features, that shall convey to the reader the
influence of hoar antiquity lingering into the present daylight, as I so
often felt it in these old English scenes.  It is only an American who
can feel it; and even he begins to find himself growing insensible to its
effect, after a long residence in England.  But while you are still new
in the old country, it thrills you with strange emotion to think that
this little church of Whitnash, humble as it seems, stood for ages under
the Catholic faith, and has not materially changed since Wickcliffe's
days, and that it looked as gray as now in Bloody Mary's time, and that
Cromwell's troopers broke off the stone noses of those same gargoyles
that are now grinning in your face.  So, too, with the immemorial
yew-tree: you see its great roots grasping hold of the earth like
gigantic claws, clinging so sturdily that no effort of time can wrench
them away; and there being life in the old tree, you feel all the more as
if a contemporary witness were telling you of the things that have been.
It has lived among men, and been a familiar object to them, and seen them
brought to be christened and married and buried in the neighboring church
and churchyard, through so many centuries, that it knows all about our
race, so far as fifty generations of the Whitnash people can supply such
knowledge.

And, after all, what a weary life it must have been for the old tree!
Tedious beyond imagination!  Such, I think, is the final impression on
the mind of an American visitor, when his delight at finding something
permanent begins to yield to his Western love of change, and he becomes
sensible of the heavy air of a spot where the forefathers and foremothers
have grown up together, intermarried, and died, through a long succession
of lives, without any intermixture of new elements, till family features
and character are all run in the same inevitable mould.  Life is there
fossilized in its greenest leaf.  The man who died yesterday or ever so
long ago walks the village-street to day, and chooses the same wife that
he married a hundred years since, and must be buried again to-morrow
under the same kindred dust that has already covered him half a score of
times.  The stone threshold of his cottage is worn away with his
hobnailed footsteps, shuffling over it from the reign of the first
Plantagenet to that of Victoria.  Better than this is the lot of our
restless countrymen, whose modern instinct bids them tend always towards
"fresh woods and pastures new."  Rather than such monotony of sluggish
ages, loitering on a village-green, toiling in hereditary fields,
listening to the parson's drone lengthened through centuries in the gray
Norman church, let us welcome whatever change may come,--change of place,
social customs, political institutions, modes of worship,--trusting,
that, if all present things shall vanish, they will but make room for
better systems, and for a higher type of man to clothe his life in them,
and to fling them off in turn.

Nevertheless, while an American willingly accepts growth and change as
the law of his own national and private existence, he has a singular
tenderness for the stone-incrusted institutions of the mother-country.
The reason may be (though I should prefer a more generous explanation)
that he recognizes the tendency of these hardened forms to stiffen her
joints and fetter her ankles, in the race and rivalry of improvement.  I
hated to see so much as a twig of ivy wrenched away from an old wall in
England.  Yet change is at work, even in such a village as Whitnash.  At
a subsequent visit, looking more critically at the irregular circle of
dwellings that surround the yew-tree and confront the church, I perceived
that some of the houses must have been built within no long time,
although the thatch, the quaint gables, and the old oaken framework of
the others diffused an air of antiquity over the whole assemblage.  The
church itself was undergoing repair and restoration, which is but another
name for change.  Masons were making patchwork on the front of the tower,
and were sawing a slab of stone and piling up bricks to strengthen the
side-wall, or possibly to enlarge the ancient edifice by an additional
aisle.  Moreover, they had dug an immense pit in the churchyard, long and
broad, and fifteen feet deep, two thirds of which profundity were
discolored by human decay, and mixed up with crumbly bones.  What this
excavation was intended for I could nowise imagine, unless it were the
very pit in which Longfellow bids the "Dead Past bury its Dead," and
Whitnash, of all places in the world, were going to avail itself of our
poet's suggestion.  If so, it must needs be confessed that many
picturesque and delightful things would be thrown into the hole, and
covered out of sight forever.

The article which I am writing has taken its own course, and occupied
itself almost wholly with country churches; whereas I had purposed to
attempt a description of some of the many old towns--Warwick, Coventry,
Kenilworth, Stratford-on-Avon--which lie within an easy scope of
Leamington.  And still another church presents itself to my remembrance.
It is that of Hatton, on which I stumbled in the course of a forenoon's
ramble, and paused a little while to look at it for the sake of old Dr.
Parr, who was once its vicar.  Hatton, so far as I could discover, has no
public-house, no shop, no contiguity of roofs (as in most English
villages, however small), but is merely an ancient neighborhood of
farm-houses, spacious, and standing wide apart, each within its own
precincts, and offering a most comfortable aspect of orchards,
harvest-fields, barns, stacks, and all manner of rural plenty.  It seemed
to be a community of old settlers, among whom everything had been going
on prosperously since an epoch beyond the memory of man; and they kept a
certain privacy among themselves, and dwelt on a cross-road, at the
entrance of which was a barred gate, hospitably open, but still
impressing me with a sense of scarcely warrantable intrusion.  After all,
in some shady nook of those gentle Warwickshire slopes there may have
been a denser and more populous settlement, styled Hatton, which I never
reached.

Emerging from the by-road, and entering upon one that crossed it at right
angles and led to Warwick, I espied the church of Dr. Parr.  Like the
others which I have described, it had a low stone tower, square, and
battlemented at its summit: for all these little churches seem to have
been built on the same model, and nearly at the same measurement, and
have even a greater family-likeness than the cathedrals.  As I
approached, the bell of the tower (a remarkably deep-toned bell,
considering how small it was) flung its voice abroad, and told me that it
was noon.  The church stands among its graves, a little removed from the
wayside, quite apart from any collection of houses, and with no signs of
vicarage; it is a good deal shadowed by trees, and not wholly destitute
of ivy.  The body of the edifice, unfortunately (and it is an outrage
which the English church-wardens are fond of perpetrating), has been
newly covered with a yellowish plaster or wash, so as quite to destroy
the aspect of antiquity, except upon the tower, which wears the dark gray
hue of many centuries.  The chancel-window is painted with a
representation of Christ upon the Cross, and all the other windows are
full of painted or stained glass, but none of it ancient, nor (if it be
fair to judge from without of what ought to be seen within) possessing
any of the tender glory that should be the inheritance of this branch of
Art, revived from mediaeval times.  I stepped over the graves, and peeped
in at two or three of the windows, and saw the snug interior of the
church glimmering through the many-colored panes, like a show of
commonplace objects under the fantastic influence of a dream: for the
floor was covered with modern pews, very like what we may see in a New
England meeting-house, though, I think, a little more favorable than
those would be to the quiet slumbers of the Hatton farmers and their
families.  Those who slept under Dr. Parr's preaching now prolong their
nap, I suppose, in the churchyard round about, and can scarcely have
drawn much spiritual benefit from any truths that he contrived to tell
them in their lifetime.  It struck me as a rare example (even where
examples are numerous) of a man utterly misplaced, that this enormous
scholar, great in the classic tongues, and inevitably converting his own
simplest vernacular into a learned language, should have been set up in
this homely pulpit, and ordained to preach salvation to a rustic
audience, to whom it is difficult to imagine how he could ever have
spoken one available word.

Almost always, in visiting such scenes as I have been attempting to
describe, I had a singular sense of having been there before.  The
ivy-grown English churches (even that of Bebbington, the first that I
beheld) were quite as familiar to me, when fresh from home, as the old
wooden meeting-house in Salem, which used, on wintry Sabbaths, to be the
frozen purgatory of my childhood.  This was a bewildering, yet very
delightful emotion fluttering about me like a faint summer wind, and
filling my imagination with a thousand half-remembrances, which looked as
vivid as sunshine, at a side-glance, but faded quite away whenever I
attempted to grasp and define them.  Of course, the explanation of the
mystery was, that history, poetry, and fiction, books of travel, and the
talk of tourists, had given me pretty accurate preconceptions of the
common objects of English scenery, and these, being long ago vivified by
a youthful fancy, had insensibly taken their places among the images of
things actually seen.  Yet the illusion was often so powerful, that I
almost doubted whether such airy remembrances might not be a sort of
innate idea, the print of a recollection in some ancestral mind,
transmitted, with fainter and fainter impress through several descents,
to my own.  I felt, indeed, like the stalwart progenitor in person,
returning to the hereditary haunts after more than two hundred years, and
finding the church, the hall, the farm-house, the cottage, hardly changed
during his long absence,--the same shady by-paths and hedge-lanes, the
same veiled sky, and green lustre of the lawns and fields,--while his own
affinities for these things, a little obscured by disuse, were reviving
at every step.

An American is not very apt to love the English people, as a whole, on
whatever length of acquaintance.  I fancy that they would value our
regard, and even reciprocate it in their ungracious way, if we could give
it to them in spite of all rebuffs; but they are beset by a curious and
inevitable infelicity, which compels them, as it were, to keep up what
they seem to consider a wholesome bitterness of feeling between
themselves and all other nationalities, especially that of America.  They
will never confess it; nevertheless, it is as essential a tonic to them
as their bitter ale.  Therefore,--and possibly, too, from a similar
narrowness in his own character,--an American seldom feels quite as if he
were at home among the English people.  If he do so, he has ceased to be
an American.  But it requires no long residence to make him love their
island, and appreciate it as thoroughly as they themselves do.  For my
part, I used to wish that we could annex it, transferring their thirty
millions of inhabitants to some convenient wilderness in the great West,
and putting half or a quarter as many of ourselves into their places.
The change would be beneficial to both parties.  We, in our dry
atmosphere, are getting too nervous, haggard, dyspeptic, extenuated,
unsubstantial, theoretic, and need to be made grosser.  John Bull, on the
other hand, has grown bulbous, long-bodied, short-legged, heavy-witted,
material, and, in a word, too intensely English.  In a few more centuries
he will be the earthliest creature that ever the earth saw.  Heretofore
Providence has obviated such a result by timely intermixtures of alien
races with the old English stock; so that each successive conquest of
England has proved a victory by the revivification and improvement of its
native manhood.  Cannot America and England hit upon some scheme to
secure even greater advantages to both nations?



ABOUT WARWICK.


Between bright, new Leamington, the growth of the present century, and
rusty Warwick, founded by King Cymbeline in the twilight ages, a thousand
years before the mediaeval darkness, there are two roads, either of which
may be measured by a sober-paced pedestrian in less than half an hour.

One of these avenues flows out of the midst of the smart parades and
crescents of the former town,--along by hedges and beneath the shadow of
great elms, past stuccoed Elizabethan villas and wayside alehouses, and
through a hamlet of modern aspect,--and runs straight into the principal
thoroughfare of Warwick.  The battlemented turrets of the castle,
embowered half-way up in foliage, and the tall, slender tower of St.
Mary's Church, rising from among clustered roofs, have been visible
almost from the commencement of the walk.  Near the entrance of the town
stands St. John's School-House, a picturesque old edifice of stone, with
four peaked gables in a row, alternately plain and ornamented, and wide,
projecting windows, and a spacious and venerable porch, all overgrown
with moss and ivy, and shut in from the world by a high stone fence, not
less mossy than the gabled front.  There is an iron gate, through the
rusty open-work of which you see a grassy lawn, and almost expect to meet
the shy, curious eyes of the little boys of past generations, peeping
forth from their infantile antiquity into the strangeness of our present
life.  I find a peculiar charm in these long-established English schools,
where the school-boy of to-day sits side by side, as it were, with his
great-grandsire, on the same old benches, and often, I believe, thumbs a
later, but unimproved edition of the same old grammar or arithmetic.  The
newfangled notions of a Yankee school-committee would madden many a
pedagogue, and shake down the roof of many a time-honored seat of
learning, in the mother-country.

At this point, however, we will turn back, in order to follow up the
other road from Leamington, which was the one that I loved best to take.
It pursues a straight and level course, bordered by wide gravel-walks and
overhung by the frequent elm, with here a cottage and there a villa, on
one side a wooded plantation, and on the other a rich field of grass or
grain, until, turning at right angles, it brings you to an arched bridge
over the Avon.  Its parapet is a balustrade carved out of freestone, into
the soft substance of which a multitude of persons have engraved their
names or initials, many of them now illegible, while others, more deeply
cut, are illuminated with fresh green moss.  These tokens indicate a
famous spot; and casting our eyes along the smooth gleam and shadow of
the quiet stream, through a vista of willows that droop on either side
into the water, we behold the gray magnificence of Warwick Castle,
uplifting itself among stately trees, and rearing its turrets high above
their loftiest branches.  We can scarcely think the scene real, so
completely do those machicolated towers, the long line of battlements,
the massive buttresses, the high-windowed walls, shape out our indistinct
ideas of the antique time.  It might rather seem as if the sleepy river
(being Shakespeare's Avon, and often, no doubt, the mirror of his
gorgeous visions) were dreaming now of a lordly residence that stood here
many centuries ago; and this fantasy is strengthened, when you observe
that the image in the tranquil water has all the distinctness of the
actual structure.  Either might be the reflection of the other.  Wherever
Time has gnawed one of the stones, you see the mark of his tooth just as
plainly in the sunken reflection.  Each is so perfect, that the upper
vision seems a castle in the air, and the lower one an old stronghold of
feudalism, miraculously kept from decay in an enchanted river.

A ruinous and ivy-grown bridge, that projects from the bank a little on
the hither side of the castle, has the effect of making the scene appear
more entirely apart from the every-day world, for it ends abruptly in the
middle of the stream,--so that, if a cavalcade of the knights and ladies
of romance should issue from the old walls, they could never tread on
earthly ground, any more than we, approaching from the side of modern
realism, can overleap the gulf between our domain and theirs.  Yet, if we
seek to disenchant ourselves, it may readily be done.  Crossing the
bridge on which we stand, and passing a little farther on, we come to the
entrance of the castle, abutting on the highway, and hospitably open at
certain hours to all curious pilgrims who choose to disburse half a crown
or so toward the support of the earl's domestics.  The sight of that long
series of historic rooms, full of such splendors and rarities as a great
English family necessarily gathers about itself, in its hereditary abode,
and in the lapse of ages, is well worth the money, or ten times as much,
if indeed the value of the spectacle could be reckoned in money's-worth.
But after the attendant has hurried you from end to end of the edifice,
repeating a guide-book by rote, and exorcising each successive hall of
its poetic glamour and witchcraft by the mere tone in which he talks
about it, you will make the doleful discovery that Warwick Castle has
ceased to be a dream.  It is better, methinks, to linger on the bridge,
gazing at Caesar's Tower and Guy's Tower in the dim English sunshine
above, and in the placid Avon below, and still keep them as thoughts in
your own mind, than climb to their summits, or touch even a stone of
their actual substance.  They will have all the more reality for you, as
stalwart relics of immemorial time, if you are reverent enough to leave
them in the intangible sanctity of a poetic vision.

From the bridge over the Avon, the road passes in front of the
castle-gate, and soon enters the principal street of Warwick, a little
beyond St. John's School-House, already described.  Chester itself, most
antique of English towns, can hardly show quainter architectural shapes
than many of the buildings that border this street.  They are mostly of
the timber-and-plaster kind, with bowed and decrepit ridge-poles, and a
whole chronology of various patchwork in their walls; their low-browed
doorways open upon a sunken floor; their projecting stories peep, as it
were, over one another's shoulders, and rise into a multiplicity of
peaked gables; they have curious windows, breaking out irregularly all
over the house, some even in the roof, set in their own little peaks,
opening lattice-wise, and furnished with twenty small panes of
lozenge-shaped glass.  The architecture of these edifices (a visible
oaken framework, showing the whole skeleton of the house,--as if a man's
bones should be arranged on his outside, and his flesh seen through the
interstices) is often imitated by modern builders, and with sufficiently
picturesque effect.  The objection is, that such houses, like all
imitations of bygone styles, have an air of affectation; they do not seem
to be built in earnest; they are no better than playthings, or overgrown
baby-houses, in which nobody should be expected to encounter the serious
realities of either birth or death.  Besides, originating nothing, we
leave no fashions for another age to copy, when we ourselves shall have
grown antique.

Old as it looks, all this portion of Warwick has overbrimmed, as it were,
from the original settlement, being outside of the ancient wall.  The
street soon runs under an arched gateway, with a church or some other
venerable structure above it, and admits us into the heart of the town.
At one of my first visits, I witnessed a military display.  A regiment of
Warwickshire militia, probably commanded by the Earl, was going through
its drill in the market-place; and on the collar of one of the officers
was embroidered the Bear and Ragged Staff, which has been the cognizance
of the Warwick earldom from time immemorial.  The soldiers were sturdy
young men, with the simple, stolid, yet kindly faces of English rustics,
looking exceedingly well in a body, but slouching into a yeoman-like
carriage and appearance the moment they were dismissed from drill.
Squads of them were distributed everywhere about the streets, and
sentinels were posted at various points; and I saw a sergeant, with a
great key in his hand (big enough to have been the key of the castle's
main entrance when the gate was thickest and heaviest), apparently
setting a guard.  Thus, centuries after feudal times are past, we find
warriors still gathering under the old castle-walls, and commanded by a
feudal lord, just as in the days of the King-Maker, who, no doubt, often
mustered his retainers in the same market-place where I beheld this
modern regiment.

The interior of the town wears a less old-fashioned aspect than the
suburbs through which we approach it; and the High Street has shops with
modern plate-glass, and buildings with stuccoed fronts, exhibiting as few
projections to hang a thought or sentiment upon as if an architect of
to-day had planned them.  And, indeed, so far as their surface goes, they
are perhaps new enough to stand unabashed in an American street; but
behind these renovated faces, with their monotonous lack of expression,
there is probably the substance of the same old town that wore a Gothic
exterior in the Middle Ages.  The street is an emblem of England itself.
What seems new in it is chiefly a skilful and fortunate adaptation of
what such a people as ourselves would destroy.  The new things are based
and supported on sturdy old things, and derive a massive strength from
their deep and immemorial foundations, though with such limitations and
impediments as only an Englishman could endure.  But he likes to feel the
weight of all the past upon his back; and, moreover, the antiquity that
overburdens him has taken root in his being, and has grown to be rather a
hump than a pack, so that there is no getting rid of it without tearing
his whole structure to pieces.  In my judgment, as he appears to be
sufficiently comfortable under the mouldy accretion, he had better
stumble on with it as long as he can.  He presents a spectacle which is
by no means without its charm for a disinterested and unencumbered
observer.

When the old edifice, or the antiquated custom or institution, appears in
its pristine form, without any attempt at intermarrying it with modern
fashions, an American cannot but admire the picturesque effect produced
by the sudden cropping up of an apparently dead-and-buried state of
society into the actual present, of which he is himself a part.  We need
not go far in Warwick without encountering an instance of the kind.
Proceeding westward through the town, we find ourselves confronted by a
huge mass of natural rock, hewn into something like architectural shape,
and penetrated by a vaulted passage, which may well have been one of King
Cymbeline's original gateways; and on the top of the rock, over the
archway, sits a small old church, communicating with an ancient edifice,
or assemblage of edifices, that look down from a similar elevation on the
side of the street.  A range of trees half hides the latter establishment
from the sun.  It presents a curious and venerable specimen of the
timber-and-plaster style of building, in which some of the finest old
houses in England are constructed; the front projects into porticos and
vestibules, and rises into many gables, some in a row, and others
crowning semi-detached portions of the structure; the windows mostly open
on hinges, but show a delightful irregularity of shape and position; a
multiplicity of chimneys break through the roof at their own will, or, at
least, without any settled purpose of the architect.  The whole affair
looks very old,--so old indeed that the front bulges forth, as if the
timber framework were a little weary, at last, of standing erect so long;
but the state of repair is so perfect, and there is such an indescribable
aspect of continuous vitality within the system of this aged house, that
you feel confident that there may be safe shelter yet, and perhaps for
centuries to come, under its time-honored roof.  And on a bench,
sluggishly enjoying the sunshine, and looking into the street of Warwick
as from a life apart, a few old men are generally to be seen, wrapped in
long cloaks, on which you may detect the glistening of a silver badge
representing the Bear and Ragged Staff.  These decorated worthies are
some of the twelve brethren of Leicester's Hospital,--a community which
subsists to-day under the identical modes that were established for it in
the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and of course retains many features of a
social life that has vanished almost everywhere else.

The edifice itself dates from a much older period than the charitable
institution of which it is now the home.  It was the seat of a religious
fraternity far back in the Middle Ages, and continued so till Henry VIII.
turned all the priesthood of England out of doors, and put the most
unscrupulous of his favorites into their vacant abodes.  In many
instances, the old monks had chosen the sites of their domiciles so well,
and built them on such a broad system of beauty and convenience, that
their lay-occupants found it easy to convert them into stately and
comfortable homes; and as such they still exist, with something of the
antique reverence lingering about them.  The structure now before us
seems to have been first granted to Sir Nicholas Lestrange, who perhaps
intended, like other men, to establish his household gods in the niches
whence he had thrown down the images of saints, and to lay his hearth
where an altar had stood.  But there was probably a natural reluctance in
those days (when Catholicism, so lately repudiated, must needs have
retained an influence over all but the most obdurate characters) to bring
one's hopes of domestic prosperity and a fortunate lineage into direct
hostility with the awful claims of the ancient religion.  At all events,
there is still a superstitious idea, betwixt a fantasy and a belief, that
the possession of former Church-property has drawn a curse along with it,
not only among the posterity of those to whom it was originally granted,
but wherever it has subsequently been transferred, even if honestly
bought and paid for.  There are families, now inhabiting some of the
beautiful old abbeys, who appear to indulge a species of pride in
recording the strange deaths and ugly shapes of misfortune that have
occurred among their predecessors, and may be supposed likely to dog
their own pathway down the ages of futurity.  Whether Sir Nicholas
Lestrange, in the beef-eating days of Old Harry and Elizabeth, was a
nervous man, and subject to apprehensions of this kind, I cannot tell;
but it is certain that he speedily rid himself of the spoils of the
Church, and that, within twenty years afterwards, the edifice became the
property of the famous Dudley, Earl of Leicester, brother of the Earl of
Warwick.  He devoted the ancient religious precinct to a charitable use,
endowing it with an ample revenue, and making it the perpetual home of
twelve poor, honest, and war-broken soldiers, mostly his own retainers,
and natives either of Warwickshire or Gloucestershire.  These veterans,
or others wonderfully like them, still occupy their monkish dormitories
and haunt the time-darkened corridors and galleries of the hospital,
leading a life of old-fashioned comfort, wearing the old-fashioned
cloaks, and burnishing the identical silver badges which the Earl of
Leicester gave to the original twelve.  He is said to have been a bad man
in his day; but he has succeeded in prolonging one good deed into what
was to him a distant future.

On the projecting story, over the arched entrance, there is the date,
1571, and several coats-of-arms, either the Earl's or those of his
kindred, and immediately above the doorway a stone sculpture of the Bear
and Ragged Staff.

Passing through the arch, we find ourselves in a quadrangle, or enclosed
court, such as always formed the central part of a great family residence
in Queen Elizabeth's time, and earlier.  There can hardly be a more
perfect specimen of such an establishment than Leicester's Hospital.  The
quadrangle is a sort of sky-roofed hall, to which there is convenient
access from all parts of the house.  The four inner fronts, with their
high, steep roofs and sharp gables, look into it from antique windows,
and through open corridors and galleries along the sides; and there seems
to be a richer display of architectural devices and ornaments, quainter
carvings in oak, and more fantastic shapes of the timber framework, than
on the side toward the street.  On the wall opposite the arched entrance
are the following inscriptions, comprising such moral rules, I presume,
as were deemed most essential for the daily observance of the community:
"Honor all Men"--"Fear God"--"Honor the King"--"Love the Brotherhood";
and again, as if this latter injunction needed emphasis and repetition
among a household of aged people soured with the hard fortune of their
previous lives,--"Be kindly affectioned one to another."  One sentence,
over a door communicating with the Master's side of the house, is
addressed to that dignitary,--"He that ruleth over men must be just."
All these are charactered in old English letters, and form part of the
elaborate ornamentation of the house.  Everywhere--on the walls, over
windows and doors, and at all points where there is room to place them--
appear escutcheons of arms, cognizances, and crests, emblazoned in their
proper colors, and illuminating the ancient quadrangle with their
splendor.  One of these devices is a large image of a porcupine on an
heraldic wreath, being the crest of the Lords de Lisle.  But especially
is the cognizance of the Bear and Ragged Staff repeated over and over,
and over again and again, in a great variety of attitudes, at
full-length, and half-length, in paint and in oaken sculpture, in
bas-relief and rounded image.  The founder of the hospital was certainly
disposed to reckon his own beneficence as among the hereditary glories of
his race; and had he lived and died a half-century earlier, he would have
kept up an old Catholic custom by enjoining the twelve bedesmen to pray
for the welfare of his soul.

At my first visit, some of the brethren were seated on the bench outside
of the edifice, looking down into the street; but they did not vouchsafe
me a word, and seemed so estranged from modern life, so enveloped in
antique customs and old-fashioned cloaks, that to converse with them
would have been like shouting across the gulf between our age and Queen
Elizabeth's.  So I passed into the quadrangle, and found it quite
solitary, except that a plain and neat old woman happened to be crossing
it, with an aspect of business and carefulness that bespoke her a woman
of this world, and not merely a shadow of the past.  Asking her if I
could come in, she answered very readily and civilly that I might, and
said that I was free to look about me, hinting a hope, however, that I
would not open the private doors of the brotherhood, as some visitors
were in the habit of doing.  Under her guidance, I went into what was
formerly the great hall of the establishment, where King James I. had
once been feasted by an Earl of Warwick, as is commemorated by an
inscription on the cobwebbed and dingy wall.  It is a very spacious and
barn-like apartment, with a brick floor, and a vaulted roof, the rafters
of which are oaken beams, wonderfully carved, but hardly visible in the
duskiness that broods aloft.  The hall may have made a splendid
appearance, when it was decorated with rich tapestry, and illuminated
with chandeliers, cressets, and torches glistening upon silver dishes,
where King James sat at supper among his brilliantly dressed nobles; but
it has come to base uses in these latter days,--being improved, in Yankee
phrase, as a brewery and wash-room, and as a cellar for the brethren's
separate allotments of coal.

The old lady here left me to myself, and I returned into the quadrangle.
It was very quiet, very handsome, in its own obsolete style, and must be
an exceedingly comfortable place for the old people to lounge in, when
the inclement winds render it inexpedient to walk abroad.  There are
shrubs against the wall, on one side; and on another is a cloistered
walk, adorned with stags' heads and antlers, and running beneath a
covered gallery, up to which ascends a balustraded staircase.  In the
portion of the edifice opposite the entrance-arch are the apartments of
the Master; and looking into the window (as the old woman, at no request
of mine, had specially informed me that I might), I saw a low, but vastly
comfortable parlor, very handsomely furnished, and altogether a luxurious
place.  It had a fireplace with an immense arch, the antique breadth of
which extended almost from wall to wall of the room, though now fitted up
in such a way, that the modern coal-grate looked very diminutive in the
midst.  Gazing into this pleasant interior, it seemed to me, that, among
these venerable surroundings, availing himself of whatever was good in
former things, and eking out their imperfection with the results of
modern ingenuity, the Master might lead a not unenviable life.  On the
cloistered side of the quadrangle, where the dark oak panels made the
enclosed space dusky, I beheld a curtained window reddened by a great
blaze from within, and heard the bubbling and squeaking of something--
doubtless very nice and succulent--that was being cooked at the
kitchen-fire.  I think, indeed, that a whiff or two of the savory
fragrance reached my nostrils; at all events, the impression grew upon me
that Leicester's Hospital is one of the jolliest old domiciles in
England.

I was about to depart, when another old woman, very plainly dressed, but
fat, comfortable, and with a cheerful twinkle in her eyes, came in
through the arch, and looked curiously at me.  This repeated apparition
of the gentle sex (though by no means under its loveliest guise) had
still an agreeable effect in modifying my ideas of an institution which I
had supposed to be of a stern and monastic character.  She asked whether
I wished to see the hospital, and said that the porter, whose office it
was to attend to visitors, was dead, and would be buried that very day,
so that the whole establishment could not conveniently be shown me.  She
kindly invited me, however, to visit the apartment occupied by her
husband and herself; so I followed her up the antique staircase, along
the gallery, and into a small, oak-panelled parlor, where sat an old man
in a long blue garment, who arose and saluted me with much courtesy.  He
seemed a very quiet person, and yet had a look of travel and adventure,
and gray experience, such as I could have fancied in a palmer of ancient
times, who might likewise have worn a similar costume.  The little room
was carpeted and neatly furnished; a portrait of its occupant was hanging
on the wall; and on a table were two swords crossed,--one, probably, his
own battle-weapon, and the other, which I drew half out of the scabbard,
had an inscription on the blade, purporting that it had been taken from
the field of Waterloo.  My kind old hostess was anxious to exhibit all
the particulars of their housekeeping, and led me into the bedroom, which
was in the nicest order, with a snow-white quilt upon the bed; and in a
little intervening room was a washing and bathing apparatus; a
convenience (judging from the personal aspect and atmosphere of such
parties) seldom to be met with in the humbler ranks of British life.

The old soldier and his wife both seemed glad of somebody to talk with;
but the good woman availed herself of the privilege far more copiously
than the veteran himself, insomuch that he felt it expedient to give her
an occasional nudge with his elbow in her well-padded ribs.  "Don't you
be so talkative!" quoth he; and, indeed, he could hardly find space for a
word, and quite as little after his admonition as before.  Her nimble
tongue ran over the whole system of life in the hospital.  The brethren,
she said, had a yearly stipend (the amount of which she did not mention),
and such decent lodgings as I saw, and some other advantages, free; and,
instead of being pestered with a great many rules, and made to dine
together at a great table, they could manage their little household
matters as they liked, buying their own dinners and having them cooked in
the general kitchen, and eating them snugly in their own parlors.  "And,"
added she, rightly deeming this the crowning privilege, "with the
Master's permission, they can have their wives to take care of them; and
no harm comes of it; and what more can an old man desire?"  It was
evident enough that the good dame found herself in what she considered
very rich clover, and, moreover, had plenty of small occupations to keep
her from getting rusty and dull; but the veteran impressed me as deriving
far less enjoyment from the monotonous ease, without fear of change or
hope of improvement, that had followed upon thirty years of peril and
vicissitude.  I fancied, too, that, while pleased with the novelty of a
stranger's visit, he was still a little shy of becoming a spectacle for
the stranger's curiosity; for, if he chose to be morbid about the matter,
the establishment was but an almshouse, in spite of its old-fashioned
magnificence, and his fine blue cloak only a pauper's garment, with a
silver badge on it that perhaps galled his shoulder.  In truth, the badge
and the peculiar garb, though quite in accordance with the manners of the
Earl of Leicester's age, are repugnant to modern prejudices, and might
fitly and humanely be abolished.

A year or two afterwards I paid another visit to the hospital, and found
a new porter established in office, and already capable of talking like a
guide-book about the history, antiquities, and present condition of the
charity.  He informed me that the twelve brethren are selected from among
old soldiers of good character, whose other resources must not exceed an
income of five pounds; thus excluding all commissioned officers, whose
half-pay would of course be more than that amount.  They receive from the
hospital an annuity of eighty pounds each, besides their apartments, a
garment of fine blue cloth, an annual abundance of ale, and a privilege
at the kitchen-fire; so that, considering the class from which they are
taken, they may well reckon themselves among the fortunate of the earth.
Furthermore, they are invested with political rights, acquiring a vote
for member of Parliament in virtue either of their income or brotherhood.
On the other hand, as regards their personal freedom or conduct, they are
subject to a supervision which the Master of the hospital might render
extremely annoying, were he so inclined; but the military restraint under
which they have spent the active portion of their lives makes it easier
for them to endure the domestic discipline here imposed upon their age.
The porter bore his testimony (whatever were its value) to their being as
contented and happy as such a set of old people could possibly be, and
affirmed that they spent much time in burnishing their silver badges, and
were as proud of them as a nobleman of his star.  These badges, by the
by, except one that was stolen and replaced in Queen Anne's time, are the
very same that decorated the original twelve brethren.

I have seldom met with a better guide than my friend the porter.  He
appeared to take a genuine interest in the peculiarities of the
establishment, and yet had an existence apart from them, so that he could
the better estimate what those peculiarities were.  To be sure, his
knowledge and observation were confined to external things, but, so far,
had a sufficiently extensive scope.  He led me up the staircase and
exhibited portions of the timber framework of the edifice that are
reckoned to be eight or nine hundred years old, and are still neither
worm-eaten nor decayed; and traced out what had been a great hall in the
days of the Catholic fraternity, though its area is now filled up with
the apartments of the twelve brethren; and pointed to ornaments of
sculptured oak, done in an ancient religious style of art, but hardly
visible amid the vaulted dimness of the roof.  Thence we went to the
chapel--the Gothic church which I noted several pages back--surmounting
the gateway that stretches half across the street.  Here the brethren
attend daily prayer, and have each a prayer-book of the finest paper,
with a fair, large type for their old eyes.  The interior of the chapel
is very plain, with a picture of no merit for an altar-piece, and a
single old pane of painted glass in the great eastern window,
representing,--no saint, nor angel, as is customary in such cases,--but
that grim sinner, the Earl of Leicester.  Nevertheless, amid so many
tangible proofs of his human sympathy, one comes to doubt whether the
Earl could have been such a hardened reprobate, after all.

We ascended the tower of the chapel, and looked down between its
battlements into the street, a hundred feet below us; while clambering
half-way up were foxglove-flowers, weeds, small shrubs, and tufts of
grass, that had rooted themselves into the roughnesses of the stone
foundation.  Far around us lay a rich and lovely English landscape, with
many a church-spire and noble country-seat, and several objects of high
historic interest.  Edge Hill, where the Puritans defeated Charles I., is
in sight on the edge of the horizon, and much nearer stands the house
where Cromwell lodged on the night before the battle.  Right under our
eyes, and half enveloping the town with its high-shouldering wall, so
that all the closely compacted streets seemed but a precinct of the
estate, was the Earl of Warwick's delightful park, a wide extent of sunny
lawns, interspersed with broad contiguities of forest-shade.  Some of the
cedars of Lebanon were there,--a growth of trees in which the Warwick
family take an hereditary pride.  The two highest towers of the castle
heave themselves up out of a mass of foliage, and look down in a lordly
manner upon the plebeian roofs of the town, a part of which are
slate-covered (these are the modern houses), and a part are coated with
old red tiles, denoting the more ancient edifices.  A hundred and sixty
or seventy years ago, a great fire destroyed a considerable portion of
the town, and doubtless annihilated many structures of a remote
antiquity; at least, there was a possibility of very old houses in the
long past of Warwick, which King Cymbeline is said to have founded in the
year ONE of the Christian era!

And this historic fact or poetic fiction, whichever it may be, brings to
mind a more indestructible reality than anything else that has occurred
within the present field of our vision; though this includes the scene of
Guy of Warwick's legendary exploits, and some of those of the Round
Table, to say nothing of the Battle of Edge Hill.  For perhaps it was in
the landscape now under our eyes that Posthumus wandered with the King's
daughter, the sweet, chaste, faithful, and courageous Imogen, the
tenderest and womanliest woman that Shakespeare ever made immortal in the
world.  The silver Avon, which we see flowing so quietly by the gray
castle, may have held their images in its bosom.

The day, though it began brightly, had long been overcast, and the clouds
now spat down a few spiteful drops upon us, besides that the east-wind
was very chill; so we descended the winding tower-stair, and went next
into the garden, one side of which is shut in by almost the only
remaining portion of the old city-wall.  A part of the garden-ground is
devoted to grass and shrubbery, and permeated by gravel-walks, in the
centre of one of which is a beautiful stone vase of Egyptian sculpture,
that formerly stood on the top of a Nilometer, or graduated pillar for
measuring the rise and fall of the river Nile.  On the pedestal is a
Latin inscription by Dr. Parr, who (his vicarage of Hatton being so close
at hand) was probably often the Master's guest, and smoked his
interminable pipe along these garden-walks.  Of the vegetable-garden,
which lies adjacent, the lion's share is appropriated to the Master, and
twelve small, separate patches to the individual brethren, who cultivate
them at their own judgment and by their own labor; and their beans and
cauliflowers have a better flavor, I doubt not, than if they had received
them directly from the dead hand of the Earl of Leicester, like the rest
of their food.  In the farther part of the garden is an arbor for the old
men's pleasure and convenience, and I should like well to sit down among
them there, and find out what is really the bitter and the sweet of such
a sort of life.  As for the old gentlemen themselves, they put me queerly
in mind of the Salem Custom-House, and the venerable personages whom I
found so quietly at anchor there.

The Master's residence, forming one entire side of the quadrangle, fronts
on the garden, and wears an aspect at once stately and homely.  It can
hardly have undergone any perceptible change within three centuries; but
the garden, into which its old windows look, has probably put off a great
many eccentricities and quaintnesses, in the way of cunningly clipped
shrubbery, since the gardener of Queen Elizabeth's reign threw down his
rusty shears and took his departure.  The present Master's name is
Harris; he is a descendant of the founder's family, a gentleman of
independent fortune, and a clergyman of the Established Church, as the
regulations of the hospital require him to be.  I know not what are his
official emoluments; but, according to an English precedent, an ancient
charitable fund is certain to be held directly for the behoof of those
who administer it, and perhaps incidentally, in a moderate way, for the
nominal beneficiaries; and, in the case before us, the twelve brethren
being so comfortably provided for, the Master is likely to be at least as
comfortable as all the twelve together.  Yet I ought not, even in a
distant land, to fling an idle gibe against a gentleman of whom I really
know nothing, except that the people under his charge bear all possible
tokens of being tended and cared for as sedulously as if each of them sat
by a warm fireside of his own, with a daughter bustling round the hearth
to make ready his porridge and his titbits.  It is delightful to think of
the good life which a suitable man, in the Master's position, has an
opportunity to lead,--linked to time-honored customs, welded in with an
ancient system, never dreaming of radical change, and bringing all the
mellowness and richness of the past down into these railway-days, which
do not compel him or his community to move a whit quicker than of yore.
Everybody can appreciate the advantages of going ahead; it might be well,
sometimes, to think whether there is not a word or two to be said in
favor of standing still or going to sleep.

From the garden we went into the kitchen, where the fire was burning
hospitably, and diffused a genial warmth far and wide, together with the
fragrance of some old English roast-beef, which, I think, must at that
moment have been done nearly to a turn.  The kitchen is a lofty,
spacious, and noble room, partitioned off round the fireplace, by a sort
of semicircular oaken screen, or rather, an arrangement of heavy and
high-backed settles, with an ever-open entrance between them, on either
side of which is the omnipresent image of the Bear and Ragged Staff,
three feet high, and excellently carved in oak, now black with time and
unctuous kitchen-smoke.  The ponderous mantel-piece, likewise of carved
oak, towers high towards the dusky ceiling, and extends its mighty
breadth to take in a vast area of hearth, the arch of the fireplace being
positively so immense that I could compare it to nothing but the city
gateway.  Above its cavernous opening were crossed two ancient halberds,
the weapons, possibly, of soldiers who had fought under Leicester in the
Low Countries; and elsewhere on the walls were displayed several muskets,
which some of the present inmates of the hospital may have levelled
against the French.  Another ornament of the mantel-piece was a square of
silken needlework or embroidery, faded nearly white, but dimly
representing that wearisome Bear and Ragged Staff, which we should hardly
look twice at, only that it was wrought by the fair fingers of poor Amy
Robsart, and beautifully framed in oak from Kenilworth Castle, at the
expense of a Mr. Conner, a countryman of our own.  Certainly, no
Englishman would be capable of this little bit of enthusiasm.  Finally,
the kitchen-firelight glistens on a splendid display of copper flagons,
all of generous capacity, and one of them about as big as a half-barrel;
the smaller vessels contain the customary allowance of ale, and the
larger one is filled with that foaming liquor on four festive occasions
of the year, and emptied amain by the jolly brotherhood.  I should be
glad to see them do it; but it would be an exploit fitter for Queen
Elizabeth's age than these degenerate times.

The kitchen is the social hall of the twelve brethren.  In the daytime,
they bring their little messes to be cooked here, and eat them in their
own parlors; but after a certain hour, the great hearth is cleared and
swept, and the old men assemble round its blaze, each with his tankard
and his pipe, and hold high converse through the evening.  If the Master
be a fit man for his office, methinks he will sometimes sit down sociably
among them; for there is an elbow-chair by the fireside which it would
not demean his dignity to fill, since it was occupied by King James at
the great festival of nearly three centuries ago.  A sip of the ale and a
whiff of the tobacco-pipe would put him in friendly relations with his
venerable household; and then we can fancy him instructing them by pithy
apothegms and religious texts which were first uttered here by some
Catholic priest and have impregnated the atmosphere ever since.  If a
joke goes round, it shall be of an elder coinage than Joe Miller's, as
old as Lord Bacon's collection, or as the jest-book that Master Slender
asked for when he lacked small-talk for sweet Anne Page.  No news shall
be spoken of later than the drifting ashore, on the northern coast, of
some stern-post or figure-head, a barnacled fragment of one of the great
galleons of the Spanish Armada.  What a tremor would pass through the
antique group, if a damp newspaper should suddenly be spread to dry
before the fire!  They would feel as if either that printed sheet or they
themselves must be an unreality.  What a mysterious awe, if the shriek of
the railway-train, as it reaches the Warwick station, should ever so
faintly invade their ears!  Movement of any kind seems inconsistent with
the stability of such an institution.  Nevertheless, I trust that the
ages will carry it along with them; because it is such a pleasant kind of
dream for an American to find his way thither, and behold a piece of the
sixteenth century set into our prosaic times, and then to depart, and
think of its arched doorway as a spell-guarded entrance which will never
be accessible or visible to him any more.

Not far from the market-place of Warwick stands the great church of St.
Mary's: a vast edifice, indeed, and almost worthy to be a cathedral.
People who pretend to skill in such matters say that it is in a poor
style of architecture, though designed (or, at least, extensively
restored) by Sir Christopher Wren; but I thought it very striking, with
its wide, high, and elaborate windows, its tall towers, its immense
length, and (for it was long before I outgrew this Americanism, the love
of an old thing merely for the sake of its age) the tinge of gray
antiquity over the whole.  Once, while I stood gazing up at the tower,
the clock struck twelve with a very deep intonation, and immediately some
chivies began to play, and kept up their resounding music for five
minutes, as measured by the hand upon the dial.  It was a very delightful
harmony, as airy as the notes of birds, and seemed, a not unbecoming
freak of half-sportive fancy in the huge, ancient, and solemn church;
although I have seen an old-fashioned parlor-clock that did precisely the
same thing, in its small way.

The great attraction of this edifice is the Beauchamp (or, as the
English, who delight in vulgarizing their fine old Norman names, call it,
the Beechum) Chapel, where the Earls of Warwick and their kindred have
been buried, from four hundred years back till within a recent period.
It is a stately and very elaborate chapel, with a large window of ancient
painted glass, as perfectly preserved as any that I remember seeing in
England, and remarkably vivid in its colors.  Here are several monuments
with marble figures recumbent upon them, representing the Earls in their
knightly armor, and their dames in the ruffs and court-finery of their
day, looking hardly stiffer in stone than they must needs have been in
their starched linen and embroidery.  The renowned Earl of Leicester of
Queen Elizabeth's time, the benefactor of the hospital, reclines at full
length on the tablet of one of these tombs, side by side with his
Countess,--not Amy Robsart, but a lady who (unless I have confused the
story with some other mouldy scandal) is said to have avenged poor
Amy's murder by poisoning the Earl himself.  Be that as it may, both
figures, and especially the Earl, look like the very types of ancient
Honor and Conjugal Faith.  In consideration of his long-enduring
kindness to the twelve brethren, I cannot consent to believe him as
wicked as he is usually depicted; and it seems a marvel, now that so many
well-established historical verdicts have been reversed, why some
enterprising writer does not make out Leicester to have been the pattern
nobleman of his age.

In the centre of the chapel is the magnificent memorial of its founder,
Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick in the time of Henry VI.  On a richly
ornamented altar-tomb of gray marble lies the bronze figure of a knight
in gilded armor, most admirably executed: for the sculptors of those days
had wonderful skill in their own style, and could make so lifelike an
image of a warrior, in brass or marble, that, if a trumpet were sounded
over his tomb, you would expect him to start up and handle his sword.
The Earl whom we now speak of, however, has slept soundly in spite of a
more serious disturbance than any blast of a trumpet, unless it were the
final one.  Some centuries after his death, the floor of the chapel fell
down and broke open the stone coffin in which he was buried; and among
the fragments appeared the anciently entombed Earl of Warwick, with the
color scarcely faded out of his cheeks, his eyes a little sunken, but in
other respects looking as natural as if he had died yesterday.  But
exposure to the atmosphere appeared to begin and finish the long-delayed
process of decay in a moment, causing him to vanish like a bubble; so,
that, almost before there had been time to wonder at him, there was
nothing left of the stalwart Earl save his hair.  This sole relic the
ladies of Warwick made prize of, and braided it into rings and brooches
for their own adornment; and thus, with a chapel and a ponderous tomb
built on purpose to protect his remains, this great nobleman could not
help being brought untimely to the light of day, nor even keep his
lovelocks on his skull after he had so long done with love.  There seems
to be a fatality that disturbs people in their sepulchres, when they have
been over-careful to render them magnificent and impregnable,--as witness
the builders of the Pyramids, and Hadrian, Augustus, and the Scipios, and
most other personages whose mausoleums have been conspicuous enough to
attract the violator; and as for dead men's hair, I have seen a lock of
King Edward the Fourth's, of a reddish-brown color, which perhaps was
once twisted round the delicate forefinger of Mistress Shore.

The direct lineage of the renowned characters that lie buried in this
splendid chapel has long been extinct.  The earldom is now held by the
Grevilles, descendants of the Lord Brooke who was slain in the
Parliamentary War; and they have recently (that is to say, within a
century) built a burial-vault on the other side of the church, calculated
(as the sexton assured me, with a nod as if he were pleased) to afford
suitable and respectful accommodation to as many as fourscore coffins.
Thank Heaven, the old man did not call them "CASKETS"!--a vile modern
phrase, which compels a person of sense and good taste to shrink more
disgustfully than ever before from the idea of being buried at all.  But
as regards those eighty coffins, only sixteen have as yet been
contributed; and it may be a question with some minds, not merely whether
the Grevilles will hold the earldom of Warwick until the full number
shall be made up, but whether earldoms and all manner of lordships will
not have faded out of England long before those many generations shall
have passed from the castle to the vault.  I hope not.  A titled and
landed aristocracy, if anywise an evil and an encumbrance, is so only to
the nation which is doomed to bear it on its shoulders; and an American,
whose sole relation to it is to admire its picturesque effect upon
society, ought to be the last man to quarrel with what affords him so
much gratuitous enjoyment.  Nevertheless, conservative as England is, and
though I scarce ever found an Englishman who seemed really to desire
change, there was continually a dull sound in my ears as if the old
foundations of things were crumbling away.  Some time or other,--by no
irreverent effort of violence, but, rather, in spite of all pious efforts
to uphold a heterogeneous pile of institutions that will have outlasted
their vitality,--at some unexpected moment, there must come a terrible
crash.  The sole reason why I should desire it to happen in my day is,
that I might be there to see!  But the ruin of my own country is,
perhaps, all that I am destined to witness; and that immense catastrophe
(though I am strong in the faith that there is a national lifetime of a
thousand years in us yet) would serve any man well enough as his final
spectacle on earth.

If the visitor is inclined to carry away any little memorial of Warwick,
he had better go to an Old Curiosity Shop in the High Street, where there
is a vast quantity of obsolete gewgaws, great and small, and many of them
so pretty and ingenious that you wonder how they came to be thrown aside
and forgotten.  As regards its minor tastes, the world changes, but does
not improve; it appears to me, indeed, that there have been epochs of far
more exquisite fancy than the present one, in matters of personal
ornament, and such delicate trifles as we put upon a drawing-room table,
a mantel-piece, or a whatnot.  The shop in question is near the East
Gate, but is hardly to be found without careful search, being denoted
only by the name of "REDFERN," painted not very conspicuously in the
top-light of the door.  Immediately on entering, we find ourselves among
a confusion of old rubbish and valuables, ancient armor, historic
portraits, ebony cabinets inlaid with pearl, tall, ghostly clocks,
hideous old china, dim looking-glasses in frames of tarnished
magnificence,--a thousand objects of strange aspect, and others that
almost frighten you by their likeness in unlikeness to things now in use.
It is impossible to give an idea of the variety of articles, so thickly
strewn about that we can scarcely move without overthrowing some great
curiosity with a crash, or sweeping away some small one hitched to our
sleeves.  Three stories of the entire house are crowded in like manner.
The collection, even as we see it exposed to view, must have been got
together at great cost; but the real treasures of the establishment lie
in secret repositories, whence they are not likely to be drawn forth at
an ordinary summons; though, if a gentleman with a competently long purse
should call for them, I doubt not that the signet-ring of Joseph's
friend Pharaoh, or the Duke of Alva's leading-staff, or the dagger that
killed the Duke of Buckingham (all of which I have seen), or any other
almost incredible thing, might make its appearance.  Gold snuff-boxes,
antique gems, jewelled goblets, Venetian wine-glasses (which burst when
poison is poured into them, and therefore must not be used for modern
wine-drinking), jasper-handled knives, painted Sevres teacups,--in short,
there are all sorts of things that a virtuoso ransacks the world to
discover.

It would be easier to spend a hundred pounds in Mr. Redfern's shop than
to keep the money in one's pocket; but, for my part, I contented myself
with buying a little old spoon of silver-gilt, and fantastically shaped,
and got it at all the more reasonable rate because there happened to be
no legend attached to it.  I could supply any deficiency of that kind at
much less expense than regilding the spoon!



RECOLLECTIONS OF A GIFTED WOMAN.


From Leamington to Stratford-on-Avon the distance is eight or nine miles,
over a road that seemed to me most beautiful.  Not that I can recall any
memorable peculiarities; for the country, most of the way, is a
succession of the gentlest swells and subsidences, affording wide and far
glimpses of champaign scenery here and there, and sinking almost to a
dead level as we draw near Stratford.  Any landscape in New England, even
the tamest, has a more striking outline, and besides would have its blue
eyes open in those lakelets that we encounter almost from mile to mile at
home, but of which the Old Country is utterly destitute; or it would
smile in our faces through the medium of the wayside brooks that vanish
under a low stone arch on one side of the road, and sparkle out again on
the other.  Neither of these pretty features is often to be found in an
English scene.  The charm of the latter consists in the rich verdure of
the fields, in the stately wayside trees and carefully kept plantations
of wood, and in the old and high cultivation that has humanized the very
sods by mingling so much of man's toil and care among them.  To an
American there is a kind of sanctity even in an English turnip-field,
when he thinks how long that small square of ground has been known and
recognized as a possession, transmitted from father to son, trodden often
by memorable feet, and utterly redeemed from savagery by old
acquaintanceship with civilized eyes.  The wildest things in England are
more than half tame.  The trees, for instance, whether in hedge-row,
park, or what they call forest, have nothing wild about them.  They are
never ragged; there is a certain decorous restraint in the freest
outspread of their branches, though they spread wider than any
self-nurturing tree; they are tall, vigorous, bulky, with a look of
age-long life, and a promise of more years to come, all of which will
bring them into closer kindred with the race of man.  Somebody or other
has known them from the sapling upward; and if they endure long enough,
they grow to be traditionally observed and honored, and connected with
the fortunes of old families, till, like Tennyson's Talking Oak, they
babble with a thousand leafy tongues to ears that can understand them.

An American tree, however, if it could grow in fair competition with an
English one of similar species, would probably be the more picturesque
object of the two.  The Warwickshire elm has not so beautiful a shape as
those that overhang our village street; and as for the redoubtable
English oak, there is a certain John Bullism in its figure, a compact
rotundity of foliage, a lack of irregular and various outline, that make
it look wonderfully like a gigantic cauliflower.  Its leaf, too, is much
smaller than that of most varieties of American oak; nor do I mean to
doubt that the latter, with free leave to grow, reverent care and
cultivation, and immunity from the axe, would live out its centuries as
sturdily as its English brother, and prove far the nobler and more
majestic specimen of a tree at the end of them.  Still, however one's
Yankee patriotism may struggle against the admission, it must be owned
that the trees and other objects of an English landscape take hold of the
observer by numberless minute tendrils, as it were, which, look as
closely as we choose, we never find in an American scene.  The parasitic
growth is so luxuriant, that the trunk of the tree, so gray and dry in
our climate, is better worth observing than the boughs and foliage; a
verdant messiness coats it all over; so that it looks almost as green as
the leaves; and often, moreover, the stately stem is clustered about,
high upward, with creeping and twining shrubs, the ivy, and sometimes the
mistletoe, close-clinging friends, nurtured by the moisture and never too
fervid sunshine, and supporting themselves by the old tree's abundant
strength.  We call it a parasitical vegetation; but, if the phrase imply
any reproach, it is unkind to bestow it on this beautiful affection and
relationship which exist in England between one order of plants and
another: the strong tree being always ready to give support to the
trailing shrub, lift it to the sun, and feed it out of its own heart,
if it crave such food; and the shrub, on its part, repaying its
foster-father with an ample luxuriance of beauty, and adding Corinthian
grace to the tree's lofty strength.  No bitter winter nips these tender
little sympathies, no hot sun burns the life out of them; and therefore
they outlast the longevity of the oak, and, if the woodman permitted,
would bury it in a green grave, when all is over.

Should there be nothing else along the road to look at, an English hedge
might well suffice to occupy the eyes, and, to a depth beyond what he
would suppose, the heart of an American.  We often set out hedges in our
own soil, but might as well set out figs or pineapples and expect to
gather fruit of them.  Something grows, to be sure, which we choose to
call a hedge; but it lacks the dense, luxuriant variety of vegetation
that is accumulated into the English original, in which a botanist would
find a thousand shrubs and gracious herbs that the hedgemaker never
thought of planting there.  Among them, growing wild, are many of the
kindred blossoms of the very flowers which our pilgrim fathers brought
from England, for the sake of their simple beauty and homelike
associations, and which we have ever since been cultivating in gardens.
There is not a softer trait to be found in the character of those stern
men than that they should have been sensible of these flower-roots
clinging among the fibres of their rugged hearts, and have felt the
necessity of bringing them over sea and making them hereditary in the new
land, instead of trusting to what rarer beauty the wilderness might have
in store for them.

Or, if the roadside has no hedge, the ugliest stone fence (such as, in
America, would keep itself bare and unsympathizing till the end of time)
is sure to be covered with the small handiwork of Nature; that careful
mother lets nothing go naked there, and if she cannot provide clothing,
gives at least embroidery.  No sooner is the fence built than she adopts
and adorns it as a part of her original plan, treating the hard, uncomely
construction as if it had all along been a favorite idea of her own.  A
little sprig of ivy may be seen creeping up the side of the low wall and
clinging fast with its many feet to the rough surface; a tuft of grass
roots itself between two of the stones, where a pinch or two of wayside
dust has been moistened into nutritious soil for it; a small bunch of
fern grows in another crevice; a deep, soft, verdant moss spreads itself
along the top and over all the available inequalities of the fence; and
where nothing else will grow, lichens stick tenaciously to the bare
stones and variegate the monotonous gray with hues of yellow and red.
Finally, a great deal of shrubbery clusters along the base of the stone
wall, and takes away the hardness of its outline; and in due time, as the
upshot of these apparently aimless or sportive touches, we recognize that
the beneficent Creator of all things, working through his handmaiden whom
we call Nature, has deigned to mingle a charm of divine gracefulness even
with so earthly an institution as a boundary fence.  The clown who
wrought at it little dreamed what fellow-laborer he had.

The English should send us photographs of portions of the trunks of
trees, the tangled and various products of a hedge, and a square foot of
an old wall.  They can hardly send anything else so characteristic.
Their artists, especially of the later school, sometimes toil to depict
such subjects, but are apt to stiffen the lithe tendrils in the process.
The poets succeed better, with Tennyson at their head, and often produce
ravishing effects by dint of a tender minuteness of touch, to which the
genius of the soil and climate artfully impels them: for, as regards
grandeur, there are loftier scenes in many countries than the best that
England can show; but, for the picturesqueness of the smallest object
that lies under its gentle gloom and sunshine, there is no scenery like
it anywhere.

In the foregoing paragraphs I have strayed away to a long distance from
the road to Stratford-on-Avon; for I remember no such stone fences as I
have been speaking of in Warwickshire, nor elsewhere in England, except
among the Lakes, or in Yorkshire, and the rough and hilly countries to
the north of it.  Hedges there were along my road, however, and broad,
level fields, rustic hamlets, and cottages of ancient date,--from the
roof of one of which the occupant was tearing away the thatch, and
showing what an accumulation of dust, dirt, mouldiness, roots of weeds,
families of mice, swallows' nests, and hordes of insects had been
deposited there since that old straw was new.  Estimating its antiquity
from these tokens, Shakespeare himself, in one of his morning rambles out
of his native town, might have seen the thatch laid on; at all events,
the cottage-walls were old enough to have known him as a guest.  A few
modern villas were also to be seen, and perhaps there were mansions of
old gentility at no great distance, but hidden among trees; for it is a
point of English pride that such houses seldom allow themselves to be
visible from the high-road.  In short, I recollect nothing specially
remarkable along the way, nor in the immediate approach to Stratford; and
yet the picture of that June morning has a glory in my memory, owing
chiefly, I believe, to the charm of the English summer-weather, the
really good days of which are the most delightful that mortal man can
ever hope to be favored with.  Such a genial warmth!  A little too warm,
it might be, yet only to such a degree as to assure an American (a
certainty to which he seldom attains till attempered to the customary
austerity of an English summer-day) that he was quite warm enough.  And
after all, there was an unconquerable freshness in the atmosphere, which
every little movement of a breeze shook over me like a dash of the
ocean-spray.  Such days need bring us no other happiness than their own
light and temperature.  No doubt, I could not have enjoyed it so
exquisitely, except that there must be still latent in us Western
wanderers (even after an absence of two centuries and more), an
adaptation to the English climate which makes us sensible of a motherly
kindness in its scantiest sunshine, and overflows us with delight at its
more lavish smiles.

The spire of Shakespeare's church--the Church of the Holy Trinity--begins
to show itself among the trees at a little distance from Stratford.  Next
we see the shabby old dwellings, intermixed with mean-looking houses of
modern date; and the streets being quite level, you are struck and
surprised by nothing so much as the tameness of the general scene, as if
Shakespeare's genius were vivid enough to have wrought pictorial
splendors in the town where he was born.  Here and there, however, a
queer edifice meets your eye, endowed with the individuality that belongs
only to the domestic architecture of times gone by; the house seems to
have grown out of some odd quality in its inhabitant, as a sea-shell is
moulded from within by the character of its innate; and having been built
in a strange fashion, generations ago, it has ever since been growing
stranger and quainter, as old humorists are apt to do.  Here, too (as so
often impressed me in decayed English towns), there appeared to be a
greater abundance of aged people wearing small-clothes and leaning on
sticks than you could assemble on our side of the water by sounding a
trumpet and proclaiming a reward for the most venerable.  I tried to
account for this phenomenon by several theories: as, for example, that
our new towns are unwholesome for age and kill it off unseasonably; or
that our old men have a subtile sense of fitness, and die of their own
accord rather than live in an unseemly contrast with youth and novelty
but the secret may be, after all, that hair-dyes, false teeth, modern
arts of dress, and other contrivances of a skin-deep youthfulness, have
not crept into these antiquated English towns, and so people grow old
without the weary necessity of seeming younger than they are.

After wandering through two or three streets, I found my way to
Shakespeare's birthplace, which is almost a smaller and humbler house
than any description can prepare the visitor to expect; so inevitably
does an august inhabitant make his abode palatial to our imaginations,
receiving his guests, indeed, in a castle in the air, until we unwisely
insist on meeting him among the sordid lanes and alleys of lower earth.
The portion of the edifice with which Shakespeare had anything to do is
hardly large enough, in the basement, to contain the butcher's stall that
one of his descendants kept, and that still remains there, windowless,
with the cleaver-cuts in its hacked counter, which projects into the
street under a little penthouse-roof, as if waiting for a new occupant.

The upper half of the door was open, and, on my rapping at it, a young
person in black made her appearance and admitted me; she was not a
menial, but remarkably genteel (an American characteristic) for an
English girl, and was probably the daughter of the old gentlewoman who
takes care of the house.  This lower room has a pavement of gray slabs of
stone, which may have been rudely squared when the house was new, but are
now all cracked, broken, and disarranged in a most unaccountable way.
One does not see how any ordinary usage, for whatever length of time,
should have so smashed these heavy stones; it is as if an earthquake had
burst up through the floor, which afterwards had been imperfectly trodden
down again.  The room is whitewashed and very clean, but wofully shabby
and dingy, coarsely built, and such as the most poetical imagination
would find it difficult to idealize.  In the rear of this apartment is
the kitchen, a still smaller room, of a similar rude aspect; it has a
great, rough fireplace, with space for a large family under the blackened
opening of the chimney, and an immense passageway for the smoke, through
which Shakespeare may have seen the blue sky by day and the stars
glimmering down at him by night.  It is now a dreary spot where the
long-extinguished embers used to be.  A glowing fire, even if it covered
only a quarter part of the hearth, might still do much towards making the
old kitchen cheerful.  But we get a depressing idea of the stifled, poor,
sombre kind of life that could have been lived in such a dwelling, where
this room seems to have been the gathering-place of the family, with no
breadth or scope, no good retirement, but old and young huddling together
cheek by jowl.  What a hardy plant was Shakespeare's genius, how fatal
its development, since it could not be blighted in such an atmosphere!
It only brought human nature the closer to him, and put more unctuous
earth about his roots.

Thence I was ushered up stairs to the room in which Shakespeare is
supposed to have been born: though, if you peep too curiously into the
matter, you may find the shadow of an ugly doubt on this, as well as most
other points of his mysterious life.  It is the chamber over the
butcher's shop, and is lighted by one broad window containing a great
many small, irregular panes of glass.  The floor is made of planks, very
rudely hewn, and fitting together with little neatness; the naked beams
and rafters, at the sides of the room and overhead, bear the original
marks of the builder's broad-axe, with no evidence of an attempt to
smooth off the job.  Again we have to reconcile ourselves to the
smallness of the space enclosed by these illustrious walls,--a
circumstance more difficult to accept, as regards places that we have
heard, read, thought, and dreamed much about, than any other
disenchanting particular of a mistaken ideal.  A few paces--perhaps
seven or eight--take us from end to end of it.  So low it is, that I
could easily touch the ceiling, and might have done so without a
tiptoe-stretch, had it been a good deal higher; and this humility of
the chamber has tempted a vast multitude of people to write their names
overhead in pencil.  Every inch of the sidewalls, even into the
obscurest nooks and corners, is covered with a similar record; all the
window-panes, moreover, are scrawled with diamond signatures, among which
is said to be that of Walter Scott; but so many persons have sought to
immortalize themselves in close vicinity to his name, that I really could
not trace him out.  Methinks it is strange that people do not strive to
forget their forlorn little identities, in such situations, instead of
thrusting them forward into the dazzle of a great renown, where, if
noticed, they cannot but be deemed impertinent.

This room, and the entire house, so far as I saw it, are whitewashed and
exceedingly clean; nor is there the aged, musty smell with which old
Chester first made me acquainted, and which goes far to cure an American
of his excessive predilection for antique residences.  An old lady, who
took charge of me up stairs, had the manners and aspect of a gentlewoman,
and talked with somewhat formidable knowledge and appreciative
intelligence about Shakespeare.  Arranged on a table and in chairs were
various prints, views of houses and scenes connected with Shakespeare's
memory, together with editions of his works and local publications about
his home and haunts, from the sale of which this respectable lady perhaps
realizes a handsome profit.  At any rate, I bought a good many of them,
conceiving that it might be the civillest way of requiting her for her
instructive conversation and the trouble she took in showing me the
house.  It cost me a pang (not a curmudgeonly, but a gentlemanly one) to
offer a downright fee to the lady-like girl who had admitted me; but I
swallowed my delicate scruples with some little difficulty, and she
digested hers, so far as I could observe, with no difficulty at all.  In
fact, nobody need fear to hold out half a crown to any person with whom
he has occasion to speak a word in England.

I should consider it unfair to quit Shakespeare's house without the frank
acknowledgment that I was conscious of not the slightest emotion while
viewing it, nor any quickening of the imagination.  This has often
happened to me in my visits to memorable places.  Whatever pretty and
apposite reflections I may have made upon the subject had either occurred
to me before I ever saw Stratford, or have been elaborated since.  It is
pleasant, nevertheless, to think that I have seen the place; and I
believe that I can form a more sensible and vivid idea of Shakespeare as
a flesh-and-blood individual now that I have stood on the kitchen-hearth
and in the birth-chamber; but I am not quite certain that this power of
realization is altogether desirable in reference to a great poet.  The
Shakespeare whom I met there took various guises, but had not his laurel
on.  He was successively the roguish boy,--the youthful deer-stealer,--
the comrade of players,--the too familiar friend of Davenant's mother,--
the careful, thrifty, thriven man of property who came back from London
to lend money on bond, and occupy the best house in Stratford,--the
mellow, red-nosed, autumnal boon-companion of John a' Combe,--and finally
(or else the Stratford gossips belied him), the victim of convivial
habits, who met his death by tumbling into a ditch on his way home from a
drinking-bout, and left his second-best bed to his poor wife.

I feel, as sensibly as the reader can, what horrible impiety it is to
remember these things, be they true or false.  In either case, they ought
to vanish out of sight on the distant ocean-line of the past, leaving a
pure, white memory, even as a sail, though perhaps darkened with many
stains, looks snowy white on the far horizon.  But I draw a moral from
these unworthy reminiscences and this embodiment of the poet, as
suggested by some of the grimy actualities of his life.  It is for the
high interests of the world not to insist upon finding out that its
greatest men are, in a certain lower sense, very much the same kind of
men as the rest of us, and often a little worse; because a common mind
cannot properly digest such a discovery, nor ever know the true
proportion of the great man's good and evil, nor how small a part of him
it was that touched our muddy or dusty earth.  Thence comes moral
bewilderment, and even intellectual loss, in regard to what is best of
him.  When Shakespeare invoked a curse on the man who should stir his
bones, he perhaps meant the larger share of it for him or them who should
pry into his perishing earthliness, the defects or even the merits of the
character that he wore in Stratford, when he had left mankind so much to
muse upon that was imperishable and divine.  Heaven keep me from
incurring any part of the anathema in requital for the irreverent
sentences above written!

From Shakespeare's house, the next step, of course, is to visit his
burial-place.  The appearance of the church is most venerable and
beautiful, standing amid a great green shadow of lime-trees, above which
rises the spire, while the Gothic battlements and buttresses and vast
arched windows are obscurely seen through the boughs.  The Avon loiters
past the churchyard, an exceedingly sluggish river, which might seem to
have been considering which way it should flow ever since Shakespeare
left off paddling in it and gathering the large forget-me-nots that grow
among its flags and water-weeds.

An old man in small-clothes was waiting at the gate; and inquiring
whether I wished to go in, he preceded me to the church-porch, and
rapped.  I could have done it quite as effectually for myself; but it
seems, the old people of the neighborhood haunt about the churchyard, in
spite of the frowns and remonstrances of the sexton, who grudges them the
half-eleemosynary sixpence which they sometimes get from visitors.  I was
admitted into the church by a respectable-looking and intelligent man in
black, the parish-clerk, I suppose, and probably holding a richer
incumbency than his vicar, if all the fees which he handles remain in his
own pocket.  He was already exhibiting the Shakespeare monuments to two
or three visitors, and several other parties came in while I was there.

The poet and his family are in possession of what may be considered the
very best burial-places that the church affords.  They lie in a row,
right across the breadth of the chancel, the foot of each gravestone
being close to the elevated floor on which the altar stands.  Nearest to
the side-wall, beneath Shakespeare's bust, is a slab bearing a Latin
inscription addressed to his wife, and covering her remains; then his own
slab, with the old anathematizing stanza upon it; then that of Thomas
Nash, who married his granddaughter; then that of Dr. Hall, the husband
of his daughter Susannah; and, lastly, Susannah's own.  Shakespeare's is
the commonest-looking slab of all, being just such a flag-stone as Essex
Street in Salem used to be paved with, when I was a boy.  Moreover,
unless my eyes or recollection deceive me, there is a crack across it, as
if it had already undergone some such violence as the inscription
deprecates.  Unlike the other monuments of the family, it bears no name,
nor am I acquainted with the grounds or authority on which it is
absolutely determined to be Shakespeare's; although, being in a range
with those of his wife and children, it might naturally be attributed to
him.  But, then, why does his wife, who died afterwards, take precedence
of him and occupy the place next his bust?  And where are the graves of
another daughter and a son, who have a better right in the family row
than Thomas Nash, his grandson-in-law?  Might not one or both of them
have been laid under the nameless stone?  But it is dangerous trifling
with Shakespeare's dust; so I forbear to meddle further with the grave
(though the prohibition makes it tempting), and shall let whatever bones
be in it rest in peace.  Yet I must needs add that the inscription on the
bust seems to imply that Shakespeare's grave was directly underneath it.

The poet's bust is affixed to the northern wall of the church, the base
of it being about a man's height, or rather more, above the floor of the
chancel.  The features of this piece of sculpture are entirely unlike any
portrait of Shakespeare that I have ever seen, and compel me to take down
the beautiful, lofty-browed, and noble picture of him which has hitherto
hung in my mental portrait-gallery.  The bust cannot be said to represent
a beautiful face or an eminently noble head; but it clutches firmly hold
of one's sense of reality and insists upon your accepting it, if not as
Shakespeare the poet, yet as the wealthy burgher of Stratford, the friend
of John a' Combe, who lies yonder in the corner.  I know not what the
phrenologists say to the bust.  The forehead is but moderately developed,
and retreats somewhat, the upper part of the skull rising pyramidally;
the eyes are prominent almost beyond the penthouse of the brow; the upper
lip is so long that it must have been almost a deformity, unless the
sculptor artistically exaggerated its length, in consideration, that, on
the pedestal, it must be foreshortened by being looked at from below.  On
the whole, Shakespeare must have had a singular rather than a
prepossessing face; and it is wonderful how, with this bust before its
eyes, the world has persisted in maintaining an erroneous notion of his
appearance, allowing painters and sculptors to foist their idealized
nonsense on its all, instead of the genuine man.  For my part, the
Shakespeare of my mind's eye is henceforth to be a personage of a ruddy
English complexion, with a reasonably capacious brow, intelligent and
quickly observant eyes, a nose curved slightly outward, a long, queer
upper lip, with the mouth a little unclosed beneath it, and cheeks
considerably developed in the lower part and beneath the chin.  But when
Shakespeare was himself (for nine tenths of the time, according to all
appearances, he was but the burgher of Stratford), he doubtless shone
through this dull mask and transfigured it into the face of an angel.

Fifteen or twenty feet behind the row of Shakespeare gravestones is the
great east-window of the church, now brilliant with stained glass of
recent manufacture.  On one side of this window, under a sculptured arch
of marble, lies a full-length marble figure of John a' Combe, clad in
what I take to be a robe of municipal dignity, and holding its hands
devoutly clasped.  It is a sturdy English figure, with coarse features, a
type of ordinary man whom we smile to see immortalized in the
sculpturesque material of poets and heroes; but the prayerful attitude
encourages us to believe that the old usurer may not, after all, have had
that grim reception in the other world which Shakespeare's squib
foreboded for him.  By the by, till I grew somewhat familiar with
Warwickshire pronunciation, I never understood that the point of those
ill-natured lines was a pun.  "'Oho!' quoth the Devil, ''t is my John a'
Combe'"--that is, "My John has come!"

Close to the poet's bust is a nameless, oblong, cubic tomb, supposed to
be that of a clerical dignitary of the fourteenth century.  The church
has other mural monuments and altar-tombs, one or two of the latter
upholding the recumbent figures of knights in armor and their dames, very
eminent and worshipful personages in their day, no doubt, but doomed to
appear forever intrusive and impertinent within the precincts which
Shakespeare has made his own.  His renown is tyrannous, and suffers
nothing else to be recognized within the scope of its material presence,
unless illuminated by some side-ray from himself.  The clerk informed me
that interments no longer take place in any part of the church.  And it
is better so; for methinks a person of delicate individuality, curious
about his burial-place, and desirous of six feet of earth for himself
alone, could never endure to be buried near Shakespeare, but would rise
up at midnight and grope his way out of the church-door, rather than
sleep in the shadow of so stupendous a memory.

I should hardly have dared to add another to the innumerable descriptions
of Stratford-on-Avon, if it had not seemed to me that this would form a
fitting framework to some reminiscences of a very remarkable woman.  Her
labor, while she lived, was of a nature and purpose outwardly irreverent
to the name of Shakespeare, yet, by its actual tendency, entitling her to
the distinction of being that one of all his worshippers who sought,
though she knew it not, to place the richest and stateliest diadem upon
his brow.  We Americans, at least, in the scanty annals of our
literature, cannot afford to forget her high and conscientious exercise
of noble faculties, which, indeed, if you look at the matter in one way,
evolved only a miserable error, but, more fairly considered, produced a
result worth almost what it cost her.  Her faith in her own ideas was so
genuine, that, erroneous as they were, it transmuted them to gold, or, at
all events, interfused a large proportion of that precious and
indestructible substance among the waste material from which it can
readily be sifted.

The only time I ever saw Miss Bacon was in London, where she had lodgings
in Spring Street, Sussex Gardens, at the house of a grocer, a portly,
middle-aged, civil, and friendly man, who, as well as his wife, appeared
to feel a personal kindness towards their lodger.  I was ushered up two
(and I rather believe three) pair of stairs into a parlor somewhat humbly
furnished, and told that Miss Bacon would come soon.  There were a number
of books on the table, and, looking into them, I found that every one had
some reference, more or less immediate, to her Shakespearian theory,--a
volume of Raleigh's "History of the World," a volume of Montaigne, a
volume of Lord Bacon's letters, a volume of Shakespeare's plays; and on
another table lay a large roll of manuscript, which I presume to have
been a portion of her work.  To be sure, there was a pocket-Bible among
the books, but everything else referred to the one despotic idea that had
got possession of her mind; and as it had engrossed her whole soul as
well as her intellect, I have no doubt that she had established subtile
connections between it and the Bible likewise.  As is apt to be the case
with solitary students, Miss Bacon probably read late and rose late; for
I took up Montaigne (it was Hazlitt's translation) and had been reading
his journey to Italy a good while before she appeared.

I had expected (the more shame for me, having no other ground of such
expectation than that she was a literary woman) to see a very homely,
uncouth, elderly personage, and was quite agreeably disappointed by her
aspect.  She was rather uncommonly tall, and had a striking and
expressive face, dark hair, dark eyes, which shone with an inward light
as soon as she began to speak, and by and by a color came into her cheeks
and made her look almost young.  Not that she really was so; she must
have been beyond middle age: and there was no unkindness in coming to
that conclusion, because, making allowance for years and ill-health, I
could suppose her to have been handsome and exceedingly attractive once.
Though wholly estranged from society, there was little or no restraint or
embarrassment in her manner: lonely people are generally glad to give
utterance to their pent-up ideas, and often bubble over with them as
freely as children with their new-found syllables.  I cannot tell how it
came about, but we immediately found ourselves taking a friendly and
familiar tone together, and began to talk as if we had known one another
a very long while.  A little preliminary correspondence had indeed
smoothed the way, and we had a definite topic in the contemplated
publication of her book.

She was very communicative about her theory, and would have been much
more so had I desired it; but, being conscious within myself of a sturdy
unbelief, I deemed it fair and honest rather to repress than draw her out
upon the subject.  Unquestionably, she was a monomaniac; these
overmastering ideas about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, and the
deep political philosophy concealed beneath the surface of them, had
completely thrown her off her balance; but at the same time they had
wonderfully developed her intellect, and made her what she could not
otherwise have become.  It was a very singular phenomenon: a system of
philosophy growing up in thus woman's mind without her volition,--
contrary, in fact, to the determined resistance of her volition,--and
substituting itself in the place of everything that originally grew
there.  To have based such a system on fancy, and unconsciously
elaborated it for herself, was almost as wonderful as really to have
found it in the plays.  But, in a certain sense, she did actually find it
there.  Shakespeare has surface beneath surface, to an immeasurable
depth, adapted to the plummet-line of every reader; his works present
many phases of truth, each with scope large enough to fill a
contemplative mind.  Whatever you seek in him you will surely discover,
provided you seek truth.  There is no exhausting the various
interpretation of his symbols; and a thousand years hence, a world of new
readers will possess a whole library of new books, as we ourselves do, in
these volumes old already.  I had half a mind to suggest to Miss Bacon
this explanation of her theory, but forbore, because (as I could readily
perceive) she had as princely a spirit as Queen Elizabeth herself, and
would at once have motioned me from the room.

I had heard, long ago, that she believed that the material evidences of
her dogma as to the authorship, together with the key of the new
philosophy, would be found buried in Shakespeare's grave.  Recently, as I
understood her, this notion had been somewhat modified, and was now
accurately defined and fully developed in her mind, with a result of
perfect certainty.  In Lord Bacon's letters, on which she laid her finger
as she spoke, she had discovered the key and clew to the whole mystery.
There were definite and minute instructions how to find a will and other
documents relating to the conclave of Elizabethan philosophers, which
were concealed (when and by whom she did not inform me) in a hollow
space in the under surface of Shakespeare's gravestone.  Thus the
terrible prohibition to remove the stone was accounted for.  The
directions, she intimated, went completely and precisely to the point,
obviating all difficulties in the way of coming at the treasure, and
even, if I remember right, were so contrived as to ward off any
troublesome consequences likely to ensue from the interference of the
parish-officers.  All that Miss Bacon now remained in England for--
indeed, the object for which she had come hither, and which had kept her
here for three years past--was to obtain possession of these material and
unquestionable proofs of the authenticity of her theory.

She communicated all this strange matter in a low, quiet tone; while, on
my part, I listened as quietly, and without any expression of dissent.
Controversy against a faith so settled would have shut her up at once,
and that, too, without in the least weakening her belief in the existence
of those treasures of the tomb; and had it been possible to convince her
of their intangible nature, I apprehend that there would have been
nothing left for the poor enthusiast save to collapse and die.  She
frankly confessed that she could no longer bear the society of those who
did not at least lend a certain sympathy to her views, if not fully share
in them; and meeting little sympathy or none, she had now entirely
secluded herself from the world.  In all these years, she had seen Mrs.
Farrar a few times, but had long ago given her up,--Carlyle once or
twice, but not of late, although he had received her kindly; Mr.
Buchanan, while Minister in England, had once called on her, and General
Campbell, our Consul in London, had met her two or three times on
business.  With these exceptions, which she marked so scrupulously that
it was perceptible what epochs they were in the monotonous passage of her
days, she had lived in the profoundest solitude.  She never walked out;
she suffered much from ill-health; and yet, she assured me, she was
perfectly happy.

I could well conceive it; for Miss Bacon imagined herself to have
received (what is certainly the greatest boon ever assigned to mortals) a
high mission in the world, with adequate powers for its accomplishment;
and lest even these should prove insufficient, she had faith that special
interpositions of Providence were forwarding her human efforts.  This
idea was continually coming to the surface, during our interview.  She
believed, for example, that she had been providentially led to her
lodging-house and put in relations with the good-natured grocer and his
family; and, to say the truth, considering what a savage and stealthy
tribe the London lodging-house keepers usually are, the honest kindness
of this man and his household appeared to have been little less than
miraculous.  Evidently, too, she thought that Providence had brought me
forward--a man somewhat connected with literature--at the critical
juncture when she needed a negotiator with the booksellers; and, on my
part, though little accustomed to regard myself as a divine minister, and
though I might even have preferred that Providence should select some
other instrument, I had no scruple in undertaking to do what I could for
her.  Her book, as I could see by turning it over, was a very remarkable
one, and worthy of being offered to the public, which, if wise enough to
appreciate it, would be thankful for what was good in it and merciful to
its faults.  It was founded on a prodigious error, but was built up from
that foundation with a good many prodigious truths.  And, at all events,
whether I could aid her literary views or no, it would have been both
rash and impertinent in me to attempt drawing poor Miss Bacon out of her
delusions, which were the condition on which she lived in comfort and
joy, and in the exercise of great intellectual power.  So I left her to
dream as she pleased about the treasures of Shakespeare's tombstone, and
to form whatever designs might seem good to herself for obtaining
possession of them.  I was sensible of a ladylike feeling of propriety in
Miss Bacon, and a New England orderliness in her character, and, in spite
of her bewilderment, a sturdy common-sense, which I trusted would begin
to operate at the right time, and keep her from any actual extravagance.
And as regarded this matter of the tombstone, so it proved.

The interview lasted above an hour, during which she flowed out freely,
as to the sole auditor, capable of any degree of intelligent sympathy,
whom she had met with in a very long while.  Her conversation was
remarkably suggestive, alluring forth one's own ideas and fantasies from
the shy places where they usually haunt.  She was indeed an admirable
talker, considering how long she had held her tongue for lack of a
listener,--pleasant, sunny and shadowy, often piquant, and giving
glimpses of all a woman's various and readily changeable moods and
humors; and beneath them all there ran a deep and powerful under-current
of earnestness, which did not fail to produce in the listener's mind
something like a temporary faith in what she herself believed so
fervently.  But the streets of London are not favorable to enthusiasms of
this kind, nor, in fact, are they likely to flourish anywhere in the
English atmosphere; so that, long before reaching Paternoster Row, I felt
that it would be a difficult and doubtful matter to advocate the
publication of Miss Bacon's book.  Nevertheless, it did finally get
published.

Months before that happened, however, Miss Bacon had taken up her
residence at Stratford-on-Avon, drawn thither by the magnetism of those
rich secrets which she supposed to have been hidden by Raleigh, or Bacon,
or I know not whom, in Shakespeare's grave, and protected there by a
curse, as pirates used to bury their gold in the guardianship of a fiend.
She took a humble lodging and began to haunt the church like a ghost.
But she did not condescend to any stratagem or underhand attempt to
violate the grave, which, had she been capable of admitting such an idea,
might possibly have been accomplished by the aid of a resurrection-man.
As her first step, she made acquaintance with the clerk, and began to
sound him as to the feasibility of her enterprise and his own willingness
to engage in it.  The clerk apparently listened with not unfavorable
ears; but, as his situation (which the fees of pilgrims, more numerous
than at any Catholic shrine, render lucrative) would have been forfeited
by any malfeasance in office, he stipulated for liberty to consult the
vicar.  Miss Bacon requested to tell her own story to the reverend
gentleman, and seems to have been received by him with the utmost
kindness, and even to have succeeded in making a certain impression on
his mind as to the desirability of the search.  As their interview had
been under the seal of secrecy, he asked permission to consult a friend,
who, as Miss Bacon either found out or surmised, was a practitioner of
the law.  What the legal friend advised she did not learn; but the
negotiation continued, and certainly was never broken off by an absolute
refusal on the vicar's part.  He, perhaps, was kindly temporizing with
our poor countrywoman, whom an Englishman of ordinary mould would have
sent to a lunatic asylum at once.  I cannot help fancying, however, that
her familiarity with the events of Shakespeare's life, and of his death
and burial (of which she would speak as if she had been present at the
edge of the grave), and all the history, literature, and personalities of
the Elizabethan age, together with the prevailing power of her own
belief, and the eloquence with which she knew how to enforce it, had
really gone some little way toward making a convert of the good
clergyman.  If so, I honor him above all the hierarchy of England.

The affair certainly looked very hopeful.  However erroneously, Miss
Bacon had understood from the vicar that no obstacles would be interposed
to the investigation, and that he himself would sanction it with his
presence.  It was to take place after nightfall; and all preliminary
arrangements being made, the vicar and clerk professed to wait only her
word in order to set about lifting the awful stone from the sepulchre.
So, at least, Miss Bacon believed; and as her bewilderment was entirely
in her own thoughts, and never disturbed her perception or accurate
remembrance of external things, I see no reason to doubt it, except it be
the tinge of absurdity in the fact.  But, in this apparently prosperous
state of things, her own convictions began to falter.  A doubt stole into
her mind whether she might not have mistaken the depository and mode of
concealment of those historic treasures; and after once admitting the
doubt, she was afraid to hazard the shock of uplifting the stone and
finding nothing.  She examined the surface of the gravestone, and
endeavored, without stirring it, to estimate whether it were of such
thickness as to be capable of containing the archives of the Elizabethan
club.  She went over anew the proofs, the clews, the enigmas, the
pregnant sentences, which she had discovered in Bacon's letters and
elsewhere, and now was frightened to perceive that they did not point so
definitely to Shakespeare's tomb as she had heretofore supposed.  There
was an unmistakably distinct reference to a tomb, but it might be
Bacon's, or Raleigh's, or Spenser's; and instead of the "Old Player," as
she profanely called him, it might be either of those three illustrious
dead, poet, warrior, or statesman, whose ashes, in Westminster Abbey, or
the Tower burial-ground, or wherever they sleep, it was her mission to
disturb.  It is very possible, moreover, that her acute mind may always
have had a lurking and deeply latent distrust of its own fantasies, and
that this now became strong enough to restrain her from a decisive step.

But she continued to hover around the church, and seems to have had full
freedom of entrance in the daytime, and special license, on one occasion
at least, at a late hour of the night.  She went thither with a
dark-lantern, which could but twinkle like a glow-worm through the volume
of obscurity that filled the great dusky edifice.  Groping her way up the
aisle and towards the chancel, she sat down on the elevated part of the
pavement above Shakespeare's grave.  If the divine poet really wrote the
inscription there, and cared as much about the quiet of his bones as its
deprecatory earnestness would imply, it was time for those crumbling
relics to bestir themselves under her sacrilegious feet.  But they were
safe.  She made no attempt to disturb them; though, I believe, she looked
narrowly into the crevices between Shakespeare's and the two adjacent
stones, and in some way satisfied herself that her single strength would
suffice to lift the former, in case of need.  She threw the feeble ray of
her lantern up towards the bust, but could not make it visible beneath
the darkness of the vaulted roof.  Had she been subject to superstitious
terrors, it is impossible to conceive of a situation that could better
entitle her to feel them, for, if Shakespeare's ghost would rise at any
provocation, it must have shown itself then; but it is my sincere belief,
that, if his figure had appeared within the scope of her dark-lantern, in
his slashed doublet and gown, and with his eyes bent on her beneath the
high, bald forehead, just as we see him in the bust, she would have met
him fearlessly and controverted his claims to the authorship of the
plays, to his very face.  She had taught herself to contemn "Lord
Leicester's groom" (it was one of her disdainful epithets for the world's
incomparable poet) so thoroughly, that even his disembodied spirit would
hardly have found civil treatment at Miss Bacon's hands.

Her vigil, though it appears to have had no definite object, continued
far into the night.  Several times she heard a low movement in the
aisles: a stealthy, dubious footfall prowling about in the darkness, now
here, now there, among the pillars and ancient tombs, as if some restless
inhabitant of the latter had crept forth to peep at the intruder.  By and
by the clerk made his appearance, and confessed that he had been watching
her ever since she entered the church.

About this time it was that a strange sort of weariness seems to have
fallen upon her: her toil was all but done, her great purpose, as she
believed, on the very point of accomplishment, when she began to regret
that so stupendous a mission had been imposed on the fragility of a
woman.  Her faith in the new philosophy was as mighty as ever, and so was
her confidence in her own adequate development of it, now about to be
given to the world; yet she wished, or fancied so, that it might never
have been her duty to achieve this unparalleled task, and to stagger
feebly forward under her immense burden of responsibility and renown.  So
far as her personal concern in the matter went, she would gladly have
forfeited the reward of her patient study and labor for so many years,
her exile from her country and estrangement from her family and friends,
her sacrifice of health and all other interests to this one pursuit, if
she could only find herself free to dwell in Stratford and be forgotten.
She liked the old slumberous town, and awarded the only praise that ever
I knew her to bestow on Shakespeare, the individual man, by acknowledging
that his taste in a residence was good, and that he knew how to choose a
suitable retirement for a person of shy, but genial temperament.  And at
this point, I cease to possess the means of tracing her vicissitudes of
feeling any further.  In consequence of some advice which I fancied it my
duty to tender, as being the only confidant whom she now had in the
world, I fell under Miss Bacon's most severe and passionate displeasure,
and was cast off by her in the twinkling of an eye.  It was a misfortune
to which her friends were always particularly liable; but I think that
none of them ever loved, or even respected, her most ingenuous and noble,
but likewise most sensitive and tumultuous, character the less for it.

At that time her book was passing through the press.  Without prejudice
to her literary ability, it must be allowed that Miss Bacon was wholly
unfit to prepare her own work for publication, because, among many other
reasons, she was too thoroughly in earnest to know what to leave out.
Every leaf and line was sacred, for all had been written under so deep a
conviction of truth as to assume, in her eyes, the aspect of inspiration.
A practised book-maker, with entire control of her materials, would have
shaped out a duodecimo volume full of eloquent and ingenious
dissertation,--criticisms which quite take the color and pungency out of
other people's critical remarks on Shakespeare,--philosophic truths which
she imagined herself to have found at the roots of his conceptions, and
which certainly come from no inconsiderable depth somewhere.  There was a
great amount of rubbish, which any competent editor would have shovelled
out of the way.  But Miss Bacon thrust the whole bulk of inspiration and
nonsense into the press in a lump, and there tumbled out a ponderous
octavo volume, which fell with a dead thump at the feet of the public,
and has never been picked up.  A few persons turned over one or two of
the leaves, as it lay there, and essayed to kick the volume deeper into
the mud; for they were the hack critics of the minor periodical press in
London, than whom, I suppose, though excellent fellows in their way,
there are no gentlemen in the world less sensible of any sanctity in a
book, or less likely to recognize an author's heart in it, or more
utterly careless about bruising, if they do recognize it.  It is their
trade.  They could not do otherwise.  I never thought of blaming them.
It was not for such an Englishman as one of these to get beyond the idea
that an assault was meditated on England's greatest poet.  From the
scholars and critics of her own country, indeed, Miss Bacon might have
looked for a worthier appreciation, because many of the best of them have
higher cultivation, and finer and deeper literary sensibilities than all
but the very profoundest and brightest of Englishmen.  But they are not a
courageous body of men; they dare not think a truth that has an odor of
absurdity, lest they should feel themselves bound to speak it out.  If
any American ever wrote a word in her behalf, Miss Bacon never knew it,
nor did I.  Our journalists at once republished some of the most brutal
vituperations of the English press, thus pelting their poor countrywoman
with stolen mud, without even waiting to know whether the ignominy was
deserved.  And they never have known it, to this day, nor ever will.

The next intelligence that I had of Miss Bacon was by a letter from the
mayor of Stratford-on-Avon.  He was a medical man, and wrote both in his
official and professional character, telling me that an American lady,
who had recently published what the mayor called a "Shakespeare book,"
was afflicted with insanity.  In a lucid interval she had referred to me,
as a person who had some knowledge of her family and affairs.  What she
may have suffered before her intellect gave way, we had better not try to
imagine.  No author had ever hoped so confidently as she; none ever
failed more utterly.  A superstitious fancy might suggest that the
anathema on Shakespeare's tombstone had fallen heavily on her head in
requital of even the unaccomplished purpose of disturbing the dust
beneath, and that the "Old Player" had kept so quietly in his grave, on
the night of her vigil, because he foresaw how soon and terribly he would
be avenged.  But if that benign spirit takes any care or cognizance of
such things now, he has surely requited the injustice that she sought to
do him--the high justice that she really did--by a tenderness of love and
pity of which only he could be capable.  What matters it though she
called him by some other name?  He had wrought a greater miracle on her
than on all the world besides.  This bewildered enthusiast had recognized
a depth in the man whom she decried, which scholars, critics, and learned
societies, devoted to the elucidation of his unrivalled scenes, had never
imagined to exist there.  She had paid him the loftiest honor that all
these ages of renown have been able to accumulate upon his memory.  And
when, not many months after the outward failure of her lifelong object,
she passed into the better world, I know not why we should hesitate to
believe that the immortal poet may have met her on the threshold and led
her in, reassuring her with friendly and comfortable words, and thanking
her (yet with a smile of gentle humor in his eyes at the thought of
certain mistaken speculations) for having interpreted him to mankind so
well.

I believe that it has been the fate of this remarkable book never to have
had more than a single reader.  I myself am acquainted with it only in
insulated chapters and scattered pages and paragraphs.  But, since my
return to America, a young man of genius and enthusiasm has assured me
that he has positively read the book from beginning to end, and is
completely a convert to its doctrines.  It belongs to him, therefore, and
not to me, whom, in almost the last letter that I received from her, she
declared unworthy to meddle with her work,--it belongs surely to this one
individual, who has done her so much justice as to know what she wrote,
to place Miss Bacon in her due position before the public and posterity.

This has been too sad a story.  To lighten the recollection of it, I will
think of my stroll homeward past Charlecote Park, where I beheld the most
stately elms, singly, in clumps, and in groves, scattered all about in
the sunniest, shadiest, sleepiest fashion; so that I could not but
believe in a lengthened, loitering, drowsy enjoyment which these trees
must have in their existence.  Diffused over slow-paced centuries, it
need not be keen nor bubble into thrills and ecstasies, like the
momentary delights of short-lived human beings.  They were civilized
trees, known to man and befriended by him for ages past.  There is an
indescribable difference--as I believe I have heretofore endeavored to
express--between the tamed, but by no means effete (on the contrary, the
richer and more luxuriant) nature of England, and the rude, shaggy,
barbarous nature which offers as its racier companionship in America.  No
less a change has been wrought among the wildest creatures that inhabit
what the English call their forests.  By and by, among those refined and
venerable trees, I saw a large herd of deer, mostly reclining, but some
standing in picturesque groups, while the stags threw their large antlers
aloft, as if they had been taught to make themselves tributary to the
scenic effect.  Some were running fleetly about, vanishing from light
into shadow and glancing forth again, with here and there a little fawn
careering at its mother's heels.  These deer are almost in the same
relation to the wild, natural state of their kind that the trees of an
English park hold to the rugged growth of an American forest.  They have
held a certain intercourse with man for immemorial years; and, most
probably, the stag that Shakespeare killed was one of the progenitors of
this very herd, and may himself have been a partly civilized and
humanized deer, though in a less degree than these remote posterity.
They are a little wilder than sheep, but they do not snuff the air at the
approach of human beings, nor evince much alarm at their pretty close
proximity; although if you continue to advance, they toss their heads and
take to their heels in a kind of mimic terror, or something akin to
feminine skittishness, with a dim remembrance or tradition, as it were,
of their having come of a wild stock.  They have so long been fed and
protected by man, that they must have lost many of their native
instincts, and, I suppose, could not live comfortably through, even an
English winter without human help.  One is sensible of a gentle scorn at
them for such dependency, but feels none the less kindly disposed towards
the half-domesticated race; and it may have been his observation of these
tamer characteristics in the Charlecote herd that suggested to
Shakespeare the tender and pitiful description of a wounded stag, in "As
You Like It."

At a distance of some hundreds of yards from Charlecote Hall, and almost
hidden by the trees between it and the roadside, is an old brick archway
and porter's lodge.  In connection with this entrance there appears to
have been a wall and an ancient moat, the latter of which is still
visible, a shallow, grassy scoop along the base of an embankment of the
lawn.  About fifty yards within the gateway stands the house, forming
three sides of a square, with three gables in a row on the front, and on
each of the two wings; and there are several towers and turrets at the
angles, together with projecting windows, antique balconies, and other
quaint ornaments suitable to the half-Gothic taste in which the edifice
was built.  Over the gateway is the Lucy coat-of-arms, emblazoned in its
proper colors.  The mansion dates from the early days of Elizabeth, and
probably looked very much the same as now when Shakespeare was brought
before Sir Thomas Lucy for outrages among his deer.  The impression is
not that of gray antiquity, but of stable and time-honored gentility,
still as vital as ever.

It is a most delightful place.  All about the house and domain there is a
perfection of comfort and domestic taste, an amplitude of convenience,
which could have been brought about only by the slow ingenuity and labor
of many successive generations, intent upon adding all possible
improvement to the home where years gone by and years to come give a sort
of permanence to the intangible present.  An American is sometimes
tempted to fancy that only by this long process can real homes be
produced.  One man's lifetime is not enough for the accomplishment of
such a work of art and nature, almost the greatest merely temporary one
that is confided to him; too little, at any rate,--yet perhaps too long
when he is discouraged by the idea that he must make his house warm and
delightful for a miscellaneous race of successors, of whom the one thing
certain is, that his own grandchildren will not be among them.  Such
repinings as are here suggested, however, come only from the fact, that,
bred in English habits of thought, as most of us are, we have not yet
modified our instincts to the necessities of our new forms of life.  A
lodging in a wigwam or under a tent has really as many advantages, when
we come to know them, as a home beneath the roof-tree of Charlecote Hall.
But, alas! our philosophers have not yet taught us what is best, nor have
our poets sung us what is beautifulest, in the kind of life that we must
lead; and therefore we still read the old English wisdom, and harp upon
the ancient strings.  And thence it happens, that, when we look at a
time-honored hall, it seems more possible for men who inherit such a
home, than for ourselves, to lead noble and graceful lives, quietly doing
good and lovely things as their daily work, and achieving deeds of simple
greatness when circumstances require them.  I sometimes apprehend that
our institutions may perish before we shall have discovered the most
precious of the possibilities which they involve.



LICHFIELD AND UTTOXETER.


After my first visit to Leamington Spa, I went by an indirect route to
Lichfield, and put up at the Black Swan.  Had I known where to find it, I
would much rather have established myself at the inn formerly kept by the
worthy Mr. Boniface, so famous for his ale in Farquhar's time.  The Black
Swan is an old-fashioned hotel, its street-front being penetrated by an
arched passage, in either side of which is an entrance door to the
different parts of the house, and through which, and over the large
stones of its pavement, all vehicles and horsemen rumble and clatter into
an enclosed courtyard, with a thunderous uproar among the contiguous
rooms and chambers.  I appeared to be the only guest of the spacious
establishment, but may have had a few fellow-lodgers hidden in their
separate parlors, and utterly eschewing that community of interests which
is the characteristic feature of life in an American hotel.  At any rate,
I had the great, dull, dingy, and dreary coffee-room, with its heavy old
mahogany chairs and tables, all to myself, and not a soul to exchange a
word with, except the waiter, who, like most of his class in England, had
evidently left his conversational abilities uncultivated.  No former
practice of solitary living, nor habits of reticence, nor well-tested
self-dependence for occupation of mind and amusement, can quite avail, as
I now proved, to dissipate the ponderous gloom of an English coffee-room
under such circumstances as these, with no book at hand save the
county-directory, nor any newspaper but a torn local journal of five days
ago.  So I buried myself, betimes, in a huge heap of ancient feathers
(there is no other kind of bed in these old inns), let my head sink into
an unsubstantial pillow, and slept a stifled sleep, infested with such a
fragmentary confusion of dreams that I took them to be a medley,
compounded of the night-troubles of all my predecessors in that same
unrestful couch.  And when I awoke, the musty odor of a bygone century
was in my nostrils,--a faint, elusive smell, of which I never had any
conception before crossing the Atlantic.

In the morning, after a mutton-chop and a cup of chiccory in the dusky
coffee-room, I went forth and bewildered myself a little while among the
crooked streets, in quest of one or two objects that had chiefly
attracted me to the spot.  The city is of very ancient date, and its name
in the old Saxon tongue has a dismal import that would apply well, in
these days and forever henceforward, to many an unhappy locality in our
native land.  Lichfield signifies "The Field of the Dead Bodies,"--an
epithet, however, which the town did not assume in remembrance of a
battle, but which probably sprung up by a natural process, like a sprig
of rue or other funereal weed, out of the graves of two princely
brothers, sons of a pagan king of Mercia, who were converted by St. Chad,
and afterwards martyred for their Christian faith.  Nevertheless, I was
but little interested in the legends of the remote antiquity of
Lichfield, being drawn thither partly to see its beautiful cathedral, and
still more, I believe, because it was the birthplace of Dr. Johnson, with
whose sturdy English character I became acquainted, at a very early
period of my life, through the good offices of Mr. Boswell.  In truth, he
seems as familiar to my recollection, and almost as vivid in his personal
aspect to my mind's eye, as the kindly figure of my own grandfather.  It
is only a solitary child,--left much to such wild modes of culture as he
chooses for himself while yet ignorant what culture means, standing on
tiptoe to pull down books from no very lofty shelf, and then shutting
himself up, as it were, between the leaves, going astray through the
volume at his own pleasure, and comprehending it rather by his
sensibilities and affections than his intellect,--that child is the only
student that ever gets the sort of intimacy which I am now thinking of,
with a literary personage.  I do not remember, indeed, ever caring much
about any of the stalwart Doctor's grandiloquent productions, except his
two stern and masculine poems, "London," and "The Vanity of Human
Wishes"; it was as a man, a talker, and a humorist, that I knew and loved
him, appreciating many of his qualities perhaps more thoroughly than I do
now, though never seeking to put my instinctive perception of his
character into language.

Beyond all question, I might have had a wiser friend than he.  The
atmosphere in which alone he breathed was dense; his awful dread of death
showed how much muddy imperfection was to be cleansed out of him, before
he could be capable of spiritual existence; he meddled only with the
surface of life, and never cared to penetrate further than to ploughshare
depth; his very sense and sagacity were but a one-eyed clear-sightedness.
I laughed at him, sometimes, standing beside his knee.  And yet,
considering that my native propensities were towards Fairy Land, and also
how much yeast is generally mixed up with the mental sustenance of a
New-Englander, it may not have been altogether amiss, in those childish
and boyish days, to keep pace with this heavy-footed traveller and feed
on the gross diet that he carried in his knapsack.  It is wholesome food
even now.  And, then, how English!  Many of the latent sympathies that
enabled me to enjoy the Old Country so well, and that so readily
amalgamated themselves with the American ideas that seemed most adverse
to them, may have been derived from, or fostered and kept alive by, the
great English moralist.  Never was a descriptive epithet more nicely
appropriate than that!  Dr. Johnson's morality was as English an article
as a beefsteak.

The city of Lichfield (only the cathedral-towns are called cities, in
England) stands on an ascending site.  It has not so many old gabled
houses as Coventry, for example, but still enough to gratify an American
appetite for the antiquities of domestic architecture.  The people, too,
have an old-fashioned way with them, and stare at the passing visitor, as
if the railway had not yet quite accustomed them to the novelty of
strange faces moving along their ancient sidewalks.  The old women whom I
met, in several instances, dropt me a courtesy; and as they were of
decent and comfortable exterior, and kept quietly on their way without
pause or further greeting, it certainly was not allowable to interpret
their little act of respect as a modest method of asking for sixpence; so
that I had the pleasure of considering it a remnant of the reverential
and hospitable manners of elder times, when the rare presence of a
stranger might be deemed worth a general acknowledgment.  Positively,
coming from such humble sources, I took it all the more as a welcome on
behalf of the inhabitants, and would not have exchanged it for an
invitation from the mayor and magistrates to a public dinner.  Yet I
wish, merely for the experiment's sake, that I could have emboldened
myself to hold out the aforesaid sixpence to at least one of the old
ladies.

In my wanderings about town, I came to an artificial piece of water,
called the Minster Pool.  It fills the immense cavity in a ledge of rock,
whence the building-materials of the cathedral were quarried out a great
many centuries ago.  I should never have guessed the little lake to be of
man's creation, so very pretty and quietly picturesque an object has it
grown to be, with its green banks, and the old trees hanging over its
glassy surface, in which you may see reflected some of the battlements of
the majestic structure that once lay here in unshaped stone.  Some little
children stood on the edge of the Pool, angling with pin-hooks; and the
scene reminded me (though really to be quite fair with the reader, the
gist of the analogy has now escaped me) of that mysterious lake in the
Arabian Nights, which had once been a palace and a city, and where a
fisherman used to pull out the former inhabitants in the guise of
enchanted fishes.  There is no need of fanciful associations to make the
spot interesting.  It was in the porch of one of the houses, in the
street that runs beside the Minster Pool, that Lord Brooke was slain, in
the time of the Parliamentary war, by a shot from the battlements of the
cathedral, which was then held by the Royalists as a fortress.  The
incident is commemorated by an inscription on a stone, inlaid into the
wall of the house.

I know not what rank the Cathedral of Lichfield holds among its sister
edifices in England, as a piece of magnificent architecture.  Except that
of Chester (the grim and simple nave of which stands yet unrivalled in my
memory), and one or two small ones in North Wales, hardly worthy of the
name of cathedrals, it was the first that I had seen.  To my uninstructed
vision, it seemed the object best worth gazing at in the whole world; and
now, after beholding a great many more, I remember it with less prodigal
admiration only because others are as magnificent as itself.  The traces
remaining in my memory represent it as airy rather than massive.  A
multitude of beautiful shapes appeared to be comprehended within its
single outline; it was a kind of kaleidoscopic mystery, so rich a variety
of aspects did it assume from each altered point of view, through the
presentation of a different face, and the rearrangement of its peaks and
pinnacles and the three battlemented towers, with the spires that shot
heavenward from all three, but one loftier than its fellows.  Thus it
impressed you, at every change, as a newly created structure of the
passing moment, in which yet you lovingly recognized the half-vanished
structure of the instant before, and felt, moreover, a joyful faith in
the indestructible existence of all this cloudlike vicissitude.  A Gothic
cathedral is surely the most wonderful work which mortal man has yet
achieved, so vast, so intricate, and so profoundly simple, with such
strange, delightful recesses in its grand figure, so difficult to
comprehend within one idea, and yet all so consonant that it ultimately
draws the beholder and his universe into its harmony.  It is the only
thing in the world that is vast enough and rich enough.

Not that I felt, or was worthy to feel, an unmingled enjoyment in gazing
at this wonder.  I could not elevate myself to its spiritual height, any
more than I could have climbed from the ground to the summit of one of
its pinnacles.  Ascending but a little way, I continually fell back and
lay in a kind of despair, conscious that a flood of uncomprehended beauty
was pouring down upon me, of which I could appropriate only the minutest
portion.  After a hundred years, incalculably as my higher sympathies
might be invigorated by so divine an employment, I should still be a
gazer from below and at an awful distance, as yet remotely excluded from
the interior mystery.  But it was something gained, even to have that
painful sense of my own limitations, and that half-smothered yearning to
soar beyond them.  The cathedral showed me how earthly I was, but yet
whispered deeply of immortality.  After all, this was probably the best
lesson that it could bestow, and, taking it as thoroughly as possible
home to my heart, I was fain to be content.  If the truth must be told,
my ill-trained enthusiasm soon flagged, and I began to lose the vision of
a spiritual or ideal edifice behind the time-worn and weather-stained
front of the actual structure.  Whenever that is the case, it is most
reverential to look another way; but the mood disposes one to minute
investigation, and I took advantage of it to examine the intricate and
multitudinous adornment that was lavished on the exterior wall of this
great church.  Everywhere, there were empty niches where statues had been
thrown down, and here and there a statue still lingered in its niche; and
over the chief entrance, and extending across the whole breadth of the
building, was a row of angels, sainted personages, martyrs, and kings,
sculptured in reddish stone.  Being much corroded by the moist English
atmosphere, during four or five hundred winters that they had stood
there, these benign and majestic figures perversely put me in mind of the
appearance of a sugar image, after a child has been holding it in his
mouth.  The venerable infant Time has evidently found them sweet morsels.

Inside of the minster there is a long and lofty nave, transepts of the
same height, and side-aisles and chapels, dim nooks of holiness, where in
Catholic times the lamps were continually burning before the richly
decorated shrines of saints.  In the audacity of my ignorance, as I
humbly acknowledge it to have been, I criticised this great interior as
too much broken into compartments, and shorn of half its rightful
impressiveness by the interposition of a screen betwixt the nave and
chancel.  It did not spread itself in breadth, but ascended to the roof
in lofty narrowness.  One large body of worshippers might have knelt down
in the nave, others in each of the transepts, and smaller ones in the
side-aisles, besides an indefinite number of esoteric enthusiasts in the
mysterious sanctities beyond the screen.  Thus it seemed to typify the
exclusiveness of sects rather than the worldwide hospitality of genuine
religion.  I had imagined a cathedral with a scope more vast.  These
Gothic aisles, with their groined arches overhead, supported by clustered
pillars in long vistas up and down, were venerable and magnificent, but
included too much of the twilight of that monkish gloom out of which they
grew.  It is no matter whether I ever came to a more satisfactory
appreciation of this kind of architecture; the only value of my
strictures being to show the folly of looking at noble objects in the
wrong mood, and the absurdity of a new visitant pretending to hold any
opinion whatever on such subjects, instead of surrendering himself to the
old builder's influence with childlike simplicity.

A great deal of white marble decorates the old stonework of the aisles,
in the shape of altars, obelisks, sarcophagi, and busts.  Most of these
memorials are commemorative of people locally distinguished, especially
the deans and canons of the Cathedral, with their relatives and families;
and I found but two monuments of personages whom I had ever heard of,--
one being Gilbert Wahnesley and the other Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a
literary acquaintance of my boyhood.  It was really pleasant to meet her
there; for after a friend has lain in the grave far into the second
century, she would be unreasonable to require any melancholy emotions in
a chance interview at her tombstone.  It adds a rich charm to sacred
edifices, this time-honored custom of burial in churches, after a few
years, at least, when the mortal remains have turned to dust beneath the
pavement, and the quaint devices and inscriptions still speak to you
above.  The statues, that stood or reclined in several recesses of the
Cathedral, had a kind of life, and I regarded them with an odd sort of
deference, as if they were privileged denizens of the precinct.  It was
singular, too, how the memorial of the latest buried person, the man
whose features went familiar in the streets of Lichfield only yesterday,
seemed precisely as much at home here as his mediaeval predecessors.
Henceforward he belonged in the Cathedral like one of its original
pillars.  Methought this impression in my fancy might be the shadow of a
spiritual fact.  The dying melt into the great multitude of the Departed
as quietly as a drop of water into the ocean, and, it may be are
conscious of no unfamiliarity with their new circumstances, but
immediately become aware of an insufferable strangeness in the world
which they have quitted.  Death has not taken them away, but brought them
home.

The vicissitudes and mischances of sublunary affairs, however, have not
ceased to attend upon these marble inhabitants; for I saw the upper
fragment of a sculptured lady, in a very old-fashioned garb, the lower
half of whom had doubtless been demolished by Cromwell's soldiers when
they took the Minster by storm.  And there lies the remnant of this
devout lady on her slab, ever since the outrage, as for centuries before,
with a countenance of divine serenity and her hands clasped in prayer,
symbolizing a depth of religious faith which no earthly turmoil or
calamity could disturb.  Another piece of sculpture (apparently a
favorite subject in the Middle Ages, for I have seen several like it in
other cathedrals) was a reclining skeleton, as faithfully representing an
open-work of bones as could well be expected in a solid block of marble,
and at a period, moreover, when the mysteries of the human frame were
rather to be guessed at than revealed.  Whatever the anatomical defects
of his production, the old sculptor had succeeded in making it ghastly
beyond measure.  How much mischief has been wrought upon us by this
invariable gloom of the Gothic imagination; flinging itself like a
death-scented pall over our conceptions of the future state, smothering
our hopes, hiding our sky, and inducing dismal efforts to raise the
harvest of immortality out of what is most opposite to it,--the grave!

The Cathedral service is performed twice every day at ten o'clock and at
four.  When I first entered, the choristers (young and old, but mostly, I
think, boys, with voices inexpressibly sweet and clear, and as fresh as
bird-notes) were just winding up their harmonious labors, and soon came
thronging through a side-door from the chancel into the nave.  They were
all dressed in long white robes, and looked like a peculiar order of
beings, created on purpose to hover between the roof and pavement of that
dim, consecrated edifice, and illuminate it with divine melodies,
reposing themselves, meanwhile, on the heavy grandeur of the organ-tones
like cherubs on a golden cloud.  All at once, however, one of the
cherubic multitude pulled off his white gown, thus transforming himself
before my very eyes into a commonplace youth of the day, in modern
frock-coat and trousers of a decidedly provincial cut.  This absurd
little incident, I verily believe, had a sinister effect in putting me at
odds with the proper influences of the Cathedral, nor could I quite
recover a suitable frame of mind during my stay there.  But, emerging
into the open air, I began to be sensible that I had left a magnificent
interior behind me, and I have never quite lost the perception and
enjoyment of it in these intervening years.

A large space in the immediate neighborhood of the Cathedral is called
the Close, and comprises beautifully kept lawns and a shadowy walk
bordered by the dwellings of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the
diocese.  All this row of episcopal, canonical, and clerical residences
has an air of the deepest quiet, repose, and well-protected though not
inaccessible seclusion.  They seemed capable of including everything that
a saint could desire, and a great many more things than most of us
sinners generally succeed in acquiring.  Their most marked feature is a
dignified comfort, looking as if no disturbance or vulgar intrusiveness
could ever cross their thresholds, encroach upon their ornamented
lawns, or straggle into the beautiful gardens that surround them with
flower-beds and rich clumps of shrubbery.  The episcopal palace is a
stately mansion of stone, built somewhat in the Italian style, and
bearing on its front the figures 1637, as the date of its erection.  A
large edifice of brick, which, if I remember, stood next to the palace, I
took to be the residence of the second dignitary of the Cathedral; and,
in that case, it must have been the youthful home of Addison, whose
father was Dean of Lichfield.  I tried to fancy his figure on the
delightful walk that extends in front of those priestly abodes, from
which and the interior lawns it is separated by an open-work iron fence,
lined with rich old shrubbery, and overarched by a minster-aisle of
venerable trees.  This path is haunted by the shades of famous personages
who have formerly trodden it.  Johnson must have been familiar with it,
both as a boy, and in his subsequent visits to Lichfield, an illustrious
old man.  Miss Seward, connected with so many literary reminiscences,
lived in one of the adjacent houses.  Tradition says that it was a
favorite spot of Major Andre, who used to pace to and fro under these
trees waiting, perhaps, to catch a last angel-glimpse of Honoria Sueyd,
before he crossed the ocean to encounter his dismal doom from an American
court-martial.  David Garrick, no doubt, scampered along the path in his
boyish days, and, if he was an early student of the drama, must often
have thought of those two airy characters of the "Beaux' Stratagem,"
Archer and Aimwell, who, on this very ground, after attending service at
the cathedral, contrive to make acquaintance with the ladies of the
comedy.  These creatures of mere fiction have as positive a substance now
as the sturdy old figure of Johnson himself.  They live, while realities
have died.  The shadowy walk still glistens with their gold-embroidered
memories.

Seeking for Johnson's birthplace, I found it in St. Mary's Square, which
is not so much a square as the mere widening of a street.  The house is
tall and thin, of three stories, with a square front and a roof rising
steep and high.  On a side-view, the building looks as if it had been cut
in two in the midst, there being no slope of the roof on that side.  A
ladder slanted against the wall, and a painter was giving a livelier line
to the plaster.  In a corner-room of the basement, where old Michael
Johnson may be supposed to have sold books, is now what we should call a
dry-goods store, or, according to the English phrase, a mercer's and
haberdasher's shop.  The house has a private entrance on a cross-street,
the door being accessible by several much-worn stone steps, which are
bordered by an iron balustrade.  I set my foot on the steps and laid my
hand on the balustrade, where Johnson's hand and foot must many a time
have been, and ascending to the door, I knocked once, and again, and
again, and got no admittance.  Going round to the shop-entrance, I tried
to open it, but found it as fast bolted as the gate of Paradise.  It is
mortifying to be so balked in one's little enthusiasms; but looking round
in quest of somebody to make inquiries of, I was a good deal consoled by
the sight of Dr. Johnson himself, who happened, just at that moment, to
be sitting at his case nearly in the middle of St. Mary's Square, with
his face turned towards his father's house.

Of course, it being almost fourscore years since the Doctor laid aside
his weary bulk of flesh, together with the ponderous melancholy that had
so long weighed him down, the intelligent reader will at once comprehend
that he was marble in his substance, and seated in a marble chair, on an
elevated stone pedestal.  In short, it was a statue, sculptured by Lucas,
and placed here in 1838, at the expense of Dr. Law, the reverend
chancellor of the diocese.

The figure is colossal (though perhaps not much more so than the
mountainous Doctor himself) and looks down upon the spectator from its
pedestal of ten or twelve feet high, with a broad and heavy benignity of
aspect, very like in feature to Sir Joshua Reynolds's portrait of
Johnson, but calmer and sweeter in expression.  Several big books are
piled up beneath his chair, and, if I mistake not, he holds a volume in
his hand, thus blinking forth at the world out of his learned
abstraction, owllike, yet benevolent at heart.  The statue is immensely
massive, a vast ponderosity of stone, not finely spiritualized, nor,
indeed, fully humanized, but rather resembling a great stone-bowlder than
a man.  You must look with the eyes of faith and sympathy, or, possibly,
you might lose the human being altogether, and find only a big stone
within your mental grasp.  On the pedestal are three bas-reliefs.  In the
first, Johnson is represented as hardly more than a baby, bestriding an
old man's shoulders, resting his chin on the bald head which he embraces
with his little arms, and listening earnestly to the High-Church
eloquence of Dr. Sacheverell.  In the second tablet, he is seen riding to
school on the shoulders of two of his comrades, while another boy
supports him in the rear.

The third bas-relief possesses, to my mind, a great deal of pathos, to
which my appreciative faculty is probably the more alive, because I have
always been profoundly impressed by the incident here commemorated, and
long ago tried to tell it for the behoof of childish readers.  It shows
Johnson in the market-place of Uttoxeter, doing penance for an act of
disobedience to his father, committed fifty years before.  He stands
bareheaded, a venerable figure, and a countenance extremely sad and
woebegone, with the wind and rain driving hard against him, and thus
helping to suggest to the spectator the gloom of his inward state.  Some
market-people and children gaze awe-stricken into his face, and an aged
man and woman, with clasped and uplifted hands, seem to be praying for
him.  These latter personages (whose introduction by the artist is none
the less effective, because, in queer proximity, there are some
commodities of market-day in the shape of living ducks and dead poultry)
I interpreted to represent the spirits of Johnson's father and mother,
lending what aid they could to lighten his half-century's burden of
remorse.

I had never heard of the above-described piece of sculpture before; it
appears to have no reputation as a work of art, nor am I at all positive
that it deserves any.  For me, however, it did as much as sculpture
could, under the circumstances, even if the artist of the Libyan Sibyl
had wrought it, by reviving my interest in the sturdy old Englishman, and
particularly by freshening my perception of a wonderful beauty and
pathetic tenderness in the incident of the penance.  So, the next day, I
left Lichfield for Uttoxeter, on one of the few purely sentimental
pilgrimages that I ever undertook, to see the very spot where Johnson had
stood.  Boswell, I think, speaks of the town (its name is pronounced
Yuteoxeter) as being about nine miles off from Lichfield, but the
county-map would indicate a greater distance; and by rail, passing from
one line to another, it is as much as eighteen miles.  I have always had
an idea of old Michael Johnson sending his literary merchandise by
carrier's wagon, journeying to Uttoxeter afoot on market-day morning,
selling books through the busy hours, and returning to Lichfield at
night.  This could not possibly have been the case.

Arriving at the Uttoxeter station, the first objects that I saw, with a
green field or two between them and me, were the tower and gray steeple
of a church, rising among red-tiled roofs and a few scattered trees.  A
very short walk takes you from the station up into the town.  It had been
my previous impression that the market-place of Uttoxeter lay immediately
roundabout the church; and, if I remember the narrative aright, Johnson,
or Boswell in his behalf, describes his father's book-stall as standing
in the market-place, close beside the sacred edifice.  It is impossible
for me to say what changes may have occurred in the topography of the
town, during almost a century and a half since Michael Johnson retired
from business, and ninety years, at least, since his son's penance was
performed.  But the church has now merely a street of ordinary width
passing around it, while the market-place, though near at hand, neither
forms a part of it nor is really contiguous, nor would its throng and
bustle be apt to overflow their boundaries and surge against the
churchyard and the old gray tower.  Nevertheless, a walk of a minute or
two brings a person from the centre of the market-place to the
church-door; and Michael Johnson might very conveniently have located his
stall and laid out his literary ware in the corner at the tower's base;
better there, indeed, than in the busy centre of an agricultural market.
But the picturesque arrangement and full impressiveness of the story
absolutely require that Johnson shall not have done his penance in a
corner, ever so little retired, but shall have been the very nucleus of
the crowd,--the midmost man of the market-place,--a central image of
Memory and Remorse, contrasting with and overpowering the petty
materialism around him.  He himself, having the force to throw vitality
and truth into what persons differently constituted might reckon a mere
external ceremony, and an absurd one, could not have failed to see this
necessity.  I am resolved, therefore, that the true site of Dr. Johnson's
penance was in the middle of the market-place.

That important portion of the town is a rather spacious and irregularly
shaped vacuity, surrounded by houses and shops, some of them old, with
red-tiled roofs, others wearing a pretence of newness, but probably as
old in their inner substance as the rest.  The people of Uttoxeter seemed
very idle in the warm summer-day, and were scattered in little groups
along the sidewalks, leisurely chatting with one another, and often
turning about to take a deliberate stare at my humble self; insomuch that
I felt as if my genuine sympathy for the illustrious penitent, and my
many reflections about him, must have imbued me with some of his own
singularity of mien.  If their great-grandfathers were such redoubtable
starers in the Doctor's day, his penance was no light one.  This
curiosity indicates a paucity of visitors to the little town, except for
market purposes, and I question if Uttoxeter ever saw an American before.
The only other thing that greatly impressed me was the abundance of
public-houses, one at every step or two Red Lions, White Harts, Bulls'
Heads, Mitres, Cross Keys, and I know not what besides.  These are
probably for the accommodation of the farmers and peasantry of the
neighborhood on market-day, and content themselves with a very meagre
business on other days of the week.  At any rate, I was the only guest in
Uttoxeter at the period of my visit, and had but an infinitesimal portion
of patronage to distribute among such a multitude of inns.  The reader,
however, will possibly be scandalized to learn what was the first, and,
indeed, the only important affair that I attended to, after coming so far
to indulge a solemn and high emotion, and standing now on the very spot
where my pious errand should have been consummated.  I stepped into one
of the rustic hostelries and got my dinner,--bacon and greens, some
mutton-chops, juicier and more delectable than all America could serve up
at the President's table, and a gooseberry pudding; a sufficient meal for
six yeomen, and good enough for a prince, besides a pitcher of foaming
ale, the whole at the pitiful small charge of eighteen-pence!

Dr. Johnson would have forgiven me, for nobody had a heartier faith in
beef and mutton than himself.  And as regards my lack of sentiment in
eating my dinner,--it was the wisest thing I had done that day.  A
sensible man had better not let himself be betrayed into these attempts
to realize the things which he has dreamed about, and which, when they
cease to be purely ideal in his mind, will have lost the truest of their
truth, the loftiest and profoundest part of their power over his
sympathies.  Facts, as we really find them, whatever poetry they may
involve, are covered with a stony excrescence of prose, resembling the
crust on a beautiful sea-shell, and they never show their most delicate
and divinest colors until we shall have dissolved away their grosser
actualities by steeping them long in a powerful menstruum of thought.
And seeking to actualize them again, we do but renew the crust.  If this
were otherwise,--if the moral sublimity of a great fact depended in any
degree on its garb of external circumstances, things which change and
decay,--it could not itself be immortal and ubiquitous, and only a brief
point of time and a little neighborhood would be spiritually nourished by
its grandeur and beauty.

Such were a few of the reflections which I mingled with my ale, as I
remember to have seen an old quaffer of that excellent liquor stir up his
cup with a sprig of some bitter and fragrant herb.  Meanwhile I found
myself still haunted by a desire to get a definite result out of my visit
to Uttoxeter.  The hospitable inn was called the Nag's Head, and standing
beside the market-place, was as likely as any other to have entertained
old Michael Johnson in the days when he used to come hither to sell
books.  He, perhaps, had dined on bacon and greens, and drunk his ale,
and smoked his pipe, in the very room where I now sat, which was a low,
ancient room, certainly much older than Queen Anne's time, with a
red-brick floor, and a white-washed ceiling, traversed by bare, rough
beams, the whole in the rudest fashion, but extremely neat.  Neither did
it lack ornament, the walls being hung with colored engravings of
prize oxen and other pretty prints, and the mantel-piece adorned with
earthen-ware figures of shepherdesses in the Arcadian taste of long ago.
Michael Johnson's eyes might have rested on that selfsame earthen image,
to examine which more closely I had just crossed the brick pavement of
the room.  And, sitting down again, still as I sipped my ale, I glanced
through the open window into the sunny market-place, and wished that I
could honestly fix on one spot rather than another, as likely to have
been the holy site where Johnson stood to do his penance.

How strange and stupid it is that tradition should not have marked and
kept in mind the very place!  How shameful (nothing less than that) that
there should be no local memorial of this incident, as beautiful and
touching a passage as can be cited out of any human life!  No inscription
of it, almost as sacred as a verse of Scripture on the wall of the
church!  No statue of the venerable and illustrious penitent in the
market-place to throw a wholesome awe over its earthliness, its frauds
and petty wrongs of which the benumbed fingers of conscience can make no
record, its selfish competition of each man with his brother or his
neighbor, its traffic of soul-substance for a little worldly gain!  Such
a statue, if the piety of the people did not raise it, might almost have
been expected to grow up out of the pavement of its own accord on the
spot that had been watered by the rain that dripped from Johnson's
garments, mingled with his remorseful tears.

Long after my visit to Uttoxeter, I was told that there were individuals
in the town who could have shown me the exact, indubitable spot where
Johnson performed his penance.  I was assured, moreover, that sufficient
interest was felt in the subject to have induced certain local
discussions as to the expediency of erecting a memorial.  With all
deference to my polite informant, I surmise that there is a mistake, and
decline, without further and precise evidence, giving credit to either of
the above statements.  The inhabitants know nothing, as a matter of
general interest, about the penance, and care nothing for the scene of
it.  If the clergyman of the parish, for example, had ever heard of it,
would he not have used the theme, time and again, wherewith to work
tenderly and profoundly on the souls committed to his charge?  If parents
were familiar with it, would they not teach it to their young ones at the
fireside, both to insure reverence to their own gray hairs, and to
protect the children from such unavailing regrets as Johnson bore upon
his heart for fifty years?  If the site were ascertained, would not the
pavement thereabouts be worn with reverential footsteps?  Would not every
town-born child be able to direct the pilgrim thither?  While waiting at
the station, before my departure, I asked a boy who stood near me,--an
intelligent and gentlemanly lad, twelve or thirteen years old, whom I
should take to be a clergyman's son,--I asked him if he had ever heard
the story of Dr. Johnson, how he stood an hour doing penance near that
church, the spire of which rose before us.  The boy stared and
answered,--

"No!'

"Were you born in Uttoxeter?"

"Yes."

I inquired if no circumstance such as I had mentioned was known or talked
about among the inhabitants.

"No," said the boy; "not that I ever heard of."

Just think of the absurd little town, knowing nothing of the only
memorable incident which ever happened within its boundaries since the
old Britons built it, this sad and lovely story, which consecrates the
spot (for I found it holy to my contemplation, again, as soon as it lay
behind me) in the heart of a stranger from three thousand miles over the
sea!  It but confirms what I have been saying, that sublime and beautiful
facts are best understood when etherealized by distance.



PILGRIMAGE TO OLD BOSTON.


We set out at a little past eleven, and made our first stage to
Manchester.  We were by this time sufficiently Anglicized to reckon the
morning a bright and sunny one; although the May sunshine was mingled
with water, as it were, and distempered with a very bitter east-wind.

Lancashire is a dreary county (all, at least, except its hilly portions),
and I have never passed through it without wishing myself anywhere but in
that particular spot where I then happened to be.  A few places along our
route were historically interesting; as, for example, Bolton, which was
the scene of many remarkable events in the Parliamentary War, and in the
market-square of which one of the Earls of Derby was beheaded.  We saw,
along the wayside, the never-failing green fields, hedges, and other
monotonous features of an ordinary English landscape.  There were little
factory villages, too, or larger towns, with their tall chimneys, and
their pennons of black smoke, their ugliness of brick-work, and their
heaps of refuse matter from the furnace, which seems to be the only kind
of stuff which Nature cannot take back to herself and resolve into the
elements, when man has thrown it aside.  These hillocks of waste and
effete mineral always disfigure the neighborhood of iron-mongering towns,
and, even after a considerable antiquity, are hardly made decent with a
little grass.

At a quarter to two we left Manchester by the Sheffield and Lincoln
Railway.  The scenery grew rather better than that through which we had
hitherto passed, though still by no means very striking; for (except in
the show-districts, such as the Lake country, or Derbyshire) English
scenery is not particularly well worth looking at, considered as a
spectacle or a picture.  It has a real, homely charm of its own, no
doubt; and the rich verdure, and the thorough finish added by human art,
are perhaps as attractive to an American eye as any stronger feature
could be.  Our journey, however, between Manchester and Sheffield was not
through a rich tract of country, but along a valley walled in by bleak,
ridgy hills extending straight as a rampart, and across black moorlands
with here and there a plantation of trees.  Sometimes there were long and
gradual ascents, bleak, windy, and desolate, conveying the very
impression which the reader gets from many passages of Miss Bronte's
novels, and still more from those of her two sisters.  Old stone or brick
farm-houses, and, once in a while, an old church-tower, were visible; but
these are almost too common objects to be noticed in an English
landscape.

On a railway, I suspect, what little we do see of the country is seen
quite amiss, because it was never intended to be looked at from any point
of view in that straight line; so that it is like looking at the wrong
side of a piece of tapestry.  The old highways and foot-paths were as
natural as brooks and rivulets, and adapted themselves by an inevitable
impulse to the physiognomy of the country; and, furthermore, every object
within view of them had some subtile reference to their curves and
undulations; but the line of a railway is perfectly artificial, and puts
all precedent things at sixes-and-sevens.  At any rate, be the cause what
it may, there is seldom anything worth seeing within the scope of a
railway traveller's eye; and if there were, it requires an alert marksman
to take a flying shot at the picturesque.

At one of the stations (it was near a village of ancient aspect, nestling
round a church, on a wide Yorkshire moor) I saw a tall old lady in black,
who seemed to have just alighted from the train.  She caught my attention
by a singular movement of the head, not once only, but continually
repeated, and at regular intervals, as if she were making a stern and
solemn protest against some action that developed itself before her eyes,
and were foreboding terrible disaster, if it should be persisted in.  Of
course, it was nothing more than a paralytic or nervous affection; yet
one might fancy that it had its origin in some unspeakable wrong,
perpetrated half a lifetime ago in this old gentlewoman's presence,
either against herself or somebody whom she loved still better.  Her
features had a wonderful sternness, which, I presume, was caused by her
habitual effort to compose and keep them quiet, and thereby counteract
the tendency to paralytic movement.  The slow, regular, and inexorable
character of the motion--her look of force and self-control, which had
the appearance of rendering it voluntary, while yet it was so fateful--
have stamped this poor lady's face and gesture into my memory; so that,
some dark day or other, I am afraid she will reproduce herself in a
dismal romance.

The train stopped a minute or two, to allow the tickets to be taken, just
before entering the Sheffield station, and thence I had a glimpse of the
famous town of razors and penknives, enveloped in a cloud of its own
diffusing.  My impressions of it are extremely vague and misty,--or,
rather, smoky: for Sheffield seems to me smokier than Manchester.
Liverpool, or Birmingham,--smokier than all England besides, unless
Newcastle be the exception.  It might have been Pluto's own metropolis,
shrouded in sulphurous vapor; and, indeed, our approach to it had been by
the Valley of the Shadow of Death, through a tunnel three miles in
length, quite traversing the breadth and depth of a mountainous hill.

After passing Sheffield, the scenery became softer, gentler, yet more
picturesque.  At one point we saw what I believe to be the utmost
northern verge of Sherwood Forest,--not consisting, however, of
thousand-year oaks, extant from Robin Hood's days, but of young and
thriving plantations, which will require a century or two of slow English
growth to give them much breadth of shade.  Earl Fitzwilliam's property
lies in this neighborhood, and probably his castle was hidden among some
soft depth of foliage not far off.  Farther onward the country grew quite
level around us, whereby I judged that we must now be in Lincolnshire;
and shortly after six o'clock we caught the first glimpse of the
Cathedral towers, though they loomed scarcely huge enough for our
preconceived idea of them.  But, as we drew nearer, the great edifice
began to assert itself, making us acknowledge it to be larger than our
receptivity could take in.

At the railway-station we found no cab (it being an unknown vehicle in
Lincoln), but only an omnibus belonging to the Saracen's Head, which the
driver recommended as the best hotel in the city, and took us thither
accordingly.  It received us hospitably, and looked comfortable enough;
though, like the hotels of most old English towns, it had a musty
fragrance of antiquity, such as I have smelt in a seldom-opened London
church where the broad-aisle is paved with tombstones.  The house was of
an ancient fashion, the entrance into its interior court-yard being
through an arch, in the side of which is the door of the hotel.  There
are long corridors, an intricate arrangement of passages, and an
up-and-down meandering of staircases, amid which it would be no marvel to
encounter some forgotten guest who had gone astray a hundred years ago,
and was still seeking for his bedroom while the rest of his generation
were in their graves.  There is no exaggerating the confusion of mind
that seizes upon a stranger in the bewildering geography of a great
old-fashioned English inn.

This hotel stands in the principal street of Lincoln, and within a very
short distance of one of the ancient city-gates, which is arched across
the public way, with a smaller arch for foot-passengers on either side;
the whole, a gray, time-gnawn, ponderous, shadowy structure, through the
dark vista of which you look into the Middle Ages.  The street is narrow,
and retains many antique peculiarities; though, unquestionably, English
domestic architecture has lost its most impressive features, in the
course of the last century.  In this respect, there are finer old towns
than Lincoln: Chester, for instance, and Shrewsbury,--which last is
unusually rich in those quaint and stately edifices where the gentry of
the shire used to make their winter abodes, in a provincial metropolis.
Almost everywhere, nowadays, there is a monotony of modern brick or
stuccoed fronts, hiding houses that are older than ever, but obliterating
the picturesque antiquity of the street.

Between seven and eight o'clock (it being still broad daylight in these
long English days) we set out to pay a preliminary visit to the exterior
of the Cathedral.  Passing through the Stone Bow, as the city-gate close
by is called, we ascended a street which grew steeper and narrower as we
advanced, till at last it got to be the steepest street I ever climbed,--
so steep that any carriage, if left to itself, would rattle downward much
faster than it could possibly be drawn up.  Being almost the only hill in
Lincolnshire, the inhabitants seem disposed to make the most of it.  The
houses on each side had no very remarkable aspect, except one with a
stone portal and carved ornaments, which is now a dwelling-place for
poverty-stricken people, but may have been an aristocratic abode in the
days of the Norman kings, to whom its style of architecture dates back.
This is called the Jewess's House, having been inhabited by a woman of
that faith who was hanged six hundred years ago.

And still the street grew steeper and steeper.  Certainly, the Bishop
and clergy of Lincoln ought not to be fat men, but of very spiritual,
saint-like, almost angelic habit, if it be a frequent part of their
ecclesiastical duty to climb this hill; for it is a real penance, and was
probably performed as such, and groaned over accordingly, in monkish
times.  Formerly, on the day of his installation, the Bishop used to
ascend the hill barefoot, and was doubtless cheered and invigorated by
looking upward to the grandeur that was to console him for the humility
of his approach.  We, likewise, were beckoned onward by glimpses of the
Cathedral towers, and, finally, attaining an open square on the summit,
we saw an old Gothic gateway to the left hand, and another to the right.
The latter had apparently been a part of the exterior defences of the
Cathedral, at a time when the edifice was fortified.  The west front rose
behind.  We passed through one of the side-arches of the Gothic portal,
and found ourselves in the Cathedral Close, a wide, level space, where
the great old Minster has fair room to sit, looking down on the ancient
structures that surround it, all of which, in former days, were the
habitations of its dignitaries and officers.  Some of them are still
occupied as such, though others are in too neglected and dilapidated a
state to seem worthy of so splendid an establishment.  Unless it be
Salisbury Close, however (which is incomparably rich as regards the old
residences that belong to it), I remember no more comfortably picturesque
precincts round any other cathedral.  But, in truth, almost every
cathedral close, in turn, has seemed to me the loveliest, cosiest,
safest, least wind-shaken, most decorous, and most enjoyable shelter that
ever the thrift and selfishness of mortal man contrived for himself.  How
delightful, to combine all this with the service of the temple!

Lincoln Cathedral is built of a yellowish brown-stone, which appears
either to have been largely restored, or else does not assume the hoary,
crumbly surface that gives such a venerable aspect to most of the ancient
churches and castles in England.  In many parts, the recent restorations
are quite evident; but other, and much the larger portions, can scarcely
have been touched for centuries: for there are still the gargoyles,
perfect, or with broken noses, as the case may be, but showing that
variety and fertility of grotesque extravagance which no modern imitation
can effect.  There are innumerable niches, too, up the whole height of
the towers, above and around the entrance, and all over the walls: most
of them empty, but a few containing the lamentable remnants of headless
saints and angels.  It is singular what a native animosity lives in the
human heart against carved images, insomuch that, whether they represent
Christian saint or Pagan deity, all unsophisticated men seize the first
safe opportunity to knock off their heads!  In spite of all
dilapidations, however, the effect of the west front of the Cathedral is
still exceedingly rich, being covered from massive base to airy summit
with the minutest details of sculpture and carving: at least, it was so
once; and even now the spiritual impression of its beauty remains so
strong, that we have to look twice to see that much of it has been
obliterated.  I have seen a cherry-stone carved all over by a monk, so
minutely that it must have cost him half a lifetime of labor; and this
cathedral-front seems to have been elaborated in a monkish spirit, like
that cherry-stone.  Not that the result is in the least petty, but
miraculously grand, and all the more so for the faithful beauty of the
smallest details.

An elderly maid, seeing us looking up at the west front, came to the door
of an adjacent house, and called to inquire if we wished to go into the
Cathedral; but as there would have been a dusky twilight beneath its
roof, like the antiquity that has sheltered itself within, we declined
for the present.  So we merely walked round the exterior, and thought it
more beautiful than that of York; though, on recollection, I hardly deem
it so majestic and mighty as that.  It is vain to attempt a description,
or seek even to record the feeling which the edifice inspires.  It does
not impress the beholder as an inanimate object, but as something that
has a vast, quiet, long-enduring life of its own,--a creation which man
did not build, though in some way or other it is connected with him, and
kindred to human nature.  In short, I fall straightway to talking
nonsense, when I try to express my inner sense of this and other
cathedrals.

While we stood in the close, at the eastern end of the Minster, the clock
chimed the quarters; and then Great Tom, who hangs in the Rood Tower,
told us it was eight o'clock, in far the sweetest and mightiest accents
that I ever heard from any bell,--slow, and solemn, and allowing the
profound reverberations of each stroke to die away before the next one
fell.  It was still broad daylight in that upper region of the town, and
would be so for some time longer; but the evening atmosphere was getting
sharp and cool.  We therefore descended the steep street,--our younger
companion running before us, and gathering such headway that I fully
expected him to break his head against some projecting wall.

In the morning we took a fly (an English term for an exceedingly sluggish
vehicle), and drove up to the Minster by a road rather less steep and
abrupt than the one we had previously climbed.  We alighted before the
west front, and sent our charioteer in quest of the verger; but, as he
was not immediately to be found, a young girl let us into the nave.  We
found it very grand, it is needless to say, but not so grand, methought,
as the vast nave of York Cathedral, especially beneath the great central
tower of the latter.  Unless a writer intends a professedly architectural
description, there is but one set of phrases in which to talk of all the
cathedrals in England and elsewhere.  They are alike in their great
features: an acre or two of stone flags for a pavement; rows of vast
columns supporting a vaulted roof at a dusky height; great windows,
sometimes richly bedimmed with ancient or modern stained glass; and an
elaborately carved screen between the nave and chancel, breaking the
vista that might else be of such glorious length, and which is further
choked up by a massive organ.--in spite of which obstructions, you catch
the broad, variegated glimmer of the painted east window, where a hundred
saints wear their robes of transfiguration.  Behind the screen are the
carved oaken stalls of the Chapter and Prebendaries, the Bishop's throne,
the pulpit, the altar, and whatever else may furnish out the Holy of
Holies.  Nor must we forget the range of chapels (once dedicated to
Catholic saints, but which have now lost their individual consecration),
nor the old monuments of kings, warriors, and prelates, in the
side-aisles of the chancel.  In close contiguity to the main body of the
Cathedral is the Chapter-House, which, here at Lincoln, as at Salisbury,
is supported by one central pillar rising from the floor, and putting
forth branches like a tree, to hold up the roof.  Adjacent to the
Chapter-House are the cloisters, extending round a quadrangle, and paved
with lettered tombstones, the more antique of which have had their
inscriptions half obliterated by the feet of monks taking their noontide
exercise in these sheltered walks, five hundred years ago.  Some of these
old burial-stones, although with ancient crosses engraved upon them, have
been made to serve as memorials to dead people of very recent date.

In the chancel, among the tombs of forgotten bishops and knights, we saw
an immense slab of stone purporting to be the monument of Catherine
Swynford, wife of John of Gaunt; also, here was the shrine of the little
Saint Hugh, that Christian child who was fabled to have been crucified by
the Jews of Lincoln.  The Cathedral is not particularly rich in
monuments; for it suffered grievous outrage and dilapidation, both at the
Reformation and in Cromwell's time.  This latter iconoclast is in
especially bad odor with the sextons and vergers of most of the old
churches which I have visited.  His soldiers stabled their steeds in the
nave of Lincoln Cathedral, and hacked and hewed the monkish sculptures,
and the ancestral memorials of great families, quite at their wicked and
plebeian pleasure.  Nevertheless, there are some most exquisite and
marvellous specimens of flowers, foliage, and grapevines, and miracles of
stone-work twined about arches, as if the material had been as soft as
wax in the cunning sculptor's hands,--the leaves being represented with
all their veins, so that you would almost think it petrified Nature, for
which he sought to steal the praise of Art.  Here, too, were those
grotesque faces which always grin at you from the projections of monkish
architecture, as if the builders had gone mad with their own deep
solemnity, or dreaded such a catastrophe, unless permitted to throw in
something ineffably absurd.

Originally, it is supposed, all the pillars of this great edifice, and
all these magic sculptures, were polished to the utmost degree of lustre;
nor is it unreasonable to think that the artists would have taken these
further pains, when they had already bestowed so much labor in working
out their conceptions to the extremest point.  But, at present, the whole
interior of the Cathedral is smeared over with a yellowish wash, the very
meanest hue imaginable, and for which somebody's soul has a bitter
reckoning to undergo.

In the centre of the grassy quadrangle about which the cloisters
perambulate is a small, mean brick building, with a locked door.  Our
guide,--I forgot to say that we had been captured by a verger, in black,
and with a white tie, but of a lusty and jolly aspect,--our guide
unlocked this door, and disclosed a flight of steps.  At the bottom
appeared what I should have taken to be a large square of dim, worn, and
faded oil-carpeting, which might originally have been painted of a rather
gaudy pattern.  This was a Roman tessellated pavement, made of small
colored bricks, or pieces of burnt clay.  It was accidentally discovered
here, and has not been meddled with, further than by removing the
superincumbent earth and rubbish.

Nothing else occurs to me, just now, to be recorded about the interior of
the Cathedral, except that we saw a place where the stone pavement had
been worn away by the feet of ancient pilgrims scraping upon it, as they
knelt down before a shrine of the Virgin.  Leaving the Minster, we now
went along a street of more venerable appearance than we had heretofore
seen, bordered with houses, the high peaked roofs of which were covered
with red earthen tiles.  It led us to a Roman arch, which was once the
gateway of a fortification, and has been striding across the English
street ever since the latter was a faint village-path, and for centuries
before.  The arch is about four hundred yards from the Cathedral; and it
is to be noticed that there are Roman remains in all this neighborhood,
some above ground, and doubtless innumerable more beneath it; for, as in
ancient Rome itself, an inundation of accumulated soil seems to have
swept over what was the surface of that earlier day.  The gateway which I
am speaking about is probably buried to a third of its height, and
perhaps has as perfect a Roman pavement (if sought for at the original
depth) as that which runs beneath the Arch of Titus.  It is a rude and
massive structure, and seems as stalwart now as it could have been two
thousand years ago; and though Time has gnawed it externally, he has made
what amends he could by crowning its rough and broken summit with grass
and weeds, and planting tufts of yellow flowers on the projections up and
down the sides.

There are the ruins of a Norman castle, built by the Conqueror, in pretty
close proximity to the Cathedral; but the old gateway is obstructed by a
modern door of wood, and we were denied admittance because some part of
the precincts are used as a prison.  We now rambled about on the broad
back of the hill, which, besides the Minster and ruined castle, is the
site of some stately and queer old houses, and of many mean little
hovels.  I suspect that all or most of the life of the present day has
subsided into the lower town, and that only priests, poor people, and
prisoners dwell in these upper regions.  In the wide, dry moat, at the
base of the castle-wall, are clustered whole colonies of small houses,
some of brick, but the larger portion built of old stones which once made
part of the Norman keep, or of Roman structures that existed before the
Conqueror's castle was ever dreamed about.  They are like toadstools that
spring up from the mould of a decaying tree.  Ugly as they are, they add
wonderfully to the picturesqueness of the scene, being quite as valuable,
in that respect, as the great, broad, ponderous ruin of the castle-keep,
which rose high above our heads, heaving its huge gray mass out of a bank
of green foliage and ornamental shrubbery, such as lilacs and other
flowering plants, in which its foundations were completely hidden.

After walking quite round the castle, I made an excursion through the
Roman gateway, along a pleasant and level road bordered with dwellings of
various character.  One or two were houses of gentility, with delightful
and shadowy lawns before them; many had those high, red-tiled roofs,
ascending into acutely pointed gables, which seem to belong to the same
epoch as some of the edifices in our own earlier towns; and there were
pleasant-looking cottages, very sylvan and rural, with hedges so dense
and high, fencing them in, as almost to hide them up to the eaves of
their thatched roofs.  In front of one of these I saw various images,
crosses, and relics of antiquity, among which were fragments of old
Catholic tombstones, disposed by way of ornament.

We now went home to the Saracen's Head; and as the weather was very
unpropitious, and it sprinkled a little now and then, I would gladly have
felt myself released from further thraldom to the Cathedral.  But it had
taken possession of me, and would not let me be at rest; so at length I
found myself compelled to climb the hill again, between daylight and
dusk.  A mist was now hovering about the upper height of the great
central tower, so as to dim and half obliterate its battlements and
pinnacles, even while I stood in the close beneath it.  It was the most
impressive view that I had had.  The whole lower part of the structure
was seen with perfect distinctness; but at the very summit the mist was
so dense as to form an actual cloud, as well defined as ever I saw
resting on a mountain-top.  Really and literally, here was a "cloud-capt
tower."

The entire Cathedral, too, transfigured itself into a richer beauty and
more imposing majesty than ever.  The longer I looked, the better I loved
it.  Its exterior is certainly far more beautiful than that of York
Minster; and its finer effect is due, I think, to the many peaks in which
the structure ascends, and to the pinnacles which, as it were, repeat and
re-echo them into the sky.  York Cathedral is comparatively square and
angular in its general effect; but in this at Lincoln there is a
continual mystery of variety, so that at every glance you are aware of a
change, and a disclosure of something new, yet working an harmonious
development of what you have heretofore seen.  The west front is
unspeakably grand, and may be read over and over again forever, and still
show undetected meanings, like a great, broad page of marvellous writing
in black-letter,--so many sculptured ornaments there are, blossoming out
before your eyes, and gray statues that have grown there since you looked
last, and empty niches, and a hundred airy canopies beneath which carved
images used to be, and where they will show themselves again, if you gaze
long enough.--But I will not say another word about the Cathedral.

We spent the rest of the day within the sombre precincts of the Saracen's
Head, reading yesterday's "Times," "The Guide-Book of Lincoln," and "The
Directory of the Eastern Counties."  Dismal as the weather was, the
street beneath our window was enlivened with a great bustle and turmoil
of people all the evening, because it was Saturday night, and they had
accomplished their week's toil, received their wages, and were making
their small purchases against Sunday, and enjoying themselves as well as
they knew how.  A band of music passed to and fro several times, with the
rain-drops falling into the mouth of the brazen trumpet and pattering on
the bass-drum; a spirit-shop, opposite the hotel, had a vast run of
custom; and a coffee-dealer, in the open air, found occasional vent for
his commodity, in spite of the cold water that dripped into the cups.
The whole breadth of the street, between the Stone Bow and the bridge
across the Witham, was thronged to overflowing, and humming with human
life.

Observing in the Guide-Book that a steamer runs on the river Witham
between Lincoln and Boston, I inquired of the waiter, and learned that
she was to start on Monday at ten o'clock.  Thinking it might be an
interesting trip, and a pleasant variation of our customary mode of
travel, we determined to make the voyage.  The Witham flows through
Lincoln, crossing the main street under an arched bridge of Gothic
construction, a little below the Saracen's Head.  It has more the
appearance of a canal than of a river, in its passage through the town,--
being bordered with hewn-stone mason-work on each side, and provided with
one or two locks.  The steamer proved to be small, dirty, and altogether
inconvenient.  The early morning had been bright; but the sky now lowered
upon us with a sulky English temper, and we had not long put off before
we felt an ugly wind from the German Ocean blowing right in our teeth.
There were a number of passengers on board, country-people, such as
travel by third-class on the railway; for, I suppose, nobody but
ourselves ever dreamt of voyaging by the steamer for the sake of what he
might happen upon in the way of river-scenery.

We bothered a good while about getting through a preliminary lock; nor,
when fairly under way, did we ever accomplish, I think, six miles an
hour.  Constant delays were caused, moreover, by stopping to take up
passengers and freight,--not at regular landing-places, but anywhere
along the green banks.  The scenery was identical with that of the
railway, because the latter runs along by the river-side through the
whole distance, or nowhere departs from it except to make a short cut
across some sinuosity; so that our only advantage lay in the drawling,
snail-like slothfulness of our progress, which allowed us time enough and
to spare for the objects along the shore.  Unfortunately, there was
nothing, or next to nothing, to be seen,--the country being one unvaried
level over the whole thirty miles of our voyage,--not a hill in sight,
either near or far, except that solitary one on the summit of which we
had left Lincoln Cathedral.  And the Cathedral was our landmark for four
hours or more, and at last rather faded out than was hidden by any
intervening object.

It would have been a pleasantly lazy day enough, if the rough and bitter
wind had not blown directly in our faces, and chilled us through, in
spite of the sunshine that soon succeeded a sprinkle or two of rain.
These English east-winds, which prevail from February till June, are
greater nuisances than the east-wind of our own Atlantic coast, although
they do not bring mist and storm, as with us, but some of the sunniest
weather that England sees.  Under their influence, the sky smiles and is
villanous.

The landscape was tame to the last degree, but had an English character
that was abundantly worth our looking at.  A green luxuriance of early
grass; old, high-roofed farm-houses, surrounded by their stone barns and
ricks of hay and grain; ancient villages, with the square, gray tower of
a church seen afar over the level country, amid the cluster of red roofs;
here and there a shadowy grove of venerable trees, surrounding what was
perhaps an Elizabethan hall, though it looked more like the abode of some
rich yeoman.  Once, too, we saw the tower of a mediaeval castle, that of
Tattershall, built, by a Cromwell, but whether of the Protector's family
I cannot tell.  But the gentry do not appear to have settled
multitudinously in this tract of country; nor is it to be wondered at,
since a lover of the picturesque would as soon think of settling in
Holland.  The river retains its canal-like aspect all along; and only in
the latter part of its course does it become more than wide enough for
the little steamer to turn itself round,--at broadest, not more than
twice that width.

The only memorable incident of our voyage happened when a mother-duck was
leading her little fleet of five ducklings across the river, just as our
steamer went swaggering by, stirring the quiet stream into great waves
that lashed the banks on either side.  I saw the imminence of the
catastrophe, and hurried to the stern of the boat to witness its
consummation, since I could not possibly avert it.  The poor ducklings
had uttered their baby-quacks, and striven with all their tiny might to
escape; four of them, I believe, were washed aside and thrown off unhurt
from the steamer's prow; but the fifth must have gone under the whole
length of the keel, and never could have come up alive.

At last, in mid-afternoon, we beheld the tall tower of Saint Botolph's
Church (three hundred feet high, the same elevation as the tallest tower
of Lincoln Cathedral) looming in the distance.  At about half past four
we reached Boston (which name has been shortened, in the course of ages,
by the quick and slovenly English pronunciation, from Botolph's town),
and were taken by a cab to the Peacock, in the market-place.  It
was the best hotel in town, though a poor one enough; and we were shown
into a small, stifled parlor, dingy, musty, and scented with stale
tobacco-smoke,--tobacco-smoke two days old, for the waiter assured us
that the room had not more recently been fumigated.  An exceedingly
grim waiter he was, apparently a genuine descendant of the old Puritans
of this English Boston, and quite as sour as those who people the
daughter-city in New England.  Our parlor had the one recommendation of
looking into the market-place, and affording a sidelong glimpse of the
tall spire and noble old church.

In my first ramble about the town, chance led me to the river-side, at
that quarter where the port is situated.  Here were long buildings of an
old-fashioned aspect, seemingly warehouses, with windows in the high,
steep roofs.  The Custom-House found ample accommodation within an
ordinary dwelling-house.  Two or three large schooners were moored along
the river's brink, which had here a stone margin; another large and
handsome schooner was evidently just finished, rigged and equipped for
her first voyage; the rudiments of another were on the stocks, in a
shipyard bordering on the river.  Still another, while I was looking on,
came up the stream, and lowered her mainsail, from a foreign voyage.  An
old man on the bank hailed her and inquired about her cargo; but the
Lincolnshire people have such a queer way of talking English that I could
not understand the reply.  Farther down the river, I saw a brig,
approaching rapidly under sail.  The whole scene made an odd impression
of bustle, and sluggishness, and decay, and a remnant of wholesome life;
and I could not but contrast it with the mighty and populous activity of
our own Boston, which was once the feeble infant of this old English
town;--the latter, perhaps, almost stationary ever since that day, as if
the birth of such an offspring had taken away its own principle of
growth.  I thought of Long Wharf, and Faneuil Hall, and Washington
Street, and the Great Elm, and the State House, and exulted lustily,--but
yet began to feel at home in this good old town, for its very name's
sake, as I never had before felt, in England.

The next morning we came out in the early sunshine (the sun must have
been shining nearly four hours, however, for it was after eight o'clock),
and strolled about the streets, like people who had a right to be there.
The market-place of Boston is an irregular square, into one end of which
the chancel of the church slightly projects.  The gates of the churchyard
were open and free to all passengers, and the common footway of the
townspeople seems to lie to and fro across it.  It is paved, according to
English custom, with flat tombstones; and there are also raised or altar
tombs, some of which have armorial hearings on them.  One clergyman has
caused himself and his wife to be buried right in the middle of the
stone-bordered path that traverses the churchyard; so that not an
individual of the thousands who pass along this public way can help
trampling over him or her.  The scene, nevertheless, was very cheerful in
the morning sun: people going about their business in the day's primal
freshness, which was just as fresh here as in younger villages; children
with milk-pails, loitering over the burial-stones; school-boys playing
leap-frog with the altar-tombs; the simple old town preparing itself for
the day, which would be like myriads of other days that had passed over
it, but yet would be worth living through.  And down on the churchyard,
where were buried many generations whom it remembered in their time,
looked the stately tower of Saint Botolph; and it was good to see and
think of such an age-long giant, intermarrying the present epoch with a
distant past, and getting quite imbued with human nature by being so
immemorially connected with men's familiar knowledge and homely
interests.  It is a noble tower; and the jackdaws evidently have pleasant
homes in their hereditary nests among its topmost windows, and live
delightful lives, flitting and cawing about its pinnacles and flying
buttresses.  I should almost like to be a jackdaw myself, for the sake of
living up there.

In front of the church, not more than twenty yards off, and with a low
brick wall between, flows the river Witham.  On the hither bank a
fisherman was washing his boat; and another skiff, with her sail lazily
half twisted, lay on the opposite strand.  The stream at this point is
about of such width, that, if the tall tower were to tumble over flat on
its face, its top-stone might perhaps reach to the middle of the channel.
On the farther shore there is a line of antique-looking houses, with
roofs of red tile, and windows opening out of them,--some of these
dwellings being so ancient, that the Reverend Mr. Cotton, subsequently
our first Boston minister, must have seen them with his own bodily eyes,
when he used to issue from the front-portal after service.  Indeed, there
must be very many houses here, and even some streets, that bear much the
aspect that they did when the Puritan divine paced solemnly among them.

In our rambles about town, we went into a bookseller's shop to inquire if
he had any description of Boston for sale.  He offered me (or, rather,
produced for inspection, not supposing that I would buy it) a quarto
history of the town, published by subscription, nearly forty years ago.
The bookseller showed himself a well-informed and affable man, and a
local antiquary, to whom a party of inquisitive strangers were a godsend.
He had met with several Americans, who, at various times, had come on
pilgrimages to this place, and he had been in correspondence with others.
Happening to have heard the name of one member of our party, he showed us
great courtesy and kindness, and invited us into his inner domicile,
where, as he modestly intimated, he kept a few articles which it might
interest us to see.  So we went with him through the shop, up stairs,
into the private part of his establishment; and, really, it was one of
the rarest adventures I ever met with, to stumble upon this treasure of a
man, with his treasury of antiquities and curiosities, veiled behind the
unostentatious front of a bookseller's shop, in a very moderate line of
village business.  The two up-stair rooms into which he introduced us
were so crowded with inestimable articles, that we were almost afraid to
stir for fear of breaking some fragile thing that had been accumulating
value for unknown centuries.

The apartment was hung round with pictures and old engravings, many of
which were extremely rare.  Premising that he was going to show us
something very curious, Mr. Porter went into the next room and returned
with a counterpane of fine linen, elaborately embroidered with silk,
which so profusely covered the linen that the general effect was as if
the main texture were silken.  It was stained and seemed very old, and
had an ancient fragrance.  It was wrought all over with birds and flowers
in a most delicate style of needlework, and among other devices, more
than once repeated, was the cipher, M. S.,--being the initials of one of
the most unhappy names that ever a woman bore.  This quilt was
embroidered by the hands of Mary Queen of Scots, during her imprisonment
at Fotheringay Castle; and having evidently been a work of years, she had
doubtless shed many tears over it, and wrought many doleful thoughts and
abortive schemes into its texture, along with the birds and flowers.  As
a counterpart to this most precious relic, our friend produced some of
the handiwork of a former Queen of Otaheite, presented by her to Captain
Cook; it was a bag, cunningly made of some delicate vegetable stuff, and
ornamented with feathers.  Next, he brought out a green silk waistcoat of
very antique fashion, trimmed about the edges and pocket-holes with a
rich and delicate embroidery of gold and silver.  This (as the possessor
of the treasure proved, by tracing its pedigree till it came into his
hands) was once the vestment of Queen Elizabeth's Lord Burleigh; but that
great statesman must have been a person of very moderate girth in the
chest and waist; for the garment was hardly more than a comfortable fit
for a boy of eleven, the smallest American of our party, who tried on the
gorgeous waistcoat.  Then, Mr. Porter produced some curiously engraved
drinking-glasses, with a view of Saint Botolph's steeple on one of them,
and other Boston edifices, public or domestic, on the remaining two, very
admirably done.  These crystal goblets had been a present, long ago, to
an old master of the Free School from his pupils; and it is very rarely,
I imagine, that a retired schoolmaster can exhibit such trophies of
gratitude and affection, won from the victims of his birch rod.

Our kind friend kept bringing out one unexpected and wholly unexpectable
thing after another, as if he were a magician, and had only to fling a
private signal into the air, and some attendant imp would hand forth any
strange relic we might choose to ask for.  He was especially rich in
drawings by the Old Masters, producing two or three, of exquisite
delicacy, by Raphael, one by Salvator, a head by Rembrandt, and others,
in chalk or pen-and-ink, by Giordano, Benvenuto Cellini, and hands
almost as famous; and besides what were shown us, there seemed to be an
endless supply of these art-treasures in reserve.  On the wall hung a
crayon-portrait of Sterne, never engraved, representing him as a rather
young man, blooming, and not uncomely; it was the worldly face of a man
fond of pleasure, but without that ugly, keen, sarcastic, odd expression
that we see in his only engraved portrait.  The picture is an original,
and must needs be very valuable; and we wish it might be prefixed to some
new and worthier biography of a writer whose character the world has
always treated with singular harshness, considering how much it owes him.
There was likewise a crayon-portrait of Sterne's wife, looking so haughty
and unamiable, that the wonder is, not that he ultimately left her, but
how he ever contrived to live a week with such an awful woman.

After looking at these, and a great many more things than I can remember,
above stairs, we went down to a parlor, where this wonderful bookseller
opened an old cabinet, containing numberless drawers, and looking just
fit to be the repository of such knick-knacks as were stored up in it.
He appeared to possess more treasures than he himself knew off, or knew
where to find; but, rummaging here and there, he brought forth things new
and old: rose-nobles, Victoria crowns, gold angels, double sovereigns of
George IV., two-guinea pieces of George II.; a marriage-medal of the
first Napoleon, only forty-five of which were ever struck off, and of
which even the British Museum does not contain a specimen like this, in
gold; a brass medal, three or four inches in diameter, of a Roman
emperor; together with buckles, bracelets, amulets, and I know not what
besides.  There was a green silk tassel from the fringe of Queen Mary's
bed at Holyrood Palace.  There were illuminated missals, antique Latin
Bibles, and (what may seem of especial interest to the historian) a
Secret-Book of Queen Elizabeth, in manuscript, written, for aught I know,
by her own hand.  On examination, however, it proved to contain, not
secrets of state, but recipes for dishes, drinks, medicines, washes, and
all such matters of housewifery, the toilet, and domestic quackery, among
which we were horrified by the title of one of the nostrums, "How to kill
a Fellow quickly"!  We never doubted that bloody Queen Bess might often
have had occasion for such a recipe, but wondered at her frankness, and
at her attending to these anomalous necessities in such a methodical way.
The truth is, we had read amiss, and the Queen had spelt amiss: the word
was "Fellon,"--a sort of whitlow,--not "Fellow."

Our hospitable friend now made us drink a glass of wine, as old and
genuine as the curiosities of his cabinet; and while sipping it, we
ungratefully tried to excite his envy, by telling of various things,
interesting to an antiquary and virtuoso, which we had seen in the course
of our travels about England.  We spoke, for instance, of a missal bound
in solid gold and set around with jewels, but of such intrinsic value as
no setting could enhance, for it was exquisitely illuminated, throughout,
by the hand of Raphael himself.  We mentioned a little silver case which
once contained a portion of the heart of Louis XIV. nicely done up in
spices, but, to the owner's horror and astonishment, Dean Buckland popped
the kingly morsel into his mouth, and swallowed it.  We told about the
black-letter prayer-book of King Charles the Martyr, used by him upon the
scaffold, taking which into our hands, it opened of itself at the
Communion Service; and there, on the left-hand page, appeared a spot
about as large as a sixpence, of a yellowish or brownish hue: a drop of
the King's blood had fallen there.

Mr. Porter now accompanied us to the church, but first leading us to a
vacant spot of ground where old John Cotton's vicarage had stood till a
very short time since.  According to our friend's description, it was a
humble habitation, of the cottage order, built of brick, with a thatched
roof.  The site is now rudely fenced in, and cultivated as a vegetable
garden.  In the right-hand aisle of the church there is an ancient
chapel, which, at the time of our visit, was in process of restoration,
and was to be dedicated to Mr. Cotton, whom these English people consider
as the founder of our American Boston.  It would contain a painted
memorial-window, in honor of the old Puritan minister.  A festival in
commemoration of the event was to take place in the ensuing July, to
which I had myself received an invitation, but I knew too well the pains
and penalties incurred by an invited guest at public festivals in England
to accept it.  It ought to be recorded (and it seems to have made a very
kindly impression on our kinsfolk here) that five hundred pounds had been
contributed by persons in the United States, principally in Boston,
towards the cost of the memorial-window, and the repair and restoration
of the chapel.

After we emerged from the chapel, Mr. Porter approached us with the
vicar, to whom he kindly introduced us, and then took his leave.  May a
stranger's benediction rest upon him!  He is a most pleasant man; rather,
I imagine, a virtuoso than an antiquary; for he seemed to value the Queen
of Otaheite's bag as highly as Queen Mary's embroidered quilt, and to
have an omnivorous appetite for everything strange and rare.  Would that
we could fill up his shelves and drawers (if there are any vacant spaces
left) with the choicest trifles that have dropped out of Time's
carpet-bag, or give him the carpet-bag itself, to take out what he will!

The vicar looked about thirty years old, a gentleman, evidently assured
of his position (as clergymen of the Established Church invariably are),
comfortable and well-to-do, a scholar and a Christian, and fit to be a
bishop, knowing how to make the most of life without prejudice to the
life to come.  I was glad to see such a model English priest so suitably
accommodated with an old English church.  He kindly and courteously did
the honors, showing us quite round the interior, giving us all the
information that we required, and then leaving us to the quiet enjoyment
of what we came to see.

The interior of Saint Botolph's is very fine and satisfactory, as
stately, almost, as a cathedral, and has been repaired--so far as repairs
were necessary--in a chaste and noble style.  The great eastern window is
of modern painted glass, but is the richest, mellowest, and tenderest
modern window that I have ever seen: the art of painting these glowing
transparencies in pristine perfection being one that the world has lost.
The vast, clear space of the interior church delighted me.  There was no
screen,--nothing between the vestibule and the altar to break the long
vista; even the organ stood aside,--though it by and by made us aware of
its presence by a melodious roar.  Around the walls there were old
engraved brasses, and a stone coffin, and an alabaster knight of Saint
John, and an alabaster lady, each recumbent at full length, as large as
life, and in perfect preservation, except for a slight modern touch at
the tips of their noses.  In the chancel we saw a great deal of oaken
work, quaintly and admirably carved, especially about the seats formerly
appropriated to the monks, which were so contrived as to tumble down with
a tremendous crash, if the occupant happened to fall asleep.

We now essayed to climb into the upper regions.  Up we went, winding and
still winding round the circular stairs, till we came to the gallery
beneath the stone roof of the tower, whence we could look down and see
the raised Font, and my Talma lying on one of the steps, and looking
about as big as a pocket-handkerchief.  Then up again, up, up, up,
through a yet smaller staircase, till we emerged into another stone
gallery, above the jackdaws, and far above the roof beneath which we had
before made a halt.  Then up another flight, which led us into a pinnacle
of the temple, but not the highest; so, retracing our steps, we took the
right turret this time, and emerged into the loftiest lantern, where we
saw level Lincolnshire, far and near, though with a haze on the distant
horizon.  There were dusty roads, a river, and canals, converging towards
Boston, which--a congregation of red-tiled roofs--lay beneath our feet,
with pygmy people creeping about its narrow streets.  We were three
hundred feet aloft, and the pinnacle on which we stood is a landmark
forty miles at sea.

Content, and weary of our elevation, we descended the corkscrew stairs
and left the church; the last object that we noticed in the interior
being a bird, which appeared to be at home there, and responded with its
cheerful notes to the swell of the organ.  Pausing on the church-steps,
we observed that there were formerly two statues, one on each side of the
doorway; the canopies still remaining and the pedestals being about a
yard from the ground.  Some of Mr. Cotton's Puritan parishioners are
probably responsible for the disappearance of these stone saints.  This
doorway at the base of the tower is now much dilapidated, but must once
have been very rich and of a peculiar fashion.  It opens its arch through
a great square tablet of stone, reared against the front of the tower.
On most of the projections, whether on the tower or about the body of the
church, there are gargoyles of genuine Gothic grotesqueness,--fiends,
beasts, angels, and combinations of all three; and where portions of the
edifice are restored, the modern sculptors have tried to imitate these
wild fantasies, but with very poor success.  Extravagance and absurdity
have still their law, and should pay as rigid obedience to it as the
primmest things on earth.

In our further rambles about Boston, we crossed the river by a bridge,
and observed that the larger part of the town seems to be on that side of
its navigable stream.  The crooked streets and narrow lanes reminded me
much of Hanover Street, Ann Street, and other portions of the North End
of our American Boston, as I remember that picturesque region in my
boyish days.  It is not unreasonable to suppose that the local habits and
recollections of the first settlers may have had some influence on the
physical character of the streets and houses in the New England
metropolis; at any rate, here is a similar intricacy of bewildering
lanes, and numbers of old peaked and projecting-storied dwellings, such
as I used to see there.  It is singular what a home-feeling and sense of
kindred I derived from this hereditary connection and fancied
physiognomical resemblance between the old town and its well-grown
daughter, and how reluctant I was, after chill years of banishment, to
leave this hospitable place, on that account.  Moreover, it recalled
some of the features of another American town, my own dear native place,
when I saw the seafaring people leaning against posts, and sitting on
planks, under the lee of warehouses,--or lolling on long-boats, drawn up
high and dry, as sailors and old wharf-rats are accustomed to do, in
seaports of little business.  In other respects, the English town is more
village-like than either of the American ones.  The women and budding
girls chat together at their doors, and exchange merry greetings with
young men; children chase one another in the summer twilight; school-boys
sail little boats on the river, or play at marbles across the flat
tombstones in the churchyard; and ancient men, in breeches and long
waistcoats, wander slowly about the streets, with a certain familiarity
of deportment, as if each one were everybody's grandfather.  I have
frequently observed, in old English towns, that Old Age comes forth more
cheerfully and genially into the sunshine than among ourselves, where the
rush, stir, bustle, and irreverent energy of youth are so preponderant,
that the poor, forlorn grandsires begin to doubt whether they have a
right to breathe in such a world any longer, and so hide their silvery
heads in solitude.  Speaking of old men, I am reminded of the scholars of
the Boston Charity School, who walk about in antique, long-skirted blue
coats, and knee-breeches, and with bands at their necks,--perfect and
grotesque pictures of the costume of three centuries ago.

On the morning of our departure, I looked from the parlor-window of the
Peacock into the market-place, and beheld its irregular square already
well covered with booths, and more in progress of being put up, by
stretching tattered sail-cloth on poles.  It was market-day.  The dealers
were arranging their commodities, consisting chiefly of vegetables, the
great bulk of which seemed to be cabbages.  Later in the forenoon there
was a much greater variety of merchandise: basket-work, both for fancy
and use; twig-brooms, beehives, oranges, rustic attire; all sorts of
things, in short, that are commonly sold at a rural fair.  I heard the
lowing of cattle, too, and the bleating of sheep, and found that there
was a market for cows, oxen, and pigs, in another part of the town.  A
crowd of towns-people and Lincolnshire yeomen elbowed one another in the
square; Mr. Punch was squeaking in one corner, and a vagabond juggler
tried to find space for his exhibition in another: so that my final
glimpse of Boston was calculated to leave a livelier impression than my
former ones.  Meanwhile the tower of Saint Botolph's looked benignantly
down; and I fancied it was bidding me farewell, as it did Mr. Cotton, two
or three hundred years ago, and telling me to describe its venerable
height, and the town beneath it, to the people of the American city, who
are partly akin, if not to the living inhabitants of Old Boston, yet to
some of the dust that lies in its churchyard.

One thing more.  They have a Bunker Hill in the vicinity of their town;
and (what could hardly be expected of an English community) seem proud to
think that their neighborhood has given name to our first and most widely
celebrated and best remembered battle-field.



NEAR OXFORD.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our next visit was to the church which stands close by, and is quite as
ancient as the remnants of the castle.  In a chapel or side-aisle,
dedicated to the Harcourts, are found some very interesting family
monuments,--and among them, recumbent on a tombstone, the figure of an
armed knight of the Lancastrian party, who was slain in the Wars of the
Roses.  His features, dress, and armor are painted in colors, still
wonderfully fresh, and there still blushes the symbol of the Red Rose,
denoting the faction for which he fought and died.  His head rests on a
marble or alabaster helmet; and on the tomb lies the veritable helmet, it
is to be presumed, which he wore in battle,--a ponderous iron ease, with
the visor complete, and remnants of the gilding that once covered it.
The crest is a large peacock, not of metal, but of wood.

Very possibly, this helmet was but an heraldic adornment of his tomb;
and, indeed, it seems strange that it has not been stolen before now,
especially in Cromwell's time, when knightly tombs were little respected,
and when armor was in request.  However, it is needless to dispute with
the dead knight about the identity of his iron pot, and we may as well
allow it to be the very same that so often gave him the headache in his
lifetime.  Leaning against the wall, at the foot of the tomb, is the
shaft of a spear, with a wofully tattered and utterly faded banner
appended to it,--the knightly banner beneath which he marshalled his
followers in the field.  As it was absolutely falling to pieces, I tore
off one little bit, no bigger than a finger-nail, and put it into my
waistcoat-pocket; but seeking it subsequently, it was not to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



SOME OF THE HAUNTS OF BURNS.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The memory of them, at this moment, affects me like the song of birds,
and Burns crooning some verses, simple and wild, in accordance with their
native melody.

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



A LONDON SUBURB.


One of our English summers looks, in the retrospect, as if it had been
patched with more frequent sunshine than the sky of England ordinarily
affords; but I believe that it may be only a moral effect,--a "light that
never was on sea nor land," caused by our having found a particularly
delightful abode in the neighborhood of London.  In order to enjoy it,
however, I was compelled to solve the problem of living in two places at
once,--an impossibility which I so far accomplished as to vanish, at
frequent intervals, out of men's sight and knowledge on one side of
England, and take my place in a circle of familiar faces on the other, so
quietly that I seemed to have been there all along.  It was the easier to
get accustomed to our new residence, because it was not only rich in all
the material properties of a home, but had also the home-like atmosphere,
the household element, which is of too intangible a character to be let
even with the most thoroughly furnished lodging-house.  A friend had
given us his suburban residence, with all its conveniences, elegances,
and snuggeries,--its drawing-rooms and library, still warm and bright
with the recollection of the genial presences that we had known there,--
its closets, chambers, kitchen, and even its wine-cellar, if we could
have availed ourselves of so dear and delicate a trust,--its lawn and
cosey garden-nooks, and whatever else makes up the multitudinous idea of
an English home,--he had transferred it all to us, pilgrims and dusty
wayfarers, that we might rest and take our ease during his summer's
absence on the Continent.  We had long been dwelling in tents, as it
were, and morally shivering by hearths which, heap the bituminous coal
upon them as we might, no blaze could render cheerful.  I remember, to
this day, the dreary feeling with which I sat by our first English
fireside, and watched the chill and rainy twilight of an autumn day
darkening down upon the garden; while the portrait of the preceding
occupant of the house (evidently a most unamiable personage in his
lifetime) scowled inhospitably from above the mantel-piece, as if
indignant that an American should try to make himself at home there.
Possibly it may appease his sulky shade to know that I quitted his abode
as much a stranger as I entered it.  But mow, at last, we were in a
genuine British home, where refined and warm-hearted people had just been
living their daily life, and had left us a summer's inheritance of slowly
ripened days, such as a stranger's hasty opportunities so seldom permit
him to enjoy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The principal thing that they have to show you, at Greenwich Hospital, is
the Painted Hall.  It is a splendid and spacious room, at least a hundred
feet long and half as high, with a ceiling painted in fresco by Sir James
Thornhill.  As a work of art, I presume, this frescoed canopy has little
merit, though it produces an exceedingly rich effect by its brilliant
coloring and as a specimen of magnificent upholstery.  The walls of the
grand apartment are entirely covered with pictures, many of them
representing battles and other naval incidents that were once fresher in
the world's memory than now, but chiefly portraits of old admirals,
comprising the whole line of heroes who have trod the quarter-decks of
British ships for more than two hundred years back.  Next to a tomb in
Westminster Abbey, which was Nelson's most elevated object of ambition,
it would seem to be the highest need of a naval warrior to have his
portrait hung up in the Painted Hall; but, by dint of victory upon
victory, these illustrious personages have grown to be a mob, and by no
means a very interesting one, so far as regards the character of the
faces here depicted.  They are generally commonplace, and often
singularly stolid; and I have observed (both in the Painted Hall and
elsewhere, and not only in portraits, but in the actual presence of such
renowned people as I have caught glimpses of) that the countenances of
heroes are not nearly so impressive as those of statesmen,--except, of
course, in the rare instances where warlike ability has been but the
one-sided manifestation of a profound genius for managing the world's
affairs.  Nine tenths of these distinguished admirals, for instance, if
their faces tell truth, must needs have been blockheads, and might have
served better, one would imagine, as wooden figure-heads for their own
ships than to direct any difficult and intricate scheme of action from
the quarter-deck.  It is doubtful whether the same kind of men will
hereafter meet with a similar degree of success; for they were victorious
chiefly through the old English hardihood, exercised in a field of which
modern science had not yet got possession.  Rough valor has lost
something of its value, since their days, and must continue to sink lower
and lower in the comparative estimate of warlike qualities.  In the next
naval war, as between England and France, I would bet, methinks, upon the
Frenchman's head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



UP THE THAMES.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let these men rest in peace.  Even if you miss a name or two that you
hoped to find there, they may well be spared.  It matters little a few
more or less, or whether Westminster Abbey contains or lacks any one
man's grave, so long as the Centuries, each with the crowd of personages
that it deemed memorable, have chosen it as their place of honored
sepulture, and laid themselves down under its pavement.  The inscriptions
and devices on the walls are rich with evidences of the fluctuating
tastes, fashions, manners, opinions, prejudices, follies, wisdoms of the
past, and thus they combine into a more truthful memorial of their dead
times than any individual epitaph-maker ever meant to write.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



OUTSIDE GLIMPSES OF ENGLISH POVERTY.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CIVIC BANQUETS.


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

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

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

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

In a narrow street, opposite to St. Michael's Church, one of the three
famous spires of Coventry, you behold a mediaeval edifice, in the
basement of which is such a venerable and now deserted kitchen as I have
above alluded to, and, on the same level, a cellar, with low stone
pillars and intersecting arches, like the crypt of a cathedral.  Passing
up a well-worn staircase, the oaken balustrade of which is as black as
ebony, you enter the fine old hall, some sixty feet in length, and broad
and lofty in proportion.  It is lighted by six windows of modern stained
glass, on one side, and by the immense and magnificent arch of another
window at the farther end of the room, its rich and ancient panes
constituting a genuine historical piece, in which are represented some of
the kingly personages of old times, with their heraldic blazonries.
Notwithstanding the colored light thus thrown into the hall, and though
it was noonday when I last saw it, the panelling of black-oak, and some
faded tapestry that hung round the walls, together with the cloudy vault
of the roof above, made a gloom, which the richness only illuminated into
more appreciable effect.  The tapestry is wrought with figures in the
dress of Henry VI.'s time (which is the date of the hall), and is
regarded by antiquaries as authentic evidence both for the costume of
that epoch, and, I believe, for the actual portraiture of men known in
history.  They are as colorless as ghosts, however, and vanish drearily
into the old stitch-work of their substance when you try to make them
out.  Coats-of-arms were formerly emblazoned all round the hall, but have
been almost rubbed out by people hanging their overcoats against them or
by women with dishclouts and scrubbing-brushes, obliterating hereditary
glories in their blind hostility to dust and spiders' webs.  Full-length
portraits of several English kings, Charles II. being the earliest, hang
on the walls; and on the dais, or elevated part of the floor, stands an
antique chair of state, which several royal characters are traditionally
said to have occupied while feasting here with their loyal subjects of
Coventry.  It is roomy enough for a person of kingly bulk, or even two
such, but angular and uncomfortable, reminding me of the oaken settles
which used to be seen in old-fashioned New England kitchens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE END





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